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Roza Robota
Roza Robota (1921-1945).jpg
Photograph from the college years
Born 1921
Died 6 January 1945
Auschwitz extermination camp
Residence Ciechanów
Nationality Polish Jewish
Known for Holocaust resistance

Roza Robota (1921, Ciechanów – 6 January 1945)[1] or Róża Robota in Polish,[2] referred to in other sources as Rojza, Rozia or Rosa, was the leader of a group of four women Holocaust resistors hanged in the Auschwitz concentration camp for their role in the Sonderkommando prisoner revolt of 7 October 1944.

Early life[edit]

Born in Ciechanów, Poland, to a middle-class family, Róża had one brother and one sister. She was a member of Hashomer Hatzair Zionist-socialist youth movement, and joined that movement's underground upon the Nazi occupation. Róża often used her Hebrew name, "Shohanah."


She was transported to Auschwitz in a Holocaust train during the liquidation of the Ciechanów Ghetto in 1942.[2] She survived the "selection" and was assigned to Auschwitz-II Birkenau labor commando for women, where she was involved in the underground dissemination of news among the prisoners. No one else from her family in Europe is known to have survived. She worked in the clothing depot at the Birkenau Effektenlager adjacent to Crematorium III of Birkenau, where the bodies of gas chamber victims were burned. She had been recruited by men of the underground whom she knew from her hometown, to smuggle "Schwarzpulver" ("black powder", an early kind of gunpowder, also used in early grenades and other bomb-like devices), a rapidly burning compound collected by women in the "Weichsel" munitions factory, transferring it to a Sonderkommando surnamed Wróbel,[3] who was also active in the resistance. This schwartzpulver was used to manufacture primitive grenades and possibly to help blow up the crematorium during the Sonderkommando revolt. In her work she was assisted by Hadassa Zlotnicka and Asir-Godel Zilber, both also from Ciechanów, whom Robota apparently enlisted in the resistance. Together with a few other women who worked in the Nazi factory's "pulverraum," they were able to obtain, hide, and turn over to the men of the underground no more than one to three teaspoons of the schwartzpulver compound per day, and not every day. The Sonderkommando blew up Crematorium III on 6 October 1944.[4]

Robota and three other women – Ala Gertner, Estusia Wajcblum, and Regina Safirsztajn – were arrested by the Gestapo and tortured in the infamous Bloc 23 but they refused to reveal the names of others who participated in the smuggling operation. They were hanged on 6 January 1945 – two women at the morning roll-call assembly, two others in the evening. Robota was 23 years old. According to some eyewitness accounts, she and her comrades shouted "Nekamah" ("Vengeance!"), or "Be Strong" to the assembled inmates before they died. Some say they shouted, "Chazak V'amatz" – "Be strong and have courage", the Biblical phrase that God uses to encourage Joshua after the death of Moses.

The Sonderkommando Revolt caused some 70 fatalities among the SS and kapos, and blew the roof off one crematorium, yet the Nazis knew 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 attempted to destroy the other four crematoria themselves.


Roza Robota's memory lives on, in the naming of the Roza 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. He named the gates in honour of his war-time hero, Robota, and his late wife, Margaret. Spitzer's sister was in Auschwitz with Robota.

At Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, a monument was built to honor Robota and the three other executed women. It stands in a prime location in the garden.


  1. ^ "Robota, Rosa" (PDF). Yad Vashem. Retrieved 30 March 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Patrycja Bukalska (20 January 2010). "Róża Robota postanowiła walczyć, do końca" [Róża Robota chose to fight till the end]. Tygodnik Powszechny, Pamięć Auschwitz (4/2010). Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  3. ^ Patterson, David (2002). "Salmen Lewental". In David Patterson, et al. (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Holocaust Literature, p. 112. Greenwood Publishing Group.
  4. ^ Yahil, Leni (1987). The Holocaust: The Fate of European Jewry, 1932–1945, p. 486. Oxford University Press.

Further reading[edit]

  • 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)

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roza_Robota — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.

32 news items

The Jewish Week
Tue, 02 Dec 2014 14:32:30 -0800

In the 1930s, the “Jewish” horses in Ciechanov, Poland (Roza Robota's hometown), never retired, pulling wagons and plows every day but Shabbos. Born in 1921, not much remains of her childhood, except the willow overhanging the stream where everyone ...

The Guardian

The Guardian
Fri, 15 May 2015 10:03:52 -0700

Roza Robota shouts “Be strong and be brave” as the trapdoor drops. Crematorium 4 was damaged beyond repair and never used again. On November 7th, 1944, the Nazis destroyed the gas chambers to hide their crimes. Twelve days after the hanging of the ...

New York Times

New York Times
Fri, 14 Nov 2014 10:57:03 -0800

She described the chain of events that started in spring 1943, when three Polish Jews assigned to work in a munitions factory just outside the Auschwitz death camp — Estera Wajcblum, Regina Szafirsztajn and Ala Gertner — were recruited by Roza Robota ...


Fri, 21 Nov 2014 22:40:12 -0800

Many know this story but few know the names Roza Robota, Estera Wajcblum, Regina Szafirsztajn and Ala Gertner, four women who smuggled gunpowder under their fingernails and stitched it into the seams of their clothes to make the uprising possible.

Jewish Daily Forward

Jewish Daily Forward
Tue, 27 Jan 2015 06:44:33 -0800

Although surely half the population was women, many people expressed amazement when they heard about the lives of women such as Roza Robota and the resisters who helped blow up the crematoria in Auschwitz; Vladka Meed, who was a gun runner in ...

The Times of Israel

The Times of Israel
Thu, 29 Jan 2015 03:53:04 -0800

Witnesses claim that one Canada sorter, Roza Robota, shouted seconds before her death, “Be strong and be brave.” Although this episode physically affected relatively few in the horrid history of Auschwitz, it was clear at the 70th anniversary of the ...

Jewish Daily Forward

Jewish Daily Forward
Sun, 23 Nov 2014 04:12:14 -0800

Many know this story but few know the names Roza Robota, Estera Wajcblum, Regina Szafirsztajn and Ala Gertner, four women who smuggled gunpowder under their fingernails and stitched it into the seams of their clothes to make the uprising possible.

New York Observer

New York Observer
Fri, 07 Nov 2014 07:00:00 -0800

Roza Robota, Estera Wajcblum, Regina Safirsztain, and Ala Gertner, all Polish-born teenagers in 1938, were, like millions of other young people, trapped in Poland when the Blitzkrieg began in September of 1939. Their schoolgirl lives ended and they ...

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