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.
Krakow. Majdanek. DP camp Bad Gastein. Paris.