COLLEGE STATION - Worldwide, there are hundreds of thousands of holocaust survivors, but many of them are now 85 years and older. Monday, one of those survivors told her story to hundreds of students at Texas A&M during a Hillel Foundation-sponsored event.
"In previous years, we've had Holocaust events, and we've never had a turnout like this,” said Rebecca Waronoff, vice president of the local Hillel group.
Students packed into the Memorial Student Center on A&M’s campus, where there was only room to stand or sit on the floor, all to listen as 87-year-old Rosa Blum told her story and the details of her life during the holocaust.
Blum says it was in 1944 when she remembers being taken from her home in Romania to a concentration camp. She spoke of being separated from her family and watching thousands of Jews being taken to gas chambers.
"Everybody asks one question: 'how did you survive?'” said Blum. “I find that it was not my doing it was, I happened to be in the right places at the right time."
When she arrived to the camp, she says she was one of 400 people out of 7,000 that were sent to work. The rest, she says, were killed.
Blum remembers hiding in a bunker for a time while Germans searched the camp for people.
"They (the attendees) really started to understand that this is an event that happened,” said Waronoff. “It is a very important part of our history."
Blum says that's why she keeps telling her story.
"I'm grateful to come out and tell them about my family,” said Blum. “Usually, I come out and talk about my family because that is the only thing I know. This is a future that cannot be forgotten."
The following is a brief biography of Blum courtesy of Texas A&M Hillel:
Rosa Hirsch Blum was born to Leiser and Rifka Rafael Hirsch on August 6, 1928, in Domokos, Romania, a small, rather isolated town. She was one of seven children. Rosa's parents were successful merchants who helped support the town's small Jewish community. Jews and gentiles mixed freely in Domokos prior to the war, and Rosa led a happy life, doing well in school with many friends, both Jewish and Christian. But as discrimination against Jews increased, Jews were prohibited from attending school. So, at a very young age, Rosa was taught to be a seamstress.
News of what was going on in the rest of Europe came slowly and infrequently to Domokos, though rumors circulated often. At one point a Jew who had escaped from a concentration camp came to the town, but the Jews there still did not believe his descriptions of what was happening to Jews in other parts of Europe. The Holocaust came in full force to Domokos in the spring of 1944 when the Jews of the area were taken at gunpoint to the ghetto in Deja, Romania. To their astonishment, the guns were held by their Romanian and Hungarian neighbors.
After four awful weeks in Deja, all the Jews there were transported in boxcars to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Upon their arrival, they were selected for work or death. Except for one brother, that was the last time Rosa saw her family. She was taken to a work camp but became ill after just three weeks and was sent to the camp hospital. Fortunately, she recovered and began working in the camp kitchen. In the fall of 1944, as the Russians approached Auschwitz and the Nazis began to deport many of its inmates, Rosa was transported to a satellite camp of Dachau in Germany known as Camp 7. After only one night there, the 500 women who were sequestered in the camp were forced to march to and from several different camps. After two weeks of marching, they were liberated by the United States Army near Munich.
Rosa lived in Munich for the next several months with her lone surviving brother Gedalia. He then chose to return to Romania and later settled in Israel, but she stayed in Munich, having found work there as a seamstress for a movie studio.
In 1950, Rosa received her visa for the United States and entered the country at New Orleans. She settled in Dallas where she found work as a seamstress at Neiman-Marcus. Later she worked for a sample maker. She met Holocaust Survivor, Osias Blum. They had two sons: Mark and Gary.