Rachel was born in 1926 in Warsaw, Poland, to Golda and Samuel Rothstein. She was the oldest of four children in a highly religious family. Her mother, Golda, owned a men’s clothing store, and her father, Samuel, was a Rabbi, writer, and journalist editor of the Yiddishe Tugblatt. Rachel enjoyed a happy childhood full of games and laughter.
Rachel was only thirteen when the Nazis invaded Poland. Soon after, Rachel and her family were transferred to the Warsaw Ghetto. Life in the ghetto was difficult, riddled with violence, poverty, starvation, and death. Typhoid was rampant in the ghetto and tragically took the life of Rachel’s grandfather. Raids and deportations became constant, and Rachel and her family hoped to remain safely hidden in a bunker. Rachel even smuggled guns on multiple occasions into the ghetto and was eventually smoked out of her bunker during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Rachel and her remaining family members were deported to the KL Majdanek concentration and extermination camp.
One evening, in Majdanek, Rachel was one of 700 women brought into a gas chamber and told that they would spend the night until their deportation to another camp in the morning. Rachel would later find out that an accounting error was discovered before they entered the gas chamber. Only 500 women were scheduled to be gassed that evening. The transport that was intended to be deported was mistakenly switched with the transport intended to be killed. In a sense, this German ‘accounting error’ had saved her life. Rachel, along with her aunt Hela were deported from Majdanek to Auschwitz.
On July 8, 1943, Rachel arrived in Auschwitz. Upon arrival in Auschwitz, prisoners shaved Rachel’s hair and tattooed the number 48915 on her body. She and Hela were housed in a cramped barrack and were assigned the difficult task of breaking stones. Rachel was fortunate and eventually secured a job as part of the “Bekleidungskammer,” sorting through piles of clothes, shoes, and belongings confiscated upon arrival in Auschwitz. Working as part of the Bekleidungskammer meant less strenuous work with better conditions. During the winter, the women were excused from standing for long hours in the bad weather during roll call, had free use of the bathroom, and access to more food.
In November 1944, Rachel and Hela were transferred to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. They were liberated on April 15, 1945, by the British Army. Rachel recalls the joyful cries of the prisoners and the tears that filled the soldier’s eyes as they saw the horrors that lay before them.
After liberation, Rachel traveled to Paris, where she waited for the papers to allow her legal entry to Palestine. Rachel married Shlomo and emigrated from Palestine to the United States. They built a business and had five children. Rachel currently resides in New York. She attended the 75th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, along with three generations of the Roth family.
My message for future generations is…
Look at me, remember me. I had the same life that you have now, make sure this does not happen again.
Who will be accompanying you on this journey?
Ram Roth son and 29 other descendants, children, grand and great grand children too. She has 58 descendants in total.