‘When he died I lost my rock. It was the worst thing for me and my sister. But with the love he gave us he made us keep on going even after his death.’ – Vanessa Rosen, Daughter of the Holocaust survivor Abraham Rosen
When Vanessa Rosen speaks about her father it is clear that pride does not even come close to how she feels for him. Abraham Rosen was born in Poland in 1928. He spent his childhood in the Lozer ghetto till he was deported to Auschwitz.
Out of a miracle he and his three brothers survived the horrors of the concentration camp. His parents and sister got killed.
I am shaking when Vanessa tells me the story of her father and his siblings. How they hide in the ghetto of Loze for years, till one day in the year 1943 they decide to stop hiding and see where the trains will bring them. Abraham is only 15 years old when he gets deported. He is only a teenager when he has to watch how they take his older sister, who argued that they should keep on hiding, to the gas chambers, screaming ‘I told you, I told you, we shouldn’t have come’. He himself only escapes the fate of being sorted out narrowly. Memories that will hunt Abraham for the rest of his life. ‘The brothers lived with the guilt of her death, of this wrong decision, for the rest of their lifes, sometimes even I still feel it.’
In the concentration camp the three brothers Isak, Chaim and Abraham really stuck together. Abraham was very young when he arrived in Auschwitz which is why he got put in the line for the gas chamber first as well. Only due to the big chaos at the gates he managed to run, crawl under the feet of some of the SS soldiers and ended up in the line with his brothers. At all times they made sure that Abraham would be safe, by for example signing his name up on work they had done so he would not get in trouble. ‘The only reason they were able to make the impossible possible and to survive together was that the brothers really helped each other all the time’.
And this is what they did, they survived. Even though it was not easy by any means, Abraham and his brothers stay together till the camp gets freed.
I expect a man who survives all of these horrors, to have no choice but to turn into a sad and bitter person. But this is not the case. Abrahams story is a story of hope and light.
‘All of his friends called him Charly. You want to know why? Because of Charlie Chaplin. Because my father was the kind of man who would always make jokes, be funny and love life.’ Vanessa tells me.
After Auschwitz was freed Abraham and his brothers joined the so-called ‘march de la vie’, which should have better been called the ‘march de la mort’, since it was a brutal, days long walk in the cold towards the west, where many of the Auschwitz survivors died. But it was their brotherhood again which made them stick together and survive. But not only did they survive. Shortly after the war they find out that their half brother Max and his wife that were deported way earlier to a different concentration camp, are alive and well too. They all meet up in Canada with the intention to start a whole new life far from Europe.
Soon Abraham discovers that he does not see his future in Toronto and decides to join the Israli army for one year, but he still does not feel like settling there. Finally he and his brother Isak decide to go to Germany together.
I am absolutely astonished,when Vanessa tells me that of all the places he could have gone to, he decides to build up his business and family in Germany.
‘Let me tell you why he made this decision. First off all my father grew up speaking Jiddisch as his mother tongue, so German was one of the easiest languages for him to learn. The other reason, I am not gonna lie to you, is Germany was completely destroyed. They knew that economically they could make a good living there. There were lots of things to be rebuilt in Germany. And you know what I personally think? I also think it was a bit of a sign to the Germans, the people that did this to them, that they could make it. That they survived and would be able to build up a Jewish community in Germany again.’
And this is exactly what they did. They made it in Germany. Abraham first came to Munich to sell cigarettes to the Americans.
‘My father was very street smart you know. Don’t forget he could not even finish school, because he was so young when he was deported. So all he had were the things he learned on the way.’
And I immediately take her word for it. How else would the young Abraham have manganged it to work his way up from selling cigarettes on the streets, to starting his own little shop, till he finally started his own real estate company in Frankfurt together with his brother. They become extremely successful and make Germany their new home with their families.
In my eyes this was a sign of hope and resilience from Abraham’s side. A sign that he believes in a brighter future and does not let what happened terre him down. A sign that he believed that there can be a better tomorrow even in a country as deeply wounded as Germany.
by Linn Lämmle