Rosa Rosenstein -- Living with History

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The story of a Berlin-born Jewish woman who lived through the turbulent times of Imperial Germany, the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich, all while growing up, falling in love and starting a family. With charming snapshots of holidays, kindergartens and Purim parties, Rosa shows us how integrated, assimilated Jewish families lived in Germany then.
In 1939, a few weeks after the war had started, her Hungarian husband Michi insisted on fleeing to Budapest, where he felt they would be safe. They weren't. Both Michi and Rosa were arrested and put in a camp, and Michi perished in a forced labor brigade. Rosa survived by hiding in Budapest -- but not until she sent her two daughters off to Palestine and saw them safe.
After the war, Rosa married a Viennese Jewish man, Alfred Rosenstein, and started another family in Vienna. Her son Georg moved to Israel, where he began a family of his own and lived for a long time before finally moving back to Austria. Rosa Rosenstein lived until she was ninety-eight years old, and died in 2005.
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Rosa Rosenstein was born in Berlin in 1907 before World War I. On June 28, 1914, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated in Sarajevo, sparking World War I. (See the film footage of Archduke Franz Ferdinand's July 1914 funeral.)

Ferdinand’s assassination by the Black Hand, a Serbian nationalist secret society, created a series of chain reactions that culminated in the world’s first global war. To read more on the several events that led to World War I such as Austria-Hungary’s reaction to the death of Ferdinand, click here.

You can find a series of useful articles here about the World War I from the BBC, ranging in topics from the descent into war, campaigns and battles, the human experience of the war and on the debates and controversies in the aftermath of World War I. You can also map out the main events of the war.

How did World War I end? On November 11 1918, representatives from the Allies and Germany signed the Armistice of Compiègne (named after the location in which it was signed). An armistice is an agreement made by opposing sides in a war to stop fighting for a certain time. In this armistice the conditions ended Germany’s possibility of continuing the war and was effectively a German surrender.

A Peace Conference held in Paris between January 1919 and January 1920 shaped the peace process. Throughout this conference separate peace treaties were established with each of the defeated nations. The most significant treaty was drawn up with Germany, signed on 28 June 1919 and is called the Treaty of Versailles. The Treaty of Versailles had several conditions including: the drastic reduction in the size of the German Army, Germany stripped of all its colonies and Germany’s responsibility for reparations.

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After World War I, a federal republic was established in Germany. It was known as the Weimar Republic and was in effect from 1919-1933. The creation of the German republic was announced from the Reichstag balcony on 9 November 1918 by Philipp Scheidemann. Listen to original audio tapes documenting the proclamation of the German Republic.

Even though the Weimar Republic faced severe problems, such as hyperinflation and political extremists of all persuasions, it was also a time in which culture flourished. It is known for its unique art, music and cinema. In the film Rosa speaks of the late 1920s in Berlin as a fashion city. Here is an overview of the Weimar period and here you can find more information about the timeline of events, personalities and read primary sources.

The Great Depression, the worldwide economic crisis that started in the US on October 29, 1929 known as Black Tuesday, amplified Europe's difficulties and struggle for recovery after War World I. Among the European states, the Great Depression hit the Weimar Republic particularly hard. This young democracy was the regime that replaced the defeated German Empire after World War I. Yet, The harsh stipulations in the Treaty of Versailles did not help to settle international disputes which had caused World War I. On the contrary, the peace treaties were perceived as unfair punishment and exacerbated exisiting issues. 

The Treaty of Versailles was felt to be particularly oppressive to many Germans. The treaty stipulated large reparation payments and restrictions on the German Military which created the landscape that eventually saw Hitler come to power in 1933. Hitler's accession to power set off a series of events that led to World War II.

During the Interwar period Rosa married Michi and together they had two children Bessy (1929) and Lilly (1933).

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In the film Rosa speaks about the Jewish festival called Purim. During this festival it is customary to dress up in costumes, to learn more about Purim click here. Rosa and Michi's daughters both attended a Jewish kindergarten and a Jewish elementary school in Berlin.

The Jewish Virtual Library provides an in-depth description about  in the Middle Ages, the Modern Period, the Holocaust and post- Holocaust period up until the present.

Prior to emancipation in 1871, German Jewish men often could not pursue their professions due to their religion. Political writer Karl Ludwig Börne (born Loeb Baruch) converted to Christianity. Others, such as Gabriel Riesser, fiercely pursued the cause of emancipation. There were setbacks - such as the Hep Hep Riots in 1819 - but as the century wore on, Jews were increasingly part of German professional and social life, as seen later in the career of Paul Ehrlich, who won the Nobel Prize for Physiology of Medicine in 1908.

In addition to contributing to European culture, some German Jews adapted Judaism to fit the modern, post-Enlightenment world. Abraham Geiger was at the forefront of the Reform movement that strove to make Judaism relevant to assimilated, modern Jews. Samson Raphael Hirsch, the foremost spokesperson for Neo-Orthodoxy (the forerunner of what is known as Modern Orthodoxy today), accepted a position in Frankfurt as rabbi of an Orthodox community that was interested moderate reforms, such as modern dress and speaking German.

With their rise in social and economic status during the 19th century, Jews became strongly patriotic towards Germany, which is why a significant number of Jewish soldiers fought for Germany in World War I. Browse this homepage dedicated to these German Jewish soldiers.

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In January 1933, Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany, his ascension to power marked the beginning of Nazi terror. Life became increasingly more unbearable as anti-Semitic policies and violence were legally sanctioned and politically justified.

The regulations put into effect in Germany gradually but systematically took away citizens rights. The first set of legislation, from 1933 to 1945, focused predominately on excluding Jews from German public life. In April 1933, German law restricted the number of Jewish students allowed at German schools and universities. Anti-Jewish legislation continues throughout the period preceding World War II, including the Nuremberg Laws in 1935, which put in to place many racial theories prevalent in Nazi ideology. To learn more on Anti Jewish Legislation click here.

On November 9 – 10, 1938 there were a series of pogroms, against Jewish people carried out by the Nazis. This pogrom is known as Kristallnacht, which literally translates to the “Night of Crystal” or often referred to as the Night of Broken Glass. The name Kristallnacht comes from the shattered glass on the streets of Germany after the pogrom, the broken glass came from the destroyed windows of synagogues, family homes, and businesses/stores owned by Jewish people. During this pogrom rioters destroyed 267 synagogues throughout Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland. As the pogrom continued to spread, SS units and the Gestapo (Secret State Police), arrested up to 30,000 Jewish males. To learn more about what happened during the November Pogrom we recommend reading this article, by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Rosa and her family left Germany for Budapest because they felt the increasing threat and thought it would be safer. Yet, Rosa and Michi were arrested and interned in Budapest. You can read more on the history of Budapest during the Holocaust. Michi died in 1943 in a labour camp in Ukraine.

World War II was triggered by the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. Britain and France responded to this by declaring war on Germany two days later. The war continued over the next 6 years and resulted in the destruction of more land, property and devastatingly more lives than any previous war. You can learn more about World War II in Europe here. You can read more about how "The War goes Global" between June 1941 - 1942.  

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In this film we learn that Rosa and her family flee Germany to Budapest in 1939, while her brother-in-law managed to escape to Palestine. Thousands of Jews tried to flee the Nazi terror in Germany, but were unable to find countries willing to let them in. Many German and Austrian Jews who tried to obtain visas for the United States were confronted with immigration quotas that discriminated against groups considered “ethnically undesirable”.

In July 1938, a conference was held in Evian, France to discuss the emigration of Jewish refugees. At the Evian Conference there were international delegates from 32 counties, yet most countries, did not let in additional refugees. This USHMM article discusses emigration further and the unsuccessful efforts to loosen immigration quotas in 1938, during the Evian Conference.

Rosa's family in Israel urged her to send her children so that her two daughters would be safe. Following the end of the war Rosa’s daughters Bessy and Lilly wanted to remain in Israel, as it had become their home.

Immigration of Jews from the diaspora to Israel is known in Hebrew as Aliyah, which literally translates to "going up." This article provides insight into the history of Jewish migration and the concept of a Jewish Diaspora. Between 1920 and 1948 many Jews entered Palestine illegally because of the small immigration quota - this method if immigration is known as "Aliyah Bet." To learn more about the history of aliyah click hereHere is an article by British Jewish novelist Linda Grant on visiting Tel Aviv, a city built in large part by German Jews.

After the war Rosa remarried Alfred Rosenstein and they had a son Georg, after the war they immigrated to Vienna, Austria.

In the video we learn that as soon as it was possible Rosa travelled with Georg to Israel to see her daughters. We also learn that as a young adult Georg decides to move to Israel to study and changed his name to a Hebrew name Zwi Bar-David.

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From 1918-1947, Palestine was under British rule. To find out more, read this article about The British Mandate in Palestine provided by the Middle East Research and Information Project and go through this timeline of British rule in Palestine.

David Ben-Gurion became the first Prime Minister of Israel. From 1935-1948 he served as Chairman of the Jewish Agency and led the struggle for the establishment of a Jewish state. The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel was approved on May 14, 1948. You can read the original Declaration of Establishment of State of Israel, provided by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In 1948, the Arab-Israeli War/Israeli War of Independence broke out. The war had been preceded by violent outbursts between Jewish forces and Palestinian Arab forces in response to the UN Partition plan. It was concluded with Armistice Agreements signed in 1949.

In 1967, war broke out again between Israel and the neighboring Arab countries of Egypt, Jordan and Syria. This armed conflict has been referred to as Six-Day War or War of 1967. On this website, you will find extensive information about the Six-Day War/War of 1967, including timelines and recollections from both sides.

In the video Rosa refers to her granddaughters as “real sabras” – sabra is a slang word used to describe Jewish Israeli-born people. 

German and Austrian Jewish architects who had fled the Third Reich built much of Tel Aviv. They brought with them the architectural style that was all the rage in Germany and Austria then: 

To learn more about the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre in Jerusalem, "Yad Va-shem," you can visit their website.

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    Germany, Austria

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