uOttawa alumna shares Holocaust experiences

February 22, 2011

Seventy years ago, Truda Rosenberg was 19 years old, attending her first year of university in her hometown of Lwòw, Poland, and was engaged to a man she had met at her part-time job.

In June of 1941, the Nazis invaded, and she began fighting just to stay alive.

Today, Dr. Rosenberg is a distinguished psychologist and uOttawa alumna, a leader in the Jewish community. On February 28, she will celebrate the translation of her memoirs of the war period, which are newly available in French.

In her book, Sans masque, Rosenberg describes the horrors she faced during the Holocaust and the steps she took to survive. To evade the Nazis, Rosenberg took on a series of false identities to conceal her Jewish heritage. Despite this, she was unable to avoid being herded onto a cattle train bound for Belzec, a Nazi death camp where 500,000 Jews were slaughtered. Nor was she able to prevent being imprisoned at a labour camp, or being sold as a slave labourer to a German officer, or the deaths of all members of her immediate family. What kept her going through it all, she says, was “the firm belief that everyone has the right and the responsibility to see to the survival of their mind, body and soul.”

Though her experiences are unfathomable to most of us, she emphasizes that she was only one of many Jews who suffered beyond all measure at the hands of the Nazis. She writes: “at no time did I or do I label my experiences as unique. Their existence is a fact and is presented here as an eyewitness account, a variant picture, which many of us encountered on a daily basis.”

Dr. Rosenberg provides valuable testimony to the adversity and human cruelty endured by millions of Jews during the Second World War. Her story demonstrates the resilience of the human spirit and our capacity to adapt to the worst possible circumstances. Her account of the war pushes the reader to consider the acts of good and evil committed by both sides, and to face the humanity inherent in us all.

“War forces everyone into moral compromises,” she says. “You don’t always have time to think them through and must often act or die. It is only later, if you survive, that you get a chance to reflect on them, and of course you carry the guilt of those you were forced to leave behind. The sadness surrounding the thought of those who did not make it is balanced only by the great things that were accomplished, often in their name, by those who did.”

Sans masque was translated from the original English by Christine Klein-Lataud and published by the University of Ottawa Press.

The launch for Sans masque will be held Monday, February 28, 2011 in Desmarais, room 12102. For more information, or to RSVP, visit: http://www.sciencessociales.uottawa.ca/rsvp/eng/