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Verblasste Spuren

Obermayer German Jewish History Award 2015 

The Jewish Altenburg

One of Millions: Wanda Oronowicz (1923-1943)

wanda orOn today´s February 21st, Wanda Oronowicz would celebrate her 95th birthday. But the young woman, who was born in Altenburg, was murdered shortly after her twentieth birthday in Auschwitz. She is one of many, far too many.

On 21st February 1923 Wanda Oronowicz was born in Altenburg as daughter of the trader couple Markus and Regina Oronowicz. She was the second child of the couple, after a first daughter died in 1922 not even a month year old. The family which was enhanced with the siblings Charlotte, Leo Nathan, Margarethe and Hans Naftali in the years 1924 to 1931, lived in the house Pauritzer Straße 27.

Wanda attended the Neustadtschule from 1929 to 1933 and then until 1937 the girl´s part of the Gebrüder-Reichenbach- Schule. There she was, according to the descriptions of a classmate, known as "lovely girl, very smart, very good in arithmetic ". After completing elementary school Wanda began training in a café in Leipzig.

On 28th October 1938 - 80 years ago - the Oronowicz family was captured by the so-called "Polenaktion". The entire family was arrested early in the morning of 28th October 1938 and later transferred to the police jail at the market place, where they had to stay with other fellow sufferers until early evening. Then they were taken to the railway station and were brought to Leipzig by train. There were already special trains ready which picked up numerous Jews from the entire region for expulsion across the German-Polish border at Beuthen (Bytom). The Oronowicz family came into a hall (in other sources a synagogue) with other large families in Beuthen and were finally able to return to Altenburg on 31st October 1938. One reason probably was that Markus Oronowicz was not a Polish citizen and maybe was not able to cross the Polish border by the Polish authorities with his family.

Wanda's father was picked up again in the "Pogrom Night" at home on the morning of 10th November 1938 and driven to the marketplace, finally taken into police custody - the so-called "protective custody". He was released the same day. The intention was to induce the father of the family to voluntarily leave the country, which took place the following year. Markus Oronowicz went alone to Poland to find a safe place for his family and Wanda's sister Charlotte escaped with a children's transport to England. Wanda was able to get a place in a training center for the departure to Palestine in Upper Silesia in 1940. After the closure of this camp she moved to "Gut Skaby" in Brandenburg with her group which was also a training center of the "Hachschara".

However, the already safe departure for Palestine did not happen: Only a few days after her 19th birthday, on 14th March 1942, the young woman was deported to thestolperstein pauri27 web "Arbeiterseinsatzlager Paderborn" (a labor camp) and was now caught in the clutches of the National Socialist henchmen. There was no escape from the camp and on 2nd March 1943, shortly after Wanda's 20th birthday, she was deported to Auschwitz with 546 other fellow sufferers. At the arrival of the transport the following day, 61 men were selected for forced labor in Auschwitz-Monowitz from the group, all others were murdered immediately after the selection. Even Wanda Oronowicz, just turned 20, fell victim to the National Socialist terror regime 75 years ago.

Her mother and her remaining siblings had already been taken to the ghetto Belzyce near Lublin on 10th May 1942 and murdered the same year. Father Markus was able to save himself in the ghetto Drohobycz, in the forced labor camp of the Beskiden Oil Company in Drohobycz and finally on escape through the time of the Nazi terror. Only he and his daughter Charlotte survived these dark days.

The fate of Wanda Oronowicz is one of many Jews of the Altenburg County. The three markable anniversaries in the life and suffering of the Altenburg girl made a special way to remember Wanda Oronowicz. The memory of her is representative of countless other fates.

Christian Repkewitz