Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Peppy Rosenthal - July 1, 2009

Early Years

Did, did they socialize with, with other Jews in this, in the town, or...


And non-Jews? Did they have non-Jewish friends as well?

I don't remember that. I know they um, socialized...uh, my father had different partners...

In the business?

Mm-hm. My dad owned several businesses. He owned this bus company. He had um, a mill that made flour, and with my mother's family they had a factory that made um, quilts with feathers...you know, those puffy quilts?


Down, mm-hm.

Do you have any idea how many, how many Jews there were in Rozhishche?

I think there were about 5,000.

Mm, that's what it says. Um, synagogue? Do you remember the synagogue?

Mm-mm, no.

Uh, but you, you must have, you lived in a Jewish, a Jewish area, I would guess, so all the Jews lived in the same part of the town, do you think?

Um, I, I don't remember. I remember where I lived.

What was the house like?

It had electricity in the bathroom.

In an inside, indoor bathroom?

Uh-huh. And um, was brick. I thought the rooms were very large, but then when I saw it, um, when I went back in 1988, I thought, "Gee, the rooms are so small." But...

So you went back?

Mm-hm. Nineteen--I wanted to know what happened to the remains of my mother. And um, I didn't really learn much.

Uh, do you remember when the...when the war started?

Mm-hm. But first the Russians invaded us, and they lived in our house.

Russians did?

Uh-huh...yeah. And I remember us going...New Year's Day, they used to celebrate at the embassy, and the Russians wore my mother's nightgowns as dresses.

They took your mother's nightgowns?

Yeah. 'Cause they were so fancy, and they used it for a dress to the party.

And how did they treat you when they moved into your house?

Fine. They took me to the, to their dances at the embassy, especially New Year's Day. And then...they sent my father to Siberia, but he wasn't there that long.

Do you know why they sent him?

Um, they...because my father, they said--or at least that's what I was told--had too much money.

He was a capitalist.


But he didn't, he wasn't gone for very long?

It didn't seem like he was going that long.

So your ex...your initial experience of the war was, 1939, was the Russians coming in?


And nothing was terribly disrupted except your father was sent away?

Yeah, but it didn't seem like he was gone that long. And then the Russians left...

So they were, they were there for what, almost two years?

You see, I, I don't know, like, I mean--do you know the Guns?

I do.

Um, you know, Jack's brother would tell me, has told us things, but either one of us really, or at least for sure I don't...is if it was a year, or... I can remember if it was winter or summer, but I can't remember if it was a year or two years.

OK, I think they came to Rozhishche in December 1939.

Oh, really? The, the Germans?

No, the Russians.

The Russians.

Then the Germans came in July...

Of forty...

Forty-one. June of '41. Um...

And they, the ghetto was liquidated in August, I believe...

Forty-two, yeah. So you were in the ghetto?

Yeah, oh, definitely, yes.

Let's, let's go back for a second. Um, so you, you don't remember any particular hardship under the Russians?

No, I don't.

And everybody spoke Russian?

I used to. I didn't speak Jewish at home, I don't think, but I spoke Polish and...

And Ukrainian?


Um, but your parents spoke Yiddish?


When they didn't want you to know what they were saying?

And probably they spoke Yiddish to each other. I don't really remember that clearly, but I knew I didn't speak Yiddish.

Do you have any, sort of um, singular memories of the period be...before the Germans came? Either before the Russians came or after the Russians came, some event that sticks in your mind, or anything unusual that happened? Life didn't seem to change very much, except you had people in your house...

Yes. I, I really--and you know, being an only child, I loved having other kids in the house, and other people.

So these were Russian civilians who came in to your house?

Well, they were connected with whoever, you know, the Embassy, or...

So it wasn't soldiers?

No, it was women.

Oh, I see. And you enjoyed the socializing?

Yeah, and they, they had kids, so for me it was nice.

Did you, did you play with them?


Not Jewish kids?

No. I don't remember--I remember one birthday party that I had, um, before um...it must have been before the Russians came, too um, we went on a bus to this forest, and spent the day there, and then there was Jewish kids then, too.

This is before the Russians came?


It was your birthday?

Mm-hm. And it was a sunny day, I remember that.

Um, so these were your childhood friends?


Alright. After the Russians came, were there any changes in the routine in your house, and did you have to move out of your bedroom, or?

Maybe, but I don't remember.

And do you remember anything that your parents would, would talk about? Were they upset that they would...

Well, yeah, because I think my father may have lost some of the businesses.

And then he was taken away.


So what was it like when your father was gone?

My mother just worked. You see, part of the, one of the businesses was with her family, and I mean, I didn't lack food or anything.

OK, so there was no rationing or anything like that?

Not that I remember. You know why, no one has ever asked me these questions, and I've never--when I speak to, to classes, you know, I basically tell them my life, but I, you're really making me, my mind go back and, and try to recall...

Well, actually I tried to find a city map, and there is none of Rozhishche.

Oh, Cheri has one.

Oh, she does?

There's a book...did you ever see the book that was written by the Rozhishcher.

Well there's a Yizkor book, I know that.

That was that big one.

Yeah. Yeah, actually I saw it online. Um...

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