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A St. Louisan shares his Holocaust experience

Our own Julie Bierach shares this first-person account from Mendel Rosenberg of his experiences during the Holocaust. Rosenberg, along with three other concentration camp survivors, will share their testimonials at the St. Louis Yom HaShoah Commemoration this Sunday at Congregation Temple Israel at 4 p.m. Yom HaShoah is also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day, and is recognized around the world.


My name is Mendel Rosenberg. I’m a Holocaust survivor and I live here in St. Louis.

I lived in Lithuania, part of the three Baltic States before the war. When Hitler came to power it didn’t take long to occupy Lithuania and immediately they started after the Jews.

The war started on the 22 of June and about the beginning of July there was a knock on the door. A German soldier and a policeman came to the door; they arrested my brother and father and took them to the city jail. I was at the time about 13-years-old and they didn’t bother with me.

Needless to say, we didn’t know what was going on and what was happening. We managed to get my brother out of jail, but on the 17th of July we found out that they took my father and a group of other Jews out in the forest and they killed them.

After that, they put us in a ghetto where we stayed for over two years.

In Lithuania, we had over 200,000 Jews and there were only between six-and-seven thousand of us that survived. The killing was not only by the Germans, but also by the Lithuanians. For some reason or another, they seemed to enjoy what they were doing.

When the war turned around and the Russians were coming close, they decided to close the ghetto. The first concentration we went to was Struthof. There, they separated the men from the women; they took away our names and gave us numbers. After they processed us and they gave us the striped uniforms, they sent all the men out of Struthof to Dachau. By 1945, I felt like I wasn’t going to make it.

When the request came out for carpenters to work inside the camp, I volunteered for it. Whether it was right or wrong, I don’t know. My brother kept going out to work and I worked inside the camp. On one of the days that my brother went out to work, he never came back. At the time I didn’t know what happened, but after the war I found out that he was killed by one of the foremen because he didn’t do something fast enough. So, they killed him.

By 1945, the Americans were coming close. And they didn’t want to show the Americans they had concentrations and that they were killing people. We were on a train for two and a half days without food or water and, finally, all of a sudden we looked out and we didn’t see any guards. We opened up the train, came outside and saw the Americans. They liberated us on the 8th of May and then we ended up in a displaced person camp. And from there, I found out that my mother also survived.

As a survivor I was very disappointed that nobody seemed to care what happened to the Jews of Europe. Nobody did anything about it. Nobody said to Hitler, “don’t do what you are doing, don’t kill the Jews.”

I see that all over the world there are still people that kill their own people, and no one does anything about it. And it seems to me that people haven’t learned much from the Holocaust.