‘You can’t believe what it was like’: Holocaust survivors remember

holocaust 913 816 10202014 spf 0498f  Photos and papers testify to the heroism of Gitla Doppelt’s brother, Israel Slonimski.



The year is 1942. World War II rages on. In occupied Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, German Chancellor Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime is systematically shattering the Jewish population through intimidation, persecution, discrimination and slaughter.

Initial reports reach the West that gas is being used to kill Jews being shipped by rail to concentration camps.

Two Jewish teenage girls whose tragic circumstances will eventually bring them to Kansas City as young women — and bond them as lifelong friends — struggle to live amidst chaos and sorrow.

By August 1942, 13-year-old Rivka Chaba, born in Lipiny, Poland, has already survived three years of unthinkable conditions in the Polish Kamionka ghetto (formerly the Jewish town of Bedzin) with her mother, Faygla; father, Berl; sister, Adela; and brother, Abramkin.

Under a blazing summer sun, SS doctors scrutinize Rivka and her family during a selection process. Divided into male and female lines, the elderly and children younger than 13 are shuffled into a group that will end up in a death camp. Boys and girls 13 and older are marked for work camps.

Wrenched from her family, Rivka is crammed onto a sweltering transport train with thousands of other souls bound for Parschnitz, a Czechoslovakian slave-labor concentration camp.

Rivka is unaware of her family’s impending destiny. They are on a transport train headed for Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration and extermination camp, a horrific point-of-no-return for most of its inhabitants. They would all die there.