Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Eric Rosenow - August 5, 1982

Religious Life

I'd like to know some more about how you did live as a Jew in Germany. Uh, your association with the synagogue, if any. What kinds of things did you do in your home? Uh, did you observe the Sabbath? Things like that.

Yes, yes, we were not--I mean you have uh, German Jews, also very religious Jews, like anybody else. Then you had a lot of German Jews that were reformed. Uh, they were reformed--we call uh, liberal Jews. I observed uh, the High Holidays. Of course when I was a child because I loved to uh, observe Hanukkah because we got presents, naturally. And uh, but I personally don't come from a rich family--not--so we always had a struggle but we lived balabatish. You know uh, we, we uh, didn't have much money like uh, like you asked uh, some of the, the--rest of the community they say, "Well, Jews, they all rich." We had a lot of poor Jews in Germany--in Berlin. They made, they made uh, they had a hard time to make a living. My father was a uh, he was uh, employed by the government. He got uh, twice a month money on the fifteenth and the first. On the twentieth the money was gone and on the fifth, the money was gone, so we had to struggle, really struggle. And uh, my parents give me uh, piano lessons, I went to conservatory and uh, everything cost money.

Well, so you didn't go to cheder?

No--oh, well I didn't go to cheder but I went to what we call in Germany, Riligions Schule. Ri...uh, uh, uh...

Could you spell Riligions for me?

Uh, R-I-L-I-G-I-O-N-S. Riligions...

Thank you.

...school. Uh, we had to--there was a must in Berlin; you had to go twice a week, after you regular school--after your regular elementary school, or whatever it was, you had to go twice to uh, Jewish Ril...Riligions Schule. I wasn't too crazy about it...


...but today I'm sorry that I learned so little about uh, Hebrew.

Do you speak Hebrew?



Yiddish, yes.

You know seven languages, right?

Yes, yes.

What are they?

Uh, Russian, Polish uh, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese and English. I learned the language a little bit in, in China. My wife spoke better Japanese than me.

And how, how did you learn Japanese--I know uh, I can assume how you learned Chinese, how did you learn Japanese?

Well, we had contact with Japanese and we had contact with Chinese. I played the night clubs and bars--we uh, before the war and after the war, after the war we had only Japanese uh, customers and uh, Japanese and Korean customers, so I had to learn the language.

And their songs as well?

And, and their songs--well not Chinese--yes Chinese a little bit too. I still do uh, when I'm performing here sometimes in clubs and societies uh, a journey around the world, and I emphasize uh, it's almost a true story where I traveled, you know, it's a very unique uh, uh, musical traveling, you know.

So when you went to the Riligions school, they taught you elementary Hebrew uh, writing, reading...

Writing, and reading, yes, but I know very little now.

So I imagine you got the Alef Bet and...

Yes, yes just about.

Uh, religious practices?

I went bar mitzvah. I had my bar mitzvah, a big bar mitzvah. Any uh, we had it in the house, a bar mitzvah uh, celebration. My father bought me a piano. It was a big thing.

I'll bet, I'll bet. Uh, what about your first piano when, when you left--when you were in Shanghai? Were you able to buy one?

A piano? I never had a piano in Shanghai.

Never a piano. So you were singing in the clubs?

Right, right. Well, they had pianos uh, in clubs, yes.

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