“..Remember ..there is a national treasure buried under ..rubble. It’s ..Ringelblum Archive. We must not rest until we find ..Archive. ..even if there are 5 layers of ruins over it ..we have to find ..Archive.” Rachel Auerbach.
What Rachel Auerbach is alluding to here is a Written Archive that Survived, even while underneath that same rubble, many of these Jews who showed a fighting spirit, who succumbed to debilitating hatreds and shortages of food are so buried. For Franciska Lola Manheimer-Rosenberg, known professionally as Franceska Mannowna, then shortened to Franceska Mann, she danced across the area before it was turned into rubble. Franciska, who also danced under the name of Lola Horowitz, lived in this Polish Capitol of Warsaw in Poland. Franceska was born on February 4th. 1917 and while we know certain facts, please recognise that there are questions which are outside the competence of those who seek all answers. It is obvious that where trails have been lost and forgotten, we cannot ever answer for the multitude of reasons we are searching for. Realistically too, there are answers that cannot ever be known of the more than 6,000,000 Jewish People whose remains of their demise are residing in craters, pits, fields and in trenches many had dug for their own interring.
“..Everyone knows ..what happened in Warsaw ..Slonim ..it is already time to count ..cities where ..catastrophies did not occur. ..understand ..better to be sent to Wolkowsk than ..Treblinka.” Ephraim Barash.
The very fact that anywhere a Jew met with the obeyance of Hitler’s hatred, that had spread all over Europe, there was no Jew that was ever going to be safe. For all too many of these Jews, further confined within Gas Chambers designed to fully obliterate any trace from whence they came, we have lost more than we can ever retrieve. For these 6,000,000 Jews of Europe, they have been totally eviscerated. Of course, and while not all of the 6,000,000 Jews are forgotten, for all of them they each enjoin a search which will not deliver up all their names, one of which is Franciska. For their former residences, purloined and stolen, there is no wish to deliver their purpose in any meaningful way. However, what we can know in particular for the Jews of Warsaw, Treblinka awaits for the vast majority of them. But, for Franceska Mann, she was not to be one of them as fate had singled her out as a further hero of Birkenau. For many other Jews too, Treblinka was not to be their end nor did this particular Death Camp signify all that these Jews of Warsaw would suffer. In the 6 Death Camps for Polish Jewry, and then European Jewry, no whole place received an entire Jewish community totally.
“..first victims were ..Jewish Children ..and I shall never forget ..harrowing scenes and ..blood curdling incidents when ..ss men ..cruelly attacked Children. ..Even today ..cries ..shrieking of those Children are clear in my mind.” Adolf Berman.
In the space of Warsaw where we find Francisca, there is this constant movement of Jewish People all seeking to reach other Cities and Towns. Individually escaping or collectively attempting to hide from what was becoming an obvious fate, success was not in the last guaranteed. What consumed many of these Warsaw Jews, alongside their National Jewish Population, and within Belzec, Birkenau, Chelmno, Majdanek and even Sobibor was a loss too of their belief in their fellow man. The relentless and systematic Slaughter that was designed specifically for all Jews emerged from the fetid mind of Hitler’s resolve for The Final Solution of The Jewish Question to be commissioned, enacted and fully exacted upon the Jews as Jews. The same here must be stated for the Jews of Hungary who we will meet as Franciska meets with the platform that would greet them as they too were driven inexorably toward their fate. Here in Birkenau, and mostly during 1944, and toward Hungarian Jewry, the last sizeable Jewish Community within Europe was to suffer as Warsaw’s Jews had. Birkenau and the annihilation that was in preparation for the swiftest annihilation of this entire Hungarian Jewish presence had been disposing of Jewish transport upon Jewish transport, so consistently.
“..I am in Warsaw ..I am here. ..hard to grasp who I actually am. But it is actually here that I understand and know everything most precisely.” Halina Birenbaum.
Here, Birkenau is instrumental in defining what atrocity fully means and while this is not to say we will find all the traces of Hungarian Jewry either, our search is not bounded by any lack of effort. For those perishing within Birkenau, Hungarian Jewry too was to be Destroyed elsewhere in accordance with Hitler’s remit for their annihilation. That truth is as variable as to the number of those Jews that we seek to apply to each killing centre within Poland. Before the outbreak of World War II on September 1st. 1939, with Hitler’s invasion of Poland, we are now brought together to meet Franciska who worked as an Actor and music hall dancer. What subsequently would emerge as a World conflagration, does not prepare the Jews for what is to come.
“..But one who understands will not judge ..and will have no pride. Before him I shall not be ashamed. Whoever has found himself can never again lose anything in this world. He who has grasped ..human in himself understands all mankind.” Stefan Zweig.
For Franciska, who performed regularly at the Melody Palace nightclub in Warsaw, this was equally true. When, upon the invasion, and with a growing awareness of what the anti-Jewish measures meant, an increasing deadly toll of Jewish murdered was being witnessed. What took hold for Franciska was a great fear as she became aware of her own mortality and with that, there was the constant frailty of all Jewish existence enacted by both Nazi’s and their collaborators.
“..I am happy to die amidst fighting Halutzim. We will take with us into our graves ..awareness that ..Jewish People will endure eternally.” Yitzhak Katzenelson.
Then, on January 9th. 1943 when Himmler was in Warsaw, there could be no doubt left as to Hitler’s intention for all of European, Polish or Warsaw Jewry. We cannot know what Franciska knew but in what is a precursor to the final liquidation of the 70,000 or so Jews still Surviving in Warsaw’s Ghetto, Franciska is a target of that demand. There was however, here in Warsaw, a Jewish Fighting Resistance which spurred Himmler to act more swiftly. Against the deliberately ill equipped Jewish Warsaw Resisters Hitler’s forces were thrown against an entirely abandoned Polish Jewry. Here, as 8,000 more of Warsaw’s Jews are ordered toward their final ‘resettlement’, a retributive and deadly blow was struck. On January 18th. 1943, and with the resumption of the resettlement programme for Warsaw, and with some 6,000 of these Warsaw Ghetto’s Jews being led toward Treblinka, did Franciska know of this fate.
“..On ..site where for 400 ghastly days ..blasphemy of Treblinka tormented human history there is now a monument. It shows in ..centre an enormous rock topped by a menorah to symbolise ..300,000 martyred Jews of Warsaw. ..rock is surrounded by huge slabs of concrete from which rises a forest of 1,000’s of granite pillars of varying shapes and sizes ..representing cities ..villages ..and shtetlach lost in ..Holocaust. On 150 of them are carved ..names of ..localities from which ..murdered Jews came. ..massive pillars bear ..names of ..Country’s of ..victims origin.” Alexander Donat.
Those Jews who are to be murdered within the Death Camp, many of these Jews escape back to the confines of the Ghetto. As the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto was surrounded for the 2nd. Liquidation, the Jewish fight was brought to the Nazi’s at 4 different Battle Group Barricades. Jewish Resistance plans were now set in motion which was conceived of to at least disrupt, if they could not fully prevent all future Jewish ‘resettlement’ operations. Tragically, a further 4,500 of Warsaw’s Ghetto Jews were deported with some 1,200 other’s of Warsaw’s Jews Murdered in situ after Resisting. This is the 1st. Jewish Fighting Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto and the Resistance lasts for 4 days, till the very day it had been proposed for the actual Uprising. On February 7th. 1943 future plans for the Armed Resistance in Jewish Warsaw Ghetto are commenced as Franciska must be considering what her own future means.
On Tuesday February 16th. 1943 “..For Sale to Humanity ..70,000 Jews.” New York Times.
On February 16th. 1943 Himmler now orders that the entire Jewish Warsaw Ghetto is to be reduced to rubble and the World now recognises that the 70,000 remaining Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto are to be resettled. Can it be that any Jew, now resident within the crumbling Warsaw Jewish Ghetto had not been made aware of what America was now admitting to. The timely reminder of all moral duty or ethical response is once more set aside as the Jews look out across a wasteland of omitted compassion.
Tuesday February 16th. 1943 “..In this way ..Warsaw ..will be reduced.” SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler.
Of course, we cannot know what Franciska witnessed here, whether she was made aware of the mass executions taking place on Warsaw’s Streets, but she cannot have been far away from knowing. For me, it is an odious reality we now recognise that the World had still looked on as the Jews within Warsaw, and even still remaining alive within Europe, were left to their own devices. It is both true that the Jewish People of Europe were both abandoned and left to die, but they became hostage to machinations between Hitler’s regime and the West that would still not save them.
“..Saturday March 13th. 1943 ..Dear Sirs ..coming days are likely to see ..end of ..Jews in Warsaw. Are we ready. From a material point of view it is very bad. Of ..49 weapons that have been allocated to us only 36 can be used ..for lack of ammunition. Our position as regards arms has worsened after ..many operations of ..past few weeks ..during which much ammunition was used. At ..present moment there are no more than 10 bullets for each weapon. This is a catastrophic situation. Please inform ..authorities in our name that if large scale help does not arrive immediately ..we shall look on it as indifference on ..part of ..representatives and ..authorities to ..fate of ..Jews of Warsaw. ..allocation of weapons without ammunition is a cynical mockery of our fate ..and confirms ..assumption that ..poison of antisemitism continues to pervade ..leading circles in Poland ..despite ..cruel and tragic experiences of ..past 3 years. It is not our intention to persuade anybody concerning our willingness and ability to fight. Since January 18th. Jews of Warsaw have been in a state of continuous struggle with ..invader and his servants. Anyone who denies this or casts doubt upon it ..is nothing but a deliberate antisemite. We do not expect only understanding from ..authorities and ..delegatura but also that they should consider ..murder of 1,000,000’s of Jews ..who are Polish Citizens ..to be ..main problem of our current life. We regret most deeply that it is not possible for us to make direct contact with ..Allied governments ..with ..Polish Government and ..Jewish organizations abroad in order to inform them about our situation and ..attitude towards us on ..part of ..Polish authorities and public. ..We request that you take ..necessary steps immediately with ..Army Authorities and Government Representatives. We request that you read them this letter and demand immediately at least 100 grenades ..50 revolvers ..10 rifles and several 1,000 bullets of various diameters. I am prepared to submit within two days accurate plans of our positions ..with maps ..so that there need be no doubt whatsoever concerning ..necessity of ..supply of arms. Commander ..Jewish Fighting Organization.” Mordechai Anielewicz.
No matter the narrative, the secrecy that never existed around The Final Solution comes back to trouble History. It is impossibly difficult for any nation to suggest other than what it was aware of in relation to what was happening to their own Jewish Community. We know, especially in catholic Poland, not much escaped the attention of the church and yet, the role of christianity was wholly abandoned in failing to intervene in what Hitler committed Poland to. Then on April 17th. 1943, the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto Uprising begins with some remnants of Warsaw’s Jews, 70,000 Jews who are still alive, take up arms
Wednesday May 5th. 1943 “..In Poland there were ..about 4,500,000 Jews ..there remain ..only 100,000. ..Warsaw Ghetto containing ..650,000 ..only 20,000 ..25,000 Jews there. ..majority killed. ..Special death camps at Lublin (Majdanek) ..Treblinka near Brest-Litovsk. ..several hundred ..jammed into large rooms ..where they die by gassing.” Vatican Memo.
On May 8th. 1943 and in the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto, the Headquarters of Jewish Resistance, 18 Mila Street, is surrounded and liquidated. Mordechai Anielewicz and 97 of the Resistance Fighters who fought and Died that Day are recorded into History, acknowledging what Polish Jews did in defending their Nation, Poland. The Jewish refusal to succumb to the Nazi brutality will point the way toward all future Jewish Persistence and Resistance! No Jew can have failed to recognise what Jewish Resistance was seeking to achieve on their behalf, including Franciska. Tragically, few Jewish resister’s managed to Survive what was more than made ready for the more than 50,000 of Warsaw’s Ghetto Jews who had been murdered in recent months. On May 10th. 1943, the Warsaw Ghetto Jewish Uprising came to an end as the Jewish Ghetto was reduced to a pile of rubble about 3 storey’s high. It would be a week before Stroop could declare Warsaw was ‘Junderein’, but 22,000 of these Jews were transported immediately to Majdanek for ‘resettlement’ and attempts were being made to lure ever more Jews out of their hiding places and into extinction.
On Tuesday May 11th. 1943 “..responsibility for ..crime of ..murder of ..whole Jewish nationality in Poland rests first of all on those who are carrying it out ..but indirectly it falls also upon ..whole of humanity ..peoples of ..Allied nations and on their governments ..who up to this day have not taken any real steps to halt this crime. By looking on passively upon this murder of defenceless millions tortured children ..women and men they have become partners to ..responsibility…My friends in ..Warsaw ghetto fell. ..I did not succeed in dying ..same way or ..with them. ..I belong to them and ..mass graves there.” Shmuel Zygielbojm.
On May 11th. 1943 Shmuel Zygielbojm commits suicide as what he saw was the clear abandonment of his Jewish Community. There was then a ewer cynical ruse, to further weaken any further Jewish Resistance within the rubble strewn Warsaw. The Nazi’s made aware that all those Polish Jews who had been furnished with safe passage, from the issuance of Visa’s and Passports from Latin America Countries could emigrate to those various Country’s that would have them. For Franciska, who by now had been living on the Aryan side of Warsaw, came forward to gain access to such a promise and received her promised emigration certificate. However, for all of these who meet at the Hotel Polski for processing, the promise that they are to be these exchange Jews is captivating to a weakened sense of reality. For the many of those Jews once more corrupted by the promise of survival the Camp of Belsen awaited. Yet here the ‘Star’ Camp for these privileged Jews, whose reasoning had been practicably obliterated, this is but another con. We recognise too that these Polish Jews are mostly those Jews who either emerged from the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto Uprising or from a secure hiding place outside the Ghetto Walls.
“..new arrivals were assembled in the yard outside crematorium.” Filip Mueller.
Franciska was amongst them who gave up her safety in search of an end to the awful nature of perpetual persecution. Here too, and lured by the prospect of emigration to Eretz Israel, these seduced Jews joined the ranks of those other Jews all heading for Belsen and a supposedly privileged though fraudulently prepared deception. When, on July 3rd. 1943, the Nazi’s surrounded the Hotel Polski and arrested its 600 Jewish inhabitants, they were all taken to Warsaw’s Pawiak Gaol. Here and in this moment, any pretence must have been shaken from the very hope so many Jews had always held onto. Some of these ‘safe’ Jews were immediately shot in the prison courtyard while those Jews who remained alive were further transported to Belsen, straight to Birkenau or even to Vittel. For many of these proposed states in South America, they too played along to what would be Hitler’s gambit and refused entry to all too many Jews of Europe. For these remnants of Warsaw’s Jews, they too are included in what the World had already recognised was a murderous enterprise beyond comprehension, and for Franciska in particular, she too was moving steadily toward extermination.
“..Polish Jews knew. ..schillinger had taken a fancy to ..a body ..she had a classic figure. .he walked up ..took her ..hand. ..naked Woman ..scooped ..gravel ..threw it is his face ..dropped his revolver ..Woman snatched it ..fired ..into his abdomen…naked crowd turned on us. ..Woman fired ..again ..at ..chief ..wounding. ..chief ..SS men made off. ..we managed ..drove them all ..into ..chamber with clubs ..bolted ..doors .called ss to administer Cyclone B. ..we’ve had time to acquire ..experience.” Tadeusz Borowski.
On October 23rd. 1943 there were 2 Jewish transports to arrive at Birkenau, the smaller one was some 1,035 Jewish Men, Women and Their Children arriving from Rome. Some 149 Jewish Men and 47 Jewish Women of these were spared the immediacy of selection for Gassing and entered the Camp proper. The second arrival, which delivered Franciska from amongst a Belsen transport of 1,800 Polish Jewish Men, Women and Their Children, who were purportedly free from the ‘resettlement’ programme, they none the less arrived at Birkenau. As was the case for all arrivals this transport arrived at the ramp of Birkenau Death Camp and here the ruse continued. The Polish Jews, remnants of Warsaw Jewry’s last stand, arrived in passenger trains at Birkenau and not Bergau. They were still informed that this was their last stop before their departure for Switzerland. Here they were told of the Swiss requirement to disinfect, and this was at the behest of the Swiss authority’s. Taken to Krematorium II, especially cleaned for the arrival of these tricked and not so privileged Jews, the Women and Children are scolded into believing they will be showered and disinfected.
“..Quackernack and Schillinger were strutting back and forth in front of ..humiliated crowd with a self important swagger. Suddenly they stopped in their tracks ..attracted by a strikingly handsome woman with blue black hair who was taking off her right shoe. ..Woman ..as soon as she noticed that ..2 men were ogling her ..launched into what appeared to be a titillating and seductive strip tease act. What happened next took place with lightning speed ..quick as a flash she grabbed her shoe and slammed its high heel violently against Quackernack’s forehead. He winced with pain and covered his face with both hands. At this moment ..young woman flung herself at him and made a quick grab for his pistol. There was a shot. Schillinger cried out and fell to ..ground.” Filip Muller.
However, and despite this assurance, these Jews had all their documentation for freedom to protect and were reluctant to undress. Along with this reluctance came the beatings, which was uncontrollably savage, with the ss wielding large sticks. The wounding and beating senselessly of these Jewish Women and Their Children forced them into abject submission. All the SS preparation was about to break down and all it now needed was a spark, and Franciscka, a stunning Polish Jewish beauty provided that spark. Amongst the ss present were: ackerman, boger, emmerich, gorges, hustek, kurchuss, quackernack, schillinger, schwartzhuber and voss.
“..Schillinger told ..Women to undress ..and 1 Woman said she did not undress in front of men. In consequence of this he raised his whip ..his cane ..he always walked around with a cane ..and he wanted to strike her. At this point ..she drew a revolver and killed him with one shot. From ..time we received this information Schillinger never appeared in ..camp ..naturally ..because he had been killed.” Dr Aharon Beilin.
The Women and some of the Children were led into the undressing room, right beside the Gassing Chamber and were ordered to fully undress for disinfection. As History informs us, though it is relayed in many varying descriptions, and in ss Scharfuhrer Josef Schillinger and ss Oberscharfuhrer Walter Konrad Quackernack, the law of Rassenschande is set aside for personal demands over the Female form. However, this Polish Jewish Woman, Franceska Mann, who was aged 26, an arrival amongst these 1,800 ‘privileged’ Jews from Belsen, is an Actor, Ballerina and Dancer and a resister of the Nazi intention for them.
“..incident ..grew into a legend. Without doubt ..this heroic deed ..in ..face of certain death ..gave moral support to every prisoner. We realized all at once that if we dared raise a hand against them ..that hand might kill ..they were mortal ..too.” Wieslaw Kielar.
Franciska was amongst many Polish Jews who had had their long held suspicions of Hitler’s intentions for them. Clearly knowing well the rumours of Death Camps and Killing Sites, these Jews were almost certain of what the Nazi intention toward them was. Franciska certainly felt the leery gaze of her captors upon her and she struck a blow for both Women and Jewish Resistance within The Holocaust. Franciska threw her clothing at Schillinger and hit Quackernack with the heel of her shoe, driving the heel into the side of his lecherous head.
“..One transport from Belsen arrived ..approximately two thirds ..mostly men were in ..gas chamber ..remaining third was in ..undressing room. When 3 or 4 armed SS guards entered ..dressing room to hasten ..undressing ..mutiny broke out. ..light cables were torn down ..SS men were overpowered ..one of them was stabbed and all of them were robbed of their weapons. As this room was in complete darkness wild shooting started between ..guard near ..exit door and ..prisoners inside. When I arrived I ordered ..doors to be shut and I had ..process of gassing ..first party finished and then went into ..room together with ..guard carrying small searchlights ..pushing ..prisoners into a corner from where they were taken out singly into another room of ..Krematorium and shot ..by my order ..with small calibre weapons.” Rudolf Hoess.
In retaliation, Schillinger went to shoot her but Franciska grabbed the gun and shot both Schillinger and Wilhelm Emmerich. Schillinger was shot in the stomach, and this would prove fatal. In also wounding Emmerich, she crippled him to a certain extent. For the majority of this transport, with as many as 1,200 of these Jews, mostly Men and Children already gassed, the Nazi machinery was forced to review its usually mechanised like efficiency. The surety that panic would be alleviated was now in question and any future transports were forced to be dealt with more aware that the Jews had been prepared to fight back. Kommandant Hoess arrived with heavily armed reinforcements to face a darkened room filled with Jewish Women who had had enough of being subjected to Nazi extremes. For many of these Jewish Women, who had bitten, scratched and fought their assailants, now locked into the Krematorium, some of them are taken out one by one and shot. For the others, who are then shot in the dressing room from a fusillade of machine gun bullets, hand grenades and even savage beatings, the sting of Jewish Resistance struck deep and hard.
“..10 years old when ..Nazis marched into Warsaw. My sister was in ..hospital having her first baby. I was about to be an uncle. That night we went to ..hospital to visit my sister. Soldiers throwing bundles out of windows and catching them on their bayonets surrounded .. hospital. Blood was everywhere. We never saw ..baby or my sister. ..Nazis put my family in ..camps. My father and I were together. We never saw my mother and sisters again. My father died. I promised him I would write our story.” Ben Edelbaum.
For 2 more of these SS guards, who were severely injured, the end for the vast majority of this privileged transport was never in question. They are then crushed into the Gassing Chamber and are Gassed to Death. We do not know how Franciska’s life was ended, nor do we know how many of this Belsen transport’s Jewish Women were either shot or Gassed. But what we do know with certainty, not even all of those 196 previously spared at the ramp managed to Survive what had always been intended for them. My words have to have meaning and for that reason I record for all Human lives that they must matter. It is simply unacceptable that any life can be seen as expendable as some overseers might demand.
“..Most of ..Jews ..Warsaw ..Cracow ..Lublin ..already dead. ..killed mainly in ..death camps ..built in ..spring of 1942. ..autumn 1942 ..Ostrow Jews probably knew ..vaguely ..terrible facts.” Isidore Last.
Tragically, in terms of those Jewish lives in The Holocaust, they are to be extinguished to an estimate, or at best, a revised estimate of their loss to us all. In this, Franciska Lola Manheimer-Rosenberg is not amongst the estimated but is known to us in History. Clearly, and as we are aware, in excess of 6,000,000 Jews who were Gassed, Murdered, Annihilated and Destroyed are so relegated into this assessment. Tragically, we will Never know the exacting detail of that Jewish grief for the Jewish loss, which is our loss as human beings is incalculable. That said! We cannot then afford to allow for any estimate to dismiss any single Jew who succumbed to Hitler’s efforts in The Final Solution of the Jewish Question. We have to know that we have risen above the levels of a barbarism that was clearly on display and added a dimension to atrocity it is defined as The Holocaust.
“..As to what was happening ..in all of Europe occupied by ..Germans ..Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam ..in ..pit of Babi Yar ..Kiev ..ghetto of Warsaw ..Lidice ..this pestilence ..about to submerge us ..no precise information ..reached us.” Primo Levi.