Holocaust Survivor Visits Dothan
October 29, 2012
On Sunday October 28th, Ann Rosenheck visited Dothan, speaking to an audience of synagogue and general community members, at the Troy University Dothan Campus.
Here’s the article published on the front page of today’s Dothan Eagle newspaper as well as some additional photographs taken at this very special event, including Ms. Rosenheck pictured with Temple Emanu-El’s Rabbi Lynne Goldsmith (in the red jacket).
Holocaust Survivor Shares Story
Holocaust survivor Ann Rosenheck shares her experiences with attendees at Troy University Dothan Campus Sunday afternoon.
By: Lance Griffin | Dothan Eagle
Published: October 28, 2012
Ann Rosenheck, Holocaust survivor, leaned forward in her chair on the stage of Troy-Dothan’s Sony Hall and spoke to the near-100 people who came to hear about her experience.
“I love America,” she said. “The freedom of religion. The freedom of speech. Just the ability to be a juror on a jury. You don’t know how fortunate you are.”
But Rosenheck does.
Plucked from her home in Czechoslavakia in 1944 and separated from her parents by Angel of Death Josef Mengele himself, Rosenheck kept the audience entranced for more than an hour as she took the crowd from Auschwitz to Dachau and spoke in painful detail about how she escaped death more than a half-dozen times over 15 months before American soldiers liberated the death camps.
“Normally, what happened would not have happened. But, what can you say other than it was God’s doing,” Rosenheck said of her unlikely journey of survival.
Rosenheck’s family was rounded up in the late winter of 1944 in Rachov, Checkoslavakia, when she was 13. They were given 20 minutes to prepare to be taken to a railroad station for transport to one of Adolf Hitler’s forced labor camps.
The family eventually arrived at Auschwitz. The men were quickly separated from the women and children. Word began to circulate through the crowded rail car that children under 17 and adults over 38 were being separated for execution or experimentation.
“My mother told me, she said, ‘When they ask, you are 17,’” Rosenheck recalled.
After her father was separated from the family, Rosenheck said Josef Mengele approached the group of women and children. A cane was in his hand. He began to separate the young and weak.
Mengele became the most infamous SS physician of the Holocaust due to his inhumane experimentation on those held captive at Auschwitz.
“There were five of us in a row,” Rosenheck recalled. “Mengele and another were selecting, some over here and some over there. I said I was 17. I was put in a group and I later found out the people in the other group were taken out and gassed.”
Rosenheck’s parents did not survive.
Despite being beaten more than once and given little to eat, Rosenheck survived at Auschwitz due to the kindness of strangers.
“In Auschwitz, when you took a step you never knew if it was going to be your last step,” she said.
She eventually became part of a group that was transported to a munitions factory in Germany, then later to another concentration camp known as Dachau in early 1945.
“We knew something was happening. There was always very little food, but then it got even worse. Their supply lines were being hurt. The Americans were closing in,” she said.
A Yugoslavian political prisoner who was also a physician told Nazi guards that Rosenheck had symptoms of Typhoid Fever and needed to be segregated from the rest of the prisoners. It was a ploy to remove Rosenheck from the guards’ sight. On April 28, the physician and a few others smuggled Rosenheck out of Dachau and onto a train.
The next day, American soldiers stopped the train and liberated the prisoners along with those still in Dachau.
“It was beautiful,” she said.
Rosenheck eventually settled in Miami. She volunteered at the Miami Holocaust memorial for 21 years. In an incredible twist, a female SS guard at Auschwitz wound up as her neighbor in their Miami condominium.
“I forgave her,” Rosenheck said. “She and her husband were very nice to me and my husband when he got cancer. We are supposed to forgive.”
She never told the woman she knew who she was.
Rosenheck’s appearance is part of a year-long Holocaust emphasis at Troy-Dothan. Future events include a film series, Holocaust education workshop for area history teachers and an art exhibition by Holocaust survivors.