Sonja Cohen and Herman Rosenstein, 1939
Herman Rosenstein went to school in Lübeck, Germany, where one day after his PE class, some friends teased him about being circumcised. Was he Jewish, they’d asked. After school, he’d asked his mother about it.
“Because it’s more hygienic,” she had answered him.
Irma sat him down and told him about his biological father, a German soldier, a man she had loved very much and planned to marry. But their plans were thwarted and they were no longer allowed to be friends. As he told her about the name calling in school, his mom decided Germany had become too dangerous for her son. Her sister Betty lived in Amsterdam. Her son had recently married and moved out. Herman moved to Amsterdam, and got his room.
It wasn’t long after that Sonja and Herman met while walking to school. They became instant friends. She liked his accent. He was handsome. She definitely liked him. He liked her looks and her voice. He loved hearing her sing. She was exactly one day his junior.
Reflecting on History
German soldiers surveying Rotterdam after the bombing. Hugo Jaeger, photographer
May 10th, 1940. On a Friday morning at four o’clock, Nazi Germany invaded Holland, last occupied by Napoleon in 1815. By sunrise, seventy-four divisions of Hitler’s army were raging through the Low Countries and Belgium. Holland succumbed mostly to Hitler’s air force. Twin-engine Junkers JU-88 started bombing Amsterdam airport and other airfields, transport planes carried paratroopers. Above airfields, bridges, and other strategic points, the airplanes reduced speed to let paratroopers jump. Crates with weapons and munitions were thrown after them. By early afternoon, 1200 Luftwaffe troops were in charge of most of the airfields. To speed up Holland’s surrender, Field Marshall Herman Göring had the city of Rotterdam bombed. The further threat by the Germans to bomb other large Dutch cities forced the Dutch General Staff to surrender in order to prevent the demise of other cities suffering the same fate. The Netherlands remained under German occupation until 1945, when the last Dutch territory was liberated. Capitulation papers were signed the following day.
This excerpt depicts life days before the bombing of Rotterdam by the Germans on May 14, 1940, and scenes from the actual bombing. Following the bombing the Dutch surrendered and became part of the Second World War.