Here's a beautiful true story of love that survived the war by Herman Rosenblat who now lives in Miami Beach, Florida
with his wife, Roma. It was released as a movie
called, "The Flower of the Fence" in 2009.
As the story goes, it was August of 1942 in Piotrkow, Poland. The sky
was gloomy that morning as we waited anxiously.
All the men, women and children
of Piotrkow's Jewish ghetto had been herded into a square. Word had gotten
around that we were being moved. My father had only recently died from typhus,
which had run rampant through the crowded ghetto. My greatest fear was that our
family would be separated. "Whatever you do," Isidore, my eldest brother,
whispered to me, "don't tell them your real age. Say you're sixteen."
I was tall for a boy of 11, so I could pull it off. That way I might be deemed
valuable as a worker. An SS man approached me, boots clicking against the
cobblestones. He looked me up and down, then asked my age. "Sixteen," I said.
He directed me to the left, where my three brothers and other healthy young men
My mother was motioned to the right with the other
women, children, sick and elderly people. I whispered to Isidore, "Why?" He
didn't answer. I ran to Mama's side and said I wanted to stay with her. "No,"
she said sternly. "Get away. Don't be a nuisance. Go with your brothers." She
had never spoken so
harshly before. But I understood: She was protecting me. She loved me so much
that, just this once, she pretended not to. It was the last I ever saw of her.
My brothers and I were transported in a cattle car
to Germany. We arrived at the Buchenwald concentration camp and were led into
a crowded barracks. The next day, we were issued uniforms and identification
I was put to work in the camp's crematorium, loading the dead into a
hand-cranked elevator. I, too, felt dead. Hardened, I had become a
number. Soon, my brothers and I were sent to Schlieben, one of Buchenwald's
sub-camps near Berlin.
One morning I thought I heard my mother's voice:
"Son," she said softly but clearly, "I am sending you an angel." Then I woke up.
Just a dream. A beautiful dream. But in this place, there could be no angels.
There was only work, hunger and fear.
A couple of days later, I was walking around the
camp, around the barracks, near the barbed-wire fence where the guards could not
easily see. I was alone. On the other side of the fence, I spotted someone: a
young girl with light, almost luminous curls.
She was half-hidden behind a birch tree. I glanced
around to make sure no one saw me. I called to her softly in German. "Do you
have something to eat?" She didn't understand. I inched closer to the fence and
repeated the question in Polish. She stepped forward. I was thin and gaunt, with
rags wrapped around my feet, but the girl looked unafraid. In her eyes, I saw
life. She pulled an apple from her woolen jacket and threw it over the fence. I
grabbed the fruit and, as I started to run away, I heard her say faintly in
Polish, "I'll see you tomorrow." I returned to the same spot by the fence at the
same time every day. She was always there with something for me to eat: a hunk
of bread or, better yet, an apple. We didn't dare speak or linger. To be caught
would mean death for us both. I didn't know anything about her just a kind farm
girl except that she understood Polish.
What was her name? Why was she risking her life
for me? Hope was in such short supply, and this girl on the other side of the
fence gave me some, as nourishing in its way as the bread and apples. Nearly
seven months later, my brothers and I were crammed into a coal car and shipped
to Theresienstadt camp in Czechoslovakia.
"Don't return," I told the girl that day. "We're
leaving." I turned toward the barracks and didn't look back, didn't even say
good-bye to the girl whose name I'd never learned, the girl with the apples. We were in Theresienstadt for three months. The war was winding down and Allied
forces were closing in, yet my fate seemed sealed. On May 10, 1945, I was
scheduled to die in the gas chamber at 10:00 AM. In the quiet of dawn, I tried
to prepare myself. So many times death seemed ready to claim me, but somehow I'd
survived. Now, it was over. I thought of my parents. At least, I thought, we
will be reunited.
At 8 AM there was a commotion. I heard shouts and
saw people running every which way through camp. I caught up with my brothers.
Russian troops had liberated the camp! The gates swung open. Everyone was
running, so I did too. Amazingly, all of my brothers had survived; I'm not
sure how. But I knew that the girl with the apples had been the key to my
survival. In a place where evil seemed triumphant, one person's goodness had
saved my life, had given me hope in a place where there was none.
My mother had promised to send me an angel, and the angel had come. Eventually
I made my way to England where I was sponsored by a Jewish charity, put up in a
hotel with other boys who had survived the Holocaust
and trained in electronics. Then I came to America, where my brother Sam had
I served in the U. S. Army during the Korean War
and returned to New York City after two years. By August 1957, I'd opened my own
electronics repair shop. I was starting to settle in. One day, my friend Sid
whom I knew from England called me. "I've got a date. She's got a Polish
friend. Let's double date."
A blind date? Nah, that wasn't for me. But Sid kept
pestering me, and a few days later we headed up to the Bronx to pick up his date
and her friend, Roma. I had to admit, for a blind date this wasn't so bad. Roma
was a nurse at a Bronx hospital. She was kind and smart. Beautiful, too, with
swirling brown curls and green, almond-shaped eyes that sparkled with life.
The four of us drove out to Coney Island. Roma was easy to talk to, easy to be
with. Turned out she was wary of blind dates, too! We were both just doing our
friends a favor. We took a stroll on the boardwalk, enjoying the salty Atlantic
breeze, and then had dinner by the shore.
I couldn't remember having a better time. We piled back into Sid's car, Roma
and I sharing the backseat. As European Jews who had survived the war, we were
aware that much had been left unsaid between us. She brought up the subject,
"Where were you," she asked softly, "during the war?" "The camps," I said,
terrible memories still vivid, the irreparable loss. I had tried to forget. But
you can never forget." She nodded. "My family was hiding on a farm in Germany,
not far from Berlin," she told me. "My father knew a priest, and he got us Aryan
papers." I imagined how she must have suffered too, fear, a constant
companion. And yet here we were, both survivors, in a new world.
"There was a camp next to the farm." Roma continued. "I saw a boy there, and I
would throw him apples every day." What an amazing coincidence that she had
helped some other boy. "What did he look like? I asked. "He was tall, skinny
and hungry. I must have seen him every day for six months." My heart was
racing. I couldn't believe it. This couldn't be. "Did he tell you one day not
to come back because he was leaving Schlieben?" Roma looked at me in
amazement. Yes, that was me!"
I was ready to burst with joy and awe, flooded with
emotions. I couldn't believe it. My angel. "I'm not letting you go." I said to
Roma. And in the back of the car on that blind date, I proposed to her. I didn't
want to wait. "You're crazy!" she said. But she invited me to meet her
parents for Shabbat dinner the following week. There was so much I looked
forward to learning about Roma, but the most important things I always knew: her
steadfastness, her goodness. For many months, in the worst of circumstances, she
had come to the fence and given me hope.
Now that I'd found her again, I could never let her
go. That day, she said yes. And I kept my word. After nearly 50 years of
marriage, two children and three grandchildren, I have never let her go.
life with love will have some thorns but life without love will have no
By Tim Pedrosa
You give but little when you give of
your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly
give. Kahlil Gibran
wealth not by the things you have, but by the things you have for which
you would not take money.