In May 2015, Manci Kaufmann, now Miryam Sobel, came to Geislingen with her daughter and son and their families. This is their story:
Pers. no. 298681 / 20572
Born 21.04.1927 in Rachow / then Czechoslovakia.
Rachow/Raho/Rahau/ Rachov is located in the triangle of countries Hungary, Romania, Ukraine in the Tisza region. Here was the border crossing for the railroad traffic to Marmatie/ Romania.
In 1938, the Wehrmacht occupied Slovakia in the run-up to the annexation. Neighbors hid the whole family in the attic for a few days. In May 1944 they were deported to the Mattisolko ghetto and in June further to Ausschwitz. There they stayed for six weeks. During this time, Miryam had pneumonia, which she survived – despite the circumstances of prisoner life in Barrack No. 4. Sleeping on wooden planks, without a mattress. So cramped that it was impossible to turn around. One night she did turn over, waking the other girls, and there was a commotion in the barracks. The block elder appeared. As punishment, Miryam and her mother had to kneel with their hands up for 24 hours. The law of the fist applied. Everyone tried to survive. To escape selection and murder, they always tried to look radiant and healthy.
In August Miryam and her mother were transported to the concentration camp Geislingen to work in the armament production of the WMF. She developed a fever and spent two months in the sick bay. There was no medication. A nurse took pity on her and saved her from selection and transport to Auschwitz – to certain death. Despite a fever, she went back to work at WMF. Her worst experience in Geislingen was the daily march through town. She walked at the very back, was weak and sick. An SS man held a rifle in her back and she was afraid he would pull the trigger.
A plant foreman took pity on the 16-year-old girl, and assigned her to lighter work on the electrical supply. He also kept bringing food packages, which he secretly slipped to her in his duty room. She shared these with her mother, who was assigned to heavy work. This food and the knowledge that they were not alone helped them both to survive. They spent a year together in the concentration camp in Geislingen. In general, the food in the camp was too little to live on and too much to die on. They were dressed in gray-blue striped convict clothes and wooden clogs, without stockings. In winter they wore a thin linen jacket. Their heads were shaved. In March/April 1945 they were transported to Dachau. According to the Yad Vashem memorial, the transport took place on April 11, 1945. Miryam and her mother Rifka were liberated on 29.04.1945 in Itteldorf/Staltach.
Miryam was seriously ill at this time. Until 1946 she spent a whole year in hospital in Budapest. From 1946 to 1947 she was in a sanatorium in Prague, before going to a sanatorium in Gauting, Germany from 1947 to 1948. After her recovery, she was determined to become a nurse because of her experience. Miryam trained as a nurse from 1947 to 1949 in Heidenheim in a DP camp (displaced persons camp) where her mother was also. On July 25, 1949, she emigrated to Israel with her mother and two surviving sisters. On March 20, 1956, their wedding took place in Israel. In 1956 their son Haim was born, and in 1960 their daughter Chani, married Rieger. Miryam’s husband was a Holocaust survivor like her, but never spoke about it. He took his experiences to his grave. Miryam, on the other hand, told her children early on what she had experienced. Today she says: “I have to tell. I don’t want to have a stone in front of my heart.” This freedom can be sensed in her.
Daughter Chani, as a 10-year-old, was ashamed of her mother for being in the concentration camp. It wasn’t until she heard about the Holocaust at school that she realized that this issue affects many other families as well. It was important to Miryam to show her daughter where she had grown up and lived. That is why in 1986 or 1987 they traveled to the CSSR, Hungary and Germany and also came to Geislingen. She lived in her apartment in Rechovot until 2015 and was lovingly cared for by a caregiver. It was a very great joy for her when a family from Geislingen visited her on February 19, 2015. To have someone especially come to hear her story! Her German is still very good. After three hours of conversation, the now 86-year-old does get a little tired and English and Yiddish words are mixed in: “Schejn Medele”, beautiful girl, she said to the daughter of the Schneider family.
On May 07, 2015 Miryam came to Geislingen with her two children, their spouses and two grandchildren per family to participate in the memorial march „remembering – honoring – reconciling”. Already on May 10, she flew back again. “Visit me in Israel”, were her last words. This trip cost her a lot of strength, but she felt truly honored, like a queen, her daughter said afterwards. Speaking during the welcome ceremony, she said, “Everything is true – believe me. I want the whole world to know what was done to us. We were without food. To ask for it meant death. Without humanity. Everyone wanted to punish the Jews.“ Miryam was always grateful for people who spoke good words. She healed herself by helping other people, but also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. On June 10, Miryam fell, had to be taken to hospital and died suddenly the next day, June 11, 2015. Her son Haim Sobel immediately wrote an email to their Geislingen friends sharing this sad news. Commenting on the death of his mother, Heim Sobol said, “A circle has been closed and I hope we will continue to stay in touch.”