Estera Rosner, born in 1939
They Didn’t Live to See It
In memory of Chana and Chune Rosner
I was born on April 11, 1939, in Tarnów, as the daughter of Chune Rosner and Chana, née Grüner, from Gorlice. Father and his parents, Wolf and Saala, were respected citizens of Tarnów, related to the family of Rabbi Unger. Unfortunately, they all perished, shot to death by the Nazis, and Father died of hunger at the end of the war in the concentration camp Gross-Rosen. Only their memory remains.
Gross-Rosen was a concentration camp in Lower Silesia set up in 1940, first as part of Sachsenhausen, later as an independent camp. Most of the 40,000 prisoners who died there were Jews.
What can I write about myself during the war that is interesting? As a little child, I can only remember staying in a cellar on mounds of uniforms and the fear, the constant fear. At the sound of a door opening, I, as a two- and later, three-year-old, was hidden under heavy overcoats and had to lie there silently.
After the war, when I was already a schoolgirl, I found out that the cellar had been in the ghetto, located on Goldhammer Street in Tarnów. My parents hid me in it because the women and some of the men were sewing German military uniforms there. Father, however, used to go out of the ghetto to work as forced labor, repairing railroad equipment. There he met a railroad worker who promised to look after his child. This is how I happened to leave the ghetto in 1942. I never saw my loved ones again.
I was taken out of the ghetto at night by my new guardian and his son. The next day, under a new name, I was taken to Dębica, to distant relatives of my rescuers. After three months in Dębica, probably as a result of neighbors informing on me, I returned to Tarnów under the pretense of being a cousin from Lwów, and that’s how I survived the war.
And after the war? Of course, waiting for the return of my parents—unfortunately, to no avail. My guardians, after a long search for my close and distant relatives, adopted me and became everything to me. It was in their name that my daughter and I, in 1987, planted a tree in Yad Vashem and received the Righteous Among the Nations of the World medal, which had been awarded to them in 1984. Unfortunately, they did not live to see it. I finished elementary school and a general education high school in Tarnów, and then I studied medicine. I became a physician in 1963 and since 1974 have been a specialist in internal medicine—not in Tarnów, however, because people there pointed their fingers at me and called me “the Jewess”.
As the head of the department of internal medicine, I have trained more than forty physicians who have gone on to get their first and second degrees of specialization. Many of them are good people and great doctors. They never saw a Jew in their lives, yet they are proclaimed anti-Semites, not realizing who had been supervising them for twenty-five years. My husband is also a physician. We have one daughter, who is also a doctor, and a one-and-a-half-year-old grandson who has big, dark brown eyes like his mama, grandma—and perhaps his great-grandparents?
And this is the whole story of a small child, very badly crippled during the war. Fear and a feeling of inferiority have followed me all my life.