Survivor Lore Rosen: Saved by Kindertransport and self-reliance
On the morning of Nov. 10, 1938, a date that would come to be known as Kristallnacht, 14-year-old Lore Rosen (nee Baron) left for school from the fifth-floor, walk-up apartment where she lived with her mother in Mannheim, Germany. Just outside, the owner of the small grocery next door suddenly intercepted her. “Go to the Jewish old-age home and stay with your mother,” the woman instructed. Lore asked her why. “Just run and go,” she replied.
Lore took off, noticing flags emblazoned with swastikas fluttering from neighborhood buildings, and found her apron-clad mother in the kitchen of the old-age home serving food. Nearby she saw Jewish men concealed in a large coal bin and under potato sacks and heard rumors of other men being rounded up and sent to Dachau. “We spent a terrible day hiding,” she recalled.
When Lore and her mother finally returned home, their next-door neighbor, Frau Munch, met them, explaining that brownshirts had come to search their apartment. Munch had unlocked the door to prevent the men from breaking it down, and watched as they opened every drawer and closet, tossing the contents on the floor. “They left a mess,” Lore said.
Lore was born July 15, 1924, in Mannheim to Paula and Bernard Baron. When she was 4, her father left for New York, returning only for a few weeks in 1932 and never sending for her and her mother, as he had promised. Paula divorced him in 1937.
Lore and Paula lived in a small apartment in a mixed middle-class neighborhood. Lore felt adored by her mother and considered herself “a precocious spoiled brat,” surrounded by friends, toys and laughter. She believes the Jewish old-age home and hospital, where her mother volunteered, helped support them financially.
Before the rise of the Nazis, Lore said, she never experienced anti-Semitism. “I wasn’t even aware sometimes that I was Jewish,” she said, though her mother lit candles every Shabbat and they celebrated Jewish holidays.
But after Hitler came to power in 1933, Lore, then 9, remembers standing in the street watching the brownshirts marching and singing. She wanted to join in until she realized they were singing, “When the Jewish blood flows from the knife, we’ll all be better off.”
Soon after, children shouted, “Dirty Jew, go back home,” and tried to hit her. But Lore swung the loaf of bread she was carrying in a net sack at her tormentors. “They left me alone,” she said.
Around 1934, the Jewish students in Lore’s public school were relegated to the back of the classroom and mostly ignored. By November 1936, they were allowed to attend only Jewish schools, which, for Lore, consisted of two rooms in an old house but with, she said, “wonderful teachers.”
After Kristallnacht, Paula managed to secure a spot for Lore on a Kindertransport, a rescue operation in which Great Britain agreed to take in thousands of Jewish children.
Paula packed a small suitcase for Lore with new clothes and shoes, among which she hid some valuable postage stamps and a couple of pieces of jewelry. Additionally, she gave Lore a gold Star of David necklace to wear.
In February 1939, Paula and her boyfriend, Friedrich (Jacques) Hirsch, accompanied Lore, then 14, to the train station, placing her in a compartment with other children. That was when Lore realized her mother wasn’t traveling with her. “I’ll see you soon,” Paula told her. There were too many children around for Lore to cry. Plus, she said, “I was one of the older ones. We didn’t cry.”
The children traveled to the Hook of Holland, then across the English Channel by ferry, and on to London, arriving on Feb. 6, 1939. They then waited in what Lore remembers as a large hall for their foster families to pick them up. Eventually, only Lore remained, sitting on her suitcase. Finally a man — whose name Lore cannot recall — approached her. “You’re coming with me to join my family,” he said. They drove to Leeds, a four-hour trip during which little was said.
Lore was distraught by the time they reached her foster home, where the mother and two daughters, both much older than Lore, barely greeted her. And for the first couple of nights — “much to my disgust,” Lore said — she had to share a bed with one of them. “Then I did cry,” she said. “I think I cried for a whole year.”
The father was a government employee, and Lore thinks he took her in for political reasons, as he was eyeing a run for the Parliament. “I am sure they were good people and did the best they knew how,” she said. Still, she found the household exceptionally dark and dreary, and she and the two daughters shared a mutual dislike of one another.
In school, however, Lore made friends and excelled. But at 16, with no money to pay high-school tuition, she was forced to drop out. She was apprenticed to a hairdresser and hated the work, which included cleaning out the basins and sweeping the street.
A friend, Ann, soon landed her a job as a nurse’s assistant in a private clinic, which provided living quarters and a uniform. Lore enjoyed working there, but to continue, she needed an alien registration card. When her foster family refused to accompany her to the police station to obtain one, she had to quit and return to their house.
Then, on a day when no one else was home, Lore packed her suitcase, wrote the family a goodbye note and left.
She found a job through another friend, Gita, sewing uniforms in the Burton factory, founded by Montague Burton, one of Britain’s leading clothing retailers. She learned to sew, she said, “after I sewed my finger so many times,” earning enough money to support herself.
Around this time, she sold the stamps and jewelry her mother had given her, and was renting a room she shared with another girl. By now, her clothes were rags — her foster parents had never purchased anything new for her — and she had to line her worn-out shoes with newspaper whenever it rained. But a friend’s foster mother, a woman named Mrs. Denkinson, sewed a new dress for her. And though it was “pretty awful,” Lore said, “It was the first nice thing anyone did for me.”
At 18, wanting to pay back some of her debt to England, Lore enlisted in the British army. Additionally, she said, “I just wanted to belong someplace.”
She was accepted on Dec. 13, 1942, and was stationed at a training camp in Wales, working as a cook — as an alien her options were limited — at the sergeants’ mess hall for the Royal Welch Fusiliers.
Lore wore a uniform, making her and her many new friends — all refugees serving as Allied volunteers — equal to everyone else. “That was the best time of my life,” she said. “I had a family again.”
The war in Europe ended May 8, 1945; several months later, Lore learned that her mother was alive and residing in France.
Paula and Jacques had escaped to Brussels in May 1939, but were arrested a year later and imprisoned. Paula was sent to the Gurs internment camp in France, from which she twice escaped and twice was recaptured. Finally, Paula’s sister and brother-in-law bribed a guard to release her.
Paula found work near Brive-la-Gaillarde, where, through a woman she befriended, she was helped by the Canadian Red Cross. She also obtained a certificate of citizenship, dated Sept. 16, 1942, from El Salvador.
With permission from the army, Lore traveled to Brive-la-Gaillarde, where she and her mother, both in tears, were reunited, spending a couple of weeks together.
Lore, a lance corporal, was discharged from the army in early 1946. She returned to Leeds, where she again went to work sewing at Burton’s.
Later that year, she met Sammy Rosen, who had fought in the British army and was working as a cutter at Burton’s. They married on Sept. 3, 1947, and, in the fall of 1948, they left for Israel to serve in the War of Independence.
In Marseille, they boarded an old U.S. Coast Guard Cutter flying a Panamanian flag, but a huge storm struck in the Strait of Messina and the engines died. They drifted for about four weeks, with little food, until a Dutch tugboat picked them up near Tobruk, Libya, towing them to Crete for repairs. They then proceeded to Haifa, Israel.
In Israel, Lore and Sammy worked for the Israeli Air Force at an abandoned British airfield near Haifa. Sammy was a communications operator, while Lore performed office work.
A year or so later, they purchased a condominium in Hadar Yosef. Meanwhile, Paula had immigrated to Palestine in 1947, had remarried and was living in Tel Aviv.
In October 1954, Lore and Sammy moved to Toronto, where their first son, Peter, was born that December. A second son, Joel, arrived in July 1958.
The family moved to Rochester, N.Y., in October 1963, and in the summer of 1967 to Los Angeles, to fulfill a dream for Sammy, who worked as a cutter for Hollywood Clothes, which produced custom suits for men. He died unexpectedly in 1976. Lore worked for more than 20 years as a secretary in insurance brokerage firms, including MDM Insurance Associates and Barry Kaye Associates, retiring in the late 1990s.
Lore, now 92 and a grandmother of three, believes everyone must learn as much as possible about the Holocaust. “It was a horrible time,” she said. “God forbid it should happen again.”