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Eva Rosner

1/11
Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
Born:
Spring 1939
Experiences:

Interview Summary:

Eva Rosner (née Liebermann) had an essentially Polish background. She was born in Krosno, Poland in 1931, and attended school in Potok. Although her father Otto had become an Austrian citizen in 1919, he was born in Jaslo, Galicia (now Poland), and her mother Stella (née Schacherl) came from Lwow (thenGalicia, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire). Otto (a scientist and chemical researcher who invented a synthesis of dolomite), together with his brother Karl (Charles) managed their father’s oil wells in Galicia from the late 1920s. Stella worked as a secretary for a time. 


Life in Poland for these secular Jewish families was described as ‘idyllic’, ‘surrounded by oil derricks and forest’, but in 1938 ‘whispers and fears pervaded’ and news about physical and verbal abuse filtered through. Polish authorities announced that Austrian passports were invalid and must be replaced by German ones; the Liebermanns’ passports were therefore taken, though later re-issued. However, Austrian and German residents were being forcibly deported. Eva was 7 years old when Otto was tipped-off and hid for several weeks; her paternal uncle Arthur spent some time in Dachau.


Spring 1939 was ‘terrifying’ for Eva; ‘much of that time is a complete blank’ she stated. The family eventually obtained visas for Bolivia via England and Chile, travelling by ship from Gdynia (Poland) to Hull May/June 1939. Clothing, china and artwork were sent to Liverpool, but various delays caused everyone to remain in Britain – then WWII was declared. This prevented onward travel and depleted funds, so Bloomsbury House helped out. Otto was subsequently interned as an enemy alien on the Isle of Man 1940–41; Eva was sent to boarding school, ‘a culture shock’. She was ‘glad to be alive’ but was evacuated with her sister and moved to eleven different locations including Newbury, Bucks., and recalled frightening low-flying German planes that fired into the yard. It was ‘a traumatic time’.


Post-war the family was reunited in Forest Gate, Ilford. Otto was a research chemist in Stratford East, Stella worked at home for the Fortnum & Mason store. She made children’s clothes and did special embroidery. Luiza became a nurse then a medical representative. Eva wanted to be an artist but studied fashion and pattern cutting and worked in factories in the ‘rag trade’. Later, she later turned to bakery and catering, and taught in S.E. Technical College in Dagenham. In 1950 she married Friedrich Wolfgang Rosner, an observant Jew, Young Austria member, marketing manager and teacher, in Beehive Lane synagogue, Ilford. Friedrich had come to Britain with his brother Egon in 1938 on a Kindertransport from Vienna, and helped his Czechoslovak father and Polish mother to follow. An amateur singer, he gave recitals in AJR homes, and talked to adults about his experiences. He died in February 2018.


Eva visited Warsaw and Bielsko-Biala in Poland in 1988, but the ‘vibes’ left her feeling ‘very uncomfortable’, and in Vienna aware of anti-Semitism there.



Key words:

Arthur; Egon; Eva; Friedrich; Helga; Karl/Charles; Kate; Liebermann;Luiza; Otto; Rosner; Schacherl; Stella; Wilma.

Austria; Bielsko-Biala; Bloomsbury House; Bolivia; Czechoslovak(ia); Dachau; Gdynia; Hull; Ilford; Isle of Man; Jaslo; Kosher; Krosno; Lwow; Poland; Potok.Vienna. Young Austria. Galicia oil fields. Theresienstadt. Dr. Mengele (husband’s cousin drew for him)

In the winter of ’38, word filtered through. I'm not sure whether it was the manager at the mines or a local person. I really don't know. But, my father had to hide. And an old man - he must have been a local old man - he said to my father, “Go into the forest.” We were surrounded by wild countryside. And he told him about a wooden hut in the forest. And my father spent quite a few weeks there, hiding in the forest. And he got double pneumonia. And that, of course, was when my mother became very determined. We were not going to stay. We were going to try and get out of Poland.

A lot of that time is a complete blank. It's just gone. And most of the war years, I've blanked out. Bits come back, but not much. I remember being terrified. And I know that this feeling of fear, it was the adults as well.

But all I remember is, sitting in a train, travelling northwards across Poland, with my parents, sitting on wooden train seats and the four of us almost frozen with fear. Sitting in that train, not speaking and just sitting there praying we'd get to the port of Gdynia, to get on that boat. As far as I know, I think it was the last time that boat actually left Gdynia, to put to sea, to go to England. And that was in middle of June ‘39.

We were evacuated- we went to Newbury in Berkshire. Apparently that was considered a safe place. And my sister and I have very vivid memories of that. Because it was when the German planes were coming over, almost…they were almost free to fly about, because the RAF hadn't really got going then. And we were- my mother had made a friend, and she had a little girl. And we had this billet in Newbury and there was a courtyard. We had rooms in the house. I think there were other children there as well - local people. And one day, my sister was upstairs, playing upstairs in one of the bedrooms, I suppose. And I was down in the yard with other children, playing. And this plane came over. And my sister said she actually made eye contact, he was so low. And he took out his machine gun, and he tried to shoot at her. But he managed to shoot down into the yard. So we all got quickly into the house.

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@ AJR Refugee Voices 2020

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