Survivor STORY

Tamara Rose (Rosenbluth) Miller was born in Pzymysl, Poland, to Max and Eugenia Rosenbluth. She survived the war with a false identity as a Catholic child in the care of one of her parent's maids, who had agreed to protect her.

Tamara was reunited with her parents after the war and went with them as refugees to live in the Bad Gastein Displaced Persons Camp in Germany, where they stayed until they were allowed to immigrate to the United States.

Tommie (the nickname she preferred in America) graduated from high school here in Atlanta, and eventually went on to work for many years for the Internal Revenue Service. Tommie was a frequent speaker about her experiences to school groups at The Breman Museum before her death.

Coming to America

I will never forget them telling us, "Wait till you see the Statue of Liberty." And it was February by this time; the ocean was very choppy and it looked like we were never going to see shore. If you've ever been on an ocean, there's nothing but ocean and ocean and ocean. And then the sky meets the water. And then, all of a sudden, we saw birds, and they said, "You will see the Statue of Liberty and we will be in America soon." Of course, everybody went downstairs and got dressed, and put on the best that they had, and we went out on deck to watch, to see. And there she was. I cried when I saw it. I still get chill bumps. I cried. It was the most amazing thing I've ever seen. And I wasn't wrong about this country. It is the most wonderful place, and I'm very, very grateful to be here. I guess I'm just a big ol' fat patriot that waves the America flag just about any time I get a chance. And The Star Spangled Banner still gives me goose pimples...People do not realize how precious freedom is. And you have to work to earn it. And the minute somebody gives you something, then they have a right to tell you how to spend it. So, then you're not free anymore, and to me, that's the most important thing.

Life Lessons and Perspectives

Well, first of all, all of us, me, my mother, my father and I, we knew one thing, we learned one thing: that we could survive anything. If you survive that, you learn to live for the minute. That's what my parents taught me. You learn you live today. This is today. What tomorrow will be, you will handle tomorrow. My father, my father was a very strong person, a very strong man, strong willed. He taught me how to be strong willed. He taught me that, and it has become more prevalent with me as I've gotten older. But my parents always felt that they very grateful, you know, to have been saved.

Judaism and Jewishness

My father was raised in a very Orthodox home. My mother was not. After the war he was not Orthodox. He belonged to an Orthodox synagogue, but that was because the rest of the family did, you know? He was a practicing Jew to the point that he knew, we had customs and ceremonies in our house, but it was not a kosher home.

It was very hard to look upon the world and all that happened and be very, very religious. To me it is to this day. You can't say that everything is God's will and see that many millions of Jews be exterminated. And why did I say - and you can't not believe in God because there's too many questions that are unanswered. And you have to believe in a higher power. So my parents taught me to use my mind, to be, to make up my own mind in the way that I make it up. "Don't believe everything other people tell you. Ask questions and then form your beliefs." That's the way my father was to the very day. And that's the way I am.

So what has Jewishness meant to you over the years? How has it changed?

To me I'm probably different than most people that have survived. Judaism is just a part of me, one part, not all of it. Just one part. Having gone to the Catholic Church for two years [as a hidden child], and the strong faith that I had at that time in Catholicism, I feel that faith in itself is more important than any one faith. Does that make sense to you? To me, faith in God, faith in the future, faith in yourself is more important than the faith that is practiced in one synagogue as opposed to the Church. I, as an adult now looking back on the days that I went to the Catholic Church, do not feel I can practice Christianity with, only because there are a lot of symbolism that doesn't gel with me. But I'm not that devout a Jew either. But I do believe in God; I do believe in faith. And to me, being Jewish is something very personal. It has nothing to do with anything else. I have friends from all walks of life, from all faiths. But Judaism is a small part of me. I'm not like a lot of people.

From a Child's Perspective

Just think about it this way: you're coming to a strange land; even though you know the language a little bit, and you can get by, you don't know anything about their literature, you don't know any of the stories that the children have read, you don't know who Alice in Wonderland was. I read all those books the first couple of summers that I came to the United States. There was a woman in the downtown library - I had to take the bus from Pryor Street, the prison, the Pryor streetcar, the Federal Pen streetcar, to town, and I got off at the Main Library, and the woman there was very nice. And I went over there, and she saw that I was kind of lost. And she asked me, I told her, I said, "I've been to school already, and I'm in school, but I don't know what these kids are talking about. I don't know who George Washington, I don't know anybody." So she started giving me books to read. I remember there was a series called, there were little books, and they were like, "Clara Barton, the Mother of Red Cross," there was like, "Noah Webster, the Father of Our Dictionary." And there was a whole series of these books. They were written for young kids, about twelve years old, and I read all of them, every single one of them. And I learned who was who. And then I read Alice in Wonderland and I read all the stories that children know, that they relate to. And, I guess that's where my library habits started.

Tamara Rose (Rosenbluth) Miller