Cape Jewish Board of Deputies Special Feature: Yom HaShoah 2019

    Poland’s Capital Warsaw under bombing by the German Luftwaffe, ca. Sept. 8-15, 1939 (Picture credit: Shutterstock)

    From ‘Here There Is No Why’ by Rachel Chencinski Roth

    This year represents the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the war in Poland, and the beginning of the Holocaust. The extract below comes from the memoirs of Rachel Chencinsky Roth, niece of Ella Blumenthal.

    September first is upon us. We are contemplating the return to Warsaw and the beginning of a new school year, when like a lightning bolt from nowhere, we hear that the German army has attacked the Polish border… Chaos and confusion take over… People are rushing to get back to Warsaw… When we finally make it back it is night. We are surprised that the streets are deserted… The terrifying sound of wailing sirens pierces the air and the sound of enemy planes is heard coming closer and closer… Waves of German bombers drop their lethal cargo mercilessly on the civilian population. Buildings on fire rage in a storm that envelopes the entire neighborhood. The burned and wounded victims cry out in plain.

    “Schema Yisrael!” Mother calls on God to help us… A young boy runs into our courtyard in a fury. His blonde hair covered with gray soot, tears flow down his checks and his eyes are like hollow sockets. A scarlet stream of blood is flowing out of a rip in his blue shirt…

    When my mother awakens me, it is still dark.

    “Get up! Hurry! It’s an air raid” … She drags me down to the basement, we sit in a dark cellar that reeks of the stench of rotting potations. Crowded with the other inhabitants of the building, the dank basement soon turns hot and stuffy. The noise of the bombers gets louder and instinctively we cling to each other…. Survivors of the bombing start emerging from bunkers and basements… We find our apartment in ruins…

    We must endure a series of hellish decrees from the German government that follow one another with lightning speech. All radios are to be confiscated. All bank accounts must be closed… The government requisitions all Jewish enterprises as well as all Jewish owned land and houses…All public gatherings are forbidden and all synagogues are shut down so the men conduct prayers in private homes… The mood of the populace is now very somber. There is fear of the unknown and uncertainty of what tomorrow will bring under the murderous German occupation.

    Rachel and Ella were together throughout the war, enduring the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, Maidanek, Auschwitz, and Bergen Belsen. Apart from Rachel’s father who had escaped to Palestine, they were the only survivors from their large extended family.

    The Yom Hashoah Vehagevurah ceremony will be taking place on Thursday 2 May 2019 at Pinelands No 2 from 12:45 – 14:00

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