Search

Holocaust survivor gives talk at Upminster library about Nazi hell

15:41 31 January 2014

Holocaust survivor Bob Obuchowski,

Holocaust survivor Bob Obuchowski,

Archant

It may be 69 years since an unimaginable evil crept over Europe but time has failed to temper its impact.

Year-by-year

1933

January: Hitler becomes chancellor

April: boycott of Jewish-owned shops

1934

Hitler orders that anyone with a mental or physical disability must be sterilised

1935

September: it is made unlawful for Jews to marry non-Jews and they are no longer German citizens

1938

November: Night of Broken Glass – riots targeting Jews breaks out in Nazi Germany

1939

September: Second World War starts

1941

June: Germany invades Soviet Russia

1942

Death camps open in Poland

June: Jews in countries including France, Holland and Belgium are ordered to wear yellow stars

1945

May: unconditional surrender of Germany

The ghastly details strike like a hammer-blow to the stomach. Hitler ordered the mass extermination of the Jewish people during the Second World War; he succeed in wiping out six million. Named, with cold euphemism, as the “final solution” by the Nazis, we remember it today as the Holocaust. Here, Amanda Nunn looks at one of history’s darkest moments and talks to one of its few survivors, as we collectively remember all those who have died in genocide since.

On a freezing morning in November 1939, all the Jews in a small Polish town were ordered to assemble in the school. The 2,300 men, women and children from Ozorkow were then told to strip naked and were stamped on their chests with either the letter A or B.

Bob Obuchowski was 11 and, together with one of his sisters, and 200 others, was given the letter A. Bob said: “Being so young we were making jokes about being either an A or B, then they took the babies and threw them into a lorry from the second floor window. We didn’t joke anymore.”

Everyone given the letter B, including his mother, father and remaining sister, were then herded into lorries and gassed to death.

Monday was National Holocaust Memorial Day which remembers the millions slaughtered by the Nazi regime.

The date coincides with the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp by the Soviet Union in 1945.

On Wednesday, Bob spoke at Upminster Library, Corbets Tey Road, Upminster, to an 
enrapt audience about his horrific experiences.

“My sister Malka had a red mark under her eye and that was enough to kill her,” said Bob. “When we looked at the people who were left we knew it didn’t mean good, it was young people like myself and fit people.”

After the initial sorting in Ozorkow the survivors were marched to a ghetto in Lodz.

Ghettos were sections of towns fenced off with soldiers stationed around the perimeter.

Inside, captives had to use a different type of money, were forced to live in cramped conditions and were kept close to starvation.

“If they saw anyone ill they took them away,” said Bob. “I got meningitis, which rotted a chunk out of my leg. My sister had to work or we wouldn’t get her rations. You were given food for three days but it had to last you eight. People were just dying from starvation.

“They ripped up the floor boards and burned furniture to make fire as it was minus 35C.”

About 75,000 people lived in the ghetto in Lodz, which had its own SS building. People who entered it would never be seen again.

Bob said: “You could see people just lying down and dying, some people ate grass and got dysentery.

“You could put the most precious jewels on the table, but the food you had to lock away in case your mother or brother ate it. A bite was a day’s life.

“When someone died they hid the body for a while so they could get their rations. We weren’t human anymore.”

Bob stayed in Lodz for more than three years until the ghetto was closed and its inhabitants were loaded into cattle trains destined for Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Once off the train they were stripped naked and inspected again. This would be the last time he saw his sister Gittol.

Bob had a large dent in his leg as a result of the meningitis and if this had been spotted he would have been executed.

Then came what he describes as “miracles”.

“The boys standing near me moved closer, hiding my scar,” he said. “It was down to the miracles that I survived.”

Out of the hundreds of people, Bob was chosen along with 24 other boys to survive. “We were moved to one side and on the other people were marching to the gas chambers,” he said.

He was then branded with a number on his arm, B-7650, and marched to Auschwitz-Birkenau. He said: “A few blocks from my own they were shooting people morning, noon and night. More than 20,000 people were shot – my ears were ringing all the time from the noise.”

At the beginning of 1945, the war started coming to and end and 2,775 survivors were rounded up and marched to Czechoslovakia to be gassed.

“They didn’t want to leave people like me as evidence so they built two big gas chambers in Czechoslovakia and gathered people from all the camps,” said Bob. In temperatures of minus 30C, only 75 people managed to survive.

On May 8, 1945, the group was found by the Russians.

The British government then announced it wanted to bring 1,000 of the surviving children to the UK. They could only find 700 of which Bob was one.

At 22 he married Marie, another Holocaust survivor and they went on to have two children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Although in his 80s, he spends most of his time travelling to schools telling them his story. “I try and teach the young people that bullying and starting on others cannot be right and they should always help and defend people,” he said.

“If you see someone being bullied you must go and try and help them, regardless of who they are.”

Related articles

0 comments

Latest Romford News Stories

Frank Spurling at Cranham Community Centre's art society

Colouring books to combat stress were a top-selling product last year, but Cranham Art Society has been promoting the relaxing benefits of painting for years.

15:00
Potential new recruits attend the Army Recruiting Centre, London Road, opening day last Tuesday

The Army Reserve has marched back to Romford after identifying the town as an ideal site for recruitment.

15:00
Mark Colman. Picture: Debby Richardson

A former soldier is making a second attempt to claim an underwater endurance world record to raise £1million for charity.

Yesterday, 17:05
Leah who is part of the young people group at Havering Mind

The Recorder has launched a major mental health awareness campaign with charity Havering Mind, which will run throughout 2016. Through Mind Your Mental Health we aim to break down the stigma that persists and share advice for analysing and improving the wellbeing of our community. This week Emma Lake finds out how mentors can help young people

Yesterday, 17:00
Havering Mind's Live a better life programme, at, Harrow Lodge House, Hornchurch

Vanessa Bennett

It is estimated that in any given year 20 per cent of children will suffer from a mental health problem.

Yesterday, 14:00
The Recorder is running a competition where readers can win five family tickets to the London Aquarium

Up for grabs this week are five family tickets for one of the capital’s most popular attractions – the London Aquarium.

Yesterday, 12:01
Copper Box arena school dance championship, Abbs Cross Academy

Dancers have been celebrating walking away from a London-wide championship with two awards.

Yesterday, 07:00
Council is set to increase by 3.99 per cent

Residents face a bigger council tax bill after a 3.99 per cent increase was given approval on Wednesday.

Most read news

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

News from your area

WW100

Click on the banner above for full coverage of the centenary commemorations of the outbreak of the First World War.

Competitions

Champagne experience

This Valentine’s Day, the Coca-Cola London Eye is the perfect destination for lovebirds, offering a range of romantic experiences from Friday 12th February - Sunday 14th February 2016.

Sony Smart Ultra HD 55'' LED TV

Enjoy the ultimate entertainment experience in your living room with the Sony Smart Ultra 55’’ LED TV. Be the envy of all your friends with this huge TV- you can change your living room into your own cinema! Get the boys around to watch the football or get the girls around to watch the DVD of 50 Shades.. this is a prize that everyone would enjoy! Stand a chance to upgrade your current entertainment system by wining this fantastic prize.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today

Subscribe