Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Rita Rosenzweig - March 24, 1983

Life in Liège

Okay. Could you tell me something about what you remember of life in Liège before the war?

Well, before we moved to Liège we lived a little further than Sûre which is also an old city, Flémalle-Haute. My parents had a store there uh, for a few years, and then I think uh, when I was about nine years old, ten years old, we moved to Liège.

Are your earliest memories then of life in Liège, or would you like to...

Um, well, in little bit in Flémalle-Haute but I was kind of young and all I could remember was going to school and, you know, come back to the store and my parents were busy so I used to eat in restaurant and come home. But Liège is mostly I think where I remember the most, mostly things happened with the war coming and everything, so mostly that's probably what I would remember the best, you know.

What was the community like that you lived in, in Liège?

Well, it was a mixed community, you know. Where we lived was um, I would say, two, three houses away with Jews and then uh, gentiles--was mostly very mixed but most of my friends were Jewish. And I just had a couple friends that were not Jewish. But uh, really, you know, we were so assimilated that it didn't really make too much a difference. But you still have something pulling for, for your own, you know even though it was mixed.

What type of business did your dad have in Liège?

Um, my parents were going on the open market. So we uh, had an apartment. And um, my mother--they would leave early in the morning, so I was most of the day by myself. But I had my grandparents living close, and aunts, so you know I was over there most of the time.

Did you have any brothers and sisters?

No. I was an only daughter.

About how many relatives lived in the city then?

Uh, well it was uh, all my mother's relatives. She had um, one younger sister was living in Brussels, I think she was about twenty-two. And she had a single brother living with my grandparents, 'cause he was the breadwinner. And downstairs in the same building my aunt and uncle were living. They had no children. And then us. And a cousin.

And you did have your mother's parents living in...

Uh, well they lived in a different building than we did.

But they did live...

Yeah, they lived within a block away.

Okay. What was the apartment like that you lived in?

Uh, well, it was--it's mostly like a um, a single home but with the uh, levels. You know it was--some--the, the owner lived downstairs, and then we lived on the uh, how you would say this--the first floor, or is it--would you call it a second floor? What do we call this, the first floor?

Ground level.

The ground level. Then the first floor and the second floor. So there was uh, another Jewish couple living on top of us.

Okay, and...

So the apartment is not like they're here, you know and you come in the apartment and it like was two rooms and then you had to go down a few steps to go to the bathroom. It was just a sink, you know it's not like you had a dining room and a living room and you know, so it was like a bedroom and then uh, you know a kitchen dining room. So it was mostly, you know, combined.

And both your parents went to market uh, on a daily basis?

Well my parents separated, really, when we moved to Liège. So I was living with my mother.

And was she working at the time?

Yes, she went to--she was, you know, kept on going on the open market.

Were you attending uh, a school?

Public school, mm-hm.

With Jewish children?

Yeah, it was mixed. You know, they had a Hebrew school but I really never, you know--I went a few times. It was given by the rabbi, and I really didn't bother. I really didn't want to go. Because you know it was away from my place and I really didn't uh, feel like I wanted to walk that far. [laughs]

Was yours a religious home?

No. My grandparents were. They kept Shabbos and uh, you know how it is. My mother was not.

Okay. Did you uh, spend Friday nights with your grandparents then?

Mm, not really in particular, because I was there um, I was mostly on my lunch hour and we kept going back and forth so it was not really, a you know, a Shabbos dinner. 'Cause my mother I guess um, she was going out with her brother, you know meeting to--they used to go out to the show and things. So I really didn't keep it. My grandparents are the only one who kept it. And my grandfather went praying every day, in the morning in a small room, and you know he was, was oh ??? committed with his feelings, you know I remember those things but my parents uh, were not religious at all. And my grandparents on my father's side were not religious at all.

Did they live in Liège also?

No, they lived in um, in Sûre. My grandfather died and my grandmother remarried, so she lived in Brussels after. She--you know when uh, when all this started, she was in Brussels.

With regard to the community that you lived in um, can you describe it for me? Were there um, other public institutions um, theater or anything like that?

Oh yeah, there was a lot of movie uh, t...uh, you know, theaters and there was um, theaters, opera house, and they had also a Walloon, which was a dialect of uh, you know, the Walloon part of Belgium. And uh, there was a lotta--a lot to do. I mean uh, people live and walk a lot in the street, they have those cafe, you can sit. And uh, I think that Jewish people met in uh, in the cafe together, you know uh, mostly the men. Cause the woman were mostly in the stores and the men--the men were just going to the cafes and talk and come back for lun...dinner, and then, cause we eat dinner then, at twelve. And you know, they had a pretty nice life. And it was a lot of nice things to do.

Did you yourself experience any anti-Semitism prior to the war?

No. Mm-mm. Not at all.

What were your plans for the future?

Well, I was in high school, and I was literally in uh, I think in business um, um, and I really didn't know myself where I was going--my mother wanted me to have an education. So I was actually um, in, a--in boarding school. It was a new school. High school was downstairs, and upstairs they had the dormitory and the, and the boarding school. So with her going on um, open market, she didn't want me roaming the streets, so this is where I was put, and then all we really had to do was go down the elevator to hi...to high school. So, and but actually high school in Belgium starts after the sixth grade. It's not like here, like you would say junior high. You put sixth grade in elementary school then you're going to high school. And then six years of high school. And so I--all I really was doing was take the elevator down and I slept and ate over there all week, and then I went home for the weekend.

I see.

So and I was in um, in the three first year that you take you would say junior high, that you get most of everything, like languages and math, algebra, what ever, you know, you need. And then this three third year--last year--is when you're really pick what you want, unless you wanna go for doctor and everything, and you had to take Latin and Greek. But otherwise it was just uh, mostly general typing things.

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