Oświęcim: Jacob Hennenberg Eyewitness Testimony
Jacob Hennenberg born in 1924, was 15 when the Nazis forced all the citizens of Oświęcim (Poland) to leave.
Authored by Janos Kerti
A survivor’s testimony
During this oral testimony, Jacob describes the atrocities he witnessed by Nazis between 1939-1945.
Jacob initially recalls early life living in Oświęcim and the tragedy of his mother’s death one month before his Bar Mitzvah. Jacob then explains how the civilians of Oświęcim were ordered to leave in 1939, following the invasion of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
After being sent to Krakow, Jacob and his father returned to Oświęcim, which was now named Auschwitz by the Nazis. Jacob describes having to wear a yellow armband displaying the Star of David and how he had to cut his father’s beard. After being sent with his family to a ghetto in 1941, Jacob explains how he survived six forced labour camps and one concentration camp.
The following testimony by Jacob Hennenberg was sourced from the United States Holocaust Memorial (USHMM) archives.
Jacob Hennenberg's Oral TestimonyPlay Video
"I went to the Jewish cemetery in Oświęcim to say "Kaddish." To my dismay, when I arrived there, the cemetery was empty of all tombstones and in the middle was a dug reservoir holding water. I asked some people; "what happened here?" They told me that the Nazis took out all the tomb stones across to "Buna" or Monowice, or it was called Auschwitz III, and put them under a steel building. I went there, and I was told they were under the building. I stood there and said "Kaddish" for all of them."
Jacob Hennenberg describes the scene upon returning to Oświęcim Jewish cemetery in 1945 (Private Archive of Jacob Hennenberg)