Rosen, Isidore (Izzy)
Vilno (Lithuania), Slobodka Ghetto (Kovno), Landsberg (Germany)
Mr. Isidore Rosen was born in Vilno, Lithuania in 1915 as Isidore Rosenberg. He was the youngest of five children. His parents are Daniel and Chana Rosenberg. His father and mother had a fruit stand and was helped by all the children: Mr. Rosen’s three brothers and a sister.
Mr. Rosen had a very happy childhood and many wonderful friends. They went camping, dancing and had picnics and went to resorts. He loved to read and also read Yiddish. He attended a religious Hebrew High School in Lithuania where he learned German, Polish and Russian. When he finished high school, he worked for his uncle who owned a wholesale textile business. He was then drafted into the Lithuanian Air Force, which, until that time, did not allow Jews. Mr. Rosen was the first and served for eighteen months.
Mr. Rosen’s paternal grandparents perished in the First World War and some of his mother’s family left for America in the 1920’s right after the First World War.
Mr. Rosen belonged to the Maccabees Sport Club and played the mandolin in the orchestra. He played on the radio and during concerts. Many young girls including his future wife, Esther, gorgeous and fifteen years old, came to hear them play. They began dating and two years later, in 1940, married during the Russian occupation. They had a civil ceremony which was repeated with a rabbi a few weeks before the beginning of the war.
During a routine exam, it was discovered that Mr. Rosen had a hole in one of his lungs. He was sent to a resort to recover for a month and afterward saw a private doctor who said that nothing was wrong with his lungs.
His wife, Esther, was a hairdresser and did the hair of a rich Jewess. Mr. Rosen was hired to work at the Jewish newpaper after he wrote a popular article. The “Jewish Voice” became “The Truth.” Mrs. Shapiro, the wealthy Jewish editor, hired him away because she wanted him to write about Russian sabotage. She ran his article and he got paid.
The Russians appointed a Jewish Communist to run Mr. Rosen’s uncle’s textile factory and made him the assistant until the Germans came.
The Russians arrived and took all Jews and some non-Jews to Siberia. Mr. Rosen showed them his press card and was left alone. The Germans arrived and killed Jews on the street. Mr. Rosen laid on the couch and pretended that he was ill. A German civilian came and told him not to be afraid. Mr. Rosen told them that he was a socialist. Esther told him not to speak. The German said, “The ghetto is lovely and you won’t be hurt.” The German gave him a letter saying that he worked for “the company” and to go to the electric company and pay the bill. On his return, he was stopped by the SS who let him go after seeing the letter. The German in their home said that the head boss was coming the next day and he hates Jews, but he would talk to him. Esther made bacon and eggs for the Germans, who made her taste the meal before they would eat because they didn’t trust her.
Mr. Rosen’s mother was grabbed by the Lithuanian Partisans and was taken to prison. They took the family house, sending them all to the Slobodka Ghetto in Kovno, Lithuania together with Mr. Rosen’s mother who, by some miracle, returned a few days later.
In the first days of the Ghetto, announcements were made by the Judenrat. The Germans and Lithuanians took everything, including their furniture. Mr. Rosen said, “Don’t take the couch, it has bedbugs.” They left the couch.
The first five hundred Jews, who were the most educated, were taken out of the Ghetto and shot in the woods.
Mr. Rosen’s job was to enlarge the airport. While in the ghetto, Esther became pregnant. Because she didn’t have any breast milk for the baby, a German officer got milk for the baby. They traded their clothing, their food and pillows. The baby became sick and there was no medicine. The SS destroyed the hospital where the baby was, along with all the staff and patients.
There was a big action in the Ghetto. The oldest went to one side (anyone over fifty) and Mr. Rosen and his wife, Esther, went the other way. One brother and his sister went with their parents to a mass shooting.
Mr. Rosen was depressed and wanted to commit suicide. The Ghetto kept shrinking and a few thousand people were sent to Estonia.
Esther was the hairdresser for Mr. Lipzer’s wife. Mr. Lipzer’s wife informed Esther that she and her husband weren’t on the list. They went to the square and were surrounded by the SS. Mr. Lipzer took Mr. Rosen and his wife away and they went to Esther’s friend’s family.
Through a kitchen cabinet was a secret door and, beyond it, their hiding place. One brother went to Estonia and nephews and uncles perished. Esther got a job in the toy department and Mr. Rosen was a carpenter.
When the Ghetto was liquidated in 1944, they were marched to the train station. A guard said, “If you want to leave, go now.” But they didn’t. They were packed into cattle cars with no food or water. Mr. Rosen was with his wife until Danzig when the train stopped. All the women were ordered out. The trains then continued to Munich and then to Landsberg.
The bunks looked like dog houses. The prisoners stood for hours and then were given one blanket, a bowl and spoon and were then deloused. This was early 1945 and the Americans were closing in.
In April, the evacuation began, and the death march. Whoever fell was shot. It was pouring and the blanket was heavy and soaked. They were chased into a barn in a German village where they stood for hours, thinking it was heaven because they were out of the rain. When they opened the doors, the Germans were gone and the American tanks were rolling in.
One soldier said, “Are you Jewish?” He said, “You’re liberated.” There was dancing and singing and the soldiers said, “Go take anything you want from the German houses.”
Interviewer: Daniel Rosen (son)