By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com
Her name is Mrs. Iti (nee Landau) Wohlberg, and she now lives in Kew Gardens, NY. She was born in August of 1926 in Rozavlea, Romania – a small Vizhnitz shtetl near Sighet. Yesterday, during Sefiras HaOmer, she spoke of her beautiful life prior to the Holocaust, during the Holocaust, where she worked the night shift in a munitions plant (manufacturing bullets) in Salzwedel, and life after the Holocaust.
In either late July or early August 1944, a women’s satellite camp of Neuengamme concentration camp was established in Salzwedel. The Polte factory in Magdeburg had a branch in Salzwedel which had operated under the name of “Draht- und Metallfabrik Salzwedel” since before World War II. When the war started, the factory began producing infantry and flak ammunition. The Polte factory requested a total of 5,600 prisoners to use as forced labor. There were 1,520 Jewish women in the Salzwedel satellite camp. Most came from Hungary or Hungary-occupied Romania, while the rest came from Poland and Greece.
The women arrived at Salzwedel on three transports from Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen in late July/early August, in October and in December 1944. They were forced to work in two 12-hour shifts and were housed in a camp of huts in the grounds of a fertilizer plant on Gardelegener Strasse.
In April, more women arrived at Salzwedel, bringing the number of prisoners to around 3,000. Salzwedel was the only satellite camp of Neuengamme concentration camp not to be evacuated. She was liberated by members of the Ninth U.S. Army on April, 14th, 1945.
Rozavlea was a small Shtetl of approximately 150 Jewish families. It is now devoid of Jews. The last Rav of Rozavlea was Rabbi Moshe the son of Rabbi Shmuel Shmelke Kizalnik HY”D, who perished in the Holocaust.
Mrs. Wolberg’s talk is followed by a question and answer session.
Two of her brothers attended the famed Vizhnitz Yeshiva led by Rav Mendel Hager zt”l in Upper Vishva. When she was a young girl, she received a bracha from the Vizhnitz Rebbe, Rav Yisroel (1860-1936) – also known as the Ahavas Yisroel, who wished her a Refuah Shleimah for an impending surgery. The six year old Iti then wished the Rebbe, “Refuah shleimah!”
Years later, Rav Chaim Meir’l Hager came to Williamsburg and recognized her, saying, “You were the one who gave my father a bracha!”
Watch this inspiring video to see what life was like in pre-holocaust Romania.
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