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Regina Zielinski

Regina ZielinskiRegina Regina Zielinski (Siedliczcze 2 September 1924) was taken to Sobibor in a horse-drawn cart together with her fellow-villagers just before Christmas 1942. She was selected to knit socks and later had to sort ammunition. On arrival in the camp she heard her little brother say: ‘Let’s say farewell to the night, because we won’t see the sun rise again.’

She was born Riwka Feldman. After the uprising she fled by train to Frankfurt am Main where she worked for a German family as a domestic help. She pretended to be a Polish catholic girl. On 24 December 1945 she married a catholic Polish man in Wetlar under the assumed name of Wojciszyn. On 3 August 1949 the couple emigrated to Australia where they settled in Sydney.

"the stench from the crematorium hung over the camp"
Squeezed together in horse-drawn carts and guarded by SS, about 800 Polish Jews from the Staw-Nowosiulki labour camp arrived in Sobibor in December 1942. In the camp they were asked which of the female prisoners knew how to knit, and eighteen year old Regina Zielinski from Siedliszcze applied. Until the spring she and other women were put to work in the Strickerei to knit socks and gloves for the SS in the camp. Later she was put to work in the laundry and she also had to clean and sort ammunition.

About the conditions in the camp she stated in 1974: ‘We were given very little food and were constantly afraid of being taken to the extermination camp [Lager III, with the gas chambers].’ Although this section of the camp was isolated and no contact was possible with the prisoners who were forced to work there, it was ‘well known among the prisoners that countless prisoners were being murdered in the Sobibor extermination camp. Often the stench from the crematorium hung over the camp.’ Almost every day Regina saw male and female prisoners being beaten by camp guards. She was beaten only once. At the time she was working in the laundry and she had a middle ear infection. ‘Because I didn’t feel well, I had sat down on a stack of laundry to rest. SS Frenzel found me there and he took me to Untersturmbannführer Wagner, who gave me ten lashes on my back with a whip.’ One of her kidneys was permanently damaged as a result.

"we spent the sundays tidying up and cleaning"
For a long time the sick were not taken care of in Sobibor; there was no camp hospital with wooden beds or care. ‘Becoming seriously ill as a rule meant you would be taken to the extermination camp.’ In the euphemistic camp jargon: the sick person was sent to the Lazarett. The absence of nursing care was no problem because new transports arrived constantly so new Arbeitsjuden could always be recruited. The prisoners therefore hid being ill for as long as possible, but because of the poor hygienic conditions, the hard work and the scarce food, vitamin deficiency, typhoid fever, sores and pneumonia were always ready to strike. In early 1943 - there were fewer transports coming in then - the regime was relaxed a little bit and sick prisoners were given three days to recuperate before having to go back to work.

On Sundays the prisoners had some time to themselves to do things like play musical instruments. Also on Sundays the guards checked whether the barracks were clean enough. ‘This meant that much of the day was spent tidying up and cleaning.’

"nanny in Frankfurt"
Regina managed to escape from the camp after the uprising in October 1943. She had run to the barracks where she slept and behind it men were busy cutting the barbed wire fencing. Together with others she managed to reach the forest unharmed. The escapees ran all evening and all night, and hid in the fields during the day. At night they moved on. After walking many nights Zielinsky&HannsPeterthe escapees reached Siedliszcze, Regina’s place of birth. The bold Regina was able to reach Lublin, where she went to the employment office, pretending to be a Ukrainian who wanted to work in Germany because of the animosity between Poles and Ukrainians. She was given an address in Frankfurt am Main and Regina reported to the Krochnaldalager, where volunteers for Germany were assembled. In Frankfurt she took on yet another identity and pretended to be a Catholic Polish woman. She worked for a German family as a nanny until the end of the war. She was constantly worried she would talk about home and Sobibor in her sleep. After the Americans liberated Frankfurt, she left for an assembly camp for displaced persons. She decided to stay in Germany and started working for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). In Wetzlar she met her future husband, a Pole who had survived the war as a POW. In August 1949 they both emigrated to Australia.

Watch the interview of
Jules Schelvis with Regina Zielinski

Still Zielinski Shoah Foundation

Watch an interview with
Regina Zielinski from 1995

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