My father, David Lorber Rolnik Z"L
Vivacious, communicative, religious, keen of mind and with rare wisdom and an intense wish for life. That is how was my father was. David Lorber Rolnik, a world citizen, who on June 18, 2008, at the age of 88, left this world in order to visit the Creator.
Those who saw him during his daily 5 km walk in the streets of Curitiba, in Brazil, always stopping to greet and to be greeted by countless acquaintances, cannot imagine his life history. This man, whose hair whitened precociously, was a survivor of the world's biggest human tragedy, the Holocaust.
Born in Chelm, Poland, second son of a family of six children, at the age of three he went to a cheder, where he learned his first Yiddish and Hebrew letters, two of the eight languages he spoke fluently. When he was seven years old, he started the learning which accompanied him for a lifetime and turned him into an expert in Jewish religion. Many and many times he led prayers in several synagogues: Curitiba, São Paulo and Warsaw. He knew everything by heart and always guided the religious procedures to be adopted in the community. At the age of 11, he started to work to help his family, he cut firewood.
In 1939, when Germany invaded Poland, David, then 19 years old, fled to Ukraine, crossing the Bug River by boat. That country was already under Russian occupancy as a result of Hitler's and Stalin's pact. Poles and Jews who were caught by the troops were sent to jail. In this place, David suffered from hunger and cold. But he decided to go back to Poland to get his mother and his younger brothers and sisters out of that country. But, before he could organize the family's escape, he was taken to Chelm's main square, together with at least two thousand men, to run in despair, always with Nazi weapons aiming at them, in the Death March. Very few survived and he, miraculously, was one to them.
My father also survived a long and brutal train trip to Siberia, where without garments and food he faced very cold weather, minus 55ºC. He worked in several prisoners' fields till the end of the war.
In 1946, he returned to Chelm and took part at the Committee in search of survivors. There, someone told him his childhood friend had survived and that she was living in Szczecin. After a frightening trip, he met Malka Milchtajch - my mother - whom he married some months later in Berlin, Germany. After a while, they decided to live in Brazil, where they raised their three children. In 1990, three years after Mom's death, he moved to Curitiba to be closer to his children and grandchildren.
David Lorber-Rolnik in front of the house he was born, Ul Oblonska 15, Chelm
Ever since, besides being a loving father, he was my best friend and companion for all moments in life. I had the happiness of traveling with him around the world, uniting relatives and friends whom the war separated. I met them all and our bond is very strong. I had the happiness of being with him when he fulfilled his wish of visiting Chelm. His memory was fantastic and he remembered almost everything: streets, people's names, in what they worked, where they lived. We were surprised when we found the house he was born, but we could not find the one my mother was born. Then he decided to recover what was his by right and had been usurped, first by the Nazis and then by the Communists. Today the house is his.
We were together when he was taken by deep emotion, while visiting Sobibor and Majdanek camps, where he felt he lost the family he once had.
Both my father and my mother, lived an amazing history and they know, wherever they are, their life examples will never be forgotten by their children and grandchildren.
Certainly, my Dad must be now talking about Talmud, Torah, Guemara, and many religious subjects with souls that need these teachings.
It was G-d's blessing to have him as my father.
Article published in the Brazilian newspaper “Visão Judaica”, July/2008
Translated by Blima Lorber