Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Peppy Rosenthal - July 1, 2009


So was there a discussion between you and your father, about whether you should come to Israel or the United States?

Yeah, but he wanted to come where his relatives...

And it was your mother's family that had, your mother's sister had gone to Israel?


Um, so you, you moved to Flint and you, I assume you went to school, you were a student in school?

Mm-hm, Mm-hm.

What was that like? You didn't, you didn't tell anybody about your experiences?

Yeah. Um, my first year, I went to school in um, in Scranton, Pennsylvania; that's where my father's sister lives. And I had to learn Edgar Allen Poe, that was a punishment. I was looking for punishment at that stage of my life. And I um, didn't tell anybody, but I needed help. But in Flint, um, like, Northern High School, where I went, was really into football, and they had an assembly before um, before the Thanksgiving game. And they had all these former football players come in and talk, and people were crying. Well, I didn't understand what was going on, and I, they were crying, and I thought something terrible is happening, you know, at the school, and oh, "we're next." Right away, you know, I connect this. For years I, and until I found out that it was happiness, it wasn't for years.

So you, you made the connection between this and what, what you had experienced?

Mm-hm, yes. We, my husband's family lives in um, outside of Pittsburgh. So we were driving at night to go for a visit. And I said, "Oh my gosh, all these lights! How unsafe it is to hide!" You know, right away I connect it with my life. And the same thing, you know, we would hide underneath bridges, in Rozhishche while the war was still going on, but we were liberated. And every night we would walk to hide underneath the bridge, and finally my dad said, "This is a stupid thing, because they're gonna hit the bridges, and there we are, underneath it. We're better off going into a forest." And just these...

So you would hide in the forest?


This is after liberation?

There was still fighting on, but we were liberated.

So what, what was that like? Hiding at night in the woods?

Fighting war. I mean, then we were, we had blankets, we had stuff.

So you had a hard time at the, at school, because of this.


So what, what happened at that Thanksgiving?

Well, this, this one English teacher knew about me, and she explained to me what was happening, after the assembly. She said she saw my face, and I looked so puzzled and scared, so she explained to me.

You said you, you, you were a worrier.


Do you think that's because of your childhood experience?

Probably. Very pessimistic, very...if you can find the dark spot in it, I will beat you, because that's how I am.

What do you think about change? Do you think that change is always gonna be for the worse?

Hm. Interesting question. I'm so exhausted to get to the change. I don't know, I [pause] I haven't dealt with change. I kept saying to myself a long time I was gonna go and see a therapist.

And did you?

And I guess that meant change.

Yeah. Did you?

You know the answer.


I think I went once. I had a rough winter. As I'm getting older, things get rougher. When I was younger and I was working and...things were different.

You went through high school in Flint.


And then what?

Then I went to college.


In Flint. I went, I graduated from U of M Sociology and Criminal Justice.


Thank you.

Um, and you met your husband?

Yeah, long before. I went, I started college when my youngest son was five; took me forever. People tell me I know a lot of people, I says, "Yeah, if you stayed in college for twenty years you would too."

So...your husband is not a survivor.


How did you meet him?

Uh, through the rabbi. He introduced him to some girls, and they introduced me to him. He's a former teacher.

Um, tell me about the trip back to Rozhishche.

Well, I decided to see if I could find my mother. I went back with uh, three other people, one of my closest friends, who is a social worker, she's not Jewish, specializes in adoption, hard-to-place adoption. Uh, and two people from Flint, Nathan Schaeffer, who is a um, survivor, but he was I believe in Argentina or Brazil during the Holocaust and he's from Lutsk. And uh, his wife, Joan Schaeffer. And um, we flew to--we also were going to do some touring with this group--and, and, and we went to Lutsk. We had to get special permission to go to Rozhishche, and there was...Gorbachev was in power then, but it wasn't as open.

It was before the wall came down.

I believe so.

You said it was '88?


Yeah, so it was a couple years before.

It was right after Chernobyl.



You didn't take any of your, of your family with you?

No. I couldn't afford then. And um, we uh, they didn't give my friend or Joan Schaeffer any permission to go with us to Rozhishche, only Nathan and I, and that was before, because we were from there...


© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn