My father’s younger sister, my Aunt Rosie, died on Yom Kippur 2020, the holiest day of the Jewish year, a fitting passing for a righteous person.
With her son stranded by Covid at the other end of the world in Adelaide, my brother and I organised the funeral.
We laid her to rest in a grave hewed out of chalk on a blustering, wet day at Brighton’s Jewish cemetery, high up on the South Downs overlooking the city and in sight of the sea.
As we mark Holocaust Memorial Day today, I am reminded of Rosie, a survivor of the Auschwitz death camps.
In her final years, she would visit the schools of Brighton and Hove to provide testimony to the horrors she and other members of our family saw and suffered at the hands of the Nazis.
Like so many survivors, Rosie had a will of steel. At the end of the war, the rest of her family, including my father Michael, assumed she had died with her parents, my grandparents, in the gas chambers.
But Rosie was rescued from Auschwitz by the Swedish Red Cross and, in 1947, my father received a telegram saying they were caring for three young women by the name of Brummer who claimed relatives in the UK. If this was so, they could be sent to Brighton — where family members had settled — for the price of the tickets.
Alex Brummer writes that he is outraged at the cacophony of voices seeking to block the UK’s Holocaust monument and its meaningful architecture Pictured:
More than four years have passed since David Cameron’s government, supported by all living former PMs, 170 MPs and many peers, approved giving £75 million to the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation for the creation of a monument equal to those in other world cities, including Berlin, Washington, Sydney, and Riga in Latvia
There is no message quite as powerful for young people than to hear of the abominations of the Shoah (the ‘destruction’ in Hebrew) first hand.
I saw the anguish on the face of my own son Gabriel when, after the funeral my cousin, who was with Rosie in the camps, described in sordid and meticulous detail the gruesome journey from the family home in Hungary to Auschwitz and how they, three teenage girls barely older than puberty, were herded directly from the trains to the gas chambers.
They were ordered to strip naked and pushed into gas chamber ‘showers’. They were saved from early death when the Zyklon-B capsules failed to activate. Instead, they were taken to a shed, given rough cotton garb which offered little protection against a mid-European winter and were subjected to near starvation and abuse.
As the wartime generation of Holocaust survivors vanishes from this Earth, the personal stories of people involved in this vile episode of industrial killing and degradation fades with them.
It makes it all the more urgent that the promise of creating a permanent British memorial to those events is fulfilled.
Jews who found safe harbour in Britain will never forget that it was the dogged determination of Winston Churchill and the stoic heroism of the British people which consigned Hitler and his Nazi thugs to the dustbin of history.
Britain’s history, of empire for example, is under cultural challenge. But when it comes to marking the triumph of civilisation and democracy over wickedness and genocide, there should be no holding back.
More than four years have passed since David Cameron’s government, supported by all living former PMs, 170 MPs and many peers, approved giving £75 million to the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation for the creation of a monument equal to those in other world cities, including Berlin, Washington, Sydney, and Riga in Latvia.
After an open architectural contest to choose the designer of the monument, British architect Sir David Adjaye, best known for the creation of the landmark National Museum of African American History in Washington, emerged victorious. His creation will be installed in Victoria Tower Gardens, close to Parliament and Westminster Abbey, a site which would symbolise how democracy overcame genocide.
The monument will be installed in Victoria Tower Gardens, close to Parliament and Westminster Abbey, a site which would symbolise how democracy overcame genocide
The memorial would represent a permanent reminder not just of the extermination of six million Jews but of the appalling cost to other minorities — such as Roma and homosexuals — targeted by Nazism. It would also mark later genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda
It would represent a permanent reminder not just of the extermination of six million Jews but of the appalling cost to other minorities — such as Roma and homosexuals — targeted by Nazism. It would also mark later genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda.
The British people, the dwindling number of survivors, the UK’s Jewish community and politicians are still waiting to see this dream of a memorial accomplished.
The monument has been held up by Westminster city council as part of a drawn-out planning process which has attracted 676 comments.
Among the objectors has been an advisory group to Unesco, an organisation widely criticised for its bias against Israel.
Last year, the crossbencher peer and barrister Lord Carlisle publicly testified against the proposed memorial describing it as a ‘self-evident terrorism risk’.
The same might be said of all symbols of civilisation close by, including Parliament. Others object to the design.
In the memory of my Aunt Rosie and all those family members who perished as a result of Nazi oppression, I am outraged at the cacophony of voices seeking to block the monument and its meaningful architecture.
Rosie was born a Brummer, one of 11 siblings, in the town of Vylok (Tisza-Ujlak), on the Czech-Hungarian border in 1926. The family enjoyed a peaceful life before Hitler uprooted their existence.
Over the years, I was able to get a glimpse of their lives. Rosie was a skilled seamstress who worked with families in her hometown.
The image that sticks in my mind is of my grandfather, Rosie’s father Sandor, under a peach tree outside the house on a Shabbat (Sabbath) afternoon learning the biblical stories with the children.
The peace was disturbed when the Hungarian fascists of the Arrow Cross, allies of the Nazis, took over in 1940.
Three of Rosie’s brothers — Danny, Ference and Ignatz — disappeared, never to be heard of again. Then, in 1944, my grandparents and the three young women — Rosie, her sister Sussie and cousin Shindy — were rounded up, packed in a cattle train and sent to Auschwitz.
After an open architectural contest to choose the designer of the monument, British architect Sir David Adjaye (pictured), best known for the creation of the landmark National Museum of African American History in Washington, emerged victorious [File photo]
The monument has been held up by Westminster city council as part of a drawn-out planning process which has attracted 676 comments
The horror of separation from parents, who went to the gas chambers, was bad enough. But the cold, filth and brutality of the camps would leave a permanent scar.
Three of Rosie’s older siblings had settled in Brighton in the years preceding World War II. Philip Brummer was the Cantor at the historic Middle Street synagogue. My father, a refugee from war-ravaged Europe, returned to his roots as a farmer and Auntie Yita (Shindy’s mother) came to Brighton to run a boarding house on Cannon Place.
It was assumed that Rosie, her younger sister and Yita’s daughter had suffered the same fate as their parents. But, in 1947, that telegram arrived from the Swedish Red Cross saying they had in their care three women, who claimed to have relatives in Britain.
The three young women would find work (and husbands!) in the Cannon Street Jewish boarding house. It was here that Rosie first encountered a talented Hebraic scholar called Tony Rafalofwicz.
They married and had a long and dedicated life serving the community in Edinburgh, Sydney and Adelaide, after Tony had become a rabbi, and then fulfilled a dream by retiring to Israel. To escape hot summers they kept a second home in Hove.
Later, she faced the loss of her husband and her daughter — and her own illness — with strength and faith.
The scars of Auschwitz never left Rosie. She had an obsession with cleanliness and a loss of smell. But the abiding memory of Rosie is her fighting spirit and ability to overcome adversity.
If you can survive and defy the horrors of the Shoah, then tragedy is placed in perspective.
In her final years, Rosie would join her cousin Shindy and they would offer themselves as witnesses to the Holocaust.
A memorial close to Britain’s most cherished sites of democracy and freedom would keep the flame of remembrance burning.
The solemn undertaking made by Britain to its Jewish community must be fulfilled if the facts about racism and prejudice are to be understood.
The naysayers must be overcome.