The Missing

Jan 30, 05:34 PM

Michael Rosen worries about missing family members he was told about as a child, taking us on his historical detective journey where he has taken years to trace his missing Uncle Oscar and Aunt Rachel & shares how his mission to find his family is because otherwise the Nazis would have erased their identity and their memory. Michael Rosen ends with his poem in their honour ‘The ClockMender Oscar Rosen and His Wife Rachel on Convoy 62, November 1943’ a tribute to their experience of persecution during the second world war and their end at Auschwitz.

MICHAEL ROSEN: When I was growing up I heard my father say many times that he had once had two uncles: ‘They were there at the beginning of the war’ he would say ‘but they weren’t there at the end.’ As a child, I didn’t know what to make of this. How could two people just disappear? Why didn’t anyone know what happened to them? When I was a bit older he would say that they must have died ‘in the camps’. What did that mean? I would ask myself. What was a camp? How could you disappear in a camp? And why? My parents often told me stories about life before the war when they were attacked by people they called ‘fascists’. They did this, they said, because we’re Jews’. I’m not sure I understood this either. My mother would tell us about the Second World War at the tea table. She moved the teapot and cups around to tell the stories of the war. She fought the Battle of Stalingrad on the tea table. She made it sound as if we were alive because the Nazis had been beaten at Stalingrad. Bit by bit I got to understand a lot more about these things that yes if the Nazis hadn’t been beaten we probably wouldn’t be alive…..and hat there were horrific camps which were an industry for killing - genocide as we call it today. But the mystery of the two French uncles remained a mystery. Whichever way I tried to find out more - fastening on to fragments of memory about where they probably lived or what their jobs were - I got nowhere. When the full list of all the Jews deported from France came out, I combed it for Rosens. But it’s quite a common name. I went to America and asked my father’s cousins about what they knew. Sadly, they made it clear that they knew nothing. Then something changed everything and it’s been the key that has unlocked everything else. When a distant relative died, some letters were found. Two of them came from one of the French uncles and they were letters pleading for help. And there was an address on the letter. With this address in western France, I have been able to track down books, websites, and archives and pieced together two tragic stories: one of Oscar Jeschie Rosen one of Martin Rozen. Both born in Poland, both migrated to France looking for a place where they wouldn’t be persecuted. Oscar a clockmender, married Rachel, fled to western France when the German army invaded. Forced to wear a yellow star, and fix a sign on his market stall, saying ‘Entreprise Juive’, Jewish business and losing every thing they owned because of the aryanisation law. I found that Martin lodged in a house in a little village, while Oscar and Rachel fled to Nice, occupied at that time by the Italians who refused to hand the Jews over to the Nazis. A man called Angelo Donati had come up with a great plan to help Jews escape to North Africa. The Jews waited in the out-of-use hotels. But then the allies defeated the Italians and the Nazis invaded Nice. Straightaway they started arresting the Jews waiting in the hotels, sending them to a camp near Paris and then on Convoy 62, in a cattle truck to Auschwitz, one of the extermination Camps. Two months later, four policemen knocked on the door of Madame Bobières in the little village of Saint-Hermine in the Vendée, and arrested Martin Rozen. They wrote down what Martin was wearing, how tall he was, what colour his eyes, and what shape his nose and mouth was. They took him to join 30 other Jews in the local town, and then put him on a train to th...