Witnesses

“The commandant was like a God for us”. Roman Kent’s Account.

fot. Archiwum rodzinne Romana Kenta

They kept children at the labour camp in Flossenürg. They were transferred from the camp in Gross-Rosen so that they could work in better conditions inBavarian factories. Yet, Germans did not assign them any work for many days. When they called assembly roll-call in order to count all the prisoners,  rumors of imminent deportations to a death camp spread through the crowd. In darkness and frost, 805 people awaited their fate.

“We stood there, in the assembly square, for an hour or two. We were freezing. At some point, I stepped out of line and walked over to the camp’s commandant. He was like a God to us,” recalls Roman Kent.

“I said: «Herr Commandant, I’m here with my brother, we are young and eager to work»”.

Roman was 15 at the time. His father died of malnutrition in the Łódź Ghetto, his mother and sisters stayed behind in Auschwitz-Birkenau. When Roman and his brother Leon were separated from their family, they managed to get out of Auschwitz, and later out of Gross-Rosen. Now they had to fight for the survival again.

“Commandant agreed to assign work to us. A few more boys stepped out from the crowd. There were five of us. What happened to the rest?”

At that time, another transport of prisoners reached the camp.

“Germans brought 800 adults from Auschwitz. We were assigned to work in the factory with them. The remaining kids were sent to death. Why did they spare us? Germans liked to be precise. They got 800 people from Auschwitz, so they had to send  800 in return. After sparing the five of us, the numbers added up perfectly.”

The brothers remained in the camp until April 1945, when it was evacuated by Germans. They proceeded towards KL Dachau  in a “death march”.. “We walked mostly at nights. It wasn’t a regularl march. People who had no more strength to go and collapsed along the way were immediately killed”.

On the fourth day, Roman and Leon lost their last bits of food. Germans ordered the prisoners to march but the brothers were feeling very weak. “We knew that we wouldn’t be able to walk for much longer so we started to move slowly towards the end of the group”. Soon after, the US Army arrived and all the prisoners were liberated.

“When we recovered a bit, our first thought was to find our family and friends. How does one go about it after the war? Everything is in chaos, there is no way to communicate, all former communities have been destroyed. All the Jews who used to live in Poland are homeless, and wondering. So we travelled and searched”. . After several months, they managed to find their sisters. The mother perished in Auschwitz.

Edited by: Mateusz Szczepaniak

Based on Roman Kent’s interview for the USC Shoah Foundation.

21.01.2016