Survivors' Stories

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”
Elie Wiesel

Tova Rogenstein (Hanesman)

  • From: Poland (Krakow)
  • Liberated from: Germany (Bergen Belsen) 
  • Deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau from: Poland (Plaszow)
  • Current Location: Canada (Toronto)
  • Year of birth: 1933

Brief Bio

Tova  was born in Kraków Poland in 1933. She was the youngest of three children. At the onset of the war 1939, Tova was six years old. In 1941, Tova and her family were ordered to the Kraków Ghetto, then Nazi-occupied Poland, where they stayed there until the end of the year and from there they were deported to Plaszow. In 1943 when when Tova and her mother were taken to former Nazi Death and Labor camp Auschwitz. Tova’s father was unfortunately separated from them & sent to the Nazi camp Mauthausen where he died.

Upon arrival in the Nazi camp Auschwitz, Tova (11 years of age at the time) saw ovens and people all dressed in “shmatas” (wearing rags) with shaven heads. When Tova asked the Jewish workers “what goes on here?” she was told “this is the crematorium and that’s where you go.” Tova was ordered to go to shower and then stood outside in the cold weather wearing nothing – completely naked in total humiliation. After some 15-20 minutes Tova was given clothes & sent to her block. One early morning while in her block she was startled when she heard screaming of the word “selection.” Her mother’s main concern – “is Mengele there?”  During one of these “selections” while Mengele was making his rounds, he faced Tova and asked her directly “how old are you?” Tova with strong conviction & fast response confidently responded “17 years old.” Mengele clearly saw that this was a lie, but his surprising reaction was a pat on her back – and he said to Tova that if she was bold enough to lie then she should be allowed to live. That day, Tova was sent to the “live” line together with her mother. From Nazi German Concentration and Extermination Camp Auschwitz Birkenau Tova was sent to Nazi German Concentration and Extermination Camp Bergen Belsen – and she was liberated from there on April 5, 1945.

What does Auschwitz mean to you?

Death, Hell

My message for future generations is…

“As much as we suffered and as hard as it was, we wanted to fight to stay alive. It is important for the younger generation to always remember this and to stay strong. To hear our stories and to draw strength from us.”

Who will be accompanying you on this journey? 

Eynat Katz, the granddaughter of Auschwitz Survivor and a long time friend of the family

Eynat is the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. Eynat has spent the last 30 years in Jewish education with students and adults of all ages. Holocaust education and working with Holocaust survivors is integral part of who she is as an educator and as a social activist. Eynat  has been part of a think-tank in planning and organizing on-going planning sessions with and for Holocaust survivors  as well as educating youth about the Holocaust and what lessons can be learned.