Rywka Posladek

Rywka lived with her family in the city of Łódź in central Poland. Like Rywka's family, the Posladeks, over one third of the city's inhabitants were Jewish. Rywka, who was 14 years old when Łódź fell under the control of Nazi Germany in September 1939, only lived to be 20. 

The city of Łódź was widely known for its prominent textile industry, which provided work for both her father Szmul and older brother Zelig. In the old, relatively poor and in some parts run-down quarter of Baluty, Rywka lived with her large family in one of the larger apartment buildings on Limanowskiego Street.

Rywka lived with her father Szmul and mother Perla, her little brother Lejb and big brother Pinkus. Her older sister Rachel also lived in the apartment, along with her husband Max and their little daughter Golda. In the neighbouring building, one door down, Rywka's older brother Zelig lived with his wife Masha.

In Łódź, they lived what appeared to be a fairly typical working-class life until the war came in September 1939. Rywka had just turned 14 when Nazi Germany took over the city. Within just a few months, the city's Jews were forced into a ghetto established in her quarter, Bałuty. The Posladek family were among the few Jewish families who were not forced to move on those freezing mornings in January 1940, as they were already living in what became the ghetto.

Gatuvy på stadslivet i Bałuty.
Photo: State Archive in Łódź/CC BY

Bałuty around 1930

Photograph of urban life in Bałuty, Łódź.

Längenhetslista med bland annat Rywkas namn.
Photo: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum/State Archive in Łódź

Resident register from Łódź ghetto, 1942

The Posladek and Borensztein families on apartment lists from the Łódź ghetto.

Every corner of the old and rundown quarter was filled with tens of thousands of Jews. They suffered starvation and cold, while disease spread in the crowded houses. Executions took place openly in the streets, while the ghetto continued to fill up with people from different parts of occupied Europe. Łódź's famous industries were the lifeline of the ghetto, and most of the ghetto's population was forced to work in them. Only those who worked or went to school, like Rywka's younger brother Lejb, were allowed to receive food rations, which were constantly reduced by the Nazis.

Despite the great misery and starvation, life in the ghetto continued on, at least until the afternoon of 5 September 1942. It was then that the Nazis declared a ghetto-wide curfew that lasted for several days. The Nazis went from house to house, apartment to apartment, with lists of the ghetto's inhabitants, selecting anyone they no longer considered fit for work, who they felt could not contribute. On 10 September, the soldiers reached the Posladek family's apartment. Rywka's father Szmul, mother Perla and little brother Lejb were selected. That was the last time she would ever see them.

The apartment list shows that Szmul's, Perla's and Lejb's names had been crossed off. Rywka's parents and little brother – along with thousands of others – were then taken to the Radogoszcz (Radegast) railway station at the northern edge of the ghetto. There they were loaded onto freight cars, which took them to the Chełmno extermination camp, where they were murdered in gas vans. An estimated 180,000 people were murdered in Chełmno. Lejb was 13 years old when the Nazis murdered him and his parents.

Rywka was left with her older brother Pinkus, sister Rachel and niece Golda. Rachel's husband Max had died in the ghetto just a month earlier. Rachel and little Golda escaped the purge in September 1942, but were deported and murdered on Christmas Eve that year. Golda was just five years old. Rywka's older brother Zelig had lost his wife Masha in the ghetto and took his own life in April 1943.

Rywka and Pinkus were left alone and had to continue working in the ghetto to survive. But at the end of April 1944, Pinkus died of tuberculosis. Just four years after the arrival of the Nazis, Rywka was the only member of the large Posladek family who was still alive. She was one of the 70,000 people left in the ghetto, which at its peak had nearly 210,000 inhabitants. The Soviet success on the Eastern Front and the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto by the remaining Jews there led the Nazis to decide to empty the Łódź Ghetto and deport its inhabitants in August 1944.

From the same station where their families had been sent to die, Rywka and the other inhabitants were deported in freight cars to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp. Upon arrival, the majority were sent directly to the gas chambers, but Rywka passed the selection. She was sent first to the Ravensbrück concentration camp and then on to the Mühlhausen labour camp in central Germany. Mühlhausen was a satellite camp of the large Buchenwald concentration camp, where prisoners were forced to produce parts for fighter planes, including bomb detonators. Finally, in early spring 1945, she was moved to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

Thousands upon thousands of Jews had been transferred to Bergen-Belsen from other concentration camps as the Allied forces came closer and closer. Many of the prisoners had been forced on death marches in the bitter cold of January and February, before those who survived made it to Bergen-Belsen. In the overcrowded and cramped camp, diseases such as dysentery, diphtheria, typhus and tuberculosis spread, killing thousands. Despite the terrible conditions, Rywka had remained relatively healthy until her arrival at Bergen-Belsen, but now became severely ill with fever, diarrhoea and a severe cough.

Liberation and time in Sweden

On 15 April 1945, Bergen-Belsen was liberated by British forces. At the time of liberation, the camp held more than 60,000 prisoners, most of them Jews and most in a terrible state of starvation and disease. Several thousand dead prisoners lay unburied in the camp. Rywka and the other surviving prisoners were moved out of the camp and cared for while the Allied forces tried to register all the survivors. In Rywka's registration card, she is registered under her Polish name Regina.

Rywka was one of more than 9,000 survivors brought to Sweden for medical care through UNRRA transports. It was after a period in the transit camp and Swedish field hospital in Lübeck that Rywka was taken, seriously ill, to Sweden on the S/S Kastelholm on 11 July 1945. The Kastelholm arrived in Stockholm after a four-day journey. Rywka and many of the other seriously ill were immediately transported to the emergency hospital in Sigtuna. She was admitted to the hospital in Sigtuna with bilateral tuberculosis. Initially, her general condition was considered to be good. But as the days passed, her condition deteriorated, with severe breathing difficulties and coughing attacks. At 12:35 on 8 August 1945, Rywka, just 20 years old, died from a severe coughing fit.

Rywka Regina Posladek seemed to be the only member of the Posladek family to survive the ghetto in Łódź, only to die a few months after the end of the war. In her journals from Sigtuna, she states that she has a sister in Russia, but it has not been possible to find any trace of this sister. The family was registered in the Yad Vashem database of Holocaust victims in 1957 by a family friend, Natan Szcigowski.

Rywka's route

The map shows the locations to which Rywka was forcibly transferred or travelled, from her birthplace of Łódź to the Northern Jewish Cemetery. Click on the information symbol to see all the locations, listed in chronological order.

About Rywka Posladek

Regina Rywka Posladek

First name: Regina, Jewish name Rywka
Last name: Posladek, appears in archives also as Poszladek, Postadotz, Poladak
Born: July 13, 1925, also appears born in 1924, in Łódź, Poland
Died: August 8, 1945, aged 20 or 21, at the emergency hospital in Sigtuna
Buried: At the Northern Jewish Cemetery, N J 08 39
Residence before the war: Limanowskiegogatan 24, apartment 79, Baluty, Łódź
Residence during the war: Alexanderhof Strasse (Limanowskiegogatan) 24, apartment 79, Łódź ghetto
Arrived in Sweden: On S/S Kastelholm which departed from Lübeck July 11, 1945 and arrived Stockholm July, 15 1945
Occupation: School student

Närbild på Rywka Posladeks gravsten
Rywka Posladek's tombstone at the Northern Jewish Cemetery in Stockholm. Photo: Miranda Solvang, Swedish Holocaust Museum/SHM.

About Rywka's father Szmul Posladek

Szmul Posladek

First name: Szmul Josek, also spelled Schmul Josef
Last name: Posladek
Born: December 16, 1883, in Łódź, Poland
Died: Deported from the Łódź ghetto on September 10, 1942, probably to the Chełmno extermination camp, aged 58
Residence before the war: Łódź, Poland
Residence during the war: Łódź ghetto
Occupation: Textile worker

About Rywka's mother Perla Posladek

Pola Perla Posladek

First name: Pola, Jewish name Perla, also spelled Perel
Last name: Posladek
Born: May 16, 1886, in Łódź, Poland
Died: Deported from Łódź ghetto on September 10, 1942, probably to Chełmno extermination camp, aged 56
Residence before the war: Łódź, Poland
Residence during the war: Łódź ghetto
Occupation: Housewife

About Rywka's sister Rachel Borensztein

Rachel Borensztein

First name: Rachel, also called Ruchla
Last name: Borensztein, born Posladek
Born: December 25, 1908, in Łódź, Poland
Died: Deported from Łódź ghetto on December 24, 1942, probably to Chełmno extermination camp, aged 33, together with her daughter Golda, aged 5
Residence before the war: Łódź, Poland
Residence during the war: Łódź ghetto
Husband: Max Majer Borensztein, born 1904 alternatively 1906, died in Łódź ghetto February 14, 1942
Children: Daughter Golda, born 1937, deported with her mother in December 1942
Occupation: Housewife

About Rywkas brother Zelig Posladek

Zelig Posladek

First name: Zelig
Last name: Posladek
Born: July 31, 1911, in Łódź, Poland
Died: Commited suicide in April, 1943, in the Łódź ghetto
Residence before the war: Łódź, Poland
Residence during the war: Łódź ghetto
Wife: Masza Fridlikh, born 1914 alternatively 1918, died in Łódź ghetto
Occupation: Textile worker, weaver

About Rywka's brother Pinkhas Posladek

Pinkhas Posladek

First name: Pinkhas, also called Pinkus
Last name: Posladek
Born: February, 15, 1922, in Łódź, Poland
Died: April 28, 1944, of pulmonary tuberculosis, in the Łódź ghetto, aged 22
Residence before the war: Łódź, Poland
Residence during the war: Łódź ghetto
Occupation: Student and locksmith

About Rywka's brother Lajb Posladek

Arie Lajb Posladek

First name: Lajb, Jewish name Arie
Last name: Posladek
Born: May 5, 1929 in Łódź, Poland
Died: Deported from the Łódź ghetto on September 10, 1942, probably to the Chełmno extermination camp, aged 13
Residence before the war: Łódź, Poland
Residence during the war: Łódź ghetto
Occupation: School student

Learn more about the fates of others here

Here you will find links to the “Förlorade röster” [Lost Voices] collection page as well as links to all the personal texts, listed by surname.

Reference list

To reconstruct Rywka's life story, source material has been collected from various archives in Sweden, Germany, the USA and Israel. 

The Swedish National Archives contain the archives of the Royal Medical Board, where the files on “1945 refugee healthcare” are preserved, containing information about her time in Sweden. The National Archives also houses the archives of the Aliens Commission, which often has a personal file for survivors who survive their first year in Sweden. 

The German Arolsen Archive preserves the Allied registration of survivors after the end of the war, known as the “Displaced Person Registration Record”. The Arolsen Archive also preserves documentation from many concentration camps, such as Dachau, Buchenwald and Ravensbrück. 

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) has preserved and digitised the lists of all Holocaust survivors and, in particular, preserves the lists compiled at Bergen-Belsen and later by UNRRA. The USHMM has also digitised much of the material from the Lodz ghetto, including school records and, in particular, the ghetto's civil registration records.  Finally, the Israeli Holocaust Museum Yad Vashem has “Pages of Testimony”, forms, where survivors could register their murdered relatives. In many cases, surviving relatives believed that those who came to Sweden in 1945 were murdered in the Holocaust, and many of the “1945 rescued” group are thus incorrectly registered. The testimonies of the relatives are the most important source for reconstructing the names of those who were murdered.

The historical facts about World War II and the Holocaust are taken from Yehuda Bauer's "A History of the Holocaust" (2001) and Saul Friedländer's work "The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews 1939-1945" (2007).

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The Northern Jewish Cemetery

The survivors who died shortly after arriving in Stockholm were buried at the Northern Jewsish Cemetery in Stockholm, side by side with the Swedish Jewish community.