Lessons from Holocaust survivor Barbara Roose

Protesting hate speech
Adeline Belsby/Staff

What would have been an otherwise quiet and calm morning Aug. 27 in Ohlone Park turned into a bustling mecca of activists, protesters and community members. Hundreds of people made their way along Hearst Avenue toward Martin Luther King Jr. Way to join the rest of the crowd at Civic Center Park.

Hundreds marched and chanted, fighting for their rights and the rights of others. In the middle of this organized chaos stood a calm, elderly woman carrying a sign: “Hate Speech leads to Holocaust. I’m a WWII Holocaust survivor.”

A simple sign — one that carried a powerful message.

A childhood lost  

Barbara Roose was born in 1937 in Nazi Germany to a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father. Despite not receiving any Jewish upbringing, she and her siblings were classified as “half-Jews” by the Nazi government.

Roose remembered how her mother coped with living under the Nuremberg Laws, which were legal codes that helped to institutionalize anti-Semitism. As the war dragged on, her mother lost her profession as a physical therapist, turned her car over to the state and was under constant threat of being “picked up” by the German military and sent off to concentration camps.

Thus, Roose learned to live in secrecy, lest she and her family be caught and captured. She summoned a memory from her childhood, an instance that served as a jarring reminder of her family’s precarious situation: She went to the local store, and upon arrival, the woman in front of her raised her arm in salute and cried, “Heil Hitler!” Hesitant, but intrigued, young Roose slowly raised her arm, but she stopped when she realized she had never seen her mother do such a thing. It was not until later that she learned how much trouble she would have caused, had she gone through with the salute.

“I felt … very unsure in terms of what is my identity. What are my rights?”

— Barbara Roose

If the neighbors who were present in the store — who knew her mother — or the nearby policeman had seen Roose do that, there would surely have been consequences. As a youth who had struggled with her identity, Roose confided that she had to always be wary — she had to develop a “watchdog” mentality to ensure survival.

“I felt … very unsure in terms of what is my identity. What are my rights? Do I tiptoe softly … to (not) make it known (whether) I’m really not this or not that?”

Lost relatives

Despite living with such discipline, nothing could guarantee Roose and her family safety.

In 1942, not long after her younger brother died of diphtheria at 3 years of age, Roose’s father brought home an older half-sister, 12, whom they had never met before. The family adopted her because the Nazis had taken her parents; years later, after much research, this half-sister discovered that her parents had perished in concentration camps. But the tragedy does not end here.

Another half-sister, to whom Roose was connected through her father, was born to a young woman who ran an orphanage for children who had lost their parents to Nazis. After the young woman received a summons to go to the center of Berlin, she and Roose’s half-sister were transported to Auschwitz, where they were killed. Moreover, Roose’s mother had relatives who attempted, but failed, to flee to Holland. They, too, perished during this time.

“Death hits my family from several points,” Roose said.

Two sides of the same coin

In March 1947, the Roose family immigrated from Germany to Venezuela with the help of Roose’s maternal uncle. But before their arrival, the family had to live in a dismal boarding house for three weeks in Paris while they waited for passage on a refugee ship.

As a child who had been running from persecution for most of her young life, Roose was entranced by the wealth of Paris. She begged her mother to buy her something from the mouthwatering pastry shops, but her mother ruefully declined.

“Even at a young age, Roose felt the injustices enacted upon her family and wished for recognition of their suffering.”

More importantly, she reminded Roose to not speak German so loudly in public, for the French had suffered tremendous losses during the war. Although she obeyed her mother, Roose secretly wondered when her own suffering would be recognized. Even at a young age, Roose felt the injustices enacted upon her family and wished for recognition of their suffering.

It was the duality of being German-Jewish that was so difficult for her younger self to grasp. As someone who was not religiously Jewish and was conflicted about her German side, especially with her mother telling her that she was a “different kind of German,” identity was an ongoing process saturated with confusion.

“What was it like to live as a Jewish little girl but had to hide her identity? (It) was very confusing for me, and I’m sure it is confusing for immigrants (to) the United States who should be proud of where we come from — our roots,” Roose explained.

Enough is enough

When asked about the current political climate on campus, in Berkeley and throughout the country, Roose — her voice steady — said people must put themselves in the shoes of immigrants.

“It is not only the rights of vulnerable communities that matter for Roose, but also the emotional burdens that are placed on them.”

“So again I see parallels — you take away not only the physical safeties, but you take away their dreams, their homes, their talents. Unless we wake up here and say ‘basta,’ ” Roose said firmly.

It is not only the rights of vulnerable communities that matter for Roose, but also the emotional burdens that are placed on them. But along with a history of trauma, Roose affirmed that we each have a “long line” of resilience, drawn from the struggles of our parents, grandparents and so on.

“You have a resilience, you have a right. This is your country — you’re not going to be thrown out,” said Roose.

Contact Francesca Munsayac at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @fcfm_dc.

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  • Wally

    All the Leftist / Zionist liars use the ‘holocau$t’ fraud as a cover.

    The ‘holocaust’ storyline is one of the most easily debunked narratives
    ever contrived. That is why those who question it are arrested and
    persecuted. That is why violent, racist, & privileged Jewish
    supremacists demand censorship. What sort of truth is it that denies
    free speech and the freedom to seek the truth? Truth needs no protection
    from scrutiny.

    The ‘6M Jews, 5M others, & gas chambers’ are scientifically impossible frauds.
    see the ‘holocau$t’ scam debunked here:
    http://codoh.com
    No name calling, level playing field debate here:
    http://forum.codoh.com

  • dieter heymann

    Dear Barbara. By accident I found this article.
    I too am a “mischling zweiten grades” born in Germany but my mother fled with me and my sister in July 1933 to Amsterdam, Netherlands where I grew up in freedom until 1940 when the Nazi’s invaded the Netherlands. That fact made my life’s story very different from yours.
    My dad had been arrested in April 1933. He survived 12 years of jail, and the concentration camps of Kislau, Dachau, Buchenwald, and Auschwitz-Monowitz. The SD never came for me and my sister even when they arrested my mom in 1943 for having hidden Jewish friends in our apartment (1). We had learned that they and other Nazi organizations did not know that I had a Jewish father! My main risk was that I would be drafted into the Wehrmacht. The Wehrmacht knew of the two Jewish grandparents. I was lucky that Hitler had stopped my call-up in 1942 when I was only 15. I was placed in the reserves.
    (1) for which she was honored by Yad Vashem in 2010. My sister and I fully knew that our three renters were Jews.

  • Carlo Kane

    –Berkeley…the entire campus is a daycare center, the people are so emotionally fragile, that most belong in diapers breastfeeding.

  • Killer Marmot

    Curtailment of individual rights, such as freedom of speech, leads to holocaust.

    Or to put it another way, so long as individual rights are strongly protected and the state’s power to abridge them is limited, egregious civil rights violations will not be possible.

    • Carlo Kane

      But that would mean that the almighty state, the very goal of the Left, would be fascist? Oh dear, what now?

      • Killer Marmot

        The term “fascist” is used with abandon these days. From a historical perspective, however, a key component of fascism is totalitarianism — everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state. Individual rights have no currency in fascism. All is subordinate to the state.

        • dieter heymann

          According to your description Stalin’s Soviet Union was a fascist state. You need to add that private enterprise was allowed but strongly regulated in fascist states, a fact which Carlo Kane ignores.
          In Germany, after the “Nacht der Langen Messer”, owners of private enterprises knew that opposing Hitler meant either being incinerated or sent to a concentration camp.

          • Wally

            “Ach,” he said, “we’ve often fantasized about drawing up an indictment against Adolf Hitler himself. And to put into that indictment the major charge: the Final Solution of the Jewish question in Europe, the physical annihilation of Jewry. And then it dawned upon us, what would we do? We didn’t have the evidence.”
            – “holocaust historian” Raul Hilberg

            See the ‘holocaust’ scam easily & thoroughly debunked here:
            http://codoh.com
            No name calling, level playing field debate here:
            http://forum.codoh.com