- Local Survivor registry
- CATALINA ROSNER
(1927 - 2020)
PLACE OF BIRTH:
DATE OF BIRTH:
JUNE 2, 1927
JUNE 2, 1927
LOCATION(s) BEFORE THE WAR:
LOCATION(s) DURING THE WAR:
CLUJ GHETTO; AUSCHWITZ CONCENTRATION CAMP
CLUJ GHETTO; AUSCHWITZ CONCENTRATION CAMP
JOSE ROSNER - Spouse (Deceased),
DIANA ROSNER VULIH - Daughter,
BERNARD ROSNER - Son,
5 GRANDCHILDREN ,
2 GREAT GRANDCHILDREN
BIOGRAPHY By nancy gorrell
Catalina was born on June 2, 1927, to Bernard and Rosa Weiss in the small town of Huedin, Romania. Catalina recalls, “There were 1200 Jews there and 200 came back.” She describes Huedin as a “nice place.” It had a main street and stores. It was surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains. She came from a middle class family. Her father had a men’s hat factory. Her mother stayed home. She had two sisters. They all lived in a house. Her father served in World War I. Three of his brothers left after WWI for Cuba. At that time, Jews couldn’t go to the USA. Her grandparents wouldn’t go to Cuba because it wasn’t Jewish. They were very religious people. Right before the war, in 1938, her father’s oldest brother left for Cuba. Catalina came from an educated family. Her father was a high school graduate and she graduated high school in 1944. Her father made sure his youngest daughter was going to graduate by providing her with tutors. In her primary years, Catalina went to public school, but by the time she entered high school, her country became Hungarian (refer to historical note). She “always spoke Hungarian, Romanian, German and Yiddish. I still speak Yiddish. I speak Spanish and English today.”
When the Germans invaded Hungary in 1941, the Rosners were able to live in their house for a while, but then the German commandant wanted it. They were forced to move in with friends, and then they were ultimately deported with the other Jews of the town to the state capital, Cluj, where they waited in the ghetto for transport to Auschwitz. Catalina was 17 years old and the year was 1944. In Auschwitz she and her sisters were separated from the rest of the family. Catalina was assigned work detail in a factory in a town close to Bergen Belsen. She made parts for rockets during the day, returning to the barracks at night. She was liberated at the end of March 1945 when the English came. Both of her sisters died. One died a week before liberation and one died two weeks after liberation. Catalina learned from someone that her father had died in Dachau. Catalina was the only survivor in her immediate family.
She then decided to return to her hometown. She had a “mission” as she describes it. Her grandfather died nine months before they were taken to the camps. The family hadn’t put up a headstone yet. I knew my father’s brothers would want one. So I went back to put up a headstone for the grave. As she explains in her interview, “I remembered the house where my father lived. My father buried jewelry in the basement. The oldest son of the people we moved in with was still alive, and he dug up the jewelry in the basement. So I was able to sell it and put up a stone for my grandfather in the Jewish cemetery in my hometown.” Much later, one of her uncles from Cuba went back and found the grave. In 1946 Catalina was able to emigrate to Cuba as a result of her uncle, Fabian Weiss, already settled there. She describes in her interview the arduous and heroic lengths her uncle went to get her and the rest of the relatives to Cuba. “I had eight relatives plus myself going to Cuba because of my uncle.” Catalina lived in Cuba for 15 “beautiful” years she describes as “paradise on earth. I met my husband there, and my two children were born there. It was beautiful there. I found four fathers and four mothers.” Catalina and her family emigrated from Cuba to the USA on June 14, 1961. They settled in Miami Beach, Florida, living there 47 years. Her daughter, Diana was five years old when she came to the United States, and her son, Bernard was nine. Catalina now has five grandchildren and four are engineers. Catalina moved from Florida to New Jersey in 2001 to be near her daughter and family.
Catalina’s Message to Future Generations.
Study hard. Learn as much as you can because the world keeps changing and the one thing nobody can take away from you is knowledge; and sometimes it can save your life. Sometimes I talk to schools. I don’t teach them about the Holocaust. The children ask me questions. I don’t lecture to the students. Everybody has a different story; no two people have the same story.
Refer to Historical Notes below for Hungarian Annexation
CATALINA ROSNER INTERVIEW
May 15, 2017
Location: Rosner Residence
Interviewer: Nancy Gorrell
Q: Describe your family background.
My father, Bernard Weiss, and my mother, Rosa lived in the same town I was born in, Huedin, Romania. I was born on June 2, 1927. It was such a different world back then.
Q: How so?
Well, it was 90 years ago. We didn’t have electricity until 194l. It’s so hard to compare. Romania was a democracy, but not like here.
Q: What was your town like?
It’s not that it wasn’t civilized. Huedin had a main street and stores.
Q: What was your family life like before the war?
I had two older sisters. My father had a men’s hat factory. My mother stayed home. I came from a middle class family. We lived in a house. My grandfather had five sons. My father served in World War I. Three of his brothers left after WWI for Cuba. At that time, you couldn’t go to the USA. My grandparents wouldn’t because it wasn’t Jewish. They were very religious people. My great grandparents were very wealthy people. They used to send money to Palestine to support it. When they were very old, they left for Israel and they died there. Before they died, they sent my grandmother a bag of earth from Israel.
Q: What was your schooling like?
I went to a public school. By the time I went to high school, my country turned Hungarian (see historic note). I always spoke Hungarian, Romanian, German and Yiddish. I still speak Yiddish. I speak Spanish and English today. I come from a very educated family. My father was a high school graduate 100 years ago. I graduated high school in 1944. My father made sure I finished before something else bad happened. I was the youngest. I had a private tutor going all year around.
Q: What happen to your family when the Germans invaded?
The Germans invaded Hungary in 1941, and we lived in our house for a while, and then the German commandant wanted our house. Then we were forced to move into another family friend’s house. But soon the Germans took that house too. Then the Germans deported us, and all the Jews of our town to the state capital, Cluj. There, we waited in the ghetto for transport to Auschwitz.
Q: Were you with your family in Auschwitz?
In the ghetto we were together; in Auschwitz, no. We were separated. I was 17 years old. I was in Auschwitz with my two sisters. We were assigned work in a factory in a town close to Bergen Belsen. We lived in the barracks; at night we came back.
Q: What kind of work did you do?
We made parts for the rockets in the factory. It was interesting work. You could learn a lot. I hope I never use it. I worked there until 1945. In 1944 Christmas Eve, the allies started bombing Berlin. We heard the explosions and the next day they brought German refugees to work in the factories. It was a wild experience that I had with a German lady sitting across the table from me.
Q: What happened?
The German woman refugee asked me “Why are your clothes so bare and your shoes so worn?” The German woman didn’t know what was going on. She never heard of the camps. I spoke in fluent German to them. They didn’t give us (Jewish inmates) lunch. That German woman went to cafeteria lunch, and she came back and gave me stockings under the table. I said, “Keep them.” That’s why I defend the Germans. The older generation didn’t know. She wanted me to have the stockings. She said she saved stockings just in case they had to go. The papers in Berlin only published what they wanted the people to know. Their radio only said what they wanted the people to hear.
Q: When were you liberated?
I was liberated at the end of March 1945 when the English came. Both of my sisters died. One died a week before liberation and one died two weeks after liberation.
Q: Where did you go after liberation?
The British took us to the camp in a town that had buildings –a German army town. They put us up in the two bedroom apartments there, and they put four in each apartment. I stayed longer than most people because I didn’t know what happened to my father.
Q: What happened to your father?
I was hoping he was alive somewhere. Finally, I learned from someone from my hometown that my father died in Dachau. That was end of October 1945. I then decided to go back home.
I had a mission. My grandfather died nine months before we were taken to the camps. We hadn’t put up a headstone yet. I knew my father’s brothers would want one. So I went back to put up a headstone for my grandfather.
Q: Did you succeed in putting up a headstone for your grandfather’s grave?
Yes. I remembered the house where my father lived. My father buried jewelry in the basement. The oldest son of the people we moved in with was still alive, and he dug up the jewelry in the basement. So I was able to sell it and put up a stone for my grandfather in the Jewish cemetery in my hometown. I was right. One of my uncles from Cuba went back and found the grave.
Q: Who survived in your family?
I was the only survivor from my immediate family.
Q: Where did you live after the war?
A brother of my aunt, who came back after the war wanted to go to Cuba. My uncle in Cuba wrote back that anybody that knows him from the hometown and wants to come to Cuba “must bring Catalina to me.” I had eight relatives plus myself going to Cuba because of my uncle, Fabian Weiss, one of my father’s brothers. I left for Cuba in 1946.
Q Describe how you managed to go to Cuba.
It sounds simple but it wasn’t. We had no papers so we had to sneak out from Romania to Hungary, from Hungary to Austria, and from Austria back to Germany. We ended up in Munich, Germany, and then we went into a Displaced Persons camp that was run by the American army. Then the Americans gave us affidavits to go. These affidavits were like passports. We had no other papers. We left Germany and went to Switzerland to pick up money my uncle had sent there. Then we went to France to get our visas to go to Cuba. They were not there, so we went to Rome. My uncle was so desperate for me to get to Cuba he got three of us plane tickets and a ten-day transit visa. We waited four months in Italy for the transit visa. Finally, my uncle went to HIAS and was told if he deposited $10,000 in US immigration, he would get the transit visa to Cuba. My uncle deposited it. The next day we got a call from the American embassy in Rome to pick up the transit visit. He paid $10,000 for three people to go to New York City and then Cuba.
Q: What was post-war life like in Cuba for you?
We arrived in Havana, December 25, 1946. I lived there for 15 years. I met my husband there, and my two children were born there. It was beautiful there. My family was beautiful. I found four fathers and four mothers. Cuba was a beautiful country in those years—paradise on earth.
Q: Why did you leave?
Castro came in power in 1959. We left on June 14, 1961. We settled in Miami Beach, Florida. We lived in Miami 47 years. Only the last nine years have I been in New Jersey. My daughter, Diana was five years old when we came to the United States, and my son, Bernard was nine. I now have five grandchildren and four are engineers. My daughter lives in New Jersey and that is why I’m here. So after 9/11, I moved to New Jersey from Florida to be with my family.
Q: Have you given testimony before?
Only for Spielberg’s visual library. They came to my house. I saw an advertisement on television. It was after Schindler’s List. Two cameramen came to the house. Before they came, a psychologist called me on the phone to speak to me about how to remember to tell the story. I saw the movie myself and I didn’t know how to react. It was so weird. Just like when I went to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I felt like I was walking through the barracks. Good job.
Q: What is your message to future generations?
Study hard. Learn as much as you can because the world keeps changing and the one thing nobody can take away from you is knowledge; and sometimes it can save your life. Sometimes I talk to schools. I don’t teach them about the Holocaust. The children ask me questions. I don’t lecture to the students. Everybody has a different story; no two people have the same story. The truth is so horrible. They have the anniversary of the Shoah every year here. They always do it at the Assisted Living.
After the Hungarian annexation in 1940, Jews suffered economically and physically. The Hungarian army entered Cluj on September 11, 1940. In July 1941, hundreds of Jewish families without Hungarian citizenship were deported to Galicia, most of whom were massacred in Kamenets-Podolski. In 1942 many of the men of military age in Cluj were conscripted for forced labor and sent to the Eastern front to the Nazi-occupied area of the Soviet Union, where most perished. When the Germans entered Cluj in the March 1944, they established a Judenrat. On May 2, the Jewish community was forced into a ghetto. Over 16,000 of the remaining local Jews, plus about 2,000 from the surrounding area, were put into a ghetto. From May 29 to June 13, they were deported to Auschwitz, where most perished.
Sources and Credits:
SSBJCC Survivor Registry Interview with Catalina Rosner, May 15, 2017, Interviewer: Nancy Gorrell; Biography by Nancy Gorrell; family photographs donated by Catalina Rosner