The copyright of all photographs belongs to individual interviewees. Please get in touch for more information

Rose Lebor

RL: 2015
RL: 2015

press to zoom
RL: Parents' wedding (Regina Beckman, marrying Gedaliah Deitel), Kraków, 1937
RL: Parents' wedding (Regina Beckman, marrying Gedaliah Deitel), Kraków, 1937

press to zoom
RL: Father's death certificate, from the hospital of Budzyn camp, 1944. Document reissued by French government, 1952
RL: Father's death certificate, from the hospital of Budzyn camp, 1944. Document reissued by French government, 1952

press to zoom
RL: 2015
RL: 2015

press to zoom
Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
Born:
1963
Interview number:
Experiences:
159

Interview Summary:

Rose Lebor was born Rosa Deitel on the 9th April 1940 in Krakow to parents Regina Beckmann and Gedaliah Deitel. Her father was wounded in the Krakow Ghetto and later died in Budzyn camp. Rose and her mother survived Majdanek death camp . Rose does not have any memories regarding this time and her mother never talked to her about that time at all. However, she told her grandson Benjamin, Rose’s son, that Rose had an older sibling who was brutally murdered by camp guards. Her mother somehow managed to work outside the camp which provided food for them and also managed not to be put on a transport to Auschwitz when the camp was closed due to the Russians advance. They went back to Kraków, where a lot of survivors tried to find surviving relatives and her mother met a man named Abraham Kaliser. They later married and he is the only father Rose has known. Subsequently they were brought to a DP camp in Bad Gastein by the Americans where they stayed for approximately two years. Rose attended school and learnt Hebrew. They celebrated the Jewish holidays and put on plays. However, her stepfather felt that they had spent enough time in camps and organised an illegal way to leave across the Alps with a guide. After time in an Italian camp they went to Paris where a cousin of her stepfather’s lived who helped them to settle (June 1948). The plan was to finally leave for Israel, but they ended up in Paris where they set up a tailoring business in their flat where they worked endless hours. Her parents weren’t religious, but made friends with other Jews from Poland and Rose remembers the variety of traditional food and the fun and music that accompanied these get-togethers. 


School wasn’t easy for Rose as she didn’t know French. She remembers very basic living conditions (e.g. sharing a bathroom with many other flats in the house) and her parents’ sense of insecurity due to their illegal immigration to France until they obtained French status papers. Her mother found out that one of her brothers had survived the war and lived in Israel, but neither could afford the trip and they never met again. Later however they went to see her father’s sister, Mina, in Israel which marked the beginning of many happy trips there. Rose started a vocational training in IT in Paris but decided to improve her English in London where she met her husband, John. They married in 1962 and she moved to London where she had to overcome her cultural shock and get used to being a housewife. Her only son Benjamin was born in 1967 and when they discovered shortly after that he was deaf her life changed fundamentally. She and her husband devoted themselves to his education which led to Benjamin’s ability to speak and attend a regular school. He overcame bullying and started as a trader in the city before he later joined his mother’s property business. He lives now with his family in Budapest.

 

Rose’s parents moved to London after they retired and settled in well. Rose travelled to Kraków and Auschwitz in 2000 when her husband, John became mayor of Brent. She didn’t feel comfortable with the Polish attitude towards the Holocaust. It isn’t widely taught in school and not considered a Polish responsibility at all. Nobody there showed interest or sensitivity towards her life story. She felt that the victims of the Holocaust weren’t adequately honoured in Auschwitz with a proper museum. Despite a happy and successful life she hasn’t warmed up to English culture and doesn’t feel the same connection with British people as she does with Israelis, when she visits Israel. However, she is aware that she often has an aura of sadness around her which is based in her childhood trauma. 


Rose is in the process of writing a book for her granddaughter and in this context she wants to give us the following message: Jews must get recognition for all their contributions they have made to so many countries in so many ways over centuries. The world must understand that the Jews were almost annihilated, but have rebuilt themselves and taken back their place. She wants her granddaughter to understand her proud heritage and pass it on to future generations.        

 

Keywords:

Krakow. Majdanek. DP camp Bad Gastein. Paris.

And we [Jews ] can be proud that we’ve rebuilt. That we are so strong. [pause] And I would like to be able to live long enough for the world to say they recognise this. Not just in words. Not just political men who stand up and say, “French Jews are French, first thing.” You know, I’d like them to say, “We are all French. And that’s it.” And…and there would be no more distinction. No more anti-Semitism. But that is high hope. I …I don’t dare hoping that that will disappear. But I hope that at least – at least in words they can recognise it, our contribution.

My mother had another child, an older child, born before me. When we were in the camp they separated children from mothers but because I was so young they said I can stay with my mother. She told the story, not to me directly, but to my son when he grew up, that one day, some of those Nazis that were in charge of the camp got drunk. They went into the barrack where there was about 8 children, very young children, & they killed them all. They killed them by- Some with their hands & some by taking them by their feet & throwing them against the wall. And… [sighs] I mean when my son told me this, I don’t know really how my mother survived this. I mean obviously she lost all her family in the war. So how my mother survived these events, I don’t know. How she survived the knowledge of my father’s dying, not knowing that he'd died but seeing his boots on somebody else’s feet… I mean, I don’t… Some of the stories that she told Benjamin [Ruth's son], she never did tell me. She kept me with her all the time. When there was the the roll call she would put me under the bench & then she would go out, stand near German women, women that were not Polish but were there for other reasons. She thinks that that probably helped her not to be selected. So it was each time, it was hoping that she wouldn’t be selected. Hoping she can go out & do a little work & bring back a little scrap of food. So I understand that, having survived such horrors. Who wants to talk about it? You really want to forget about it.

I don’t know if you know, but Majdanek was one of the first camps that was established near Lublin. It was a ‘Final Solution’ camp. They had all the crematoria & everything… The Americans did this unbelievable thing. They took us to a place called Bad Gastein, in Austria, right at the border with Italy. The American Army rented out all the hotels & put us in the hotel, which meant that we didn’t live under tents. We actually lived in - in rooms. Teachers came to teach us Hebrew, to prepare us to go to Palestine. We had food…not wonderful food, but we had food. We had heating. Marvellous. So the place was beautiful. I can’t tell you how lovely Bad Gastein is if you don’t know it. Absolutely beautiful. In the summer it’s high mountains but it’s green. The houses are magnificent. It’s a spa place. In the winter it got all magic—covered with snow. Icicles hanging everywhere, beautiful. After 4 years in the camp it must have just looked magnificent. The American Army would come into the town & see us, & give us things: chewing gum, tinned milk. They'd also give a little bit of money. My mother bought a little bit of material & made clothes for me. In fact she kept two of the coins, the dollars, in her wallet for a worse day. A day she really will need it. She never spent them. We—I’ve still got them.

I don’t know if you know, but Majdanek was one of the first camps that was established near Lublin. It was a ‘Final Solution’ camp. They had all the crematoria & everything… The Americans did this unbelievable thing. They took us to a place called Bad Gastein, in Austria, right at the border with Italy. The American Army rented out all the hotels & put us in the hotel, which meant that we didn’t live under tents. We actually lived in - in rooms. Teachers came to teach us Hebrew, to prepare us to go to Palestine. We had food…not wonderful food, but we had food. We had heating. Marvellous. So the place was beautiful. I can’t tell you how lovely Bad Gastein is if you don’t know it. Absolutely beautiful. In the summer it’s high mountains but it’s green. The houses are magnificent. It’s a spa place. In the winter it got all magic—covered with snow. Icicles hanging everywhere, beautiful. After 4 years in the camp it must have just looked magnificent. The American Army would come into the town & see us, & give us things: chewing gum, tinned milk. They'd also give a little bit of money. My mother bought a little bit of material & made clothes for me. In fact she kept two of the coins, the dollars, in her wallet for a worse day. A day she really will need it. She never spent them. We—I’ve still got them.

When we reached Paris they didn’t have a penny. No money, nowhere to sleep, nowhere to go. They went to the Jewish area, ‘The Pletzl’, & met a friend who said 'If you haven’t got anywhere to sleep, the big synagogue, La Victoire, is empty. Just squat there.' So that’s what we did. He started working a bit, tailoring. They got a bit of money together, rented a room. The sewing machine & pressing table in the workshop. One room was their bedroom, the other was the dining room. That’s where I used to sleep in a convertible. You took down the bed from the wall. They worked! They worked so hard. I don’t think today people know what working hard is. I would go to sleep at night, they would still work. I would wake up in the morning, they were already working. They just worked & worked & worked. They made beautiful things. I’ve still got samples of what they made for me. Oh, I was very well dressed, yes. I was well fed. At that stage, food was very important. That was one thing we, we had. We had a lot of food & they certainly dressed me well. They thought I needed to look like a little princess. All parents think that… but they did.

Previous Interviewee
Next interviewee