Witnesses to History Keepers of Memory
Witnesses to History Keepers of Memory
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Rena Schondorf

Portrait of a grandmother and her grandchildren

Taken in 1937, the following photograph of Rena Schondorf, her sister Tola, their grandmother, and their young cousin reflects the happy days before the war reached Poland. The two sisters are wearing matching dresses: Rena’s is pink and Tola’s is blue. In the fall of 1943, Rena and her mother were separated from her sister and grandmother, who were deported to Skarzysko (occupied Poland). The sisters were only reunited in 1949. Today, they both live in Montreal.

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Tell me who is in this picture?
That’s Rena, grandma, that was our cousin – he never made it.
What happened to him?
What happened to other children!
And that’s Tola.
And what happened to your grandmother?
She died. We were sent away from Płaszów (Poland). There was a transport. My grandmother was with
me in the same transport as I. That one didn’t go to Auschwitz, that went to labour camp in Poland. She
died a natural death in her sleep. How do I know? Because I was next to her. At that time, she was
probably in her seventies but seventies at that time was an old age. And the only good thing is – good
thing, if there could be a good thing in that picture altogether – she was called, you know, Stubenälteste.
That’s what it’s called because she was staying in the barrack all day long and made sure that everything
was clean. She didn’t have to go to work but she died a natural death and that was a blessing in a way.
Do you know when this picture was taken?
I would think this is about 1937 or before.
And where?
In Poland, in Krakow. And you can see, the dresses are the same. The only thing what is different, Rena’s
is pink and mine is blue. You cannot see it but I know my colours because I know that I was always that
one that was wearing blue and she was wearing pink. But it’s the same material and everything.

Sarah Engelhard
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