Rachel Auerbach

Rachel Auerbach (1903–1976) established survivor reports as a foundational component of Holocaust research.

© Yad Vashem Photo Archive, Jerusalem. 3384/10
The false papers Auerbach used to escape from the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943.

She was born in the Galician city of Łanowce and studied Philosophy and Psychology in Lwów in the 1920s. She then moved to Warsaw and worked as a journalist. In the 1940s, Auerbach ran a soup kitchen in the Warsaw Ghetto and worked for Emanuel Ringelblum’s underground archive Oyneg Shabes (Joy of the Sabbath). Auerbach managed to escape in 1943 and survived in hiding.

© Wiener Library Collections
The first edition of "In the Fields of Treblinka" by Rachel Auerbach, 1947.

After the war, she continued the work of the Ringelblum Archive at the Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland. Auerbach ensured that within a short period of time parts of the archive were retrieved from its hiding places.

In 1947, she published the report entitled Oyf di Felder fun Treblinke (In the Fields of Treblinka), a comprehensive account of this extermination camp.

© Yad Vashem Photo Archive, Jerusalem. 3384/91
Rachel Auerbach, place and date unknown.

In 1950, Auerbach migrated to Israel, where she headed the Yad Vashem eyewitness accounts department. She fought tirelessly to secure a place for victims’ survival experiences in the history of the Holocaust. Auerbach viewed her commitment as a natural obligation and consequence of her own survival and as a responsibility towards those who were murdered. In 1960/61, she supported the preparations for the trial against Adolf Eichmann and testified in court.

“Let us finally raise awareness in all people and all countries where fascism, totalitarianism, indifference, and the inertia of the masses will lead ... to what the restoration of German strength can lead!”

Rachel Auerbach
© The Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum, Israel/The Photo Archive
Rachel Auerbach testifying at the trial of Adolf Eichmann, Jerusalem, 1961.
Rachel Auerbach by Nora Huberty

Extract from the online event for the special exhibition "Crimes Uncovered. The First Generation of Holocaust Researchers"