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Roza Robota (1921, Ciechanów–January 5, 1945), referred to in other sources as Rojza, Rozia, or Rosa, was one of four women hanged in the Auschwitz concentration camp for their role in the Sonderkommando revolt of October 7, 1944. Born in Ciechanów, Poland, she was a member of the Hashomer Hatzair Zionist-socialist youth movement, and joined that movement's underground upon the Nazi occupation. She was transported to Auschwitz in 1942, and was sent to the adjacent Birkenau labor camp for women, where she was involved in the underground dissemination of news among the prisoners.

Robota worked sorting clothing at the Birkenau Effektenlager adjacent to Crematorium IV of Auschwitz, where the bodies of gas chamber victims were burned. She apparently smuggled gunpowder collected by women in the munitions factory, transferring it to a member of the Sonderkommando named Wrobel, who was also active in the resistance. The explosives were used to manufacture weapons and to blow up the crematorium during the Sonderkommando revolt. In her work she was assisted by Hadassa Zlotnicka, another native of Ciechanów, whom Robota apparently enlisted in the resistance. Together, they were able to smuggle approximately three teaspoons of gunpowder per day.

Robota and three other women — Ala Gertner, Estusia Wajcblum, and Regina Szafirsztajn — were arrested by the Gestapo and interrogated under torture, but they refused to reveal the names of other women who participated in the smuggling operation. They were hanged on January 5, 1945. According to eyewitness accounts, they all shouted "Revenge!" or "Be Strong" . to the crowd of assembled inmates before they died. Rosa was 23.

(Some say they shouted, "Chazak V'amatzz, --'Be strong and have courage', the phrase that God uses to encourage Joshua with after the death of Moses).

They had managed to blow off the roof of only one of the crematoria, yet the Nazis knew that the advancing Russian Army was very close to liberating the camp. It was clear to the Nazis that all evidence of the war-time atrocities had to be concealed, so the Germans destroyed the other four crematoria themselves. As a result of the bravery of these four women, countless Jewish deaths were averted.

Rosa Robota's memory lives on, in the naming of the Rosa Robota Gates at Montefiore Randwick (Sydney, Australia). This initiative was made possible by Sam Spitzer, a resistance fighter during World War II and now a resident of Sydney. Mr Spitzer named the gates in honour of his war time hero, Robota, and his late wife, Margaret. Mr Spitzer's sister was in Auschwitz with Rosa Robota.

Cousins of Roza Robota currently reside on Long Island, NY. In August 2004, one of her second cousins was born and named Rose, in her memory.

Further reading

  • Gurewitsch, Brana. Mothers, Sisters, Resisters: Oral Histories of Women Who Survived the Holocaust, The University of Alabama Press, 1998. (ISBN 0-8173-0952-7)
  • Shelley, Lore. The Union Kommando in Auschwitz: The Auschwitz Munition Factory Through the Eyes of Its Former Slave Laborers, University Press of America, 1996. (ISBN 0-7618-0194-4)
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