A Fragment of Mosche Rosner's Memories

Contributed and translated by Miriam Lava

The following is a Part of Mosche Rosner's Memories, written in August 1994, at the age of 92. My father's  main urge to tell the story of his early youth, and describe an era that vanished a long time ago,  was the need to leave a monument, that will serve as a tombstone to his parents., We know that Hendel and Josef Rosner lost their lives in Transnistria in 1942 or 1943, on “the other side of the river Bug” . They are probably buried in a mass grave, who's exact place is  unknown to our family..  

<>(Written in Hebrew, and translated by Miriam Lava, Moshe's
Daughter, January, 2006):

It all happened in a town in Bukowina, in the eastern part of the Ostro-Hungarian Kingdom - Putila. I was born there on the 22nd of December, 1902. We had a small basement apartment in a Mr. Seckler's (“Sackler/Saeckler”) house. He was one of the owners of the local bank, where my father, Josef Rosner, worked as a book keeper.

A steep path led the way from the road to our 2 roomed apartment, one served as a kitchen and living room, and the other - a bedroom.  

In the yard we had a stall with a cow that provided milk, and my mother took care of that cow, and milked her. My father sometimes shared this task with her.

Each morning my father used to pray, wrapped in his Tallith and Tephilin. I would watch him praying and saw how he put the folded Tallith on his shoulders, and wrapped himself in it, with his Tephilin straps around his left arm.

Sometimes I would visit him at the Bank. He stood there in front of his podium with a large open book of acounts on it, in which he wrote his lists, using a pen with a nib dipped in ink. Each page was then covered with a special sand until it was dry.

I do not remember any friends. Sometimes I  played on a dusty street, and  remember pushing a wheel with a stick. On one occasion, Mr. Seckler suddenly appeared in front of me, and my wheel and I passed between his legs…

My father was born on Hosha'ana Raba, the 7TH  day of Sukkot, Tars”ach, - 1877, in KISSELITZE, a very small settlement in Bukowina.

The district's main city was Vishnitz, where the train started it's route to Czernowitz, Bukovina's capital. Vishnitz was well-known through the whole region. It had an important Chassidic center, with it's famous Chassidic Rabbi.

The distance between Kiselitze and the place where we lived was about 5 km.

My father's name was Josef Mordechai. During a severe childhood sickness, the family started to call him “Seide”, since it was the custom and belief, that this would cure him, prevent further illnesses, and ensure a long life.

Similarly his younger brother, Littman, was called “Alter”, (Old Man”) by the whole family. I only learned of his birth name many years later.

My grandfather, Mendel, was a very pious Jew with a white beard, who lived with his second wife, Bluma (Blime), in Kiselitze. My grandmother was ultra orthodox. Her hair was completely shorn, and her head always covered with a shawl, that was especialy festive on Shabbat.

My grandparents lived in a spacious, comfortable house.

Grandfather was once a successful timber merchant. As you might know - Bukowina, which was part of the Habsburg imperial territory, was densely wooded. Most of the trees were beech trees, (Buche), from which the name “Bukowina” was derived.

There forests provided a livelihood to a great number of Jews: One could find Jewish timber merchants, owners of  sawmills, as well  as logging and rafting the  trunks down the rivers. The hard work had been done by the Huzols: Ukreanian mountain and farm workers.

My grandfather, once a prosperous merchant, eventually went bankrupt. With no other source of income, he opended a “pub” in the spacious entrance-room of his home. His customers were Huzols. I remember my grandfather serving them according to their hearts delight and requests. Sometimes Aunt Rivka, who still did not have a suitable Shiduch, (a match), and lived with her parents, took over from my grandfather.

This entrance-room, which served as a “pub” through the week, was transformed into a Schul on Friday evenings. There was an “Aron-Ha'Kodesh”  -  the Holy Ark, with the Tora scrolls, and each Friday evening and Shabbat the Jewish community of Kiselitze joined in prayers.

My father had brothers and sisters. I'll try to remember them all:

The oldest, Feige, (Zipora), married to Feivel  Singer, a timber merchant, who also raised sheep. They lived in Kiselitze and had many children  I'll try to recall all of them: Mosche, Ovadiah, Schlomo, David and Breine.

After Feige, Reisl, (Rosa), who married Schmuel  Israel Schmidt from Visnitz, a relative of the famous singer Josef Schmidt. Schmuel was a Hotel owner.

( He once owned the still existing Hotel “Schwarzen Adler”, but sold it and bought the Hotel across the street - M.L)

Reisl and Schmuel were the parents of 2 daughters: Jetty and Fanny.

The Third -  Jente, was married to Elkana Riber. I do not remember the source of their income. Perhaps agriculture.

The Fourth -  Josef Mordecahi (Seide),who married Hendel Pfau, daugher of Mosche and Beile from Kuty, Galizia, not far from Vishnitz. Their children: the firstborn, Mosche, writer of these lines, and a daughter, Rosa, who was born in January 1905, but died very young on the 26th of May, 1926.

The Fifth -  Littman, (Alter), who married Sara (Sally) Kreisler, had 2 daughters: Anna and Berta.

The Sixth -  Berl, (Bernhard), married his niece, Jetty Schmidt. They had one son, Menachem Mendel, (Manfred, Fredy).  (Bernhard and Jetty were passengers on the “Struma”. M.L.)

The Seventh - Rivka. She was well over 20, and still unmarried. During my childhood, she lived with her parents in Kiselitze. She married Abraham Schaefler, after WW1, probably at the beginning of the 1920's . Rivka and Abrahan had one son, Sami.

Now I ponder, and ask myself, without knowing the answer, how did it happen, that all the sons, without exception, did not receive a Yeshiva education. All of them probably had a Cheder education, and were graduates of Elementary Schools in the German and Ukrainian languages.

Among  Mendel and Bluma Rosner's sons, my father was the one, who knew the Torah and commentaries. Every Shabbat, after prayers, he devoted special time for the “Parashat Hashavua”, (the weekly Torah portion), to be read every Shabbat at the Synagogue, including the Onkalos translation, and commentaries by Rashi, Even-Ezra and the Ramb”an. He used to read the text with a low voice, according to the 'Ta'amei-Hamikra” the cantillations, and I sat there, and listened.

It seems to me that I remember myself from the age of five and my sister Rosa, who was two- years younger than me.

Together with my parents we often used to walk to my grandparents' home in Kiselitze, probably on Saturdays. We  walked in a row: My father leading the way. He walked very well. I liked to be spoiled, and often claimed that I was very tired, until my father lifted me onto his shoulders. After a while, this special place was given to little Rosa.

Sometimes my mother complained that my father walks too fast, and puts a distance between himself, and the rest of us.

On our way, we often met Huzols, working on road constructions. Father always greeted them in Ukrainian: “With God's help  - Boze pomhai”.

often, on our way to Kiselitze, we used to visit our aunt Jente Riber in Tokey.  

(I am not sure if the spelling of the mentioned locality is correct [M.L]).

At times, I was left with my grandparents for longer periods.

The regime at my grandparents home differed a lot from that which existed in my parents home in Putila.

My grandmother, Bluma (Blime), took me under her wing. The huge kitchen/living room was dominated by my grandmother and Aunt Rivka. In the rear portion of the kitchen the cooking and baking stoves were placed, while my grandmother entertained her guests in the front portion.

On Saturdays She used to sit there, with her women friends and neighbours, all of them reading  the “Z'ena U're'ena”, all of them in their best dresses, with my grandmother leading them.


Go to the photograph collection of Miriam Lava