Rose Safar Rosen, Auschwitz survivor, and longtime St. Louisan, dies at 95

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Rose Safar Rosen, formerly of St. Louis, who as a young girl imprisoned at the Auschwitz Nazi death camp was literally pushed out of the line of those marked for certain death, and who after the war met her husband at a Displaced Persons camp in Europe, died Thursday, March 23 in Sarasota, Fla. She was 95 and had been in declining health in recent weeks after a stay in the hospital for tracheal bronchitis.

Mrs. Rosen was born Oct. 24, 1921 in Volove, in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains bordering Hungary,  in the former Czechoslovakia. Her parents were Hersh and Gita Newman Safar.  

In 1943, when she was 19, Rose and her sister Hannah’s family were taken away and sent to the Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in occupied Poland. Hannah, her husband and their three children, Gita, age 6, Hersh,  age 4 and David, age 2, perished in the gas chambers at the camp where more than 1.1 million people, most of them Jews, were murdered systematically. 

Auschwitz was the death camp where the infamous Joseph Mengele presided over the brutal selection process, deciding who would be immediately killed and who would be spared from death to be put to work.  Mrs. Rosen was also marked for death when an inmate literally took her by the shoulders and shoved her to the opposite side, the side that would be slave laborers in the many sub-camps of Auschwitz. 

Mrs. Rosen and the other remaining survivors at Auschwitz were liberated by the Soviet Red Army, who then claimed Czechoslovakia as Soviet territory.  With nothing to go home to, she left and found her way to Pocking, Germany, where the Allied forces had set up Displaced Persons (DP) camps.  There she met her husband, Al Rosen,  who was a policeman in the DP camp, who wooed her with extra food and an actual mattress on which to sleep.  They married Sept. 15, 1946, and immigrated to the United States in February 1949.

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The Rosens made their life in St. Louis, where Rose worked a a seamstress, a sample maker for a top designer of an exclusive lingerie company.  “There was nothing Rose couldn’t do,” says her daughter, Lila Rosen Huse of Sarasota, Fla. “She could cook and bake and entertain beautifully in her home. She was a perfectionist in all that she did. She raised money for the American Cancer Society and earned several awards honoring her commitment to help find a cure.”

Mrs. Rosen moved to Sarasota in 2002 to be closer to her only child, Lila Rosen Huse, and her husband Stephen. She resided on the Aviva Campus, first at Kobernick in Independent Living and for the last year and a half at the Benderson Skilled Nursing facility.

Dan Reich, curator of the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center of St. Louis, told the Jewish Light that while he did not have the chance to meet Mrs. Rosen, he enjoyed meeting her family and learning about her story.  

“Every survivor who passes away is an irreplaceable loss to our community,” he said. “Thankfully, her legacy lives on through her daughter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

Graveside services were held Thursday, March 30, at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery-White Road, where Rabbi James Goodman of Neve Shalom, officiated. 

Survivors include her daughter, Lila Rosen Huse; son-in-law Stephen Huse and former son-in-law Charles David Higgins; three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Donations in Mrs. Rosen’s memory may be made to the United States Holocaust Museum, 100 Raul Wallenberg Place SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2126, or the St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center, 12 Millstone Campus Drive, St. Louis, Mo., 63146.