Marching in Auschwitz – Birkenau is vital to show the world that we are still here

Rosette Goldstein, 84-year-old Holocaust survivor from Florida: "People don’t want to be reminded about what mankind did to one another, but it is essential that we do."

 Rosette Goldstein at the March of the Living (photo credit: COURTESY)
Rosette Goldstein at the March of the Living
(photo credit: COURTESY)

Rosette Goldstein is alive today because, during World War II, a French farmer and his family allowed her to hide in their home. "Monsieur and Madame Martin and the girls were very good to me," she said. "I was very lucky."

Born Rosette Adler in Paris in 1938, her parents were born in Poland. With the rise of Hitler, Rosette's father joined the French army and sent for her mother. Rosette's father was ultimately thrown out of the French army because he was Jewish. 

In October 1942, when it became clear that foreign-born Jews living in France ran the risk of deportation, her father found work in the French countryside as a lumberjack. Since his job was considered beneficial to the German economy, he was given a certificate protecting him and his family, who remained in Paris, from deportation. When the situation for the Jews worsened in Paris and the certificate was no longer a guarantee of safety, Rosette’s father decided that he had to take steps to protect his only daughter. He turned to a farmer who lived in the countryside near the lumber camp and asked him to hide his little girl. The farmer talked it over with his wife, who agreed. They already had three daughters, and they decided they would have one more. For Rosette, the actions of this family showed her that good people remained in the world. Rosette's father would ride his bicycle at night to visit her until he was deported and sent to his death on convoy number 64 to Auschwitz.

After the war, Rosette attended a camp run by leaders who were working on the creation of the State of Israel, and the seeds of Rosette's passion for being Jewish were planted. Rosette was reunited with her mother after the war, came to the USA, and was "reborn."

Today, Goldstein is 84 years old and remembers much of it like yesterday. Even though there is much she'd like to forget, she talks about the Holocaust at every opportunity because the younger generations need to know. Rosette participated in the March of the Living for six years, but she won't be marching this year. 

How do you feel about not being able to March in Poland on this Yom HaShoah?

"I am very sad that I can't go on the March.  Even though I have bad backaches, I want to go one more time.  I am sad and worried about the students who have missed it for the past three years. Our message is not being carried on to these students.  It is my hope that the March of the Living can do something in the future for the kids who missed this opportunity due to Covid and the war in Ukraine."

Tell me about a special moment that has stayed with you from the March.

"One moment has stayed with me: The first time I went to Majdanek and saw all the shoes.  In particular, one small red shoe.  I wondered about the child to whom the shoe belonged. I wondered what she could have achieved in this world if she had not been murdered.  I was so moved by this that I wrote a poem about it.  I could not stop thinking about all the people murdered there."

The grass is green, 

The wild flowers poke their heads 

Through the spring thaw. 

The hair, the braids have turned grey with the years.

The suitcases are piled up to go nowhere with the names

Cohen, Goldstein, Adler, Pomeranz, 

Shonek who are no more 

One barrack reserved for the thousands upon

Thousands of shoes faded with time. 

One solitary red shoe fighting to keep its color

Fighting to let us know, I belonged so someone

I will not forget or let you forget. 

Take a deep breath, you can still smell the smoke

Open your eyes, you can see the ashes of my owner. 

Who was she?

Who could she have been, a doctor? A scientist? 

Someone who could have given so much to the world. 

A human being. 

Poem written by Rosette after her visit to Majdanek

Roneet Edrich, Director of March of the Living, Southern Region USA: "Traveling with Rosette and the other survivors on the March of the Living is an experience that none of us will ever forget. By sharing her testimony, Rosette has allowed these teens an opportunity to bear witness to the atrocities of the Shoah.  Now it is up to them to be the ambassadors of memory."

 Roneet Edrich with March of the Living participants (credit: MOTL)
Roneet Edrich with March of the Living participants (credit: MOTL)

Roneet Edrich with March of the Living participants (MOTL)

Asking Rosette regarding her worries about the memory of the Holocaust in the coming decades, she answers that she doesn't think the world has learned anything and that she is worried about the future:  "This is why I am dedicated to keeping Holocaust memory alive – to remember and to remind everyone as to what happened.  We must keep talking and keep marching for peoples of different faiths."

The 2022 March of the Living will be led by eight Holocaust survivors from the UK March of the Living. Most of them believe that this year may be the last time they will be able to attend. Therefore, the theme of this year's March is focusing on the importance of passing the responsibility of Holocaust remembrance and education to the next generations of those who endured the dark days of Nazi oppression and systematic annihilation of more than six million Jewish victims as well as all those committed to remembering the past as a teaching tool for the future. The survivors will be joined by more than 2,500 participants from 25 countries, both Jewish and non-Jewish, from diverse backgrounds. The Holocaust survivors will march with Ukrainian refugees, delegates from the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Austria, Israel, the United Kingdom, and more. 

Do you feel that the generation of survivors can pass the torch of memory of the Holocaust to the generation of grandchildren?  Do you have confidence, or are you more concerned if they will be able to tell future generations of the crimes of the Holocaust?

While I am saddened to say that I don't think the world has learned anything from the past, I do think that the members of the next generation are good witnesses to our stories.  I recently spoke to a group of students from a local synagogue who were graduating from their program, and they asked insightful questions.  It was so rewarding.  I think the message is there, but we have to keep talking to everyone – to people of all faiths, religions and backgrounds – to teach and remind them of this horror.  As long as we are here, we will remember, and we will remind the world of what happened and inspire the next generation to take this message into the future.

How important is it for you to return physically to Poland, Germany, and the places where so many Jewish lived and were murdered?  Is it impossible, after two years of remote and virtual events, to remember and learn even from a distance?

I think going to these places is vital, simply to stand in these locations and show the world that we are still here.  I went to Germany where my Dad lived his last days, so that I could stand on the same land and say we did not forget – now or ever.  

Antisemitism is rising again, and it seems that the world doesn't have a cure for this. 

How concerned are you? 

"I am frightened. Not for myself, as I am in the winter of my life. I am frightened for my children and my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. This can happen again because people are becoming indoctrinated, and there is not enough outrage and rising up against all this hatred."

She wishes she could think differently, but she thinks that in 100 years, the Holocaust will be a blip in history, and the reason for this is the lack of education that prevails. She feels that it is vital for her and others to speak to people of all faiths and backgrounds so that they understand the horror and devastation. "People don't want to be reminded about what mankind did to one another, but it is essential that we do."

Rosette promises to continue to speak about her story until she finally closes her eyes forever.

To Keep Rosette's memory and other survivors alive, click