I recently became interested in the story of Rosa Robota, a Jewish prisoner in Auschwitz, who was executed for her role in the Sonderkommando revolt of October 7, 1944. Rosa is loosely connected with my family and I thought it would be interesting to learn more about her life. We hold a great collection of Jewish material in the Genealogy Centre, so this was the perfect place to start my research.
The Jewish Biographical Archive (Jüdisches biographisches Archiv) contains biographical information compiled from a range of information sources (such as encyclopedias, who’s who books and biographies). As Rosa’s part in the revolt is well documented, I thought I had a good shot of finding an entry about her. And I was right! It includes a summary of her life, a photograph, and lists some additional sources of information.
Knowing that Rosa was born in Ciechanów, Poland, but knowing very little about Polish geography, I consulted Where once we walked : a guide to Jewish communities destroyed in the Holocaust
This lists Ciechanów, Poland as 75 km NNW of Warszawa. It also told me the Jewish population pre Holocaust was 4403 (based on government census records from the 1920s-1930s)
My next step, was to find out more about the name Robota. I consulted A dictionary of Jewish surnames from the Kingdom of Poland
This told me that the surname occurred in the Ciechanów and Sierpc areas and that the name means work or labour.
To further paint the picture of her life, I decided to take the search online.
The Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names (on the Yad Vashem website) includes pages of testimony written by family, friends or acquaintances of Holocaust victims. An entry for Rosa, written by her cousin is included. While this did not provide me with any new information, it was nice to see Rosa remembered.
I then consulted the Yizkor book for Ciechanów. Yizkor books were written after the Holocaust by former residents of Jewish communities, to pay tribute to their former homes and the people who died. While most of these books were written in Hebrew or Yiddish, JewishGen have published English translations for many towns. A chapter about Rosa Robota, is included in the Ciechanów book.
To learn more about Auschwitz and the Sonderkommando revolt, my next step will be to consult resources in the Library’s Raoul Wallenberg Holocaust Collection
Wish me luck with my research!