Australasian Union of Jewish Students

 

Testimony of Daniel Harvey

 

 

Overview of Ruza’s story (my grandmother):

In 1943 the Germans occupied Subotica, Serbia and things started to go further downhill for Ruza and her family. There were shootings, hangings, and parading of Jews in the town square.

The Germans surrounded the areas where Jews lived and this was when Ruza, my grandmother, was sent away. Ruza was sent to the Bacsalmas Ghetto with her niece, Jelena, and they were both deported to Auschwitz. They were loaded onto cattle carts with about 60 people in each cart.

Upon arrival at Aushwitz, people were told to go either to the left or to the right side. Ruza risked her life and spoke up to the Nazi officer and said that she can sew very well. Surprisingly the officer sent her to the right – a temporary lease on life. Luckily, Jelena also joined this side, and so they worked.

A few weeks later, they were told that they were being transported to Langenbielau (Bielawa). Langenbielau was a forced labour camp for women. It was a satellite camp of the forced labour camp Gross-Rosen. They were forced to work 10 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For breakfast they only got one piece of bread with margarine which had to be shared among six people, and for dinner, Ruza and Jelena only got 1 serve of pumpkin soup each.

They had to do anything to survive! This camp was directly bordering a POW (prisoner of war) camp. The toilet block for the women was directly next to the men’s toilet block in the POW camp. The POWs and Ruza agreed to trade items that the other needed. Ruza made shirts for the POWs, and in return, the POWs sent bread through the toilet pipes because the prisoners got more food than the woman. More food meant a better chance at survival, and survive they did.

The camp was liberated on the 9th of May, 1945 and they eventually made their way back to Subotica where all their possessions had been stolen. They both emigrated to Australia where they settled and created the families we are today.

 

Life and identity influences:

The first time I spoke to my grandmother about the Holocaust and her story, I was 16 years old. I previously knew she had been a Holocaust survivor, but no one in the family wanted to talk about it, so I kept clear of the subject.

One day that all changed when I started to read about Holocaust denial. I was outraged that there were people around the world who thought that the genocide of Jews in World War II did not occur. I started to bug my grandmother and she finally gave in and revealed her story.

I finally understood the importance of remembering the Holocaust and being Jewish. My grandmother and her family gave up their lives for their religion, culture, their way of life. All this so that I today could also live a Jewish life.

It pushed me to become a better Jew as well as a proud one! I started to become more involved and interested in Judaism – both on a religious and cultural level.

After what my family went through, I am no longer afraid to identify as Jewish. To some effect, it rules my life, and I honestly couldn’t be happier!

 

Message to share:

Dwight D. Eisenhower upon touring the concentration camps said “Get it all on record now - get the films - get the witnesses -because somewhere down the road of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened.”

Unfortunately, this is indeed occurring today.

Please do not forget, NEVER forget!

Learn about the Holocaust and its beginnings, and make sure nothing like this ever happens again, to any peoples around the world. Stand up to injustices and don’t be afraid to challenge!

Ruza sits in the middle of the front row