Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Berek Rothenberg - May 20, 1984

Religion in the Camps

Talk about uh, was there any practice of uh, uh, Jewish uh, religion in the camps when the holidays came?

Yes, yes.

What, what happened?

What happened. We didn't have no books and a lot of Jewish memorized the, the, the, the prayers. And uh, who were--we were in the barrack, I mean, in the--who--at nights so you could pray in the daytime. I mean, not legally. Or we get a minyan in a room. And if somebody remembered the yahrzeit of his parents. We observed uh, ??? ma'ariv every holiday we observed. Only I mean not, not uh, ri..not ritually--not uh, not openly. Or what I mentioned that I was with this rabbi in Skarżysko--so was a group of Jewish people what they used to go out--plumbers, carpenters--and, and they used to go out working on the outside. So they used to sneak in eggs, they used to sneak in wheat. So the rabbi didn't eat no traif. So he used to have a hard boiled egg, he used to have a potato. Those carpenters and the plumbers and they used to bring it in. Then they brought in wheat and he tried to dry it--the wheat on something. Then he took a bottle and tried to roll it--make it, make it like flour and he made the--and he tried to bake matzahs. And he had his follo...followers--they had a room with this rabbi and he tried to have the Seder. Only this--the guy what was in charge over the camp--his name was Kuhnemann--he was a Volksdeutsch--a half German, half Jew--I mean, a half German, half Polack. And he used to know the--more the Jewish things than--because he was in Łódź. He was from a Jewish town. So he came in and he destroyed--he beat the rabbi up and he destroyed the whole Seder and everything. The rabbi even had matzahs and he had wine and he had everything. Or he, he would tap him on the ??? those, they were his helpers. He came in with his big dog and he destroyed the whole thing. Because the, the Germans--the real German didn't know too much--so much about the Jewish things that uh, you know, an insider was worse than an outsider. This Kuhnemann was brought up with Jewish people in Łódź, so he knew everything.

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