“Everybody — every human being — has the obligation to contribute somehow to this world”

—Edith Carter, Holocaust Survivor

Roma Kaltman


Roma in Feldafing, GermanyA young person is very impressionable, and as a child, I experienced nightmares that forever changed my life.

When I was thirteen, war broke out in Poland and suddenly life was interrupted. My family was taken into the Lodz Ghetto, where we were kept separate from the rest of society. There was no leaving, only working. No food, only a little soup. No toilets, just a few outhouses.

My mother could not handle the circumstances. She died shortly after arriving in the Ghetto. My three brothers, my sister, and I pressed on, fighting to maintain some sort of life. Occasionally, I traded ration cards for books. This is how I met my husband, Sam. He was a very fast reader and a smart man. He was five years older than me and was from Lodz.

A very controversial Jewish man was in charge of Lodz, Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski. He designated who was allowed to live in the ghetto and who was sent to concentration camps. I lived in fear of what he would decide.

My sister and I were sent together on a transport to Auschwitz. Perhaps it is because we had each other that we managed to survive. Upon our arrival at Auschwitz, we were humiliated, degraded, and dehumanized.

After a few months, my sister and I, along with another girl, volunteered to go to another camp, Stutthof, where we were assigned to indoor work. We worked sorting uniforms and army supplies. Soon the Germans, realizing the war was ending, forced us onto a death march during winter with no food or proper clothing. We stopped one evening in a barn and my sister urged us to run away. We fled to an empty house where we shed our clothes and kept an eye out for signs of trouble. Over the next few days, we wandered between homes trying to conceal our identity and find shelter. Eventually, with my sister very ill, a Russian woman doctor took us to a hospital where we convalesced.

Roma and Sam on General Sturgis June 1950It was not so sweet being free. Some Russian liberators wanted to rape, rob and terrify us. I had typhoid, which can be deadly. We went back to our hometown to find none of our family alive. It was difficult to adjust to a “normal” life. Even good food could make us sick because our bodies were not used to it.

I was very lucky that Sam, my husband, also survived. We married in Germany, where he was president of a small federation for Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. Because he was still stateless, he could not go with me to England, where I had been living at the time. Instead, we came to the United States and to Cincinnati. I was fortunate to go back to school at the University of Cincinnati where I earned my degree cum laude.

I demand that everyone understand the vulnerability of humans. To help us remember that vulnerability, we must never forget the Shoah.

 

View Roma Kaltman’s testimony (7 minutes)

 

Learn & Remember: Cincinnati Reflections on the Holocaust, 2008. This book was a collaboration by The Center for Holocaust & Humanity Education and The Cincinnati Community Kollel. This book can be purchased for $10 by contacting CHHE.