Temple Honors Holocaust Survivor Ann Rosenheck
November 3, 2015
On Monday, November 2nd, Ann Rosenheck visited Dothan, speaking to an audience of 100+ synagogue and general community members, at Temple Emanu-El.
After her personal presentation, Ann was presented a Proclamation by Dothan’s Mayor Mike Schmitz, honoring her as as a Righteous Friend of the City. Then, the attendees enjoyed a dessert and coffee hour in the Temple’s Social Hall.
Here’s some background on Ann Rosenheck, published in a recent Dothan Eagle Newspaper article.
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.
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.