Interview Commentary

Anti-Semitism in depression-era Poland impelled some Jews to leave for healthier homes. Naturally that was always easier for persons of means, and Pinkhus Rosenfeld’s family, owners of a successful textile factory in Łódź, had already purchased a residence in Palestine preparatory to emigration. Hitler intervened.

With more resources than the average Jewish resident of Łódź, some of Rosenfeld's family attempted to escape the worst of the occupation by moving to Warsaw, only to find conditions there become as bad as those at home. In the end this divided the family between the two cities. Pinkhus's parents, brothers, and two daughters, separated from him in Warsaw, disappeared into the machinery of destruction. Pinkhus, his wife, and two sons remained in Łódź until its ghetto was liquidated in August 1944. Although in the interview he took pains to distance himself from the Rumkowski administration, there can be little doubt that it required pull to get and keep the coveted job of food distributor, one of the few ways of getting enough nourishment to stay alive.

In 1944 Rosenfeld was separated from his wife and two young cousins at Auschwitz and never saw them again. He and his teenage sons, however, managed to stay together, and they were healthy enough to be selected for work in Germany. There they were comparatively well treated. Marched into the Sudetenland as the Reich collapsed, they were simply abandoned by their SS guards and, after the fighting ended, recuperated in Prague. Although they contemplated smuggling themselves into Palestine in 1945, health considerations persuaded them otherwise. When interviewed at the ORT school near Paris in September 1946, the forty-three-year-old Rosenfeld was understandably impatient that he and his sons had not yet been granted entry to Palestine, indignant that his ownership of property there had not opened all doors.

From FRESH WOUNDS: EARLY NARRATIVES OF HOLOCAUST SURVIVAL by Donald L. Niewyk. Copyright (c) 1998 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher.