Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

AROUND THE TOWN

'This One Can Live, This One Will Die'

June 10, 1996|BEVERLY BEYETTE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Shortly before World War II, as Nazi persecution of Jews escalated, 10,000 Jewish children in Germany and Austria were sent to safety in England through a British government program, the Movement for the Care of Children from Germany, or Kindertransport. The Nazis allowed the children to leave, and English families, most of them non-Jewish, took them in. Few would again see their parents, who would perish in the Holocaust. A fictional story of one child is told in "Kindertransport," at the Tiffany Theater in West Hollywood through July 7. Here, two former Kindertransport children tell their true stories.

*

Lore Rosen remembers being 14 and standing for hours on a German dock, "scared stiff because I wore a gold chain with a Jewish star." It was verboten to take valuables out of the country.

She also carried a document--dated February 1939, identifying her as a Kindertransport child.

She remembers, too, a big London hall where many children waited to be taken to strange new places and new families, not knowing if they'd ever rejoin their parents.

In time, her name was called and she was taken to Leeds, a northern industrial city, where a couple with two daughters had offered to take two German girls.

Leaving Mannheim, her home, had been wrenching. The only child of divorced parents, she was "the sun and the stars" to her mother. "But she told me it was time to go. She figured it was too late for her."

For a long while after Hitler came to power, her mother, Paula Baron, believed her family safe. Says Rosen, "She thought because her brothers had died in World War I, no one was going to touch her."

Seeing Hitler youth marching in the streets, Rosen at first "thought it was wonderful. I wanted to join in." But it soon turned ugly. "There were big signs every place--'Jews Not Wanted.' "

Kindertransport was Baron's last chance to save her child. She seized it.

With the wisdom now of 71 years, Rosen knows she must have seemed ungrateful, a spoiled brat. Though good souls, her English family was distant and reserved, Leeds wasn't home and, "To be 14 in Europe at that time, you were really a baby."

She would finish school, be apprenticed to a hairdresser, work in a nursing home and in a clothing factory. Then one day, "I packed my case and took off."

At 18, she joined the British army--"I wanted to say thank you to England"--and was sent to Wales to cook for the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. In time, she learned that her mother had survived and was at a farm in southern France.

Five months after sending her daughter away, Baron had fled illegally to Belgium, only to be picked up and interned at Gurs, a camp run by the Vichy French. She escaped twice and was captured twice before a relative bribed a guard to release her.

At war's end in 1946, mother and daughter were reunited in France.

A year later, Rosen wed a fellow soldier, Simon Rosen, an Englishman and "a very patriotic Zionist," and in 1948 both joined the Israeli army.

In 1954, with Rosen pregnant with the first of their two sons, and jobs scarce, they immigrated to Canada and eventually settled in L.A., where Simon Rosen was a pants cutter. He died in 1976.

Rosen, who lives on the Westside and works as a word processor, keeps a place in her heart for the British--"They saved me from unspeakable horrors." She lost her teenage years, but not her life.

Soon, she'll return for the first time to Mannheim as a guest of the city. "They're welcoming back their Jews." While there, she hopes to replace the birth certificate issued her by the Nazis and identifying her as "Sara," a code word for Jewish females. "My name is not Sara."

*

Benno Katz can only speculate why he was spared. "My brother and myself, we were nice-looking children. I have this idea some people in London were looking at photos, deciding, 'This one can live, this one will have to die.' "

And so, "One day we were a loving family sitting around the table and the next day we were living in some strange world." For Katz, that was Ely, a cathedral town in the east of England. For his brother, Harry, it was Leeds in the north.

"There were no Jews in Ely," Katz says. And, "We were the enemy. We were Germans." He was 13 and so German that, "When I was introduced to somebody, I used to click my heels and bow."

Katz, 71 and living in Beverly Hills, remembers clearly that day in 1939 when his father took him to the train station in Dortmund, his hometown. He'd never before seen his father cry and, "I knew right then that I would never see my mother and father again."

Sara and Selman Katz had been "desperately trying to get out of Germany." Their dog had been poisoned, their clothing store cleaned out one night. Katz's eyes mist: "They were good, honest, hard-working people. They never did harm to anybody.

"They couldn't save themselves, so they saved us."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|