First Person: Holocaust Survivors On Raising A Family
Another installment of midday edition's ongoing first-person series stories of Sandy Akins told in their own words. This week we hear from Max and Rose Schindler. Two people who survived the Holocaust and met after World War II and London as refugees. They now live in Del Cerro and they have shared their stories dozens of times and schools, churches and Rotary clubs. But their son, he wanted to learn some things they had not yet shared about finding normalcy after such horror. When you were a kid growing up in watching your parents and watching your aunts and uncles, what did you think you were going to be ? What were your dreams and aspirations ? I was so young when the war broke out I was barely 10 years old in 1939. I was a child. And who had dreams ? My dream was to be with my family. How about you ? Did you have thoughts about the future ? Do you remember that at all ? As a young kid no. But I remember starting to learn a few words of Hebrew. The plan was for us to immigrate to Israel eventually. But there was no Israel in those days. Mom, tell me your story about going to Auschwitz They put us onto the train. We get into Auschwitz. The door opens and then a striped uniform comes and he says to me, how old are you, I said I am 14 he says tell them you were 18. I had no idea why. We come in front of three soldiers. My father and my brother Bill up with toe to this line. My mother and three sisters and brothers went to another line. And then my two sisters went to another line. And they said how old are you I I am 18. And my sister said she's only 14. He let me go with my two older sisters, or I would've gone to the gas chamber with my brothers and three sisters. I never saw my mother and three sisters and brothers again. As we stand outside waiting, there is a huge fire behind the building. There was a Polish man standing there with the top he said they were burning. You could hear children crying and screaming and calling out names. He said they were burning hair. Let me tell you they were not burning hair. They did not even give the people in the gas chambers enough gas to kill them all the way. They pushed him out of the door and present half alive. We knew what happened to my mother and three sisters and brothers. We go to sleep and get up in the morning. And as I am walking I hear someone calling my name. It was my father. He always wore a suit and a hat. This is a man in a striped uniform. He says Rosie don't you recognize me I am your father ? We hugged and kissed and he said whatever you do, stay together with your sisters. You have a much better chance of surviving. And then he said, what every you to stay alive you can tell the world what they are doing to us. And we wake up the next morning and I brought my brother and two sisters and we talked and he said the same thing. He said goodbye and never saw my father and brother again. Dad how did you ended up going to the first Classroom between 1938 and 1942, I was of refugee. In 1942, they have to purport themselves and my father said, the ghetto does not sound too good. When he found out that there was of small working Being established close by he went to the Commandant with a few trinkets and says, take us into this. And we succeeded. It lasted a few months and they rounded us up. And then they took us to the next. Where was that ? That was [ Indiscernible ] . I never saw my mother and sister again. It lasted most to be here. They try to set up the remnants of the factory with the machinery. It did not work. Finally, we went the other way. And we went back to Germany. Were firebombed in 1945. No more work. And were out in the open for two days. Then they rounded us up. On a forced march. It was called the death March. At the time my father wasn't very bad shape. He was put into the hospital later. We were not allowed to get to him. We can only get to the Windows and wave. Two months later, we were liberated. To you still experience the Holocaust in your dreams ? Very rarely. But when you do have those dreams what you call them ? When I do have the dreams is in the camps. I don't dream about my hometown. I do not dream about my family being together. But I dream rarely about the camps. It only happens sometimes when we had discussions during the day. You think about it too much then it comes back to you and you dream about it is That, do you still experience the Holocaust in your dreams ? Once in a while ice cream. But it's not 100% Holocaust related. My dreams are weird. I always come to the end of the road and there is no place to go. It's always something at the end of the road. Mom, how were you able to raise 4 successful children without the normal role models that we have in our parents ? Said you lost your parents so young [ Indiscernible- Participant too far away from microphone ] it all came natural. This is my dream. To have a family I lost my old family so we need to have family. That is what we live for. I did what I had to do. And I'm proud of my family. I do not think I could have done better if I had had a different life altogether. So the answer is yes you achieved your dreams. Absolutely. We worked very hard. Yes I have a dream to my dreams. We had 4 kids and nine grandkids what else can you ask for ? That is what I was asking. Dad, would you say that you have achieved your dreams ? I have exceeded my dreams. It is unbelievable that I am still here at 87 years old. And have you kids in the grandkids and my home and my assets and my cars in the garage. It is unbelievable. I have moved mountains and I am able to move them the way I need them to be. I did things I thought were impossible to think that they could be done. Data you have any advice about getting older and living a good life quite I live my life day today and look forward to the next day. And I hope that the next day will be even better. And I try to put the pain, which there is in life aside. And don't allow it to come to the surface all of the time. That's my goal. I have one more thing. I tell my grandkids that are going to come back in 30 years to check up on you. And see what's going on. Maybe I can do this, I do not know. In this new world we might be able to do that. We would welcome that. That was Ben Schindler speaking to his parents.
Rose and Max Schindler have told their story to thousands of people. How as teenage Jews in Eastern Europe, they were swept up by the Nazis and held prisoner in concentration and labor camps.
Rose, 86, spent months in Auschwitz. Max, 87, was sent to a series of work camps over several years, eventually going to Theresienstadt, a fortress-turned-concentration camp. Their parents and many of their siblings were killed. Rose and Max met in London after the war as refugees and moved to San Diego in the 1950s.
But despite sharing their personal story so many times, one of their sons wanted to know more about how they felt raising children after losing their own parents so young. Ben Schindler spoke to his parents as part of our First Person series.
Hit the play button above to hear their story.