The Rosenblatt Love Story
The cruel, inhumane, and unimaginable images of World War II concentration camps remain embedded in our hearts and minds. That anyone could have survived these atrocities is a miracle. But Herman Rosenblatt's personal story is especially poignant . . . and truly miraculous.
Herman was the youngest son in the Rosenblatt family, a loving and happy group of people living in a small village in Poland. But in 1939, the Rosenblatts were forced into a cramped Polish ghetto. Their lives would never be the same. Three years later, Herman's father contracted typhus. It would be the first of many losses for him. And he will never forget what his father said to him on his deathbed.
" 'One thing you've got to remember,' he said. 'Don't hold a grudge against nobody and tolerate everybody.' And the next day, he died."
Germany had taken control of Poland. And four months after his father's death, Herman and his family became victims of Hitler's Final Solution. The ghetto Jews were herded through the streets like cattle, to be transported to their deaths. They were divided into two groups: Herman was to be shipped with the men to a work camp, and his mother was placed with the sick and disabled, to be loaded on a train and sent to the notorious death camp Treblinka.
"I ran over to my mother, and I said, 'I want to be with you. I don't want to go with my brothers,' " recalls Herman. "She went ahead and pushed me away. She said to me, 'Go with your brothers. I don't want you.' Remember, I was at that time twelve years old. I couldn't get over why my mother told me she doesn't want me. She doesn't love me. She went to Treblinka, where she was gassed and died.
"After the war," Herman continues, "I understood why. I still do today. I know why, in my mind, but in my heart, I don't know."
By 1944, Herman was a prisoner in a concentration camp outside Berlin called Schlieben. Life there was a daily struggle under the most horrendous conditions.
"It was hunger, hunger, and hunger," explains Herman. "We didn't get anything to eat. Just one slice of bread and water."
The only escape from constant hunger was in sleep and dreams.
"Once, I was sleeping in the box, and I had a dream that my mother came to me," Herman says, "and she said to me, 'Don't worry, you'll be all right. I'm looking after you.' And she disappeared. And then came an angel who touched me, and she disappeared. And then I woke up in a sweat."
The next day, while Herman was walking near the camp's barbed-wire fence, something caught his eye.
"There was a little girl standing there, looking into the camp," explains Herman. "So I asked her if she had something to eat. And she looked at me. I had the paper suit on and some rags under my feet, and she had a nice, warm jacket, and she took out an apple and threw it. When I caught the apple, I ran away, but I heard her say, 'See you tomorrow.' I believe that the girl who came was the angel my mother was sending to me."
Herman and the young girl continued to meet daily.
"She came every day," Herman says. "Not almost--she came every day. I had it timed when the guards were gonna be in this area and how long it would take another guard to come up, so that when I ran up to the fence to grab the bread or the apple--whatever she threw to me--I wouldn't be seen by the guards. If the SS saw me, I would get shot. But at that point, I didn't care if I got killed or not. As long as I could have some more to eat."
The day came when Herman was to be shipped to another camp, and he said good-bye to the young girl.
"I looked back," Herman remembers, "and she was there. I saw a tear come down her eye, and a tear came down my eye. And I ran away. . . ."
The little girl knew that she would never see him again. When prisoners left this camp, they were often sent to die in the gas chambers.
Nine months later, the Allies liberated the concentration camps. Miraculously, Herman gained his freedom on the very day he was scheduled to be put to death in the gas chamber.
"It was an unbelievable scene," relates Herman. "I couldn't believe it myself. . . . At last, I'm free. . . ."
After spending several years in England and Israel, Herman and his brothers emigrated to the United States and settled in New York City. From 1949 to 1956, Herman was engaged to be married three times, but each time he decided to call it off because he did not feel that he had found his soul mate. And then, in 1957, Herman was invited to join another couple on a date to Coney Island.
"He said, 'But she has a friend of hers who is Polish,' " Herman recalls. " 'And we can have a double date.' I replied, 'No, I don't want to go on double dates. Especially blind dates.' He persuaded me, so I said, 'Okay.' She was good-looking. I started to get attracted to her. Eh, I thought to myself, Maybe, maybe after tonight I'll ask her for her telephone number."
Driving home that night, Herman and the young woman, Roma, began talking about their past and discovered that they had actually met once before. It was during his stay in Israel while serving in the Israeli army. One night, he and some fellow soldiers went out with a group of nurses. Roma was one of them.
"She said, 'I had a date with a guy,' and I asked, 'What did he look like?' And she described him to me," recalls Herman, "and I said, 'That was me.' She said, 'Come on. It couldn't be.' I said, 'Yeah.' "
It was an amazing coincidence that these two strangers had met years before. But what was about to happen could only be described as a miracle.
Herman continues, "She said to me, 'Where were you during the war?' I told her, 'I was in a concentration camp.' Then she said to me, 'I was near a camp, where I would throw food over the fences to a boy.'
"I said to her, 'Did he have rags on his feet instead of shoes?' She paused for a second, and then said, 'Yes.' All of a sudden it just hit me like a ton of bricks. I said to her, 'Did he tell you not to come around anymore? That he was leaving?' And she stopped and looked at me."
"Yes," Roma told Herman.
"That was me. That was me," replied Herman. "We paused for a while and didn't say a word to each other. Then I looked at her, and I said, 'Look, you saved my life. You are my angel. And you're going to be my angel.' And I proposed to her."
"He said, 'You know, I'm going to marry you,' " Roma adds. "And I said, 'Crazy . . . we just met. How is this possible?' "
Not only was it possible, it was somehow mysteriously meant to be. Eleven months later, Herman and Roma were wed. The young boy who managed to survive one of the darkest periods in human history, and the angel who risked her life to help him stay alive, were now husband and wife. And it seemed that nothing could have kept them apart. Not a prison wall, not a separation that would last over twelve years, not even the thousands of miles between a German concentration camp and Coney Island.
"This is destiny," states Roma, "something that I felt very strong. This is the man that God wanted me to have."
Herman and Roma recently celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary, and they returned to Coney Island to reminisce about that miraculous night when they found each other again.
"Coney Island was the place that we really have special, special feelings about," Roma says. "And I consider myself lucky that we met, and thanks to my friend, and thanks to God, really, that we are together."
"I think that my mother is watching me and she wants me to be happy, and she actually sent Roma to me," Herman concludes. "The miracle was that we kept bumping into each other all the time, and we didn't know it until the last day when we were sitting in the car, and I asked her to marry me. I told her there are no others. . . . There's nobody else for me. And that's it."Kidney in Common
Teresa Dravk is a native of York, Pennsylvania. For most of her life, she has suffered from serious heart and kidney problems that have kept her housebound. But in 1997, Teresa discovered the Internet--and it was about to open a whole new world for her.
"I was on there to make friends and to have somebody to talk to," says Teresa. "I wasn't looking for love on the computer--that wasn't something that ever crossed my mind."
Teresa wanted to learn more about life in foreign countries and so, one day, she signed on to a chat room that connected her with people using the Web in Britain. Thousands of miles away in Manchester, England, Ian Fleming discovered the same on-line site, and he and Teresa started a private chat.
Teresa remembers, "It was the next day when I logged on, and there was this message from the same man--and he had a bunch of questions for me."
"I sent an E-mail to Teresa," Ian recalls, "and it said, 'I like doing my cycling and reading. What do you like doing?' because it was the first person I have ever spoken to on the computer really. She kept it interesting, kept it fun, and explained a lot about her life to me."
The two strangers continued sending each other messages daily.
"And then we found out we had a lot in common, and it just went from there, as far as chatting," says Teresa.
Ian adds, "And it was basically every time I came home from work and did my cycling and walked the dogs, I came in and hoped there was a message from Teresa. I honestly don't know at what point it turned into a romance. It happened and I was glad it happened."
"This was about the time I was starting to get sick with a heart problem," says Teresa.
Teresa's condition was serious and she was immediately scheduled for emergency heart surgery. On the day of the operation, Ian called her at the hospital.
"Well, I told him what was going on and he was very concerned. . . . I was very scared. You know, at the idea of them doing surgery where they were actually going to stop my heart and open me up."
Ian remembers the conversation. He told Teresa, "Well, I was thinking . . . I've got time at work that I can take off. Do you want me to come over and visit you? We can spend a couple of weeks together over the holidays."
Teresa was pleasantly surprised. "I said, 'Okay, if you're sure. I'd love to see you.' And every time I heard his voice, it was almost like taking a painkiller. I felt so much better just talking to him."
Teresa's operation was a success. And in December she found herself at the airport, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the man she'd met on the Internet just three months before.
"Teresa walked out into the middle of the crowd and gave me a big hug, and our first kiss. And honestly, from that moment on, I was hooked. . . . This was the one for me," Ian says.
Teresa recalls, "We just found ourselves connecting more and more on not just superficial subjects like favorite things, but on life issues."
And eleven days later, Ian proposed. Because of Teresa's medical condition, they decided to live in the United States. But before Ian flew home to prepare for the move, they went shopping for an engagement ring. The ring that Teresa chose would have to be resized and would not be ready before Ian's scheduled flight.
On January 6, the young couple said their good-byes. It would be several months before they would see each other again, and during that time, Teresa would become deathly ill. A tumor was discovered on her kidney.
Her doctor, Michael J. Moritz, was extremely concerned. "Teresa has a rather long medical history as relates to her kidney problems, and she underwent her first kidney transplant in the 1980s, which lasted for quite a while, but ultimately did develop chronic rejection."
The only option now was to remove both her kidneys. Ironically, the day that Teresa was scheduled for the operation was the same day that Ian returned to start their new life together. He had picked up the engagement ring before coming to the hospital, and he took this moment to slip it on the finger of the woman he loved--a woman who might not live much longer if she didn't find a kidney donor.
Teresa remembers, "First, just having him back again after four months, and then to have him put the ring on, knowing what I was going through the next day . . . it was a very, very emotional moment."
Ian wanted to be tested as a donor, but Teresa warned him of the difficulties. She told him, "You know, it's very hard on the donor. And I don't know if I want you to go through that pain."
Ian reasoned, "We're going to be together the rest of our lives, and I'm going to be in pain for only a couple of months, right? At least it will improve the quality of our lives."
Teresa had her doubts. "I really didn't think there was a chance he was going to be a match. I thought we'd go ahead, do the blood test, and that would be it, you know. They'd say, 'Well, I'm sorry, but you're not a match,' and that would be all there was to it."
Says Dr. Moritz, "As you'd expect, for any two unrelated human beings, the odds of being a perfect match in their tissue type is one in three million."
But miraculously, the tests came back positive. They had beaten the incredible odds. Ian was that one person in three million.
On September 19, 1998, Teresa and Ian were married. Their dual surgeries were scheduled two months away. On the morning of November 10, the newlyweds were being simultaneously prepped for transplant surgery at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.
Excerpted from It's a Miracle 2 by Selected and introduced by Richard Thomas. Copyright © 2003 by Selected and introduced by Richard Thomas. Excerpted by permission of Delta, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.