Imperial War Museum
Beta Site | Text Only | Site Map | About Us  
Imperial War Museum
IWM London | IWM Duxford | IWM North | HMS Belfast | Churchill War Rooms | IWM Collections
 You  are  here: 
 
Rudy Kennedy

Rudy Kennedy
Rudy Kennedy was born in 1927 in a village near Breslau, Germany (today Wrocław in Poland).

When Hitler took power, Rudy was six years old and soon started school.  As the only Jew in his class, he was ostracised from his first day; he experienced bullying and physical attacks. When he finally fought back, his father was fined and had to send Rudy to a special all-Jewish school in Breslau itself. The rest of his family – his father, mother and little sister – moved to Breslau in 1939.

The situation of the Jews of Breslau deteriorated once the war began. From 1941 they had to wear the Star of David, and the first deportations began for 'resettlement to the East'. During this time, Rudy worked as an electrician with his father.

In 1943 the remaining Jews of Breslau were deported to Auschwitz, including Rudy and his family. Rudy vividly remembers people’s looks of fear and horror at the filthy cattle train that was to take them to the camp. On arrival at Auschwitz, 15-year-old Rudy followed his father’s advice and lied about his age – he claimed he was 18 and fit for work. Rudy and his father were both selected for work, but his sister and mother were sent to the gas chambers the same day. When Rudy was taken to a shower room and ordered to clean it, he and those with him feared that they too would be killed.

The SS now 'owned' Rudy and his father.  Rudy was sent to work for the I G Farben company in the Buna (synthetic rubber) factory that was part of the Auschwitz complex.  Eight weeks later Rudy’s father collapsed from exhaustion.  The SS decided he was unfit for work and killed him. During his time in the camp Rudy survived brutal beatings and saw fellow inmates commit suicide. Rudy’s job ensured his survival; knowing that if his work wasn’t good enough he would be killed: 'I survived, don’t ask me how. I wasn’t a hero, it was just luck'.

With the Soviet forces approaching, the Auschwitz camps were evacuated in January 1945. On the long march to the transportation point, the inmates spent a night in an unheated barn and many died from the cold. Rudy survived by sleeping under the bodies of those who had died, an experience so traumatic that he completely blocked it out of his memory for almost 50 years. He eventually arrived in Dora, where he was put to work in the production of the V1 and V2 flying bombs.  Even though the SS publicly executed saboteurs, Rudy did what he could to sabotage his area of production.

In April 1945 Rudy was sent to Bergen-Belsen. Already emaciated, he was given no food for two and a half weeks, eating grass to survive. Rudy was almost left for dead by the British liberators: it was only because he reacted when a soldier kicked his body that his liberators realised that he was still alive.

In 1946 Rudy emigrated to Britain, where he settled. Today he is a founding member of the 'Association of Claims for Jewish Slave Labour Compensation', which seeks to expose the involvement of many major German businesses in the Nazi camp system and to gain compensation for former slave-labourers.