Rolf Hess was born November 12, 1934 in Frankfurt, Germany. He lived in Malsch bei Wiesloch, close to the synagogue, with his mother, Rosel, and grandfather, Simon. They were Orthodox Jews. On the evening of Kristallnacht, November 10, 1938, Rolf woke up from the light of the burning synagogue next door.
During the War
On October 22, 1940 Rolf, his mother, and grandfather were deported eastward to Gurs in southwest France. The Internment camp at Gurs provided no windows, no insulation, no sanitation, running water, or plumbing, and no protection from the cold. Rolf stayed there for 4 months. In the camp, he and his mother were separated from his grandfather. On February 26, 1941, Rolf was rescued with 47 other boys and girls and taken to la Maison des Pupilles in Aspet. Rolf stayed at the orphanage until his French exit visa was approved on June 23, 1942.
Rolf and 38 other children boarded the SS Nyassa on June 25, 1942. After stopping in Casablanca the Nyassa set course for Baltimore and arrived July 30, 1942. Rolf sent his last letter to his mother on July 24, 1942. It was returned to him as she was no longer at Gurs. She had been sent to Auschwitz where she perished. Rolf was sent to Cleveland, Ohio.
After the War
Rolf grew up in a house of elderly people: his Great Uncle Julius, a widow and three others in East Cleveland. When Rolf turned 18 he became a U.S. citizen. When Rolf was 25 he became engaged to his wife, Marcia. Rolf spoke little about his Holocaust experience until 2009 when his granddaughter asked him about his immigration experiences for a school project. Bearing Witness is the first time that Rolf has publicly shared his experiences. A retired businessman, Rolf and Marchia have three children and five grandchildren and share time between Toledo and Florida.
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