Rudolf Reder (1881 – 1977)

Rudolf Reder was born, Roman Robak on April 4th. 1881 in Debica, Poland to Parents, Fredericka Jortner Robak and Herman Robak. Times had their concerns but nothing was to prepare Rudolf for what he was to witness in the coming years under the yoke of Hitler’s hatred. In time, Rudolf was to be married to Feige ‘Fanny’ Felsenfeld Robak who came from the Town of Sokolow-Malopolski. They had 3 Children, Boruch Rubin or Bronislaw, Frieda known as Zofia and Maria. At some stage in 1910 the Family moved and settled in Lvov and Rudolf established a soap factory there. With the commencement of World War II, Septemeber 1st. 1939, life for Polish Jews, and then all the Jews of Europe changed. The Final Solution hounded Rudolf and his Family and without certainty, all were lost, almost certainly within Belzec itself for many of his extended Family, including Boruch.

“..chamber building was made of concrete and covered with a flat roof of tarpaper. It stood on a raised surface with steps leading into it from a reception yard. Along both sides of ..building was an unloading platform. ..small stairs ended with a door ..over which was a notice ..Bath and inhalation room ..and a big vase with flowers ..entrance. From ..entrance door ..a passage ran along ..length of ..building with 3 one wing doors on each side. ..doors led to rooms with no windows. Behind ..building was a small room ..which housed a petrol engine. ..gas chambers were camouflaged with a net interwoven with leaves and branches that stretched over the roof on high poles. A one inch diameter pipe led from ..engine room directly into ..windowless rooms.” Rudolf Reder.

On August 11th. 1942 Rudolf too was delivered to these gates of hell, known as Belzec, an Aktion Reinhard Death Camp. Rudolf was temporarily reprieved to the detail of the Sonderkommando whose task it was to do the Nazi’s bidding. While it is abundantly clear that Poland knew immediately of what the Polish Jews were enduring, and although a fuller awareness of the on going Slaughter of the Jews was an open secret, it was a supressed truth.

“..Belzec has lent me an articulation which I have used to add to a remembrance for those 884,700 Jews murdered here. I have borrowed ..words of those like Rudolf Reder and Chaim Hirszman ..both of whom managed to Survive all that Belzec delivered. Tragically for Hirszman ..that survival was a rather brief reprieve as a continued prejudice sought to stifle ..truth he had for us.” Patrick Dempsey.

But, and such was the hidden knowledge of The Holocaust that by the time Rudolf had entered Belzec during that August of 1942, the World was also more aware than it cared to acknowledge. As Rudolf now became a witness to the ferocity of the brutality and mass Murder, he became acutely aware of the daily routine the detailed Slaughter of the Jewish People had been a planned and systematic effort which Rudolf describes as he witnesses transports arriving.

“..12 or so SS ..drove ..Women along with whips and fixed bayonets all ..way to ..building and from there up 3 steps to a hall. They ..counted 750 People for each gas chamber. Those ..who tried to resist were bayoneted until ..blood was running. Eventually all ..Women were forced into ..chambers. I heard ..doors being shut ..I heard shrieks and cries ..I heard desperate calls for help. ..I heard ..blood curdling wails of Women ..squeals of Children ..after a short time this became one long ..horrifying scream. ..for 15 minutes. ..engine worked for 20 minutes. Afterwards silence.” Rudolf Reder.

For the Jewish People however, by now any escape for all too many Jews had evaporated and for them all within Jewish Poland, even 3 years prior to this realisation. Tragically too, for far too many of these Jews, who did not nor could accept this truth, they still harboured hopes that they could somehow survive and even up to the very doors of the Gas Chambers here in Belzec, that hope of belief prevailed.

“..Several dozen SS men yelling ..opened ..trucks ..chasing People out with whips and rifle butts. ..sick ..old ..small Children ..all those who could not walk on their own ..thrown onto stretchers and taken to pits. ..As soon as ..train was empty ..all ..victims were assembled in ..courtyard. ..a deathly silence. SS Irrmann stood close to ..crowd. Everybody wanted to hear him. We all suddenly hoped ..if we were spoken to ..then perhaps it meant that there would be work to do ..that we would live after all. ..Irrmann spoke loudly and clearly ..You are going to take a bath now ..afterwards you will be sent to work. ..That was all. ..crowd rejoiced ..people were relieved that they would be going to work. They applauded. I remember his words repeated day after day ..3 times on average ..during the time I was there. It was a moment of hope ..of illusion. ..crowd was peaceful. And in silence they all went forward.” Rudolf Reder.

Reder’s mention of SS Oberscharfuhrer Fritz Jirmann brings into focus those who stood on the crest of a wave of such hatred, Belzec ably and cynically lured and then consumed Jewish compliance, losing their lives without hindrance. For 6,000,000 Jews of Europe though, who were sytematically to be proven wrong, the World of knowledge all too well let them down.

“..We were made to pile ..corpses 1 metre above ..rim of ..already full grave ..then cover them with sand. Thick blood seeped from ..graves and poured over ..surface like a sea. We had to move from one side of ..grave to ..other in order to reach another grave. Our legs were immersed in ..blood of our Brothers. We stepped on mounds of corpses. That was ..worst ..most dreadful thing of all.” Rudolf Reder.

The emerging truth, which was clearly deciphered by allied intelligence agencies, and must have been deceminated by the August of 1941, the fact of truth, which should have saved ever more of the Jewish People from entering harm, was sealed from them for the wrong reasons. What Rudolf should have known, that would have better informed him of what was to come and being given the chance to alter the course taken, was in the gift of more than just Hitler, Himmler, Heydrich, Eichmann or any of the other Nazi’s.

“..Belzec acknowledges what Rudolf Reder notes ..was ..mangle of those Children pouring out from ..Transports ..Hirszman reminds us ..some of these children were simply thrown into ..Gas chamber atop of ..women’s heads. Like so much ballast these Children were murdered. use up every little bit of space they were crammed into an already tight space. ..reprehensible nature of such a crime suggest that if you are never going to read another book on The Holocaust ..account of Reder. His words in Belzec will allow you to know a little of what Belzec means in grossly atrocious terms.” Patrick Dempsey.

Also, for what remained of the still 5,000,000 of these expendable Jews, there should have been an afforded insight into what would give them a fighting opportunity. Upon arrival within the Death Camp at Belzec however, Rudolf was saved from immediate elimination due to his personal engineering qualification. Amazingly, it was this technical ability which managed to secure his eventual freedom as we see in November 1942 when he escaped in Lvov. Sent by the Belzec administration to the City, and while sourcing metal sheeting for the camp, he absconded.

“..Sealed in ..rolling coffins ..people driven by ..last scraps of ..instinct to live tore ..freight cars apart.” Rudolf Reder. #Here, he lived out the war years and thanks to both Anastasia Hawrylak, a former Employee and also to his future second Wife, Janina Borkowska, the time to mull over the desparate scenes he had become a witness to, have become his legacy on Belzec’s place in the infamy of the Death Camp system. Rudolf is recorded as the only Survivor of Belzec and as history alerts us to the fact, Chaim Hirszman was not allowed to survive the suvival of the Camp.

“..Belzec has recorded that just 3 inmates managed to escape from ..Death Camp itself. ..Rabbi of Blazowa Israel Szpira ..Chaim Hirszman and Rudolf Reder. ..just 2 of these Survivors ..Chaim Hirszman and Rudolf Reder managed to deliver their own Testimony.” Patrick Dempsey.

Chaim Hirszman was Murdered by non-Jewish Poles, who had no wish for the truth of Belzec to become more widespread and ahead of completing his testimony into the treatment of the Jews within Belzec, Chaim was Murdered. For Rudolf, liberation was a long time coming and when it did, in 1945, Rudolf and Janina moved to Krakow. In 1949 Rudolf Reder changed his surname to Roman Robak and married Janina Borkowska and in the early 1950s they left Poland for Haifa, Israel. Eventually they made their way to Canada and her in Toronto, Rudolf Reder was taken from us on October 6th. 1977.

“..legend of Belzec ..became a truth we knew about ..which made us quake in fear.” Rudolf Reder.