Mendel Rosenberg

Mendel Rosenberg
Nationality: Lithuanian
Location: Dachau Concentration Camp • Danzig • Feldafing • Germany • Israel • Missouri • Ohio • St. Louis • Stutthof Concentration Camp • United States of America • Youngstown
Experience During Holocaust: Enlisted in U.S. Army After Liberation • Family Died During the Holocaust • Family Died in Concentration Camp • Family Died in Gas Chambers • Family Survived • Liberated • Lived in Multiple Concentration Camps • Lived in Šiauliai Ghetto • Sent to Concentration Camp • Sent to Ghetto • Was a Forced Laborer

Mapping Mendel's Life

Click on the location markers to learn more about Mendel. Use the timeline below the map or the left and right keys on your keyboard to explore chronologically. In some cases the dates below were estimated based on the oral histories.

“It wasn't humanly possible to think that something like this could go on and nobody doing anything about it. Nobody lifted a finger to stop it.” - Mendel Rosenberg

Read Mendel's Oral History Transcripts

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Tape 1 - Side 1

PRINCE: My name is “Sister” Prince and I am interviewing Mendel Rosenberg for the Oral History Project of the St. Louis Center for Holocaust Studies. Today is June 11, 1985. Mendel before, the first thing I would like to ask you is when were you born?
ROSENBERG: I was born on September 18, 1928.
PRINCE: And where?
ROSENBERG: I was born in Germany.
PRINCE: All right, and where in Germany?
ROSENBERG: Koenigsburg.
PRINCE: Okay, and can you continue on and tell me what…I believe you moved.
ROSENBERG: Yes, we moved out of Germany. I don’t remember exactly the year when. We moved to Lithuania to Shailiai. And I grew up in Shailiai, Lithuania which is the second largest city in Lithuania. We lived a rather comfortable life in a very Jewish, uh, how shall I say, environment. Mostly in Lithuania, we had a very liberal, in other words, the Jews lived a very nice life where we were not persecuted because we were Jews. On Saturdays and holidays, most of all the Jewish businesses were closed. As a matter of fact there used to be a market day and when it fell on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, uh, the markets were closed because there was no use coming in because all the Jewish businesses which were mostly in Shailiai were all closed. I remember mostly going back to about 1937, because that sticks in my mind, because we used to go every year to summer vacation to the seashore. That particular year we went to Latvia to the seashore and which is the neighboring country of Lithuania and that’s why this year sticks so vividly in my mind. We lived a rather comfortable life. My father was in the clothing business. We were manufacturing and selling in a store, a retail clothing, and…
PRINCE: Did you have brothers and sisters?
ROSENBERG: I had one brother, an older brother, a year and a half older, was killed in the concentration camp in Dachau in 1945, as a matter of fact, in January of 1945 and we were liberated in May in 1945.
PRINCE: What was his name?
ROSENBERG: His name was Samuel.
PRINCE: What was your father’s name?
ROSENBERG: Simon…Shimon. Needless to say that we were not called by American names. We were called all by Jewish names.
PRINCE: What was your Jewish name?
ROSENBERG: Mendel…Menachin, Mendel.
PRINCE: What was your mother’s name?
ROSENBERG: Recha.
PRINCE: Recha.
ROSENBERG: Recha. She also survived the concentration camp. She was in Stutthof and she survived. She was liberated by the Russians in 1945. She stayed on there until she found out that I was alive and I was in Munich and she told some messengers and she told me to stay in Munich that she’s coming back, to Munich.
PRINCE: And did she?
ROSENBERG: She finally came to Munich in 1946. And in 1947 we finally immigrated to the United States.
PRINCE: Now we have to go way back and start…
ROSENBERG: Now we go back…
PRINCE: We go back to when you were nine and you went to Latvia…
ROSENBERG: And we went to Latvia, that’s why it sticks out in my mind so much.
PRINCE: Was it happy?
ROSENBERG: It was very good. We had a very good childhood, my brother and I. And like I said, my father had a business and every year as soon as school was out in June, we used to go to the seashore, they called it a dacha and we used to go to Palangen most of the time and we used to stay there all during the summertime and then September used to come again and we used to go back to school.
PRINCE: What kind of school?
ROSENBERG: We went to a private, Hebrew high school. That’s where I learned most of my Hebrew because all the subjects were all taught in Hebrew. When you graduated from there, you probably could go to any state university. One of the main reasons that we went too, is number one, it was a Jewish school, everything was taught in Hebrew and number two was that my parents planned, that when we grew up then we’ll go and finish high school, then we would go to Israel and we would go to college over there.
PRINCE: Oh, they did.
ROSENBERG: So primarily that’s why we were all learning everything in Hebrew. Uh, we were in Shailiai, uh, till 1941. In 1941…in 1939 – I gotta go back – in 1939 when the war broke out with Poland, uh, Germany and Russia made an agreement where the Germans went into Poland and the Russians came into Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. When the Russians came in, they forced – we were considered bourgeois, and we were considered rich people so they confiscated the business and the house and the buildings and everything that we owned. And my father was out of a job and we were still going to school but instead of going to private school, we ended up to going in a regular school…public school.
PRINCE: And with non-Jewish children?
ROSENBERG: No, all were Jewish children, but in a public school. In other words, we had two different types of schools at that time. We had private schools where everything was taught in Hebrew. We had public schools that, well, maybe we shouldn’t be calling them public schools, we had schools where a lot of the subjects were taught in Jewish, and then we had schools that all the subjects were taught in Lithuanish. We went to a school that all the subjects were taught in Jewish.
PRINCE: The ones that were taught in Lithuanian were non-Jewish?
ROSENBERG: Non-Jewish.
PRINCE: Were they ever mixed? I mean, did ever Jewish children go to the non…
ROSENBERG: Yes, some, but very few, very few. Most all the Jewish kids went in Jewish…whether it was in Hebrew or whether it was in Jewish.
PRINCE: So Mendel, did you have any associations with non-Jewish people?
ROSENBERG: I, personally, as a kid only had the association with non-Jewish – with the neighbors, the kids that we ran around in the neighborhoods where we lived.
PRINCE: And were they friendly?
ROSENBERG: Yes, they were friendly.
PRINCE: So there was…was there any anti-Semitism…?
ROSENBERG: As a kid…
PRINCE: As a child?
ROSENBERG: …I did not feel any anti-Semitism at all in Lithuania. I understand that during the war and when the Germans came in, some Lithuanians were helping the Germans greatly. Some…some, not many, but some also helped the Jews. I know some relatives of mine where the kids were hidden with the Lithuanians all during the war. That’s what my mother told me and that after the war, the kids didn’t want to come back. The kids were raised with them on the farm and the kids stayed there and they grew up and when my mother last saw them, they were Lithuanians.
PRINCE: What’s the first memory you have?
ROSENBERG: Going back?
PRINCE: Uh mmm…
ROSENBERG: I don’t know, I couldn’t even tell you the year.
PRINCE: Well it doesn’t have to be the year, just the…
ROSENBERG: But greatly the memory I had is going back to around 1935 or 1936. I remember because as a kid, going to the store and there were some calendars and I remember looking through the calendars, that’s when I remember those years.
PRINCE: Did you go to the store for your mother?
ROSENBERG: No. We used to go in the store after school, we used to come to the store because my father and mother used to work. And both of them were in the business, yeah.
PRINCE: Did you ever help?
ROSENBERG: I was too little for that. They were very happy that we stayed out of the way, but in later years, I can remember the store very vividly… ’37, ’38.
PRINCE: Can you describe it to me?
ROSENBERG: Yeah it was about two blocks away from where we lived. It was on Vilnaus Gatve – that’s the name of the street in Lithuanish and we had two people helping my father and my mother in the store. And there was two…a lot of rolls of clothing hanging, ready made clothing and we also had, uh, cloth and what people used to come out and pick out from the cloth and we used to make them the garments for them.
PRINCE: Was it a wooden…or brick?
ROSENBERG: Brick buildings.
PRINCE: Brick building.
ROSENBERG: Mostly all the buildings were brick, mostly all the buildings where we lived were downtown. In Europe they used to be most of it where the businesses were on the ground floor and people used to live on second, third or fourth floor. The house what we owned was also businesses on the ground floor, while our store was not in our own building, uh, the businesses were on the ground floor and we lived on the second story, and we had the first, second, third and fourth story.
PRINCE: Did you, uh, attend synagogue, or…?
ROSENBERG: Oh yes. We used to attend synagogue every Saturday and every Friday night and every Saturday morning. For Passover, for instance, we used to get uniforms. We used to wear uniforms to school. As a matter of fact, I’ve got some pictures here…
PRINCE: Oh wonderful.
ROSENBERG: If you would be interested.
PRINCE: Oh of course.
ROSENBERG: I can dig out some of the pictures as little children. Number one, we had some relatives in the United States where we from Europe sent pictures to the United States. Number two is, uh, we didn’t have any kind of pictures of anything left from them so all the pictures and everything we’ve got is what I found when we came to United States of America.
PRINCE: People gave you back?
ROSENBERG: No – that my cousins, yeah, they gave us back those pictures that we had. Uh, those were the pictures when we were kids. So, for Passover we used to get new uniforms…every year.
PRINCE: What did they look like?
ROSENBERG: They were completely black pants, long pants and completely, how shall I say it more, completely black jackets with closed collars.
PRINCE: No lapel?
ROSENBERG: No lapels.
PRINCE: Like the Beatles.
ROSENBERG: No lapels, completely closed, like a narrow jacket.
PRINCE: English.
ROSENBERG: And that what we used to get normally every Passover for a new one.
PRINCE: White shirt?
ROSENBERG: White shirt, but you couldn’t see the shirts underneath.
PRINCE: Oh I see.
ROSENBERG: Uh, needless to say, that school was out for Passover, for the whole eight days. Every Jewish holiday, we used to be out of school. All the holidays was strictly observed, Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and all the holidays were very strictly observed. I would say that we were grown up mostly in a very strict Orthodox sense. The only thing is that we didn’t know any different. We didn’t know, in those days in Europe, about Conservative or about Reform. Because we didn’t grow up in that kind of environment.
PRINCE: But it wasn’t Hassidic.
ROSENBERG: No, it was not Hassidic type of environment.
PRINCE: You’re very emphatic about that.
ROSENBERG: It was strictly a Jewish, Orthodox environment. We used to go and daven every Friday and Saturday morning. We used to walk to shul because everything was very close, we didn’t have to ride no place although we wouldn’t ride anything. Uh, number two, is we understood everything that we were praying because we understood fluently, as a kid, we understood fluently, Hebrew, Jewish, Lithuanish and as years went by, German and Russian. All those languages, I could speak fluently. And we grew up with all that and we went to school with all that and all those languages was physically learned in the schools. When the Russians came in, we learned Russian and German and before that we learned Hebrew, Lithuanish and at home we spoke in Jewish. All the conversation at home, among the parents and ourselves, was strictly in Jewish.
PRINCE: Jewish,…or Yiddish?
ROSENBERG: Yiddish. Yiddish and Jewish are the same.
PRINCE: Same?
ROSENBERG: Yes.
PRINCE: I want to make that…
ROSENBERG: Jewish and Yiddish was the same thing. Still, even today, to some degree, while I added a little bit of English to my vocabulary, uh, I forgot during the 40 years that I’ve left Europe, I forgot almost entirely Lithuanish…very little German and very little Russian. The languages that I still do handle very well is Yiddish or Jewish, Hebrew and English. Hebrew, I never forgot. When I go to Israel, for instance, I speak down there with them and everybody asks me, “Well when were you here and where did you live? When were you in this country?” I say, “This is my visiting, I’ve never been here,” but I can still speak it rather well.
PRINCE: Like a native.
ROSENBERG: I wouldn’t say, “native,” but I speak rather well for a foreigner of Hebrew.
PRINCE: Uh, so you were very comfortable…
ROSENBERG: Yes, very comfortable.
PRINCE: And were always (OVERTALKS)
ROSENBERG: As a matter of fact is, while the Russians came and confiscated everything, we still lived for two years, till 1941, till the Germans came in, without much of a support from any kind of income.
PRINCE: Uh, that is exceptional, that’s exceptional.
ROSENBERG: Yeah. We each very easy to look at hindsight and ask the question of my parents is why didn’t we leave Europe at a time because we could have left Europe. But it is the same thing, “hindsight” is very easy to look up today and say to myself, “Why didn’t my parents leave?” We did buy some land in Israel before the war. We did have plans to go to Israel.
PRINCE: Were you, were you Zionists, would you say, or…
ROSENBERG: Yes, we were Zionists, we can say, as kids we belonged to the Betarim . In those times, it was Jabotinsky’s group and we went to meetings and we participated. We had little uniforms and all that stuff as kids and we were planning, matter of fact, is very strongly, to go to Israel as soon as we finished high school.
PRINCE: Would, uh, right and go to college, you said that. Do you think your parents would they come there?
ROSENBERG: Sure, sure we all wanted to do that. As a matter of fact we bought some, we bought some land in Yachnam way before, 1938, I think.
PRINCE: Mendel, what were they waiting for?
ROSENBERG: What were we waiting for?
PRINCE: I mean besides the war, before the war.
ROSENBERG: I don’t know. They were waiting for us to graduate from high school I guess. And then, after we would have graduated from high school, we were planning to go to Israel, to go to college.
PRINCE: And everybody would have gone, all right…
ROSENBERG: At that time, yes.
PRINCE: Uh, what did you do for fun as a child?
ROSENBERG: As a child what we do for fun? Well, bicycle riding was very great over there. Free time, a lot of free time, we didn’t have. We used to go a lot of ice skating. I remember we could ice skate as soon as we started walking, we could ice skate. As a matter of fact is in school where we went to, one of the subjects of – how shall I say that – of…
PRINCE: Curriculum.
ROSENBERG: Curriculum. One of curriculum was ice skating. We used to go to…have classes in ice skating. As a matter of fact they used to teach us to go ice skating during the school year.
PRINCE: Was it like a gym…gym time?
ROSENBERG: Like a gym time, like a gym time, like a gym classes. Instead of playing basketball or soccer or that kind of stuff, we used to also have classes in the wintertime, ice skating, and we used to take the tennis court, we used to pour water all over the tennis court and go ice skating…
PRINCE: At the school.
ROSENBERG: At the school and we used to go ice skating. We used to all play, not me, as I was too little, but they used to play tennis there. But we used to pour water over it and we used to freeze it and we used to go ice skating.
PRINCE: So ice skating and bicycle riding and…
ROSENBERG: And skiing.
PRINCE: And skiing.
ROSENBERG: Right. As a matter of fact, is after the war, when I was in Germany I went to Garmich Partenkirchen to ski there. I’ll show you some pictures of that too.
PRINCE: (LAUGHTER) Okay, alright, well what am I not asking you about growing up that you might want to tell me?
ROSENBERG: What we use to about growing up?
PRINCE: Tell me about your mother.
ROSENBERG: My parents, I would say, were average.
PRINCE: In what way, average?
ROSENBERG: In what way? We used to have a lot of friends and we used to be called, not that I’m trying to be snobbish about it, but we used to be called the higher level, or the better class of the Jewish people in the city. In other words, we had donated a lot to the temple and we used to donate some money to the Jewish movements and we used to, uh, all those things I found out afterwards, when my mother used to get in a conversation. They were very well educated. My mother went to school in Moscow to the university and she could speak all the same languages, plus French and Latin, not speak Latin…read in Latin. And this is what I was considering a higher level because in Europe, uh, a lot of people were just living with a every day living, with a every day, uh, going on how to make a living. We were lucky that we could afford a lot of those things, a lot of the nicer things in life.
PRINCE: Mendel, where did you – until you gave which lovely…
ROSENBERG: Right.
PRINCE: …You know, that you had it and you gave it. What about your grandparents because were born in Koenigsburg.
ROSENBERG: The grandparents that I remember is my father’s parents, I only saw once in 1937. They lived in Latvia.
PRINCE: Now, who, what I’m trying to find out who’s really from where.
ROSENBERG: …My father’s parents…
PRINCE: Right, were they Latvians…and…?
ROSENBERG: No, I don’t know to tell you the truth exactly where they come, all I know that we lived in Lithuania. I didn’t even know ‘till a lot of time later that we were born in Germany. My mother traveled a lot. Her parents traveled a lot. She went to school in Russia.
PRINCE: Okay. Where were her parents born?
ROSENBERG: I don’t know where her parents were born but I know she was born in Germany also in Tilzit, Germany. But they traveled a lot and she was going to school in Moscow of all places. But then, they settled down, the parents settled down in Lithuania because the things in Germany were not very good in those days so they moved into Lithuania.
PRINCE: Into Prussia.
ROSENBERG: And my grandfather, I don’t remember well, I only remember him from pictures. He died, that’s my mother’s father. My grandmother died in the ghetto. My grandmother, my mother’s mother lived with us in the ghetto.
PRINCE: May I try and pronounce it…is it Shailiai?
ROSENBERG: Shailiai.
PRINCE: Shailiai.
ROSENBERG: Yes.
PRINCE: Shailiai.
ROSENBERG: In Jewish, it’s Shailiai. In Lithuanian it’s Siauli, but in Jewish it’s Shailiai.
PRINCE: Shailiai.
ROSENBERG: My grandmother lived till 1942 in the ghetto in Shailiai.
PRINCE: Let’s…let’s begin now…let’s begin with how things might have changed, till you were living this life that you just described to me and when did you, as a child, not…when did something big happen. But when did you, as a child, sense that there was something different about your life and it was changing?
ROSENBERG: That was in 1940, late 1939 until ’40 when the Russians came in.
PRINCE: Did you hear any conversation at home between your parents, around the dinner table at any time that things…
ROSENBERG: Yeah, we knew at that time, that they confiscated everything that we owned…
PRINCE: So it was just one, two, three, they came in and…
ROSENBERG: One, two, three when they came in…
PRINCE: …That was it.
ROSENBERG: It didn’t take very long, no. As soon as they came in…one, two, three, they start confiscating everything.
PRINCE: Did you know they were coming, or did they just…?
ROSENBERG: No, we did not know in advance that they were coming. They just came in and that was it. Probably if we would have known, maybe my father knew but I didn’t know about it…Maybe we should have left at that time. That was the best time to get out, was in 1938…the beginning of 1939 but we didn’t do it. Some people went out as late as 1940 and they left the country. The Russians didn’t let them get out so easily because they took everything away.
PRINCE: So you were…the Russians came…in 1940 you were 12.
ROSENBERG: 1939, they came in late 1939…early 1940.
PRINCE: Okay, so you were 12.
ROSENBERG: At that time, right.
PRINCE: How did your life change?
ROSENBERG: The life didn’t change as for me personally except that we went to a different school and everything was taught at that time in Jewish. Aside of that, much didn’t change.
PRINCE: And your father…had…okay…
ROSENBERG: Father didn’t have any work. Finally he got some work on a construction job but that was about all the change. And my mother didn’t have to go to work anymore. The only thing that changed is the Russians put in soldiers in our home. They took away two of our rooms and they put in Russian families with us. And the biggest fight in those days was the kosher kitchen that we had and the Russians were coming in and they were trying to cook something in our kitchen.
PRINCE: How did that get resolved?
ROSENBERG: How did it get resolved? Uh, we got some electric plates, electric heating plates and we gave it to the Russians. We asked them to cook their meals in their own rooms.
PRINCE: And did they?
ROSENBERG: They did because they were in military personnel and in most of the cases, they tried to get along with the civilian personnel.
PRINCE: Did they differentiate between the Jewish and the non-Jewish population?
ROSENBERG: No, no, not the Russians at that time and not to any degree that I could tell as a child. The only encounter that I ever had with the Russians, as a child, was that we were in a park, as kids running around and I had a camera, a box camera and I was taking pictures and we were running around and all of a sudden the Russians came over and opened up the camera and took the film out because they said that we should not take any pictures of the Russians.
PRINCE: My goodness, already…
ROSENBERG: And not remember the time whether they were…I was taking pictures of Russian soldiers or wasn’t, but as a kid, we didn’t even pay much attention to those things. But I remember that incident happened.
PRINCE: So the Russians are there and then what?
ROSENBERG: And then the Russians, then all of a sudden we find out that the Germans invaded the Russians. That was in 1941 and then the way we found out was strictly that the airplanes of the Germans came in and started bombing. And we spent over a week…
PRINCE: Bombing your city?
ROSENBERG: Bombing our city and over a week, we spent primarily in the basement of the buildings, in the basement of our house. In a week, I think the whole incident was over and the Germans were in.
PRINCE: And the Russians were out.
ROSENBERG: And the Russians were out. Some of the people run with the Russians. I have some personal friends, kids my age, a little older that retreated when the Russians came in. We, as a family, we all stayed together. At that time was my father, my mother, my grandmother, my brother and myself. I had an uncle and an aunt that lived in the same town and two girls; the four of them were evacuated by the Russians right before it started with the Germans. That was in 19…early 1941 and they took them all and shipped them to Siberia. My two cousins presently live in…all the way in Siberia, in Altaiski which is all the way in Siberia – south Siberia.
PRINCE: You know that?
ROSENBERG: Oh sure, they were here for a visit…
PRINCE: Oh my…
ROSENBERG: Four years ago, they were here for a visit.
PRINCE: And they went back?
ROSENBERG: They went back because they have husbands and children there.
PRINCE: I’m amazed they…
ROSENBERG: The Russians let them out. It was four and a half years ago when there was a little détente, and in those days they let a lot of Jews out of Russia and they were much more liberal in those days. So they let them out and they came here for a visit and they stayed here for a month and then they went back to Russia. Now I’m trying to get their daughters to come here for a visit, wouldn’t let them out. Now we’ve got to wait until a little politics warm up a little bit, and the chill thaws out and we hope we’ll be able to bring the children down here for a visit from Russia.
PRINCE: All right. (SIGHS)
ROSENBERG: So in 1941 right when the Germans came into Lithuania, the first thing they did is they gathered up a lot of male, Jewish people which at that time included my father and my brother. I was too little at that time. The Lithuanians…
PRINCE: Your brother was how old?
ROSENBERG: About a year and a half older than I was.
PRINCE: Yeah, right, but that made him…
ROSENBERG: That made him at the time about 15 years old.
PRINCE: Okay.
ROSENBERG: And at that time is when we felt that some of the Lithuanians – see without the Lithuanians the Germans didn’t know who was Jewish and who wasn’t Jewish. The Lithuanians helped them considerable pinpoint all the Jewish families because they knew who was Jewish and who wasn’t. They pinpointed all the Jewish families to them and they helped them gather up all the Jews and they took a lot of them into the jail, of the city jail. They left me alone, they left my mother and my grandmother alone. Needless to say, that when that happened, we knew some, a lot of non-Jewish people in the city which we tried to get help us get my father and my brother out of jail. As it happened, we managed to get my brother out but was too late for my father. My father was shot in July of 1941. The Russians came in…the Germans, I think, came in, in June of ’41. My father was shot around the fourth of July of 1941. One of the main reasons we know that date is because we were able to get my brother out on a Sunday and we know my father was shot on a Saturday morning because he was dead already when we got my brother out on a Sunday morning.
PRINCE: Your brother knew about this?
ROSENBERG: Yes.
PRINCE: How did you get your brother out?
ROSENBERG: Uh, we bribed some people and we brought him out of the…It was too late, my father was dead already.
PRINCE: Do you think that you could have…?
ROSENBERG: Yes, yes, had they not shot him that Saturday morning, we could have gotten out. See Friday night, they separated them. They separated Friday night my brother from my father.
PRINCE: The circumstances of their taking your father and your brother just because?
ROSENBERG: They just knocked on the door and they came in with their rifles and the Germans and they just took them. It was as simple as that.
PRINCE: Do you have the circumstances of why they killed him?
ROSENBERG: It was no reason, only because he was a Jew. That’s what the circumstances and why they killed him.
PRINCE: Selection process.
ROSENBERG: Selection process. I got a picture that was taken when he was separated. A friend of mine that ran away, that I told you earlier, ran away with the Russians, back to Russia, he happened, during the war, to serve in the Russian army. He came back after the war and went through the files in Lithuania. The Germans had a good knack of taking pictures of everything that went on and kept very meticulous records of everything that happened. He found a picture over there and he send me that picture of that Friday when they separated my father and the rabbi and a group of other people…separated them and shot them Saturday morning and he sent me a picture from when he was in Lithuania, he sent me a picture from there…my friend. That’s how we know when it happened with my father.
PRINCE: The picture was of…
ROSENBERG: The picture was of my father and a group of other, including the rabbis of the city of Shailiai.
PRINCE: That was quite something for you to handle.
ROSENBERG: Yes, that was after, that was, needless to say, that it was some years after the war, yes.
PRINCE: No, but I mean, when that happened. That was…
ROSENBERG: Well, we didn’t know at the time what was happening. See my father was in the jail at the time and we didn’t know what was going on behind over there.
PRINCE: How long was he in jail?
ROSENBERG: I would say a month.

Tape 1 - Side 2

PRINCE: Okay, Mendel, I still would like to know, all right, you found out that your father died, or was shot, and being such a young person, tell me how that affected you. Were you scared, and…?
ROSENBERG: That’s a good question. How did all this affect us…Well, I’m trying to think back. Remember, that was quite…around 40 some years ago when that happened. Being at that age, of I would say, around 13 years of age, uh, the effects are different than I can think the effects would have been today. Needless to say that we were so unprepared for something like that. When we heard of a lot of difficulties that happened in Poland and a lot of people getting killed, some of the people from Poland came running to Lithuania at the time, telling of all the horror stories that happening over there but you know, people some times don’t want to believe things. They don’t want to believe of horrors that are happening and we thought, it’s happening over there but it’ll never happen over here. Yet, we experienced that what happened over there could also happen over here. Needless to say that that was the first time that I can remember that a loved one has died, because when my grandfather died I was very little. We didn’t have any tragedies in the family till that happened. Uh, the loss of my father was so unreal to me at the time because it didn’t give us a chance to really, uh, understand it. It took us a long time, it took me a long time, to comprehend that he’s never going to return. It didn’t seem at the time, very realistic that he’s already gone. When you grow up, sometimes at this age, you…I wouldn’t say prepare for it, but you can handle it much better than I could have handled it over then. Over then I tried to think that he’s going to return, he’s going to return.
PRINCE: And it was such an unnatural way.
ROSENBERG: Right, it was so that we couldn’t, he wasn’t sick, we weren’t prepared for anything like that. It happened suddenly, because at that time, one thing hit after another. After we got my brother out and this happened, we got, uh, new tenants in our house. Instead of having the Russian soldiers because they left, we had Lithuanians that came to the city from the suburbs or from the country and there was some fighting going on and some destruction of homes were made there so the people that were homeless and were destroyed from their own homes, uh, didn’t have where to live so they put them in our house with us. Now, needless to say, that some of the incidents, uh, how shall I say, “humorous,” or maybe for me it seemed humorous at the time as a kid because…I think maybe we should stop the tape for a minute. (TAPE STOPS) Uh, when the Russians left us we got new tenants as Lithuanians that had their homes destroyed in the short skirmish that happened between the Russians and the Germans and they were put in…there were three sisters, they were all put in one room of ours. And they started entertaining the German soldiers. And they…the humorous part of it was, that it ended up to be like a mass production line, that soldiers were lined up, we lived on the second story, and they were lined up all on the bannisters and all the way down to the street over there and doing most was all during the daytime.
PRINCE: What about your…?
ROSENBERG: Well entertaining, uh, well we weren’t…
PRINCE: Your mother…
ROSENBERG: We were in a different room.
PRINCE: Oh.
ROSENBERG: It was all done in the rooms. As a matter of fact, we were at one time or another, they came and they tried to visit my grandmother.
PRINCE: Oh my goodness.
ROSENBERG: And we, luckily, we didn’t have any girls in the house, any Jewish girls, I should say in the house…
PRINCE: Right…
ROSENBERG: …Or we would have had some problems.
PRINCE: …Some problems, yeah.
ROSENBERG: This went on, I don’t remember the exact date when we went into the ghetto but we went into the ghetto in 1941.
PRINCE: That’s when they formed it.
ROSENBERG: That’s when they formed it. They took the ghetto and they circled the worst part of our city with the biggest slums and everything else. They put barbed wire all the way around it and they put a gate in the front and they gathered up all the Jewish people and they put them in the ghetto. Matter of fact, we had two ghettos.
PRINCE: Two?
ROSENBERG: One was the Traukau ghetto and one was the Kavkaz ghetto. The Traukau ghetto, the reason we say that is the name of the street, it was in Traukau Gatve – that’s in Lithuanish – That was the name of the street and that was called the Traukau ghetto and we had the Kavkaz ghetto because it was on the Kavkaz Street. So they took two of the slums, the worse slums, and they put barbed wire around it and they put us in the ghetto. At that time, the ghetto, I would say approximately 3000 Jewish people and put us in the ghetto.
PRINCE: That’s the combination.
ROSENBERG: That’s the combination of the two. Needless to say that…we were in the gathering now of all the people who lived in Lithuania.
PRINCE: All the Jews in Lithuania?
ROSENBERG: All…of all the Lithuanian Jews that survived, we had a gathering in Israel which I went to.
PRINCE: Oh a “Gathering,” okay.
ROSENBERG: We had a gathering in Israel which I just came from and I think of all the 3000, I think there was less than 200 that survived.
PRINCE: Oh my goodness. When was this Gathering?
ROSENBERG: The Gathering was right now. I went to it…
PRINCE: Oh that’s right, you just got back.
ROSENBERG: …May that I just came back, at the beginning of May…
PRINCE: Let me make a note and we’ll talk about that later.
ROSENBERG: …That I just come back from.
PRINCE: Okay.
ROSENBERG: And I don’t remember the exact date when we got in there but I remember this much, that we had a kitchen and one room and in that kitchen and one room there were left, the five of us; uh, the four of us, my mother, my grandmother, my brother and I and another family of one woman and a son and a daughter. That means we were seven of us in that one room and kitchen. Uh, my brother and I, we built two bunks, double bunks and we slept in the kitchen. My mother and grandmother slept in one bed. That other woman and her daughter slept in the other bed and then we used to have clothing, uh, how do they say that, where you keep your clothes in…it’s not like it’s built in here the wall, it sticks out…
PRINCE: Pieces of furniture.
ROSENBERG: Pieces of furniture.
PRINCE: I can’t think of the name.
ROSENBERG: We took off the upper part and on the lower part we put the mattress and we slept on that part of it. So all seven of us had a kitchen and one room. When they gathered us all in the ghetto they took us out on different work details. We all were able to go out and work. That’s when I learned a carpenter trade because I ended up working for a cabinetmaker while I was in the ghetto. I was making furniture. Needless to say that I was working for free and I think that the Lithuanians used to pay to the government something for my services. Other parts what we worked is on the railroad where we were fixing the railroad, getting the railroad into shape because a lot of trains were coming through. We worked also in a sugar factory, but that was seasonal because in Lithuania we used to gather up the beet, sugar, sugar beets and three months out of the year, we used to gather up and make sugar.
PRINCE: And did you do this…were you allowed to do this with your brother also?
ROSENBERG: Yes, yes.
PRINCE: What did you think about? What did you talk about?
ROSENBERG: Uh, my brother worked on details and I worked on details, we didn’t always work together. My mother used to work on details. The only one that remained in the camp was my grandmother. Luckily that my grandmother died of natural causes. She had a heart attack and she died, because about a year and…a year after we were in the ghetto, the Germans came in and they gathered up all the older people that couldn’t work and older children. Matter of fact that we handed to them the children. They said that they’ll take all the children to children’s camp and they just methodically went to house after house and gathered up all the children. And I mean children is from newborn to, I would say, to the age of six…five or six or seven. They gathered up all the children on trucks and they took them out. The mothers were screaming and fighting and everything else…any resistance, they were shooting them. Any parents resisted and wouldn’t give the children, they shot the parents.
PRINCE: Mendel, were these Nazis or were these Lithuanians?
ROSENBERG: No these were Germans.
PRINCE: Germans.
ROSENBERG: All Germans. Granted the Lithuanians helped them considerably but most of all this went on, went on with the Germans.
PRINCE: Do you remember, was this at night?
ROSENBERG: Oh no, it was during the day, during the day.
PRINCE: Was it chaotic?
ROSENBERG: Chaotic. That was in the morning before we even went out to our work detail. They came in with the trucks and gathered up all the kids. Matter of fact is, while we were in the ghetto, we had our own government, we had our own…
PRINCE: Judenrat?
ROSENBERG: Our own Jewish men in charge of the ghetto. We had our own, like police in the ghetto…
PRINCE: Did they call that Judenrat…did they call that Judenrat?
ROSENBERG: Uh, no.
PRINCE: What did they call it?
ROSENBERG: Uh, what did…they called them kapos and they called them, uh, yeah…
PRINCE: Kapos were in the camps?
ROSENBERG: Right, kapos were also in the concentration camps.
PRINCE: Yes, but they were in your ghetto?
ROSENBERG: Yes, we had them in the ghettos too.
PRINCE: What does the word “kapos” mean?
ROSENBERG: Kapo…means…
PRINCE: I mean I know what it is, it’s a guard, right?
ROSENBERG: I don’t know what it means, but it’s the same thing as a policeman.
PRINCE: Okay. What language, do we know what language it is?
ROSENBERG: No, I don’t.
PRINCE: I don’t either.
ROSENBERG: Uh, they, I don’t know where the word “kapo” comes from but we had them in the concentration camps but we had them, it probably was a German word because when we got into there they had not only Jewish, they had non-Jewish kapos. And the most non-Jewish kapos were the criminals that were in there.
PRINCE: Okay, back to this day.
ROSENBERG: But, on the day when they gathered up all the kids, the Germans came in, all with rifles, all soldiers and they systematically gathered up all the children. The one that sticks in my mind mostly was the camp’s police chief. He was the first one. He had a baby less than a year old. And I remember…
PRINCE: The camp, you mean the…
ROSENBERG: The Jewish police chief.
PRINCE: …Of the ghetto.
ROSENBERG: The Jewish, of the ghetto. He showed like an example that we should not resist the Germans and I remember as vividly as he handed the baby to the German soldiers and they put him on the truck.
PRINCE: Did he know?
ROSENBERG: Maybe, deep in heart – I know that his wife cried and she was laying at his feet crying and he was…started with that and then some of the other ones gathered and then some of the other ones resisted were either beaten or were shot or the kids were taken away regardless. And they gathered up and took out all the kids from the camp, of the ghetto.
PRINCE: Up to what age?
ROSENBERG: I would say roughly if I remember correctly, it was five or six years old. Because they had kids, seven, eight, nine years old working. They all worked at one way or another. The only ones that couldn’t work were the older people and they gathered them after approximately a year being in the ghetto. They gathered up all the older people that couldn’t work and took them to…they had a place for older people where they’ll be taken care of.
PRINCE: So that night must have been…
ROSENBERG: It was during the day…
PRINCE: I know, but that night when you got back to (OVERTALKS)
ROSENBERG: That night was not only this, it was chaos over there…the hollering and the whimpering and the praying and the Kaddish saying…everything else went on, everything else. There wasn’t any…being in such close quarters, living with so many peoples together, there wasn’t almost any family that wasn’t affected. And if it wasn’t affected that family, it was affected by relations in the next room or in the next house or in the next something. It went on like this all over. The only problem was that we didn’t have much time for mourning. The next day everybody went out to work regardless. There was no time for mourning. I can’t remember whether it was a working day or a non-working. It could have been a non-working day because we had one day on Sundays we didn’t work.
PRINCE: Mendel, uh, you speak of “mourning.” I made a note of a question that I did not ask you. When your father died, did you get his body? Did you have a funeral?
ROSENBERG: No, no, they were all buried in mass graves. Remember he was shot during a period when we had no access to anything. We had no free getting around to any great degree. We couldn’t get around freely. Even while we were in the ghetto and we were going out in the ghetto, we had to walk on the street…We all had that yellow star, in front and back. We couldn’t go any place. We had to be by nightfall, we had to be back in the ghetto.
PRINCE: So as soon as the Germans came in, all the ordinances came down on the Jews immediately.
ROSENBERG: Oh yes, immediately, I would say immediately yes, within 30 days.
PRINCE: Mendel, tell me about the star. Did they give you the material? Did you have to get it yourself?
ROSENBERG: No we had to get it ourselves. Yellow stars and…
PRINCE: Had to be a certain size.
ROSENBERG: Right, had to be a certain star. It had to be worn in the front and in the back on the left side.
PRINCE: How did you feel about that?
ROSENBERG: We had to walk on the streets…How did we feel about it? Some of them didn’t like it. Some of them didn’t wear them, but eventually they were snitched upon and they were caught upon and they were beaten, they were put in jail. To tell you the truth, we did not have any type of resistance in us. We went along with whatever they said and whatever they told us to do. Among all in the ghetto, among all of the Jews, there was very little resistance among them. The ones that did resist, either got killed or got taken away and we never seen them or heard from them again. To say like weird incidents, like the Warsaw ghetto where the people fought, I don’t remember already. Matter of fact is some of the friends were policemen in the ghetto trying to keep order and trying to help whenever possible to families that needed some kind of help, uh, whether it was just consulting them or whether it was just, uh, helping mentally because the people couldn’t get used to the idea of what was going on. We had it so good in Lithuania for so long and then all of a sudden this happened and mentally to be on the street…we were not prepared for that kind of downfall. We could not visualize that Lithuanians would do that to us because we had such a good relationship all during the time when Smetona was President at the time and all during the time that the Lithuanian government was…we, at least didn’t feel any kind of oppression from the Lithuanian government. And when we found out that that was happening, it was kind of a big surprise. Now I’m not saying that I know everything that happened. As a child, I can only observe from our close family relationship whether there were any problems that other people had with the Lithuanians, it’s possible, but we, as a family, we never heard any complaints. We traveled all over Lithuania, free and clear, we went any place we wanted to. We had a maid in the house constantly.
PRINCE: Jewish or non-Jewish?
ROSENBERG: Non-Jewish. As a matter of fact, the maid could speak Jewish as well as we could and she was non-Jewish.
PRINCE: What was the, was there any, did you have any relationship with her after the Germans came in.
ROSENBERG: No, no, they left when the Russians came in…not the Germans. When the Russians came in, we didn’t have a maid anymore. We were ungainfully unemployed and we didn’t have it anymore.
PRINCE: Did she ever try…did you ever see her again?
ROSENBERG: Yes, some of them we saw again. Matter of fact, I remember as a kid, my mother going over there and saying hello to them. Yes we did during the Russian time but not during the German…
PRINCE: What was her response to your mother?
ROSENBERG: Very nice, very cordial and very nice. Sorry that that happened…sorry that this happened and everything else. Because she lived, mostly the maids lived on the premises with us. Matter of fact when we used to go on vacation during the summertime, we used to take them with us.
PRINCE: Did, did they ever try and help you that you remember?
ROSENBERG: Not that I remember but I think at the beginning, they did. At the beginning, I think they had some relationship with my parents, with my mother in particular because after my father was shot, my mother was completely, almost gone to pieces. But I can say that much for my mother, she was very strong and very strong-willed because during the ghetto and during all the times that we had the difficulties, she carried herself very well. She kept us together very well. She even survived the Stutthof concentration camp. She not only survived for herself, she helped some other people while she was there and she lived rather well 10 years after…she died in 1957. She was very determined, very…how shall I say…she knew her own mind and she knew what she wanted and she went after it again.
PRINCE: Courage of her conviction.
ROSENBERG: She wanted to work and she worked all the 10 years that she was in the United States. She was one of the best baby sitters, helper out, and lived with children and taking care of children and everything else. She was very fond of children and she very much enjoyed taking care of them.
PRINCE: How old was she when she died?
ROSENBERG: 62.
PRINCE: 62.
ROSENBERG: She died also of a heart attack. So, uh…
PRINCE: So we’re back…
ROSENBERG: Some relationship she might have had…with them. She had a lot of relationships with Lithuanians. We knew a lot of people during the business and everything else and we had considerable help from some of the Lithuanians during while we were in the ghetto.
PRINCE: What kind of help?
ROSENBERG: Food help.
PRINCE: Food help.
ROSENBERG: The only thing we had to worry about was survival. Somehow or other she managed. She used to smuggle in stuff, she used to have long hair and under the hair, she used to put in a napkin and put around with eggs under her hair, and put around a napkin or other and tie down like a hanky around her neck like a…
PRINCE: Kerchief…
ROSENBERG: …And she used to smuggle in, like a kerchief, yes…and then she used to smuggle in food. Where she used to get it is beyond me. She used to go and trade it in getting food because the rations that we used to get were hardly survivable. But as long as we were in the ghetto, as long as we had some belongings, we used to trade those belongings. And we used to trade those belongings for food.
PRINCE: Did you ever make any trades yourself?
ROSENBERG: No, not myself. I didn’t know…I used to steal…
PRINCE: Oh…
ROSENBERG: …Instead of trade.
PRINCE: Okay.
ROSENBERG: Because when we used to go out on jobs and some of the jobs were like when we worked in the sugar factories over there, and there was some food in some sugar, we used to help ourself to some sugar. Uh, when we worked on the railroad and trains used to come by and people used to come in on the trains, or stuff used to come in on the trains, we used to help ourself to whatever we could lay our hands on. It was a matter of survival. And you learned so many things when it’s a matter either you’re going to survive or not. You do things that you never thought humanly possible to do because it was a matter of survival.
PRINCE: Like what?
ROSENBERG: You used to beg for food. You used to do, for instance when we were working with the Germans, some Germans, uh, that were not in the army because there were some Germans that used to work, uh, work organizations used to be and some Lithuanians, we used to beg for food. We used to go and say, “Okay we will clean your canteen,” and they would leave some food for us. We used to do…uh, when the trains used to go by, we used to beg for cigarettes for instance and some Germans used to give us cigarettes or cigarette butts. We used to go and trade the cigarettes since we were not smoking, we used to trade the cigarettes for food again. Uh, when we learned…I learned to be a carpenter I learned some carpentry work, we used to go and fix things for the Germans and we use to do things just to get something.
PRINCE: How did they treat you?
ROSENBERG: Uh, depends what…what kind of Germans. If they were the Germans, the guards and the SS, we tried not to have any contact with them whatsoever because you never got a civilized word out of them. They used to beat you with the butts of the rifle before they answered you a question. So we used to pick either on civilian Germans that used to work over there or uniform Germans which were in the Wehrmacht but not in the SS. Those are the soldiers that used to go to Russia to the…to the front and go to the Russian front. Those soldiers just were a lot more, uh, I’ll say sympathetic with us and give us the food. We wore civilian clothes and while we had these yellow patches on us, uh, maybe sometimes we used to cover them and just beg for food and get it. Uh, also as an overall situation, while we were in the ghetto, it was not so much a fight for survival, as next day living, as it was a fight for food. We were not so worried whether we are going to get killed as much as we were worried as where we are going to eat next because from the rations that the Germans gave us, allotted back into the ghetto, was hardly enough, plus awful long lines waiting to get whatever rations we had to get.
PRINCE: Did you ever go outside the ghetto?
ROSENBERG: Yes, when we used to go to work, we used to go all outside the ghetto.
PRINCE: But never snuck out or anything.
ROSENBERG: To sneak out of the ghetto, uh, there was no purpose. If you sneak out of the ghetto to leave the ghetto, to run away, that’s one thing…to sneak out of the ghetto and do what?
PRINCE: Well like trying to steal food, or trading.
ROSENBERG: We use to do that during the day.
PRINCE: In the ghetto?
ROSENBERG: Outside of the ghetto because we used to go out to work outside the ghetto.
PRINCE: I see.
ROSENBERG: When we worked at the sugar factory, uh, we were outside of the ghetto. When we used to work on the railroad, was outside of the ghetto but we had to go back by nightfall, we had to be back in the ghetto. Uh…
PRINCE: I was thinking times when you weren’t doing these jobs, but you were always doing those jobs.
ROSENBERG: Right, we were always working in the ghetto.
PRINCE: Well what if you didn’t feel good, what if you were sick and you didn’t show up for work.
ROSENBERG: Then we used to say we were sick and we’re not showing up for work.
PRINCE: And?
ROSENBERG: No problem.
PRINCE: No problem.
ROSENBERG: During those day, we had no problem.
PRINCE: Okay, we’re still, uh, in somewhere like ’43 now, 1943?
ROSENBERG: We are…we were in the ghetto all the way till 1944.
PRINCE: Okay, so what years are we…
ROSENBERG: In 19…we’re talking between 1941 and 1943.
PRINCE: All right, did you, did you, uh was there any school in the ghetto?
ROSENBERG: No, there was no school whatsoever. What was, is that we went right away to work. The only way we survived is that we were working. If you couldn’t work, if you got crippled or you got sick that you couldn’t work and you kept reporting that you’re not able to work and not able to work for so period of time, they used to come in and take you away, so, tell you that you’ve got to go to a hospital. Whenever you used to go to a hospital, very few came back from the hospital.
PRINCE: How about the, how about, uh, well all right, what if you were sick, just for a few days, was there a Jewish doctor that…
ROSENBERG: Oh yeah. We had Jewish doctors in the camp.
PRINCE: Would come in…(OVERTALKS)
ROSENBERG: We had the ghetto hospital, we had the ghetto doctors. We had ghetto help to go to, yes.
PRINCE: Uh, this…was there anything cultural going on, did you…
ROSENBERG: Nothing.
PRINCE: Nothing?
Rosenberg: Nothing as far as cultural, but we only tried to do is maintain the holidays. Needless to say, that we were not allowed but let’s say in the morning we could have gotten up and prayed. In the evening people came back and prayed but during the day even during the holidays we had to go to work. I don’t remember any time that you didn’t go to work unless you were sick.
PRINCE: And so as far as reading, you were probably…
ROSENBERG: Yes we had reading material. We could have done all that, all that we did. We could have maintained all the reading material and everything in the ghetto that we wanted.
PRINCE: Uh, so 1928 you were born… ’38 (CANNOT HEAR, COUNTING) Uh, now you’re maybe 17 years old now.
ROSENBERG: I was 16, 15 years old.
PRINCE: Uh mmm. Did you notice girls?
ROSENBERG: In the ghetto?
PRINCE: Uh huh.
ROSENBERG: Yes, I would say, we have noticed girls. Uh, we had in the…in the cramped quarters that we lived in…men and women together all during that period of time. Privacy, there was very little privacy. Anything could have gone on to it. At that day, I personally while I’ve noticed girls but we didn’t have any intimate contact during that period of time. Uh, like I say, I was around 15 at that time. At that time ’43, I was around 15 when we got into the concentration camp. Because in 1944 they took us all to the concentration camp. In other words, what happened was that the Russian front was getting closer because in 1943 they were coming over much closer to Lithuania. And what they did is close the ghetto and they also I think needed a lot more labor in the concentration camps because from 1942… ’41, ’40, in Poland starting with 1940, ’41, ’42, ’43, they were killing, mass killing of all the Jews. By 1944 I think they realized that they need more labor and the Jews could be of more labor camp than killing them. By the time that we got to the concentration camps, in the concentration camps that I’ve been in which is Stutthof and Dachau, they were not killing, burning, gassing people just for the sake of killing people. People were dying in those days strictly from starvation and overwork. They were not dying so much just to get into the crematoriums to be gassed and killed because by that time, they needed slave labor and they needed people to do the work because we came into Muhldorf first, we came into Stutthof first, in Stutthof they separated all the men and the women. They completely stripped us naked. We went into this concentration, into the room completely naked. They shaved all the hair off from the body, men and women alike, completely. They gave us completely the striped uniforms and this was our clothing.
PRINCE: Black and white, or blue and white.

Tape 2 - Side 1

ROSENBERG: Blue and white uniforms. Uh, one correction I want to make is that we were not separated immediately when we got to Stutthof because I have recollections of sleeping on bunks together where my mother was and other people were in those big barracks were housed about probably 70 to 100 people in one barrack…And we slept all…men and women all together in those rooms. We were in Stutthof, during the period that we were in Stutthof, that’s where we were and I do not recollect the exact period of time but I would say, between two and three weeks that we were in Stutthof, that’s where we stayed together with the families.
PRINCE: How did you get to Stutthof and what led up…?
ROSENBERG: Took us by train. They took us by train. They gathered us all up on trucks…
PRINCE: Excuse me, Mendel, start…
ROSENBERG: …in the ghetto.
PRINCE: Yeah, in the ghetto but did they…how did they, how did they…was it a loud speaker, how did they inform you?
ROSENBERG: Oh, the way they use to inform us is strictly by loud speakers. They use to drive down the few streets that there were over there and…
PRINCE: In what language?
ROSENBERG: By loud speaker in German. Everything was in German.
PRINCE: So you had to figure it out.
ROSENBERG: Well we all could speak German at the time. And they used to say in German or the Lithuanians used to say it in Lithuanian for the people that couldn’t understand German. And they came in and told us to…gather us all up and they put us all on trucks and from the trucks they put us all on trains and took the train all the way to Stutthof. Stutthof, at that time, was not very far from Lithuania.
PRINCE: Describe the train ride.
ROSENBERG: That train ride, we were approximately 70 people all squashed in one cattle car, they were all freight cars, all scheduled, all in that freight car. Luckily that train ride didn’t take very long because we only had to go approximately a hundred or so miles. A hundred or two hundred miles because it was right across the border, it was right in northern Germany, that’s where Stutthof is.
PRINCE: Had you heard rumors of what was happening to people?
ROSENBERG: Yes, you always heard rumors but you never wanted to believe that it’s going to happen to you. When we got to Stutthof, we heard the rumors that they’re going to strip us. We heard rumors they’re going to take everything away from us; whatever belongings or whatever things valuable we had we all buried it in the sand.
PRINCE: What had they allowed you to bring?
ROSENBERG: Whatever we could carry.
PRINCE: Oh, but did you know about the gassings yet?
ROSENBERG: We heard rumors about the gassings all during the period of time that we were in the concentration…that we were in the ghetto. Before the ghetto, we heard about those things that were happening. But like I said before, people…funny part of it with people, they don’t always want to believe what they hear. They only want to believe what they want to believe what they hear because we always thought it’s happening in Poland – it’s not going to happen in Lithuania. Secondary there wasn’t much of a choice that we were to have. In Lithuania, very few Lithuanians hid the Jews. And with the ones that they did hide, were small children that they thought they could away with. Adult people, they were very afraid because anybody in Lithuania that was caught harboring any kind of Jews, were shot immediately. Not only was the Jew shot, the Lithuanians were shot also. So the fear was very great among them to hide any, for any length period of time. Even the ones that tried to hide and the rumors what we heard, the neighbors were snitching on them because they were offered all kind of rewards if they would snitch on somebody that’s harboring and hiding a Jewish family, or a Jew. Even if it wasn’t true and they snitched on them even if they could catch them, they used to shoot them. So, there was no place to go and no place to hide at that particular time. It was too late. The only time was to go at the fact when the Russians were retreating out of Lithuania. It was the only time it was physical to run away. When they came into the ghetto and they gathered us all up and then they put us in cattle cars and brought us into Stutthof. In Stutthof, they put us outside of the camp and then rows by rows of people they used to bring us in inside. And needless to say, while we were there, uh, we were burying anything that we could find. Everything that we had on us, we buried in the sand; not to give it to the Germans. When they stripped us and took us all away and gave us clothes to put us in those big barracks where we were all together. At that time we were…
PRINCE: Were you with your brother?
ROSENBERG: Yes, I was with my brother mostly all during that time until 1945. When we were in Stutthof, we were all together for the period of time until they put us back on train and shipped us out of Stutthof. At that time, they separated us because they only shipped the men, all the women remained in Stutthof. The reason I know that is my mother remained in Stutthof. She was liberated by the Russians.
PRINCE: When did they separate you from your mother?
ROSENBERG: They separate for the mother, from my mother, when they put us on the trains and they shipped us to Dachau. They shipped mostly all the males to Dachau. All the females remained in Stutthof. They put us again about 70 or so people on the train and at that time…
PRINCE: You mean on that one car…
ROSENBERG: On that one car, and we were over 3000, I think on that shipment…I don’t remember exactly how many people. The only thing I remember is when we got to Dachau, they took part of us off (PAUSES) no…it wasn’t in Dachau it…they took us all into Dachau and again, they sorted us out in Dachau and they shipped us to different, individual labor camps which was around Dachau and the surroundings. But that what another incident happened. That they they separated me from my brother in Dachau and they separated me and a bunch of other young kids that we were in the same age group around 15 at the time. They separated us and they put us in a separate group. I managed to stay all the time with my brother in Stutthof and in the ghetto, we were always together. I did not want to be separated from him so as the guard was not watching, I jumped up from the group of the kids and I run back into the big group of people that were there and I stood near older people so I would look taller because I wasn’t tall enough. And I tried to put, raise myself on my tiptoes and tried to, uh, mingle with…inside the group so the Germans wouldn’t see. Luckily, they didn’t count again to see who was who and I was shipped out with my brother to the working camp of Muhldorf. Muhldorf was one of the working camps that we ended up with. Some other people in the same ghetto ended up in different camps. When we came in – in that work camp of Dachau, uh, there it was completely male only; very strict with new kapos, with new barbed wire, with new electrified fences, with new SS, with new dogs all away around, with barracks again that we slept three bunks high, all on straw mattresses and that was it. The ration we got is half a loaf of bread per day with soup in the morning and soup for lunch and the soup and the bread in the evening.
PRINCE: What was the soup?
ROSENBERG: Soup was all kind of soup. A lot of them was grass. A lot of food I can’t remember was, uh, I don’t know what kind of grass it was but it was tall stems of green stuff. I don’t know what it was; celery or whatever it was. And some of them were cooked with, uh, potatoes, some of them without potatoes.
PRINCE: And you lined up for this?
ROSENBERG: Always lined up for food, always stood in line together to…
PRINCE: What did you own? A cup, a spoon, what…
ROSENBERG: They gave us, they gave us utensils to eat which was a…a spoon and a cup, a soup dish, it used to be a container, like a…a…
PRINCE: Metal.
ROSENBERG: Like a metal container that they used to issue for the army. Same army issued, like canteen. That’s what we use to get…to eat from.
PRINCE: But did you keep this with you? This was yours?
ROSENBERG: Yes this was ours, and we used to keep that. Most of the time we used to keep that, yes.
PRINCE: How did you handle them if you were working, Mendel?
ROSENBERG: We were working, we used to carry them, they used to put it away wherever you used to work so we’d have something to eat in and eat out of.
PRINCE: Describe the day at Dachau.
ROSENBERG: At Dachau when we get to the work camp which was Muhldorf where we worked, we worked on different kind of work. One of the main work was Hauptbaushtele which was big concrete buildings and concrete bunkers that they used to build. We used to, first of all, we had to walk approximately three miles to the work place from the camp. And we used to walk every morning and every night. And maybe it seems like three miles, maybe it was less but it seems like it was a long way to walk. And when we got there we use to carry cement on our backs up wherever the cement mixer used to be or we used to make the cement and carry sand up to the different areas where we used to work. Or we used to mix the cement after and carried the already mixed cement to the different areas where they were building. Or we used to unload trucks and carloads of cement. Seemed to me like for the year we were there, about ’44 to ’45, that all I did is have something to do with cement. It isn’t one way or the other. However, after six months or so working around the cement, I was completely, almost gone because I developed diarrhea and I couldn’t hold the little food that we use to get. And in Germany when we were in the Dachau area, we couldn’t steal much of the food anymore because there were a lot of Germans there and the Germans weren’t as helpful as the Lithuanians were when the Lithuanians were there. We had to depend a lot more on the rations of what we could get in the camp. We were much more strictly guarded than we were in Lithuania. We could not get out of formation. We used to go in formation and come back in formation where we…where the civilian population was. Uh, we were more guarded inside the barracks. We couldn’t get out of the barracks as easily as we could when we were in the ghetto. Uh, we had to depend a lot more on each other when we were there in the concentration camp as we were in the ghetto. Therefore, the food was not enough and no great quantities of food that we could lay our hands on. And we were going down very rapidly. Matter of fact, like I said, I had diarrhea and many times I couldn’t even…another episode is while I was working, I couldn’t stop and to relieve myself and had to do it while I was working. When I get to the barracks, I couldn’t even get into the barracks – I had to clean myself up, had to clean myself up whether the temperature outside was freezing or whether the temperature outside was warm.
PRINCE: How did you clean yourself up? Were there rags…?
ROSENBERG: There was cold water outside the barracks and we could clean ourself in the cold water. We hadn’t had any hot water for a year while we were in Dachau.
PRINCE: So your clothes were wet and…
ROSENBERG: Our clothes was wet and everything. While it was cold outside, we used to have inside the barracks, uh, stoves. And we used to be able to go to the stove and if you want to dry off your clothes inside on the stove.
PRINCE: Mendel, clear something up for me. Uh, leaving you so much to your own devices like you just explained to me, uh, were your barracks, some people say that the barracks, this is just in your case I’m asking, did you have to keep the barracks clean or things clean? Were they, uh, were the Germans, uh…
ROSENBERG: Sure, you used to have to make your beds and the kapos use to come and inspecting it. It was something similar like military duty. We used to get a blanket, we used to get a straw mattress. We used to go out and clean the straw mattresses every so often, uh, because a lot of people used to urinate right on these things. They were so weak, they were so, uh…restricted for instance in the barracks, sometimes you use to be able to go to the latrine, some times you couldn’t.
PRINCE: Did they have a barrel or anything in the…?
ROSENBERG: Yes, they used to.
PRINCE: …That you could do at night.
ROSENBERG: In the camp they used to have regular latrines…in the camp. We used to leave the barrack and go to the latrines. Uh…
PRINCE: Even at night?
ROSENBERG: Even at night. The walking you use…you could not walk. While you were walking you could not leave the formation again…
PRINCE: While you were working, oh, walking.
ROSENBERG: While you were walking on the camp to the workstation, you couldn’t leave the work formation. But while you were at work, you could leave and go to the latrine or while you were in the barracks you could go to the latrine.
PRINCE: Now being your age, were you in with all ages?
ROSENBERG: All ages, all ages, all mixed.
PRINCE: Did the Germans know that was your brother, that you were together?
ROSENBERG: Probably. But once we got into the camp, there was no more much of any names, there were all numbers. They were all called by the numbers.
PRINCE: What was your number?
ROSENBERG: Uh, I don’t remember – to be honest with you.
PRINCE: Okay.
ROSENBERG: It was a number, I should have remembered but I don’t anymore.
PRINCE: I bet you thought you would never forget it.
ROSENBERG: Right.
PRINCE: How nice that you’re able to forget it.
ROSENBERG: But I thought I would never forget it is right.
PRINCE: Mendel, uh, was there anything, uh, did anyone try to practice any, uh, religious observances?
ROSENBERG: Yes. (TAPE STOPS) I remember the one time in Dachau, when we were there, that we had Rosh Hashanah services and then we had Yom Kippur services before the appel. That means before we started to go to work…
PRINCE: Roll call?
ROSENBERG: Roll call, we had, uh, services, but we didn’t have any books, prayer books to pray from and we didn’t have any tallits and we didn’t have a Torah, we didn’t have anything. However, we had a couple of people that could recite whatever they remembered, to recite by heart and they recited it out loud and we all followed them, and that was our services.
PRINCE: And this was, uh…
ROSENBERG: This was the high holiday services.
PRINCE: And if you had gotten caught?
ROSENBERG: Uh, inside the barracks, chances of getting caught were very slim.
PRINCE: The kapo wouldn’t have…
ROSENBERG: Uh, the kapo was, as it happened to be in our barrack at that time, the kapo was one of our people so we did not have too much of a care because every barracks had their own kapo. And we had our own kapo in that. But the services was not much going on as far as I remember in our barracks and in our camp. We did not, at least I did not keep a very good track of time. We used to get up in the morning and tried to figure out how we’re going to survive the day. We were in such poor shape in Dachau that we had only one thing in our mind is how to survive that day and make it to the next day and hopefully that the war would end soon. All we tried to do is survive.
PRINCE: Did you hear any rumors about the war?
ROSENBERG: Yes we did.
PRINCE: From whom?
ROSENBERG: We heard lots of rumors. Most of the rumors we used to hear is from the kapos. They had contact to the Germans and not so much the Germans which were the soldiers, as the SS, as it was the Germans that we heard the civilian German work details that used to work on the construction with us. They were from the Todd organization and they…T O D D. It was the Todd organization that was a German construction firm that was doing the construction for the German government. And there were a lot of civilians there. Some of them were very helpful and some of them, they used to give us some little food whatever they used to have. At that stage of the game, even the Germans themselves didn’t have a lot of anything. Didn’t have a lot of food, they didn’t have a lot of cigarettes, they didn’t have a lot of anything. And they were just as sparingly rationed like the rest of us. And whatever we could, whatever they could, was strictly a little bit of their, uh, container or their part of the rations that they used to share with some of us.
PRINCE: Was that brave of them to try and help you?
ROSENBERG: Yes because they risked, mostly used to risk reprimand, to be reprimanded as they done it. And they used to say, be very cautious. All they did is give us their container for us to wash it for them. And in the container they used to leave some of the food. And at that stage of the game, we were not particular if somebody ate from that dish or didn’t. We used to eat from one or more people from one dish.
PRINCE: And water, did you have as much water as you needed?
ROSENBERG: Yes, water, we hadn’t got much of a problem on that particular trip.
PRINCE: What did you all…what did you talk about?
ROSENBERG: What did we use to talk about?
PRINCE: Uh huh.
ROSENBERG: Primarily we used to say, uh, this where we worked and the situation what went on during the day and the incidents that happened during the day and what we should do to keep warm. For instance, during the winter time we used to take the cement sacks and cut holes in it and wear it as clothing because we didn’t have enough warm clothes for the cold winter that we had in Germany. On my feet, this thing what we had is we used to take the same cement, uh, bags, the paper, and we use to wrap around our feet because we didn’t have any socks to wear and we used to wear in the wood shoes that we used to get to wear, and that’s what we used to have. Uh, and, uh, the only thing the rumors we used to hear anything that used to do and who had a good job and who had a bad job and who survived and who died and who remained alive. And that remained the topics that we used to have.
PRINCE: Did you ever talk about home?
ROSENBERG: No. We did not talk much about the old times because, uh, we were thrown in a camp where there were “x” number from Lithuania that came out. The rest in the Dachau, in that particular camp was mostly the fresh coming in out of Hungary. The Jews in Hungary were, didn’t start to be persecuted until 1944. In 1944 when we got to Dachau in 1945, we got in a lot “fresh meat,” “fresh meat” saying a fresh supply of work force.
PRINCE: Oh, that’s “fresh meat?”
ROSENBERG: That’s “fresh meat.”
PRINCE: People.
ROSENBERG: People….to it. Because every day they used to die at the rate of 100 to 200 a day in the camp. And in the work camp we were approximately three to 5000 people.
PRINCE: Die just of starvation.
ROSENBERG: Died from starvation and natural causes.
PRINCE: This is “Sister” Prince and I am interviewing Mendel Rosenberg for the second interview on Monday, June 24, 1985.
PRINCE: All right Mendel, we, to continue, we were talking about Dachau.
ROSENBERG: Okay. In that camp, things were getting for me in particular, very bad because I was running out of energy and I was getting sick too often and to me, I felt like I have already one foot in the grave. However, there were some people that knew my parents in that camp. One was Samuel Segal and the other one was Schachmudes that knew the family and they worked inside the camp in the carpenter shop. And when they saw me there, they took me in and they helped me to get a job inside the carpenter shop by telling the kapos there that they were short handed and all the work they have done, they needed more help. At that time in the carpenter shop, at least, we did not have to go out and to walk to the construction places. We got all kind of work to do inside the camp with fixing the barracks, fixing all the woodworking for instance, and build different kind of chairs and tables and desks for the Germans and for the people in the camp. That job, needless to say, saved almost my life because like I said, it was at a point where I could…I couldn’t continue anymore making all those trips to all this construction work. Also by that time, which was about the beginning of 1945, my brother and I were separated. At one morning on one of the appels, where they call all the names and they check to make sure all the people are there inside the camp, they called out his number and with him and another group of people, they transferred him to another camp next to the camp where we were. There they were going out to start a new construction job and since there were no barracks or nothing, they all lived in tents. Later on, after the war, I find out that, I found out that it was approximately in February of 1945, my brother was killed. I didn’t know that till after we were liberated, that some of the people from that camp, in the same work place where he was in, told me that he was killed. He was beaten to death by one of the kapos. Uh, needless to say that we had this type of brutality also in our camp and when we could stay away from them and do exactly what they told us, we were spared. In that carpenter shop, we had one incident that still sticks in my mind was that, during the winter, there were buried a lot of potatoes in the ground to keep it from freezing and in those big areas where they had all the potatoes buried, they use to put in wooden chimneys so some air would come in there. And while we were building those chimneys and putting in those, we used to steal the potatoes. One time while we were working there, uh, we almost got caught, but one of the other workers told me that they saw the Germans watching us what we were doing. Therefore, we got rid of the potatoes in a hurry and put them all back and when they frisk us, they, uh, checked us when we left that area, they couldn’t find anything on us and we were saved from getting killed…
PRINCE: You’re smiling…
ROSENBERG: (COUGHS SLIGHTLY)…Because in those times, you could get killed almost for anything and this was…stealing was one of the great…one of the good reasons for them to do it, because they would beat you to death.
PRINCE: Was your smile because you didn’t get killed or because you got away with it?
ROSENBERG: We were smiling that we didn’t get caught.
PRINCE: That’s why you were smiling (LAUGHTER), all right.
ROSENBERG: And we got away to steal another…
PRINCE: And you did.
ROSENBERG: Yes. Because it was very difficult to survive without it. We tried to get jobs around the kitchen where there was some food and we used to help ourself or eat it real quick, whenever we could lay our hands on it.
PRINCE: So I sense some pride in you.
ROSENBERG: Also…
PRINCE: Am I right?
ROSENBERG: Yes, because that’s the only way you could survive. Uh, if you didn’t have an opportunity to get to other means of substance, you couldn’t survive on the rations that they were giving you and the type of work we were doing. Also while we were working in the carpenter shop, we also had an opportunity to walk around freely in the camp with your toolbox and with your tools and you could say that you were going to work here and there and then we used to build ourselves false bottoms in the tool box so whatever we could lay our hands on, we used to hide in the false bottom of the toolbox and bring it in back to our barracks.
PRINCE: Did you have to have a work permit that they called ausweiss, or…
ROSENBERG: Not while we were inside the camp. Outside the camp, we were always with guards. We could never walk around by ourselves, but inside the camp, we did not. We could go from one area to another.
PRINCE: I’d like to go back a little bit and ask you, when your brother was separated from you, you were still about 15.
ROSENBERG: Yes.
PRINCE: That must have…tell me how…
ROSENBERG: Yes. He was older than I. He was about two years older.
PRINCE: How did you feel?
ROSENBERG: (HESITATES) When we were over there and when something like this happened at that stage of the game, after for almost three and a half years, over three and a half years, trying to stay together and fighting it all the way, that was a situation where we had no control over. He left and he never came back and when I tried looking and find out where he was and trying to find him and trying to see if I can be transferred wherever he was, was impossible.
PRINCE: How did…
ROSENBERG: Was no choice in the matter any longer.
PRINCE: No, I understood that. I just wondered how you maintained yourself because you were…
ROSENBERG: Uh, by that time I already, at one point, I already lost all hope of survival except when I was transferred to that job. When I was transferred into the carpenter shop…
PRINCE: That was before he left…
ROSENBERG: Yeah, before he left.
PRINCE: Because you did that together.
ROSENBERG: Yes and I thought that would give us a good opportunity for me to help him out because I had some access to it and we use to share everything together. And when that happened, uh, our hopes were completely shattered that we couldn’t help each other. And like I said, I couldn’t find him and didn’t know exactly where he was till after the…after we were liberated because inside the camp they didn’t tell you nothing. They didn’t tell you anything what was going on.
PRINCE: Mendel, because you were 15, did anyone, did the older men try and help you in any way? Were you special? I mean…
ROSENBERG: No. The only one that helped us are those two people in the carpenter shop that they took me in over there and they helped me get my…some of the strength back and get cured of the diarrhea that I had at the time. But that was already late because we were liberated in May because by that time all kind of rumors were flying that the war was coming to an end and that, because as we worked with the Germans, the Germans used to…

Tape 2 - Side 2

The Germans were telling us of the rumors and they were saying that a lot of old men and little kids are getting inducted in the army already. And that the Russians are coming very close to the German territory and the Americans are already getting into Germany. And we were, at that time, beginning to hope that maybe there is a chance that we would survive. Then late in April of the last, to the end of April they took and gathered up all the able bodied people that we were there and they put us on a train. And they took the train out of the Dachau and out of the camps and they were taking us away from there because the Americans were coming awful close to the camps where we were and they tried to take us into the mountains and get rid of us so there wouldn’t be no evidence left of the survivors so we could tell about what happened in those camps. We were in the train almost 10 days, I think, with very little food, with hardly any water and they were taking us from one place in there to another. At one time there was a false rumor that the Germans gave up and actually it wasn’t the Germans in Berlin that gave up the war, but it was in Munich in Germany, the southern part of Germany where this group of soldiers gave up, and they gave up the fighting. And we opened up all, climbed through the windows since there were no guards and we opened everything up and we came out of the train and started running free all over the country. At that time, with our bad luck, we were near a German airport and near the airport and the soldiers on there, at the airport did not know of that happening. They thought everything was still in war. And they came around and they started gathering us all up and shooting us and everything else. Luckily that we stayed close to the train that we didn’t get away too far and they put us all back on the train and the guards came back and everything else and they kept hauling us some place else, till finally one morning, I think it was May the fifth, finally again we woke up in the morning and there were no guards. Finally we got out…
PRINCE: …On a train though.
ROSENBERG: On a train, opened up the train doors and everything else and again we started running but this time I was still on the train, but some said, “There are the Americans right down on the highway.” And we were near a highway and we walked maybe couple hundred of yards and there the American trucks and jeeps and everything was coming by.
PRINCE: What did you think Mendel?
ROSENBERG: We were so happy that we’re still alive (LAUGHTER) that we finally made it, we finally beat the odds, that we were the few that finally survived.
PRINCE: How alive were you?
ROSENBERG: How alive? I would say that we were enough that we could walk two or 300 yards because we didn’t run around anymore and we didn’t get very far from the train. Matter of fact is the American soldiers were throwing us some food but they were all cans and we didn’t even know how to open the cans. We couldn’t even open the cans. We didn’t have the tools to open them. We didn’t have even the strength to open them with, but we had immediately within days, the Red Cross or the American kitchens came in and they were cooking soup and bringing food immediately to all of us on the train while we still right there on the train…we didn’t get…we slept on the trains around there and we stayed around there till we got some help.
PRINCE: Did you fee like you were getting special, I mean did you feel cared for or were you aware, that aware of anybody, I mean, here you looked different and you probably…
ROSENBERG: We were all in the striped clothes…
PRINCE: …And probably.
ROSENBERG: …All from the concentration camps. They could recognize. The Americans could recognize…
PRINCE: I know they knew what you were and who you were but did they want to get close to you or did they…did anybody touch you?
ROSENBERG: No, no, we had some Americans, they, some of them caught some of the guards that used to be on the train but they had them in jeeps and we saw them, they had them in jeeps. Some of the Americans guarded them and wouldn’t let us do anything with them. Some of the different groups in the different area farther away from us, where the train was a long train, we were over 3000 people on that train and some of them, they caught the guards and when they had the guards, some of us killed those guards. But all in all they told us to stay “put” and stay right there that help is coming and it did. They start cooking, they start cooking in the kitchens and I remember that four kitchens were set up, field kitchens, and they kept feeding us from early in the morning till late at night, till they fed everybody.
PRINCE: Okay I hear that was sometimes not good because people died…
ROSENBERG: People died for overeating after the war, yes, a lot of people died.
PRINCE: How come it didn’t happen to you?
ROSENBERG: How come it didn’t happen to me? That’s a very good question. Many a times things happening in life where there’s no explanation for it. And maybe I was a little stronger than the rest by that time; maybe my time didn’t come yet. I’m a strong believer that what happens, happens, and I guess my time didn’t come to happen yet, so I survived all that.
PRINCE: Mendel, you’re a very vital man, you’re a very vital looking man. I sit here and try to picture you as you might have been then but inside I would imagine…
ROSENBERG: At the age of 16 what…I don’t have exact pictures at that particular, I have some pictures that happened after…after the war but not right as we were liberated, because from there they took us all into a – don’t want to say a camp but an area where they set up barracks and set up to feed us some food and some hospitals and gave us some different clothing and they start making arrangements for us what we were going to do. We were under the UNRRA auspices at that particular time and…
PRINCE: United Nations Relief…
ROSENBERG: Right, relief organizations. And they, uh, provided some food for us and we also…
PRINCE: Now you’re still talking 3000?
ROSENBERG: All the people that were there, the 3000. Some of them right after, right after they rested for a while and everything else start going to other areas and other cities trying to look for their…rest of their families. A lot of them after the war, like went back to Lithuania looking for some of the women of the family because there were only men that were liberated in our area. All the women remained in Stutthof so a lot of them went back to Stutthof looking, to northern Germany, where the people that were liberated by the Russians, looking for the women of the families. And I was put, because I knew that my brother died, I knew that my father then was dead. The only one…
PRINCE: You mean you already knew that your brother died?
ROSENBERG: Yes because it was after we were liberated. These people that were in another camp told me that my brother died. And there was only my mother left…
PRINCE: You saw them in the hospital?
ROSENBERG: Who?
PRINCE: I mean you saw them in that camp where you worked…?
ROSENBERG: Right, right, from the other camp that came around from the Wald Lager where they were at…
PRINCE: From the what?
ROSENBERG: Wald Lager – that means Forest Camp in German.
PRINCE: Wald?
ROSENBERG: Wald Lager, that’s Forest Camp…the camp in the forest, he was over there and some of them that survived in that area over there told me that he was dead.
PRINCE: Survived.
ROSENBERG: Survived – others – not my brother but the other people that survived from that forest camp, they told me that my brother was killed.
PRINCE: When you said that they told you in…they told you to stay on the train, back tracking a little bit, how did they tell you that? There were 3000 people…
ROSENBERG: The Germans? In German.
PRINCE: No, but who, the Americans told you in German?
ROSENBERG: No, no, you’re talking about which part – there were two incidents…
PRINCE: I’m talking about…
ROSENBERG: You mean when the Americans came?
PRINCE: Yeah, uh huh.
ROSENBERG: When the Americans came, they were talking in English but not all of us could speak English.
PRINCE: That’s what I’m saying, how did you know…?
ROSENBERG: Oh yeah, some of them could translate, some of them could speak English. If they couldn’t speak in English, they could speak in German. Some spoke in Jewish. There were a lot of American Jewish soldiers, some of them could speak…
PRINCE: So it was just like “catch as catch can” and…
ROSENBERG: Right, right word from…one told the other, the other tried to translate right away on that and to tell us to stay there. Then of course when the Red Cross came in, they were talking in German. And most of us all could speak German. Then we were in Feldafing, I stayed there from 1945 to 1946 and then uh…
PRINCE: What is Feldafing?
ROSENBERG: Feldafing, that was also in Germany, not far from Munich.
PRINCE: We’ve talked about that before.
ROSENBERG: That’s where we stayed after we were liberated. We stayed in Feldafing until we decided what we want to do and where we want to go. A lot of them from there wanted to go to Israel, they went to Israel. Some of them went looking back to Lithuania looking for their families.
PRINCE: You were alone. And you were 16.
ROSENBERG: I was alone but I knew that my mother was still there. I stayed in that camp because I had no desire of going back to Russia, and the Russia occupied. We were liberated by the Americans. I did not want to go back to the Russian zone because we lived under the Russians before the war and I didn’t have no desire of going back there. So I wait till I could make sure that my mother was still alive. On the other hand, my mother heard from some of the people that went up there that I was still alive. She sent a message to me and told me not to come there that she was going to come here to Munich where I was in Feldafing. So I waited for her, she finally arrived in late 1946. She had to go from Lithuania to Poland and then she had to get some papers that she’s a Polish citizen and then she changed papers that she’s a German citizen and she went from Poland to Germany to East Berlin and from East Berlin to West Berlin and from West Berlin to West Germany and then she came to Munich.
PRINCE: Did you know the day that she was coming, or did she?
ROSENBERG: No we didn’t…
PRINCE: Okay would you mind…?
ROSENBERG: No we did not know exactly when she was coming but she sent a message in ’45 that she was going to try to come to…it took her a year to get there.
PRINCE: So you were like in a camp…
ROSENBERG: Like in a camp, I was working (OVERTALKS) at the same thing…as a carpenter…
PRINCE: In a displaced persons camp.
ROSENBERG: Displaced persons camp, yes.
PRINCE: Okay. Would you mind describing what it was like when you saw each other again?
ROSENBERG: I couldn’t believe…at first when she came in, I had no forewarning that she was coming.
PRINCE: Okay, you were in what room or what?
ROSENBERG: I had no forewarning of her coming and I was working at the time in the carpenter shop where I was working and then they came running to me telling me that I got company. And the only company that I could think of was my mother (LAUGHTER) that she’d came, and there she was. And I, during the time, I saved all kind of goodies, like chocolate bars, some packages, because I used to get the Red Cross packages we were getting there and from me working in the camps, that’s what we used to get a lot of packages and I saved a lot of the stuff so when she came, I, oh, for all the goodies that I had saved up for her. And she came with just what she had on her back, that was all she came out with, is what she came to me, with just what she was wearing.
PRINCE: And what did she look like?
ROSENBERG: And…she looked a lot better what I thought she would look, but she was completely white. She had dark hair and when I saw her the first time, she was completely white. Needless to say, that we set up housekeeping. We got a whole room for ourselves…
PRINCE: Wait, you must have looked a lot different because you were so young so the change…
ROSENBERG: Well I was young with a lot of hair at the time…lot of hair, and I don’t know, we were separated for almost two years, over two years, and I guess we change in two years that much. Older person doesn’t change as much as the young ones. I must have changed much more than she did.
PRINCE: Right, right. Was there hugging and…
ROSENBERG: Right. The hugging and a lot of kissing and a lot of talking about the time what we’ve done and separated and then a lot of crying of course. I had to tell her that – she already heard it – that my brother died and everything else and she was glad at least that one of us survived. And needless to say that after we recouped for a while over there, we started making plans of what we’re going to do. And she asked me what I wanted to do. And I said, “Where do we have any relatives?” She said, “The only relatives we have is we have cousins in the United States.” Then she asked me where I wanted to go. I said, “Well if we only have relatives in the United States, we might as well go to the United States where our relatives are. Do we have anybody in Israel?” She says, “No, we don’t have any relatives in Israel.” So we decided to come to the United States. So we…she remembered the names and addresses of her cousins here in the United States…
PRINCE: Amazing.
ROSENBERG: …Because we didn’t have any paper work, we didn’t have anything left from the day before the war and during the war because when we went through the concentration camps everything was taken away, we had absolutely nothing. So when we wrote to them over here in the United States, and they made arrangements for us to come so they prepared all the papers and then we went to the council in Munich and we got the papers on this end all made out and tickets were sent to us and we got visas and we came to the United States…in…when did we come in March of…March of 1947. It took us between the end of 1946 to March ’47 to get all…it took us six months to get all the papers ready.
PRINCE: Okay, we’ll stop that part of it now…I’d like to go back though…before we…
ROSENBERG: Go back? To where?
PRINCE: …Before we leave Europe…
ROSENBERG: Okay.
PRINCE: I would like to go back to the camp for a minute.
ROSENBERG: Okay.
PRINCE: You used a word when we were off the tape, uh, to describe the wooden shoes.
ROSENBERG: Oh, the klumpes.
PRINCE: Uh huh.
ROSENBERG: These the kind of shoes we used to get to wear over there because they were wooden shoes, they wore them a lot in Holland and in the Netherlands and a lot of – how shall I say – farmers wore that kind of shoes where they most of the time leave them outside the door. And they walk in the house they take them off.
PRINCE: Didn’t you have to kind of grip with your toes to keep them on, or they just stayed on?
ROSENBERG: They just stayed on. We used to wrap them around with paper and they used to stay on and when they didn’t stay on, and we couldn’t work in them, we used to take them with strings and tie them around with whatever we can to hang onto them.
PRINCE: Okay, that was the name that all Europe gave to them, not just people in the camps. (TAPE STOPS)
Rosenberg: …The lice problem…matter of fact we used to take turns at night, particularly, in the wintertime to boil our clothes so we can rid of them. Every night we used to stay and boil our shirts and pants, and whatever other clothes we used to have to try to get rid of them and then we used to try to de-lice ourselves. Every so often the Germans used to take us and spray us with powder, particularly, when we used to go from one camp to another or we used to go from work place to another, they used to de-lice us as much as possible. But for a little while it worked and then we had them all over again.
PRINCE: I somehow, on one hand, I realize that or I understand that keeping clean was a tremendous problem…
ROSENBERG: Yes it was.
PRINCE: …On the other hand, the German thing for, mania for being clean and the barracks being clean and how did the two work together, it was like…
ROSENBERG: Well in the summertime, it was no problem. In the summertime it was no problem. We used to be able to go outside and wash ourselves with cold water. There were no women, we didn’t have to worry about that. We used to strip naked and go outside and there was water outside and we used to wash ourselves.
PRINCE: Like a spigot.
ROSENBERG: Like spigots, yeah, lots of spigots.
PRINCE: Did you have to turn it on…?
ROSENBERG: Right, turned them on and they used to be big, they used to build big…like outside sometimes you see, like they used to make…have those big – I don’t know what they call them – to feed all the horses…
PRINCE: Troughs.
ROSENBERG: Troughs – what you call them?
PRINCE: Troughs. (LAUGHTER) Yeah, I know, we’re both thinking the same…
ROSENBERG: Right, down there they use to fill them with water…
PRINCE: Troughs.
ROSENBERG: Troughs, yeah, troughs – for drinking for horses or for cattle down there. We used to have the same thing. We used to be able to have spigots of water and go down there and wash ourselves. Outside, there was no problem. In the wintertime was sometimes a problem because we couldn’t always get hot water. So…
PRINCE: The water would freeze.
ROSENBERG: The water that we were able to use is put the water from the outside, bring them inside and we used to have in the barracks where we used to live we used to have in the wintertime, heat by burning erzatz coal. Erzatz means substitute coal for coal they used to press them together, like little blocks and that used to be like coal.
PRINCE: But what was it?
ROSENBERG: It was more or less shavings from coal or fall off from coal, not the actual coal, and to keep warm in the barracks at night. And we used to boil the water and boil our clothes.
PRINCE: Uh, how did you keep track of time?
ROSENBERG: We didn’t, I didn’t particularly care what time it was at that time.
PRINCE: No, when you said you were on the train, maybe 10 days.
ROSENBERG: I’m guessing.
PRINCE: Guessing.
ROSENBERG: Most of the times I’m guessing. The only thing I remember is when they told me that my brother died about four months, three to four months before we were liberated, that I knew approximately when that happened because we were liberated in May and I go back to February approximately when he died.
PRINCE: Was there any humor in the camp, any attempt…
ROSENBERG: They tried, attempt they tried but the people in those…towards the end were so beaten down and so hopeless, so weak – I shouldn’t say hopeless – should say weak, exhausted, that all they could think is whether we get something to eat and can I lay down and rest. We were not in a position where we were like in a day camp where you had time on your hand and try to, uh, find some time for yourself or how to pass the time. We didn’t have to worry about that. On the day, the one day that we didn’t work, we just wanted rest and just get our strength back.
PRINCE: Another question. In the camp when you would wake up in the morning did you, you know, like now before you open your eyes, you’re awake, but your eyes aren’t open yet and you’re at home, certain thoughts pass through your mind, did you always know where you were?
ROSENBERG: Yes, most of the time we did, most of the time we did.
PRINCE: Did you dream?
ROSENBERG: No. Can’t say that I had any dreams. I’ll tell you the truth, I don’t remember if I did in those days, or not. In those days it wasn’t as much a dream as it was a nightmare. The life was such a nightmare that we, even after four years we could never think that it’s humanly possible for something like this to go on and nobody doing anything about it. Nobody lifted a finger to stop it…nobody…the German civilians, leave alone the military and no people from the outside, nobody. Nobody tried to rescue anybody. All we had is a couple overflies for British fighters that were shooting up the place. And one guy was shaving the other guy and while the plane came over, and they were shooting us up and shot the one guy off two fingers and opened up the other guy’s head while we were sitting and watching it.
PRINCE: Mendel, what made the difference between those who just gave up and those who didn’t?
ROSENBERG: A lot of people who gave up and didn’t want to fight any longer.
PRINCE: But what…
ROSENBERG: They didn’t have the strength, they didn’t have the will, they figured I don’t have the strength to fight. And some people did to the last minute, they would not give up. They would go on and fight and fight and try to make it until they would get liberated.
PRINCE: It took so much energy.
ROSENBERG: No, not so much energy as willpower. It took a lot of willpower to do that. It took a lot of hope, it took a lot of – how shall I say – stamina – not go give up, not to lay down and die because when I was with one foot already there, I still tried not to give up. Maybe…
PRINCE: How did you try?
ROSENBERG: …Some people couldn’t help it. I kept going and kept going and tried to do and tried to find ways of how to survive. In other words, take more risks, take more risks of trying to gain some more food, take more risk in trying to hide and not to get into trouble, take more risk that people wouldn’t – wouldn’t give you no reason for anybody to find you and beat you. Like one of the appels that called numbers out again for people to go to different camps, I wouldn’t answer the call. I stayed and wouldn’t answer the call and they never came looking for me.
PRINCE: But if they had they could have shot you.
ROSENBERG: If they had, they could have shot me, yes. As it happened to be another man, had identical the same number as I had and I didn’t find out until later.
PRINCE: The Germans made a mistake?
ROSENBERG: The Germans made a mistake and two of us had the same identical number. And he ended up in a different place and I stayed in the same camp because I always believed there is safety in numbers. I always stayed with the big groups with the big amount of people. Because as a kid I had that one day experience that they separated me and I didn’t want it to happen again.
PRINCE: Do you feel that because you and your brother spent so much time together that you survived?
ROSENBERG: I know for one thing for sure, if I wouldn’t have gotten up in Dachau down there and run back to the group with my brother, none of these kids that were laying on that ground where I was, survived. None of them are alive today.
PRINCE: Because?
ROSENBERG: Because they killed them all of that group.
PRINCE: …That group.
ROSENBERG: Of that group, they killed all the kids, none of them survived.
PRINCE: Is there anything that you can think of that you’d like to say about Dachau or that kind of thing that I haven’t asked you?
ROSENBERG: Sometimes, timing has to say something and sometimes maybe pure luck has to say something, because when we got to Dachau, the Dachau was not burning people for the sake of just exterminating people. People were dying in that area around from malnutrition and other things but they were not killing them just for the sake of killing like they did in Auschwitz and Treblinka…like they did in ’42 and ’43.
PRINCE: They needed you.
ROSENBERG: They needed us already for work force. They realized that they can utilize us better for working than just to get rid of us. Maybe that was a lucky thing to them when we got there. Some of the othe camps had it much easier than we had. We had one of the worst camps we were. My friend that’s in Israel now and some of the other ones, they were in…in, they called them Lager II of which was a much easier life in there. People didn’t have to do that kind of hard labor…
PRINCE: Of what camp?
ROSENBERG: There were two different camps. Camp Number II and Camp Number X…
PRINCE: Of?
ROSENBERG: Of the same group all from Dachau…
PRINCE: Oh, Dachau…
ROSENBERG: But there were smaller groups of camps, like we were in Muhldorf. There were smaller camps, the same thing, Camp Number II and Camp Number X and they had it much easier over there than we had. They separated us when we got to Dachau all from Lithuania when we came on the train.
PRINCE: Mendel, as I said before, before we leave Europe, I’d like to go all the way back to your early life and pick up on a few things…the Zionist organization. You did say that you wore uniforms but…
ROSENBERG: Uh huh. We belonged to a group over there that they called Betar in those days. I don’t know if they still have them or not. We were called ourselves Betarim. That was more like the, I think it was the Joseph Trumpeldor organization that we, in those days, we didn’t know anything about Israel giving back to the Jews that Israel would go back to the Jews willingly. Willingly by the action of the United Nations or Israel, uh, that would be created as a State. So what we thought that we are going to have to fight for it, so we believed that we would grow up and we would finish school that we, at one time or another, would have to go back to Israel and fight for it for this. And I think that the Betarim was kind of groomed for that type of an organization.
PRINCE: And so it was like a family affair and they…
ROSENBERG: No, all the kids in school, the ones that, uh, and most of them did belong to that and we use to have meetings and we used to have speeches and they used to come in and tell us about what’s going on over there and what’s going on in Israel and how the life is in Israel and probably what we should do over here and that we’re supposed to support Israel and if we want also support Israel and that we would eventually probably have to fight to get Israel to become a Jewish State.
PRINCE: And you would say you were gung ho.
ROSENBERG: And we were gung ho to go.
PRINCE: And your allegiance was really more towards Palestine than…
ROSENBERG: At that time, it was.
PRINCE: …than Lithuania.
ROSENBERG: Yes, yes. At that time it was that we were going to leave Lithuania and go to Israel.
PRINCE: Uh, alright, now to 1941, you said that some people left when the Russians left and the Germans came in and some were evacuated to Siberia.
ROSENBERG: Siberia, yes. What you got to understand that in 1939 when the war broke out between Poland and Germany, when Germany went into Poland, the agreement was between Germany and Russia, that Russia is not going to fight the Germans. And that with Germany going into Poland, Russia would occupy Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, the Baltic States and that’s what happened. The Russians came in and occupied Lithuania where we lived at the time. When…in 1941 before the war broke out with Germany…between Russia and Germany…the Russians gathered up a lot of people. No good reasons for it, I don’t know why but they claimed that they’re gathering up all the bourgeois, all the rich people, all the people that they’ve confiscated all their belongings, took everything away from them and they didn’t have no way of living and they had no way of income or nothing. And they gathered them all up, put them on a train and they took them all down to Siberia. Matter of fact, they took my uncle and aunt and my two cousins.
PRINCE: We talked about that but why, why were some – they took some and…
ROSENBERG: That’s a very good question. Why we don’t even know to this date why they took my uncle and didn’t take us.
PRINCE: It sounds like some had a choice and…
ROSENBERG: Didn’t have a choice.
PRINCE: …And could go and some…
ROSENBERG: No.
PRINCE: Oh, then maybe I misunderstood you.
ROSENBERG: …Not in that particular situation. In this particular situation you did not. The Russians came into your house and told you…take whatever you can carry and you’re coming with us. And they put them on the train and they took them all the way out to Siberia.
PRINCE: All right, uh, okay. Now let’s…All right, how…
ROSENBERG: But when the war broke out in 1941 and the Russians were retreating out of Lithuania…

Tape 3 - Side 1

When the Russians were retreating from Lithuania, then you had a choice, you could have retreated with the Russians or you could have stayed put and hide in the basement and wait till the war…till whatever happened. And as it happened, the Germans came in.
PRINCE: All right, now we’re…we’re going to the United States.
ROSENBERG: Going to the United States, okay.
PRINCE: Uh, how did you and your mother get there?
ROSENBERG: Well we went from Munich, we went to…by…By train, we went to Hamburg, Germany. And in Hamburg, we boarded a ship and the ship took us to New York.
PRINCE: Were you sort of left on your own though, I mean, here you…lived…
ROSENBERG: Yeah, my mother and I, we were left the two of us.
PRINCE: Was it, was it, how did it feel, I mean, you hadn’t been with her for two years…all this has gone by, were you…did you…
ROSENBERG: Felt very good at that particular time…
PRINCE: I mean, before she had always been telling you… “I’m sure Mendel will do this,” “Do this Mendel…”
ROSENBERG: Well she didn’t change. (LAUGHTER) She kept telling me… “Mendel do this, Mendel do that” after we got back together again. She kept telling me this even when I came to the States.
PRINCE: I mean because there you were a big boy and been fending for yourself. (CANNOT HEAR)
ROSENBERG: Right, right. It didn’t make any difference.
PRINCE: Did Mendel do what she said?
ROSENBERG: Most of the time.
PRINCE: (LAUGHTER) Wonderful. Okay.
ROSENBERG: We went to Hamburg, in Hamburg we boarded a ship and it took us two weeks and we came to New York. In New York the cousins came…
PRINCE: Mendel, what was it like on the ship?
ROSENBERG: Don’t ask. We were crossing the Atlantic in March and that’s the worst time of the year to cross the Atlantic.
PRINCE: Was it a ship full of…
ROSENBERG: A small ship with a lot of people in there and everybody was sicker than a dog. I spent most of the time on top deck and just went down long enough to get some food. It was cold and it was raining but we were covered with a blanket in a little alcove on a deck chair and that’s where we spent…I spent most of the time. Uh, my mother was sick all the time. All I used to do is bring down food for her and then she wouldn’t eat. And this two weeks were the most horrible two weeks in our lives. We were…even for the privilege of coming to the United States, it was an awful, beat-up pill to swallow. However, we knew where we were going and we were counting the days and we were hopeful that it would be over soon and we will get there.
PRINCE: Was the ship filled with people like yourself?
ROSENBERG: Yes, yes, the ship was all filled with people like myself.
PRINCE: What did people talk about Mendel?
ROSENBERG: What were we talking? Some of them were talking about the experience that they had in the different camps. Some people were talking and hopeful about what they would do in the United States. Some people were telling us about, because there were not only Jews, there were other people that were going to the United States too out of Hamburg.
PRINCE: Tell me about them.
ROSENBERG: I ran into a woman that was coming over with a daughter and a son and she was German, her husband was Jewish. And he left Germany also long time ago when Hitler started with his, uh, actions, and he lived in Salt Lake City, Utah. And she was going to Salt Lake City, Utah to be with her husband over there. And, uh, so we run into those kind of people. You also run into people that we knew from Lithuania and they were going to some friends over here. Matter a fact is, I think I got some pictures of my mother with the people aboard the ship that they had and that somebody took. And then…
PRINCE: So many different languages.
ROSENBERG: We had no problems with languages. Most all of us, including myself at one time or another, could speak seven of them. Grant you, today I can’t do that but in those days we could.
PRINCE: No. It wasn’t that you…I didn’t mean you couldn’t communicate but just a ship full of…
ROSENBERG: Full of all kind of people talking all kind of different languages. We spoke German, we were speaking Russian, and we were speaking in Jewish. Even before I came to this country we started already learning a little bit of English because my mother could speak English and French anyway.
PRINCE: What possessions did you have?
ROSENBERG: Possessions?
PRINCE: Uh huh, your clothes…
ROSENBERG: Well during the two years that we were in Germany, we got, like I said, a lot of Red Cross packages. Now we saved a lot of that and before we left we went and I spend it. I bought a new suit and bought a coat and some other clothes to take it with me. Needless to say that as soon as we came to the United States, all this was obsolete. Uh…
PRINCE: What did they look like?
ROSENBERG: …The style wasn’t like that and nothing was the right style and nothing was the right color…
PRINCE: What did your clothes look like?
ROSENBERG: Uh, the clothes looked like European clothes. In the United States they didn’t wear those kind of clothes. And needless to say that we did not have too much problem. When we came here our cousin outfitted us with, uh, different clothes. We went to work and as soon as we went to work, uh, we could take care of ourselves.
PRINCE: Your ship landed…
ROSENBERG: The ship landed to New York.
PRINCE: And you saw the Statue of Liberty?
ROSENBERG: We saw the Statue of Liberty. We saw everything in…all New York. And when we came in to New York, my cousin stayed with us in New York for a couple of days before we went to Youngstown, Ohio, because that’s where they were from. And we stayed…and she showed us around the Empire State Building…
PRINCE: Did you believe what you were seeing?
ROSENBERG: …She showed us the Statue of Liberty and we couldn’t believe the tall buildings. The buildings were going up and up and up…
PRINCE: Mendel, may I tell you this…that even people born here that go to New York can’t believe it when they first see it.
ROSENBERG: Right, right, right. I couldn’t understand how they built it and how it was put together and how tall it was and how come it’s not falling apart. (LAUGHTER) That was the first impressions of New York. And I used to like to go back to New York and go back to New York, and go back to New York, and see all those things all over again.
PRINCE: And relive it.
ROSENBERG: Yes, and then when we came to Youngstown and we got a job and started working and…
PRINCE: What was your job?
ROSENBERG: My job, as soon as I came to United States, is next door to my cousins, there was a man that was making, uh, storm windows and storm doors out of wood and since I worked in carpenter shops during the war, so I got a job there making windows. And that was the job that I had from there all the way then we switched from wooden windows to aluminum windows but that is the one company I worked oh, for 20 years.
PRINCE: And you were how old when you came to the United States?
ROSENBERG: 18.
PRINCE: 18 and you worked there for 20 years.
ROSENBERG: Worked for that company for 20 years. 10 years in Youngstown and ten years in St. Louis. And I went to school, I used to go to night school. So from six till 10 I used to go to school. Used to work till five o’clock, and I’d grab a bite to eat and go to school, four nights a week. And I finally graduated from high school. All I had to have is 26 credits. I finally accumulated 26 credits and after I was in St. Louis and after I was married, uh, I wanted the diploma so I wrote them and said, “I wanted my high school diploma,” and they checked my records and found out that I was still short American history. So they gave me a book and I took a test on American history and I passed the test and got my diploma.
PRINCE: Did they shake your hand? (LAUGHTER)
ROSENBERG: That’s how I got my high school diploma.
PRINCE: How wonderful.
ROSENBERG: I even went to one year in college. Then my job was transferred me around so to a point where I couldn’t continue so I quit. But I did want to have a high school diploma.
PRINCE: And here I am sitting with you…
ROSENBERG: Yes.
PRINCE: …in a beautiful and may I say, quite large home…
ROSENBERG: It’s a small room.
PRINCE: Maybe it’s a small room but it’s a large home and you belong to a lovely club…
ROSENBERG: Well, like they say, America is a land of opportunity. Sometimes opportunity knocks and you got to know how to take advantage of it. And again, uh, sometimes you take advantage and everything works out fine and sometimes things don’t work out so fine. Lucky for me that I worked for this company for 20 years and then they decided to fire me. And at that time I was too old they told me, the employment agency to find a job so I decided since I can’t get a job and I have something to do – I turned around and started a business for myself.
PRINCE: The best thing…
ROSENBERG: At that time it wasn’t but it turned out to be the best thing.
PRINCE: Well Mendel it sounds like you knew how to, somehow turn adversity around and make it work for you.
ROSENBERG: At times, at times it works.
PRINCE: Is there anything that you’d like to ask me? Is there anything you want to add?
ROSENBERG: Well, needless to say, that in the period of time that we have discussed all this, I should say that in some areas I was very brief.
PRINCE: Well, we can go on…
ROSENBERG: In some areas I could not remember as well. Remember, some of the things that happened, happened 40 years ago. And all I’m telling you is strictly from memory. There were a lot of unpleasant memories, some worse and sometimes you tuck away some of this memories in your subconscious that you don’t even want to think about.
PRINCE: Right.
ROSENBERG: Most of the things I talked about didn’t even bother me. Needless to say that for almost 25 years after we were liberated, I couldn’t even talk about those things. I used to have nightmares that were out of this world. Even after I was married and even when we were here, I was so glad that some mornings I woke up and find myself in bed. Because constantly I had nightmares of being chased, being persecuted, being shot at, being beaten and being everything else. And when you have a nightmare like this, you are so happy when you wake up and you see it’s only a nightmare. Because everything to me looked very realistic. It didn’t seem to me in those times as a nightmare at all. And that went on almost weekly, almost constantly…
PRINCE: That you had the nightmare.
ROSENBERG: That I had a nightmare…almost constantly. But luckily, uh, they slowed down and then they disappeared. Now I don’t have those nightmares anymore except on occasions when I think about it. During the day I will sleep on it and it will come back on me.
PRINCE: Maybe doing…I hope, well I don’t know that these interviews…
ROSENBERG: But it does not bother me as much as it used to. It used to bother me immensely that I didn’t even want to talk about things. Today, 40 years later, uh, in spite what they say, uh, time has a way of healing those kind of wounds.
PRINCE: Mendel, when you came over and you were 18, uh, did people ask you, did anybody want to listen, did you want to be so American that you didn’t want to talk about it? I mean, you were…you were a young person.
ROSENBERG: Yes, but…
PRINCE: You’ve certainly been raised…
ROSENBERG: In those days, when…we lived…when I came to this country I had other ideas at that time. I had ideas how to, number one, learn to speak English. Number two, I wanted to go to school. Number three, I wanted to work. Number four, I wanted to earn money. I wanted to go back to the time before the war. We had a lot of money before the war. We had nothing when we came to this country except 10 dollars I had in my pocket and 10 dollars my mother, when we came to this country.
PRINCE: So you wanted to be the kind of person, you…
ROSENBERG: I wanted to bring it back to what it was before the war…
PRINCE: Do you feel that you…(CANNOT HEAR)
ROSENBERG: …In this country…
PRINCE: And you have…
ROSENBERG: Uh yes, yes, I can say that we’re in a position today in a much better position that we were before the war. (TAPE STOPS) I think I managed to achieve, here in this country, what my father did it in Lithuania.
PRINCE: Then you must be very proud. Mendel, who was the first person that you told about what your life was like during the war when you came over here?
ROSENBERG: Uh, I think that some, in a some sketchy situation, we told our relatives here, my cousins, of what some went through and my mother done a lot more talking than I did. I don’t know whether it didn’t have as bad an effect on her than it did on me.
PRINCE: But, who did you tell? Who was the first person that you felt like sharing…
ROSENBERG: I never talked about it too much. Even the kids today, we’ve never sat down and gone into detail of everything that, uh, happened. Uh, I think that they felt at one time or another that it’s, uh, hard for me to talk about it. And I would say that at times it was…at times it was. Uh, even my wife, uh, I didn’t tell her all the details from all the horror stories that we went through.
PRINCE: You…you’ve told me a layer, just told me a layer a certain top-layer of your experience. That’s fine because I don’t want to peel back anything that you don’t want to…
ROSENBERG: Well, yes, but it’s very difficult, number one, to say what happened for four years, to be able to discuss it in three or four hours. Number two is a lot of the small incidents, the daily incidents that happened, uh, I would have forgot.
PRINCE: And you don’t want to remember.
ROSENBERG: Uh, maybe I don’t want to remember, that’s true too, maybe I don’t want to remember.
PRINCE: And you don’t need to.
ROSENBERG: Uh, I remembered, I talked about a lot of the highlights. Lot of some of the things that remained in my memory of the things that happened.
PRINCE: Mendel, do you think it’s confusing to your children that they…?
ROSENBERG: No, the other day, my wife and I talked about it and me going out and talking to some of the young kids in the different synagogues when they have classes about the Holocaust and when I want to talk first-hand about those things, uh, my kids when they went to school, I didn’t go talk before about the Holocaust. In those days, I did not feel like talking about it.
PRINCE: I hope that you…
ROSENBERG: Those were the times were not the best times to go back in memory…
PRINCE: Right.
ROSENBERG: …And to go back and look over what actually happened.
PRINCE: I hope if you are able to and have the time, I hope that you will do that. We’ll see.
ROSENBERG: Oh, time alone will tell that.
PRINCE: Right. All right. Uh, you went…you went to the gathering.
ROSENBERG: Yes.
PRINCE: Would you tell me about that? Explain what the gathering was.
ROSENBERG: We went to the Gathering of the 40 years of the people that survived the different concentration camps.
PRINCE: And it was…
ROSENBERG: We had that…I…we…had it in two areas. We had it in Philadelphia in the United States and we had it in Israel…
PRINCE: This was a gathering of…
ROSENBERG: Of the survivors, of all the survivors of the different concentration camps and the different ghettos in Germany or in Poland. That was not survivors just from Lithuania alone. It was survivors from everybody, however…
PRINCE: And this was in Israel?
ROSENBERG: One was in Israel and one was in Philadelphia. I chose to go to Israel for that occasion and, uh, I went to Israel and met my friend there and we also had on Saturday a gathering of all the Lithuanians that remained alive, all that came from Lithuania, whether they were from the Shailiai ghetto or whatever from Kovno ghetto. We all got together and there must have been approximately 400 people of which I would say there must have been from all Lithuania, about 250 or so survivors. Because a lot of them were there with their wives or their husbands and…and some of them even had some of their children there. Uh, and it was good to see people that we haven’t seen, like I saw a couple of girls that I haven’t seen for 40 years. However, it’s a funny feeling because while you think about it and you think about those people what they looked like 40 years ago, when you look at them today, they’re like strangers to you. We were all kids, all going to school together, all in the same class together and everything in those days. Yet when you don’t see them for 40 years and all of a sudden you see them again and you didn’t have no contact. They look like strangers to you.
PRINCE: They are strangers.
ROSENBERG: And they are strangers. They have their own lives and their own families and they were all from South Africa, some of them, some of them were from…going to Australia and it’s funny how you can think of these little kids when you look back, you close your eyes for a moment and you see them all as little kids running around in the school and then all of a sudden they’re grown-up people with their children and grandchildren and they’re all scattered all over the world.
PRINCE: And if your lives hadn’t been ripped apart like that…
ROSENBERG: That’s probably, we would have been still there.
PRINCE: No reason, no reason to get together…
ROSENBERG: Wouldn’t have been no reason. Probably we’d have all gotten together in Israel anyway but under better circumstances.
PRINCE: Mendel, how bitter are you?
ROSENBERG: Bitter? I was thinking many a times about that. I could not remember an individual that harmed me…the system harmed me…not an individual. If I would see the individual today, I probably wouldn’t recognize him for one thing. For another thing is, I’m not bitter against any individual as much as I’m bitter about the people that let it happen; whether it’s the German people, or it’s the American people, I cannot for the love of me understand, even today, how a boatload of people that finally got out of Germany, the United States, Cuba, any other country, would not let them in.
PRINCE: You’re talking about the SS St. Louis?
ROSENBERG: Right. How that boat would had to be returned back to Germany and back to the concentration camps. For the love of me I can’t understand that kind of thinking and that kind of people. One thing I know today that I would not let it happen, personally. I would do anything in my power that something like this would never happen again. I would not turn my cheek just the way we did over there. Grant you we were too naïve and too inexperienced. We did not think that things like this could happen. We were always listening about the pogroms that happened in Russia, we were listening about all the beatings and other persecutions of the Jews in all the years. And you try and put yourself in their place and say, “Today I would not stand still and let it happen again.” Luckily we have a State of Israel. Luckily we can fight for what we believe is right. We can fight for our survival. While I’m not in Israel doing those things, I’m trying to support, as much as possible, that cause. And if the call would come that it would be either a matter of life and death, I would try to be there.
PRINCE: To be there?
ROSENBERG: To be there and help the State of Israel to survive.
PRINCE: Thank you very much…
ROSENBERG: You’re welcome.
PRINCE: …for your time and if you ever want to enlarge on anything, I will return.
ROSENBERG: Okay (SIGHS)
PRINCE: Thanks Mendel.

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