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Rena Kornreich Gelissen Edit Profile


Rena Kornreich Gelissen, born Rena Kornreich , was a Polish-born Jew, known for her memoir, Rena's Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz, her story of surviving the Nazi concentration camps with her sister Danka.


Gelissen, Rena Kornreich was born on August 24, 1920 in Tylicz, Poland. Daughter of Chaim and Sarah Kornreich.


She had three sisters: Gertrude, Zosia and Danka. To protect the people hiding her, she turned herself in to Auschwitz. She was on the first transport of Jewish women into the concentration camp, on 26 March 1942.

There, she was tattooed "1716", being the "716th" female to enter the camp. Rena and Danka were liberated, along with the rest of the camp while they were in Neustadt Glewe, on 2 May 1945. Their oldest sister, Gertrude, had emigrated to the United States, in 1921.

Liberated, the sisters traveled to the Netherlands and worked for the International Red Cross. In 1954, Rena and her family immigrated to Norwalk, Connecticut. Neither sister wished to live in cold war Europe or anyplace where they would have to face war or violence again.

The story was made into a book, titled Rena's Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz, which was published in 1995. The book was well-received, earning her spots in numerous interviews and guest appearances. Rena Kornreich Gelissen is the only person from the first transport of Jews into Auschwitz to write her story, which has been called "one of the most historically accurate and important books ever written on the women's camp in Auschwitz I" by Irena Strzelecka, Director, Auschwitz Museum of Women, Oświęcim, Poland.

In 2006, she died in Connecticut, at the age of 85. She is buried in Bethel, CT. Four years later, in 2010, Rena's husband, John died and was buried next to her. Her sister, Danka, died November 21, 2012.


  • Other Work

    • Author: Rena's Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz, 1995.


Married John Gelissen. Children: Sylvia, Joseph, Peter, Robert.

Chaim Kornreich

Sarah Kornreich

John Gelissen

Peter Gelissen

Robert Gelissen

Sylvia Gelissen

Joseph Gelissen