Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The story of Miriam Rosenthal

Miriam Schwarcz was born in 1922 in Komarno, Czechoslovakia, the 13th child of a gentleman farmer. She was spoiled.

As she grew up, she was always asking when she would be married. One day she and her mother met with a Jewish matchmaker. In her collection of photographs, Miriam spotted a handsome young man named Bela Rosenthal. They were married in 1944.

They were together only a short time before Bela was sent to a slave labour camp and Miriam to Auschwitz.

One day in Auschwitz an SS officer told the pregnant women to step forward, as their food rations were being doubled. Miriam, who was four months pregnant, didn't move. "Miriam, what are you doing?" her cousin asked. But Miriam stood where she was.

Two hundred women stepped forward, including some who weren't pregnant. All 200 went to the gas chambers.

Miriam was moved to a satellite camp at Dachau, and wound up in a cellar with six other pregnant women. Miriam was the last of the seven to give birth.

Babies were regarded as useless mouths to feed and were normally murdered at birth. Somehow these survived. American soldiers who liberated the camp wept when they saw the babies in a graveyard of bones.

Miriam returned to Komarno - and found Bela. He too had survived.

"I could see him coming, running from afar, and I shouted 'Bela, Bela.' I wasn't sure it was him," says Miriam. "He was running and calling my name. I can't describe that feeling when he saw our baby, when he saw Leslie for the first time. We cried and cried and cried."

In 1947, the three moved to Canada. Bela became a rabbi. He died aged 97.

Miriam still has Leslie, her "miracle baby." He's 67 now. He visits his mother every day. He knows something of what his mother auffered.

Miriam has just celebrated her 90th birthday.