Holocaust survivor living in Kentucky shares his experience

Posted at 11:18 PM, Jan 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-23 23:18:58-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — As the world prepares to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day, the University of Kentucky is hosting events all week long to help students and the community learn more about that dark period of world history. Monday evening, a Holocaust survivor shared his experience on campus.

John Rosenberg was seven years old when Nazi soldiers first banged on the door of his home.

"My mother said, 'Are you going to kill us?' and he said he didn't know," Rosenberg told listeners in a classroom inside the White Hall Classroom Building.

Rosenberg grew up in a Jewish family in Germany as Hitler and the Nazis rose to power in the late 1930s. He said he had a happy childhood, oblivious to growing antisemitism, until those soldiers showed up.

"Middle of the night, banging on the door, and the Nazis showed up and roused us out of our apartment and had us come down into the square, into the courtyard," Rosenberg said. "While we stood there, they went into the synagogue and they brought out the prayer books and the scrolls and made a big bonfire."

Rosenberg said the Nazis detonated dynamite inside the synagogue, but did not burn it down since it stood next to a hospital.

The next morning, Rosenberg said the soldiers took his father away. His father ended up in the Buchenwald concentration camp, but thankfully was sent home after a couple of weeks. The family moved to a detention camp in Rotterdam, then, as soon as they were able to in early 1940, got on a ship bound for the United States. Rosenberg now lives in Prestonsburg, Kentucky.

The event was hosted by UK's Jewish Student Center. Rabbi Shlomo Litvin says with high-profile antisemitic events on the rise, it's as important as ever to hear about the Holocaust from someone who was there.

"When you see all these things, it's not hard to understand the ground from which the Holocaust grew. So seeing the end of that path, seeing what happens if we don't change something, is incredibly important," Litvin said.

It's his hope that horrors like the Holocaust remain in the past.