A return to Germany, in search of answers
When Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg journeyed back to Regensburg, the German town where he was born to Holocaust survivor parents in a displaced persons camp in 1947, he was looking for answers.
The religious leader of Congregation Beth-El in Edison found few as he stepped on German soil for the first time since his parents left when he was a baby. What he did find is that the experience was both disturbing and encouraging.
“I didn’t want fond memories of being in Germany even though I do have fond memories because of the people,” explained Rosenberg.
The rabbi and his wife, Charlene, also traveled to Munich, where they spoke with the Orthodox synagogue’s rabbi, Steven Langnas.
Additionally, Rosenberg served as scholar-in-residence at Lev Tov Synagogue in Berlin, speaking at Shabbat services July 2 and 3 at the Orthodox shul. They returned from the weeklong visit July 6.
“I spoke about the fact that they deserve credit for keeping Judaism alive in Berlin,” he said. “Many of them were people from all over the place who had come to Berlin. Some came back because their parents were originally from Germany. The president of the shul was saved because Stalin sent him to Siberia. It was a very moving experience.”
But signs of Jewish renewal clashed with less hopeful encounters
At a courthouse in Regensburg, he was able to obtain some original documents, including his birth certificate, but did not find what he was most hoping to locate — a lost relative or someone who may have sponsored his parents.
He also found little sympathy among the workers.
“Once we were in, I explained about the loss of my family, and no one in the government building had any reaction,” he told NJJN. “No one said they were sorry about the loss of my family. The young people don’t want to be reminded about the Nazi era.”
Rosenberg’s parents, Jacob and Rachel, survived Buchenwald. However, he lost numerous relatives, including two older siblings. In Regensburg the Rosenbergs were able to find the apartment house in which his parents lived after leaving the DP camp by matching it to an old photo of him as a baby taken in front of the building. They also met with the Swiss-born rabbi of the Regensburg synagogue, Josef Chaim Bloch, with whom Rosenberg conversed in Yiddish.
The Berlin visit proved especially poignant for Rosenberg because Lev Tov’s religious leader, Chaim Rozwaski, was associate rabbi for a number of years at Rosenberg’s childhood synagogue in Kansas City. The two collaborated on a book about the Holocaust and are now working on another.
“They killed his family in the Holocaust and he was in the camps as a child,” Rosenberg said. “We’ve remained in contact and are still very close. He was my mentor and I only went to Berlin to see him.”