Nina Kowner was born in
Lodz in 1935. The daughter of Pola
and Ilia Kowner.
The younger and only sister of Leon Kowner. She was exterminated
by the Nazis in Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944, when she was
nine years old.
Nina Kowner, 1938, Poland.
"My sister Nina was
very connected to our father, Ilya. When she was about
two or three years old, father who loved animals would
tell her stories about his childhood dog named Rozetka.
Nina asked to be called by that nickname. Later on dad
would tell her stories about his horse from the time he
served as a soldier in the Polish cavalry (1919-1920).
The name of the horse was Siwka and my sister Nina asked
to be called by that nickname. She liked pretending she
was a horse and I would put reins on her back and we would
run around the dining room table.
"Nina had a calm character. We would hardly fight
and I supported her. When we moved into the ghetto she
was only four years old. It was tragic that we never taught
her to read. In the fall of 1942 most of the children
were taken for extermination.
In the fall of 1942 a curfew (Sperre) was declared in
Ghetto Litzmannstadt, with the aim of gathering and sending
those who were seen as "unproductive", mainly
the elderly and children to the death camps.
"After two days of waiting in curfew at home, we
were approached by a convoy of S.S men, cops and hundreds
of detainees. Some of them walked and those who couldn't
walks sat on carts. The convoy moved from building to
building and stopped each time. When they approached at
our building they screamed at us and shot in the air.
The S.S men screamed that they would kill anyone who would
hide in the apartments. There were dozens of families
who lived in our building. We went down to the yard and
we were about a hundred people who stood in formation
along the yard.
"The S.S moved from apartment to apartment to look
for people hiding in the apartments. Father wasn't with
us at the time and I hid my sister Nina behind my me,
when the S.S man took out the young children and the old
folks from the line and moved them to the street, where
the guards and the other detainees were waiting. Nina
understood the meaning of this and she was shivering from
fear and I caressed her with my hands behind my back to
sooth her. When this selection was over we escaped back
to the apartment.
"Nina was saved for another two years and she lost
all her friends in her age in the area where we lived.
Since my parents and I worked many hours every day, Nina
stayed at home many hours every day and she was very lonely.
"At the end of August 1944 Ghetto Litzmannstadt was
being evacuated and we were among the 70,000 people who
were sent by trains to Auschwitz-Birkenau. We were a few
thousand people in that freight train and that included
my parents, my sister and me. The train arrived inside
the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. At first they a separated
between the men and the women. My father and I, we passed
the selection and stayed within the temporary living.
"A year later I met a friend who survived the war
and she told me that the S.S. doctor took out her mother
and Nina and ordered them to the death side and herself
and my mother to the living side. Nina yelled and our
mother, Pola, jumped to the death side. That was the last
day in the life of my sister Nina and my mother Pola Kowner."