TAMU Hillel Hosts Holocaust Survivor
By Hope Beitchman
March 22, Holocaust survivor Bert Romberg shared his story with an audience at Texas A&M University. Texas A&M Hillel hosted the event, held in Rudder Theatre.
Romberg was born to Alfred Romberg and Sida Rothschild in Astheim, Germany, in 1930, just before the Nazi regime took power. He was born in their home, where the family also operated a small general store. The family’s names remain outside the house to this day on a bronze plaque, a common tradition in Germany for Jews who left or disappeared.
In 1933, when Romberg was three years old, the Nazi regime passed laws stating that German citizens were no longer to do business with Jews and Jews were no longer allowed to attend public school. Shortly after this, as one of only two Jewish families in the village, the Romberg’s general store began to have trouble. However, it would not be until two years later that his mother made the difficult decision to move.
The Romberg family then moved to a larger town in Germany where Bert’s mother thought there were enough Jewish families that they could avoid persecution. Unfortunately, this proved untrue. On the night of November 9, 1938, the streets were littered with glass from the windows of Jewish residents, later known as Kristallnacht.
This would be the first time people started to hear names like Dachau and other concentration camps. However, the names had beautiful translations such as field of blooms, so they raised little suspicion.
“The Nazis were terrible people, but they weren’t dumb,” Romberg said.
In 1939, Romberg’s mother was able to attain a visa that allowed her to travel to the United Kingdom with the condition that she could only work as a housewife. She had heard about a program called Kindertransport. The program began in late 1938 and allowed children 15 and younger to enter the United Kingdom because the government knew they could not take any jobs. When they got to England, a family would take in the child making sure they were clothed, housed, educated and fed at no cost.
Romberg was placed with a family that he said, “shared what nothing they had with me”. However, his sister Magie was not as lucky. The family she was placed with had two other children and treated her as their housemaid. Conversely, Romberg was quick to remind the audience that not every child was as lucky as him and Magie, adding, “for every child that got out on Kindertransport, the happy ending that leads me here, 150 others died.”
Although they were able to escape Europe, they were not able to escape persecution. When they left Germany, Romberg’s mother and sister were renamed Sarah on their legal documents, and Bert was renamed Israel, just like every other Jewish woman and man.
Romberg, his mother and sister eventually moved to the United States, the first time the three would be reunited after moving to England.
Romberg now lives in the Dallas area and is active with the Dallas Holocaust Museum.