Krulik's story
Hugo's story
Rose K's story
Abraham's story
Salek's story
Rose D's story
Roman's story
Pinchas' story

Rose K's story

Rose's father had been a prisoner-of-war in Russia during the First World War, and came home ill and depressed. It was Rose's mother who was the strong one. She earned a living making wigs and kept the family (her husband and their six children) together. 'We were very poor,' Rose remembers, 'and we had to wear second-hand clothes and shoes. We lived in just two rooms.' Rose first experienced the widespread hostility to Jews one day when she was admiring a hat in a shop window. A young woman pushed her angrily and called her a 'dirty Jew'. Rose ran off, but the woman followed her. She was now very frightened, and ran blindly into an apartment building she didn't know. Fortunately a Jewish woman who lived there spotted poor Rose, and hid her until the other woman had gone.

Like so many other Jews when war came, Rose and her family were forced to live in a ghetto. Here both her father and one of her brothers died of hunger. Everyone who survived was terrified of being deported to the concentration camps. The family agreed to stick together at all costs - if one was selected for deportation, they told each other, they would all go. One day their mother was selected: but the children found they simply could not move, frozen by fear. On this occasion, however, Rose's mother wasn't deported after all.

In fact it wasn't until 1944 that Rose and her family were taken to Auschwitz. It was a dreadful journey by train - people were crammed in the wagons like cattle, the bad smell was overpowering, and there was no water or food. As soon as they arrived at the station, Rose's brother and two of her sisters, one of them with a baby, were carried off just as Rose was trying to give a bottle of water to the baby. A stranger snatched the bottle away. 'There was such terror and anxiety. Your mind was dazed.' Now only Rose and her sister Hinda were left. Their heads were shaved and they were given clothes that didn't fit. Then they were sent to a slave labour camp.

Rose and Hinda were in the camp at Belsen when the war ended. British troops were on their way to liberate the camp, so the Germans tried hurriedly to kill the prisoners. Hinda was ill, and Rose risked being shot as she tried to get food for her. When she got back, Hinda had disappeared. 'Now I was all alone.' It was a little while before Rose herself was strong enough to try to find her sister. She learned later that Hinda had been rescued by the Red Cross, but had been too ill to recover. Rose was indeed all alone.

Rose came to England, where she married and had children. One of the things that makes her particularly sad is that her children had no grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins on their mother's side: no extended family to love and belong to.

Once their prejudice has been roused, people stop seeing the objects of their hate as human beings with feelings like their own: everyone is lumped together as 'the other' or 'the enemy'. The next step is to dehumanise 'the other' altogether, thinking of them as 'beasts' and treating them that way. How can we ensure that we don't let ourselves do this? How could we ensure that other people don't do it?



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