Timeline - Eva Rosenfeld
Eva Ruth Lepehne was born in Konigsberg, East Prussia, Germany.
1930-1937: Eva’s family lived above her father’s pharmacy. Eva was taunted at school. After her first school year, she was kicked out for being Jewish. Following that, she attended school in the basement of her synagogue.
Eva's father was forced out of business and she traveled with her family travel to Genova, Italy. Her brother Wolfgang and her grandmother stayed in Germany. Eva’s parents started a bakery and Eva attended a Jewish Children’s school.
Later Wolfgang was sent in a Kindertransport to England; Eva's grandmother died in the Theresienstadt concentration camp
After Eva’s mother died (Eva was 13 years old), Italy allied with the Nazis and was no longer safe. Eva’s father was arrested in a raid, but he was released under the condition they leave the country within two weeks. Her father fled to France illegally and Eva was left with Dr. and Mrs. Kleiman. Soon she received word that her father had been captured, and that he had died on a transport train.
September 1: World War II began. Dr. Kleiman was sent to a camp, while his wife and Eva were sent to a different one: Potenza. They were reunited when the Italian government allowed Dr. Kleiman to join his pregnant wife.
1940-1941: Poor sanitation coupled with hard living made life tough for Eva, but the Italians were very friendly.
Italy was defeated in North Africa and Sicily; Germany sent troops to Italy to maintain the front. Eva turned 16. She lived in constant terror of the German soldiers.
1943-1945: Allied forces invaded southern Italy and liberated Eva and other Jews, but lack of supplies did not improve living conditions. Eva almost went to Israel but instead applied to enter the United States under the provision granted by President Roosevelt, granting entry for 1,000 refugees from Italy. Roosevelt allowed 982 refugees to leave occupied Italy and Eva was among the group. The Kleimans were not granted entry into the U.S., so Eva traveled alone to the United States via Naples, and the Army transport Henry Gibbons. She was placed in an internment camp at Fort Ontario. While in the camp, Eva (now age 17) was placed in the sixth grade due to the fact that she couldn’t speak English. However, she met friends and her situation improved. When Eva’s relatives came to visit, she was so scared that she didn’t speak to them. Eva spent the remainder of the war at Fort Ontario. After the war, the refugees were supposed to return to their home countries. Fortunately, they were allowed to enter the country legally.
When the war ended, Eva went to live with her maternal grandmother in Rochester, N.Y.
In December, with help from two uncles, Eva trained to become a nurse. She worked in the County Hospital. At age 21, Eva was finally independent.
Eva met her husband, Eric Rosenfeld, at the Jewish Community Center.
Eva and Eric were married. Three of their four children were born in Rochester; one was born in Nashville, TN, after Eric was transferred to work in the printing business.
Eva had shut out the trauma of her youth until Ruth Gruber, the woman who had taken care of Eva’s group while traveling from Italy, came to Nashville to speak. Ruth learned that Eva was in Nashville and sought her out. Eva had no recollection of Ruth, but Ruth remembered Eva. This visit opened Eva to the idea of sharing her experience with others.
Eva and her husband Eric began speaking for the Tennessee Holocaust Commission, sharing their story with people all across Tennessee and beyond the border.
Eva Rosenfeld currently resided in Memphis, Tennessee.
Eva passed on November 28, 2020.