Esther Posner

"All the destruction in Holland, the terrorizing of the Jewish population it’s unbelievable that it happened. I’ve been very active in Holocaust organizations. I’m a founding member of our Hidden Children organization in Michigan. I’ve spoken to different churches, synagogues, and organizations.   I do not want my life to revolve around the Holocaust. I have an MBA from Oakland University. I went back to work as certified financial planner—I specialized in working with single... (continued below)"

Name at birth
Esther Marianne Rose
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Name of father, occupation
Fritz (Fred) Rose, Self-employed kosher Butcher and antique silver dealer
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Eleonore Westheim, Worked in husband's business
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Parents and me
How many in entire extended family?
Who survived the Holocaust?
Ten altogether
Six of us were together in one hiding place:  My parents, myself, Rudolf Rose (my father’s father), Ulla Goldschmidt (my father’s sister), and her mother-in-law who passed away of natural causes while in hiding.  Taken to a hospital with false papers.  
Four were together in another group:  Three of my father’s sisters: Elsa, Gottschalk, Erna and Frida.  Elsa’s husband passed away while in hiding, had heart disease.
My mother’s parents, David and Dina Westheim, were taken from our home and were murdered in Sobibor.  My mother’s sister, husband and their 3 year old son, were taken to Westerbork and then were murdered in Sobibor, Alice, Siegbert, and Ralph Mielczinski.
I was born in Amsterdam. We lived in an apartment with my mother’s parents who had come from Germany, my mother’s sister, husband, and baby. We were all in this apartment. Each couple had their own room and the children had their own room. The men ran a butcher shop together, the women went to work and the grandparents took care of the children. My cousin and I were the two children. This was all before the war. 
Most of my memories were all of us living together. I had a lovely childhood, birthday parties, kindergarten, synagogue, going to eat ice cream. When the Germans invaded I remember how our lives changed. There was a lot of tension and people were being deported immediately. The first time Germans came and pounded on the door, I was 4 years old. They were intimidating and they took my father and mother away, but they were back in the morning. Then six months later they came and picked up our whole family. 
The first time we were taken to a Jewish theater that had been turned into a place where Jewish audiences could watch Jewish artists. Jewish people weren’t allowed to go to any public events. The Jews were brought here. Every week there was a quota of how many Jews needed to be deported. We were there almost a week until they made their quota. It was all intimidation. 
After a week they took us up to the third floor to a little room and we were told we were going to be let go. We heard buses pulling up to take people to the train stations and when it was all over they let us go. We were the only family brought up there. My father had papers that said he was in a profession that was in demand because he was a butcher and they accepted the papers. 
When we came downstairs the place was empty. Everyone had been deported. Someone said to me go on stage and sing a song. I was in kindergarten or nursery and the Germans came and watched and after a couple of songs my parents said that is enough, it was just the eight of us. 
Across from the theater was a place called the chreshe, like an orphanage.  While I was in the chresehe, the Germans came and inspected the children.  They would march around and intimidate us.  It was very scary. We were sent home.
A month later we were picked up again and that time my aunt, uncle and cousin were deported. It was my cousin Ralph’s third birthday.  Someone gave him a peppermint candy and he didn’t like it very much. When their name was called they picked up their suitcases and got in line and we were taken upstairs to the third floor. My family tried to stay strong to not draw attention to themselves. 
We were brought up to the third floor room again and someone jumped out the window and committed suicide. We went home with my grandparents and my parents. We had to move to an Amsterdam ghetto, a very small apartment. We were there with my grandparents. From there my grandparents were picked up in the middle of the day. My father wasn’t home. My mother was crying and begging them not to take her parents. 
My grandparents were taken away to Westerbork (the detention camp where the Amsterdam Jews were taken). All my relatives who went to Westerbork were taken to Sobibor. All of my relatives taken to Sobibor died there. They made a final sweep of the ghetto and picked up my father, mother and me and took us to a house on the border of the ghetto. 
We were there a day and in the evening I saw my father being kicked by Germans. In the night we were taken by a truck. The truck went to a Joodse Schouwberg. When we got there someone came to the truck and asked who was on the truck. My father gave his name. 
This man said to him, jump off and go to this house across the street. He took my mother and me and we jumped off the truck. We looked up this foggy night and could see the lantern and we looked up and I remember that they couldn’t see us because the fog was so thick. That is what saved us. 
The man who came to the truck, his name was Karl Hass. He was part of the Joodse Raad, the heads of the Jewish community organizing, gathering the names of the Jews for the Germans. They also were able to exclude their own families. Someone in the Joodse Raad saved our lives. From the chreshe we made arrangements to go into hiding in May of 1943. Karl and my dad were friends. He had twins a son and daughter and I had been to their birthday party. 
When we were in the chreshe that night we couldn’t go back to our house. The Germans went back and took everything from the house. We were taken by a hearse to another town. And there we got on the train to Enschede. There we were met by Dick Moss. He took us to the hiding place where my aunt and her mother-in-law already were. 
It was around May 24, 1943. It was a house of the Kleinjan family- a husband Gerrit, wife Jopie a 3 year old son, and a 1 year old daughter. They were a Dutch family, not Jewish, that wanted to help us. 
Nobody knew what was really involved or how long it would take. Everyone thought it would be a few weeks or months. Nobody knew it was going to drag on. 
Enschede was an industrial city with a large textile industry and a lot of trains and railroads and industrial schools to learn the technology about textile production.  There were neighbors on each side of the house. You never locked your door or closed your curtains because that would be suspicious. 
The six of us had one of the bedrooms and the door was always closed and their children didn’t know there was a family of six living with them. We were quiet all day. We lived in that one bedroom and the house had an attic. There were three bedrooms. One bedroom the children, one was the parents, and one was ours. 
My aunt and her mother in law slept in the bed in the room and at night my father, mother, and grandfather all crawled into the attic and slept there. My parents slept on the floor. 
There had been an attempt on the life of one of the Germans in the town. In reprisal they took 30 or 40 of the Dutch police and Dick Moss was taken to a German labor camp till the war was over. He came back weighing 80 pounds. His wife took over Rie and she worked with the underground organization and had a baby. She would come and bring books for me to learn to read. 
I was six when we went into hiding. My parents tried to keep me busy. They tried to teach me to read. I was missing first grade they were teaching me addition, subtraction, multiplication. My father was not up on the latest teaching techniques. 
On Christmas Eve we were taken to a dentist. I remember seeing the sky at night and never wanting to go back inside. And in the summer I was allowed to come down. The story was that I was visiting from another city and they told people my mother was sick and my father was in a Dutch labor camp. 
I was allowed to go places with the family I stayed with. I went to a wave pool and I wasn’t afraid of the water and I couldn’t swim. I was only afraid of all the Germans around. I remember falling off the float and I wasn’t afraid when someone picked me up.
The room we lived in had a secret hiding place; a false wall with a bookcase in front of it. If you walked into that room you would never know there was a hiding place. My father drilled us to see how long it would take us to get into the hiding place and close the door. There was enough room for us all to stand shoulder to shoulder in the hiding place. 
Once the Germans came to our door and they were not looking for Jews in this town because there was not a large Jewish population there. They were looking for men to go to labor duty in Germany. They went through the whole house and came into the room we stayed in. I knew if they knocked on the wall they would know it was not a real wall and they would find us. My father staged the upstairs where he and my mother and grandfather slept. He folded the quilts and put them in a trunk and put a tablecloth over it and put toys on the ground he made the attic look like a playroom for the children. 
Meanwhile we were hearing all kinds of news reports that the allies were here and it all fell through. Then came the Battle of the Bulge. It took them six months to get to Belgium. The Germans fought tooth and nail. The stress at that point and the responsibility became too much for Gerrit Kleinjan and he came to my father with a knife. My father got out of the way. 
We took our things and had to find a new hiding place. He had been very depressed he had lost his job as a conductor on the Dutch railroad and he couldn’t take the stress of having us there and he accused us of being too loud. 
We had been there almost a year and a half. My father wanted me somewhere where I didn’t have to be underground. I had blonde hair and a straight little nose and I didn’t look Jewish. My father did look Jewish. I separated from my family for about three quarters of a year. 
In each case the houses became unsafe for each of us. There were young people from the underground who moved us around on the back of their bikes. They would pick me up on a Sunday morning to visit my parents. 
The first house I was taken to was an elderly couple with a grandmother and I was unhappy. I was taken away because I couldn’t adjust. 
Then I was taken to a family. The father was a school principal, the Tilsma family. They had six kids and had hidden Jews before. The youngest kid was 12 and the oldest was 22. Two of the boys were in Germany labor camps. The other two boys had jobs. The youngest girl was in school and the oldest helped around the house. I was in that family for about three months. 
While I was there my parents came because where they were was unsafe. While we were there the Germans came, they knew there were Jews there. Someone told the Germans. My mother wasn’t home (she didn’t look particularly Jewish) so someone had picked her up to take her to a funeral of my uncle, my aunt Else’s husband. 
It was winter and I had gone sledding with the daughter. My father was in the front room with the Tilsma grandparents. My father ran up to the attic and crawled through from one attic to another and was able to get to the school a block or two away from the house where we were at, where Mr. Tilsma was a principal. My father put on overalls and a paint bucket so he looked like a painter there. 
Then we all had to leave there. At this point it was still winter and I sat on a sled and my father attached it to a bicycle and my mother biked to meet a strange man where she had been told to go about 15 or 29 kilometers away. The sled went back and forth across the road over the ice and there were trucks with Germans on the road. 
My mom met a man and handed me over for my new hiding place. I was 7½ years old. I was very strong and independent and easy to get along with and I followed orders. I made the best of things. 
My parents felt we were all best off separated. My parents were taken to another place. That last place, with the Morsing family, is where they stayed. My parents were asleep one night at a house secluded in the country. There was aircraft flying overhead and shooting. The shingles fell all around except on the bed. I had been treated like part of the team. I couldn’t be a whiny baby or a problem. 
Then my parents came to the place where I was in Delden. My parents came to Delden, a husband and wife and two boys. I found my aunt and grandfather also hiding there. I had to make believe I didn’t know them. 
Wherever I was and whoever took care of me I felt very loved and that nothing bad would happen to my family. I felt like the lucky charm for the family. I felt very capable. I knew what the danger was and what the alternatives were. I knew people were being killed in those concentration camps. I was really in sync with my parents. I was completely on the same page with them. 
How could anybody say after the war that they didn’t know people were being killed in the concentration camps? We knew what we knew but we really didn’t talk about it in America because nobody wanted to hear about it.  Family and friends who came to the U.S. before the war didn’t want to hear it because they said it was too upsetting.
A lot of my parents’ friends in their 20’s came to the U.S when Hitler was in power. 
In Delden in January 1945 (we were liberated there in April 1945).  My father was now 35 and my mother was 32. I had a lovely life in Delden compared to places like Amsterdam. 
That winter was called a hunger winter. My father sent my mother to Amsterdam to get more money that he had given to a gentile butcher. While she was there she was a witness to people dying on the streets every morning due to hunger. There was no food. 
Carts came to pick up the dead bodies on the streets. The Germans wouldn’t let any food into the city. We were in Delden in the country and we had some food and could go to the farms and get egg and butter and milk. 
My mom came back safely. 
The Germans had headquarters in a forest in Delden. There was a castle in the forest that had belonged to a dutchess that the Germans had taken over. The Germans were getting very nervous. At some point my aunt went over to see the soldiers and she wanted to know when they were leaving because she wanted to go back to Germany. She said she was a German and wanted to go back.. My whole family didn’t have educations beyond the eighth grade and they took risks to get ahead. 
They told my aunt when and where to meet them and when they were leaving. She told the head of Delden community when the Germans were moving out. The Germans blew up all the bridges as they left. They made it almost impossible for the armies to get there. They shot people on the way out, it was a blood bath.  
We went into a cellar of the house with the whole family. A lot of townspeople, who couldn’t get back to their homes because the bridges were blown up, came to stay with us. We just waited out the liberation there. The house was bombed with hand grenades where we were living. We slept on shelves in the cellar. There was also food there. 
We were there about a week and then we heard that the tanks had pulled in to the center of town. Someone had a radio. We all got dressed and we walked down to the center of town. We knew the tanks were coming down. My father lifted me up and they sent me over to a Jewish soldier. They brought us food and chocolate for mama and cigarettes for papa. 
The Germans were still in the country in pockets. 
We were liberated by the Canadians and they were assigned six to a house. They moved into the attic and they brought some more buddies and I would go up to the attic and watch them. They were very friendly even though we couldn’t understand each other.  They spoke English and I spoke Dutch and understood German. My father started picking up English.
The soldiers set up the camp and they stayed friends with the family. They made me a birthday party and a cake with no lard in it because we kept kosher. My Dutch name was Marianne and they said happy birthday Marianne.  I was eight. 
The Canadians set up camps for themselves. The war was over. I went to the Catholic school in Delden. We stayed with the family we were living with. About a month later we went to Amsterdam. No one was happy to see us or give us back our old things. We found an apartment and started from scratch. My father had some money he had left with people. 
We wanted to come to the U.S. because Amsterdam was not welcoming and my father was not given permission to open a kosher butcher shop. They would only allow one because the Jewish population went down after the war. My father became merchant, buying and selling things like sugar and nylons and then later went into fine arts.
We had relatives in the United States.  My uncle had a jam factory in Manhattan and he signed papers to bring us there.  We came to the United States by boat and settled in New York.
My father opened a butcher store in the U.S.  He went back into the antique business and became an antique silver dealer. 
I was very lucky when I was in high school. I took creative writing and a teacher when I was 16 my teacher had us do a daily assignment. I started writing about the Holocaust and how I felt about meeting German people and my teacher encouraged me tremendously and it was published in the school. I had a wonderful experience in high school with this teacher and everyone knew I survived the Holocaust. 
When I got married and had a family I wasn’t so anxious to talk about the Holocaust anymore. But when my oldest son had his bar mitzvah we brought Dick and Rie Mos to the United States. Before that in 1970 my husband and I went to Holland. I took him back to all the places where I had hidden. 
When I got together with Dick and Rie Mos I said did they ever plant a tree in their honor at Yad Vashem, the national Holocaust museum in Israel. They didn’t know what we were talking about. 
We all had to write the story of Dick and Rie Mos and what they had done for us. We had to get it notarized at the Israeli embassy in New York so they could question us. For Aryeh’s bar mitzvah we brought Dick and Rie to U.S. and they were given the medal from Yad Vashem.
Name of Ghetto(s)
Where were you in hiding?
In Enschede and Delden, Holland by the Dutch underground
Where did you go after being liberated?
We were liberated in the town where we were hiding after we were liberated we moved back to Amsterdam in the middle of 1945 and stayed until January 2, 1948. We had an apartment in Amsterdam and I was one of two Jewish students in my class who had both parents. It was a Jewish school.
When did you come to the United States?
January 9, 1948 we landed in Hoboken.
Where did you settle?
Lived in Washington Heights, NY and after one year Flatbush, Brooklyn, NY. I was 25 living in NY and met my husband on a blind date.
How is it that you came to Michigan?
We came to Detroit in summer of 1968. He worked for Revco. We lived in Southfield. We came with two kids and we had one here. We have three boys.
Occupation after the war
Student at Brooklyn College. HR manager at Robert Hall
When and where were you married?
We married December 15, 1963. We moved to Rochester New York. We were only there six months and moved to Cleveland for work and lived there four years and then moved to Detroit. He was in administration with different chains. He is a pharmacist. He was a pharmacist in Rochester New York.
Erwin Posner, Pharmacist
Aryeh Posner, manager for a subcontractor of Disney, lives in Hollywood, Florida Chanan Posner, psychotherapist in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Daniel Posner, president of a hedge fund in New York
Aryeh has two – Ronnie and Eden; Chanan has three - Benji, Ellie, and Shir; Daniel has six – Gabrielle, Alexandra, Jonathan, Jordana, Yakira, and Joshua
What do you think helped you to survive?
The Dutch countrymen who were not Jewish, the families that took us in, and my father who was a very strong leader (we all looked up to him). He had to be the leader for everybody to tell us what to do. There were constant problems like when someone got sick, how did we get through the day. What activities did we do? My father organized everything. How did the adults get through the day? They played cards a lot, my father, aunt and grandfather played skart, a German card game. They had card games going on very often. They also had a relationship with a small grocery store. In return for food they mended clothing and did knitting and hand craft projects. They had work while they were in hiding. I remember very vividly that wood came in scanes yarn woven around this big circle and you can’t work from it. My father would hold the scanes and my mother would make it into a ball. They had to do this a lot and it took a lot of time. We couldn’t wear shoes—to noisy—so my father made slippers out of fabric and cardboard. On certain days my mom would go downstairs to do laundry and prepare food for us. And then they couldn’t go back downstairs again for the day. I had no toys. It was very boring. We didn’t really get news from the outside world we really felt cut off from the outside world. I think there was jealousy by us from the people who could move about and go out. My parents were an orthodox family. The rabbinate said you could do whatever you needed to save your life. My parents would not. They only ate chicken or beef. They would never eat rabbit or pig. When I was away from my parents they said not to eat pork. It wasn’t hard. It was like a defiance to show that you can go just so far in changing my life but the deep inner core of me is still there and you can’t touch that. I am 73 ½ now (February, 2011). That part of my youth during the Holocaust I never forgot. I have memories going back to when I was 18 months old.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
All the destruction in Holland, the terrorizing of the Jewish population it’s unbelievable that it happened. I’ve been very active in Holocaust organizations. I’m a founding member of our Hidden Children organization in Michigan. I’ve spoken to different churches, synagogues, and organizations.
I do not want my life to revolve around the Holocaust. I have an MBA from Oakland University. I went back to work as certified financial planner—I specialized in working with single women, widows and divorcees. 
I don’t intellectually understand the anti-Semitism in the world. When I was 8 years old and the war was over, my mother and I were walking on the main street.  We had just gone to buy candy for Shabbat (Sabbath). As we were walking my mother said to me something about when the next war comes… 
I made her stop and I got very angry at her. No there can never be another war. I made her promise me there would not be another war. She did. 
I hope there is never another war. 
I hope my grandchildren will learn to be strong and independent and use everything they learned in the home as their basis. They are all in Orthodox Jewish families. I hope that they will have the trust and the faith in the almighty that I learned from my family. My father was a religious man with deep faith and I hope it sees them through whatever problems they have. I still study and go to classes. I hate hearing the term that people who survived are heroes. There is a human spirit and will to live and you do the best you can under terrible circumstances. I don’t think its heroic behavior—what choice do you have? Do you lie down and die? Heroic behavior is what the righteous gentiles did to save their fellow human beings. 
We went back to see this one woman, Yopi who said that they didn’t know how much danger they were in. I was at a conference in Amsterdam in 1993 where they had a minister who started the Dutch underground and he spoke about how he recruited the young people to work with him. 
He had an idea to take the children from the kreshe and hide them in the countryside with other families. He took students and they couldn’t be too old like in their 20s or had children. He would ask 18 or 19 year olds to ask the parents if they could have their child so they would be taken care of and they would get their child when they came back. 90 percent of these Jewish families would not give up their children. 
Those who did the young students had to take the children and hide them in laundry baskets or drug them and take them out and save their lives. They were hidden and risked the students’ lives.  A woman who was there and a student with the underground spoke up and said that she was very proud of the work she did there and was never more proud of anything she ever did in her life.                                  

Charles Silow
Interview date:
To learn more about this survivor, please visit:
The Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive, University of Michigan

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