Roma Nowak (Kaltman) was born in Lodz, Poland on May 4, 1926. The youngest of five children, she was only 13 when the Nazis invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. Roma and her family were forced into the Lodz ghetto in October, where she lived for five years.
Roma’s brother, Simon, worked in the ghetto’s Bureau of Vital Statistics which helped him provide for the family after their mother died of malnutrition. Simon also saw to it that Roma’s education continued while they were in the ghetto. Roma’s other brother, Judah, was murdered after he refused to dig graves.
In August 1944, Lodz was liquidated and Roma was sent to Auschwitz. Here she spent about seven to eight weeks enduring cold weather, extremely poor living conditions, and hard labor. Roma her sister, Rozalia, and girlfriend, Danka, were then sent from Auschwitz to Stutthof.
As Soviet forces advanced toward Stutthof, where the girls were working, the Nazis rounded up the inmates and forced them to march west toward Germany. They walked for about a week when finally Roma, Rozalia, and Danka escaped the death march by rolling into a ravine alongside the road. Turning their coats inside out so that they could not be identified as escapees, they wandered into a town called Putzik.
They stayed in Putzik for several months, recovering from typhoid. They then began their trip home to Lodz to look for surviving family. Roma made her way to London where she heard that her old boyfriend, Sam, was still alive and living in Germany. Roma and Sam courted through letters they sent back and forth until Roma was able to visit Sam in Germany. After her visit they decided to marry, and were able to immigrate to the United States in 1949.
Together they moved to Cincinnati, Ohio where Roma earned her Bachelors of Science degree from the University of Cincinnati in social work in 1979. Roma was an active member in the Cincinnati community her entire life.
Roma Kaltman died on March 24, 2012 at the age of 85. She had two adult children and four grandchildren.
The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education also has Rozalia Nowak Berke’s personal collection.