Rita was born in 1929 in Kraśnik, Poland. Rita had a happy childhood. Although her family kept to themselves, they got along with her non-Jewish neighbors. Rita’s life dramatically changed after the Germans occupied Poland. Rita’s father lost his job as a carpenter. The lack of income led to harsh living conditions with very little food.
After the Jewish holiday of Passover, Rita’s parents were deported to Belzec concentration camp. Rita remained with her sister. She avoided capture many times and hid in the woods. She was eventually captured and sent to Budzyn labor camp situated in the industrial district of Kraśnik. Upon her sister’s request, a commandant of the Kraśnik ghetto arranged for Rita to be transferred to the ghetto, where she worked until deportation to the Plaszow concentration camp.
After liberation, Rita went to Salzheim, where she prepared to move to Israel. She decided to abandon her plan, fearing war in the region, and instead boarded a refugee ship to the United States. Settling in New York, Rita met her husband Barry, a fellow Survivor. They had three daughters.
What does Auschwitz mean to you?
Auschwitz was the worst place I have ever been. So many were killed. I was in a tent for days, a barrack with lice and a crowded bed with a few pieces of straw. They cut hair, gave torn clothes for rain and cold and wooden shoes that stuck in the mud. It is the most evil place in the world.
My message for future generations is…
We have to create a world where this never happens to anyone ever again. I would not want any human being to have to go through this.
Who will be accompanying you on this journey?
My daughter Carol King Berkman will be my companion. Three of my grandchildren, Meir , Chana and Shira Berkman will be joining as well.
I am being accompanied by the loves of my life. My daughter and my grandchildren are my future, our future.