Meet Jewish American Heritage Month Local Heroes Rose And Max Schindler
They were the first Auschwitz camp survivors to get married, as far as they know. After years of internment, breathing gas and smoke, watching people "die like ants," Max and Rose Schindler were freed on January 27, 1946. They were married in London, England in 1950.
In January, 2015, they returned to Auschwitz. It was the 70th anniversary of the liberation. "It was mind boggling," Max said.
They live in San Diego's Del Cerro neighborhood now, after moving to San Diego in 1956. The Schindlers spend their days mastering bridge and mahjong, enjoying time with their nine grandchildren, and performing a duty they hold in highest regard — the work for which they were nominated: sharing a survivor's story. (See more on survivors here.)
Rose and Max have been fulfilling this duty for over 40 years. They try to never deny a request to speak about their experiences in what's now called "the Holocaust."
The Schindlers are among the two or three survivors who live in San Diego and speak publicly about their internment, by their estimation. "Not everyone is capable of speaking," says Rose. It requires a lot of courage. And many survivors now are just too old. The Schindlers were teenagers when they were taken. Now, at ages 86 and 87, their youth is part of why they hold this responsibility. "We have to tell the world what they did to us. Once we're gone, who will tell our stories?" Rose said.
Children are hugely important to the Schindlers' work. Rose talks to kids and younger students the most. Max says they're more comfortable with her. Rose says, "They're our future. We need to make sure they don't let this happen again."
Max's story differs from Rose in many ways; he says he stayed 1,000 nights in over five concentration camps. He divulges greater details when he speaks, often at higher education or professional institutions, such as the Anti-Defamation League.
After all these years, and sharing their tale countless times, Rose says, "I myself can't believe it happened." She says many students can't believe it either, which is why she and Max continue fulfilling this responsibility.
In response to their joint nomination, Max said it's "definitely inspiring." Rose said, "It's wonderful that KPBS wants to give us that honor."