The Rose Family in World War Two - the Home FrontWritten by Linda Levine 5780/2020 (with research assistance from Jeremy Gordon)
World War Two affected the lives of everyone, and the Rose Family was no exception: as can be seen from this article and also The Rose Family in World War Two - the Battle Front (opens in new window).
What's on this page ..
- The Rose Family at War
- The Home Front
- Hadassah Lev’s Family
- Morris Rose’s Family
- David Rose’s Family
- Jenny Grossman’s Family
- Dora Jacobs’s Family
- Sam Rose’s Family
- Jack Rose’s Family
- Abraham Rose’s Family
- Phoebe Crown’s Family
- Moishe Rose
- The Rose Family Evacuation to Halesowen
- Helping Jewish Refugees
- The Kindertransport Refugees
Sunday 3rd September 1939 was one of those days on which everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing, for it was the day that Britain declared war on Germany and entered WWII.
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, speaking on the wireless at 11.15 a.m.:
I am speaking to you from the Cabinet Room at 10 Downing Street.
This morning the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German Government a final note stating that, unless we hear from them by 11 o'clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us. I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received, and that consequently this country is at war with Germany.
Shortly afterwards King George VI managed to master his stammer long enough to make a moving speech to the nation:
For the second time in the lives of most of us we are at war. Over and over again we have tried to find a peaceful way out of the differences between ourselves and those who are now our enemies. But it has been in vain. We have been forced into a conflict. For we are called, with our allies, to meet the challenge of a principle which, if it were to prevail, would be fatal to any civilised order in the world.
It is the principle which permits a state, in the selfish pursuit of power, to disregard its treaties and its solemn pledges; which sanctions the use of force, or threat of force, against the sovereignty and independence of other states.
It is to this high purpose that I now call my people at home and my peoples across the seas, who will make our cause their own. I ask them to stand calm, firm and united in this time of trial. The task will be hard. There may be dark days ahead, and war can no longer be confined to the battlefield. But we can only do the right as we see the right, and reverently commit our cause to God.
Britain was at war!
Sunday 3 September 1939 was a very sad day for the Rose family, because it was the day that Haya Leah Rose died at the age of seventy eight. At the time she was living with her widowed youngest daughter, Phoebe Crown, and Phoebe’s two children at 106 Gooch Street. Her husband, Isaac Jacob, had died four years previously, in 1935.
For Sarah Cook, daughter of Jenny Rose and David Grossman, the day had a very personal significance, for it was her twenty third birthday, one she never forgot.
The 3rd September was a Sunday. It was a beautiful summer’s day and all the members of the Grossman family were at home, glued to the wireless, as was the rest of the nation. Erev Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year’s Eve) was due to fall only ten days later, on 13 September. As they listened to the Prime Minister’s fateful words, even the boisterous and fun-loving Grossman siblings were silent.
Following the announcement everyone waited for the expected invasion of Britain to begin. Sarah Cook:
For two weeks there was “organised chaos”, as people piled up sandbags to protect important buildings, hung up their blackout curtains, dismantled railings and ironwork from the local park entrances to be melted down and used to manufacture munitions. All places of public entertainment were closed, to prevent large numbers of people being injured if a bomb fell, and food began to be rationed.
Even before the announcement of war, the country had started preparing for war. Only twelve minutes after the Prime Minister’s announcement, the air raid sirens sounded in yet another test of the equipment. This time many people thought it was for real and rushed for the nearest shelter. Everyone was issued a gas mask which adults and children alike were obliged to carry with them at all times, and which fortunately never had to be used.
On 1 September 1939 a trial blackout had taken place, as London’s children started to be evacuated to the countryside. For months afterwards nothing happened, a period that became known as the “phoney war” and many of the evacuated children returned home. Fighting only began in earnest when Germany attacked Norway in April 1940, followed by the Low Countries and finally France on 21 June.
The following report of air-raids in Birmingham appeared in the Jewish Chronicle on 20 December 1940:
THE AIR-RAIDS ON BIRMINGHAM
A survey of the effects of the various indiscriminate bombings of Birmingham—so far as the Jewish Community is concerned—reveals that while the loss of life has been small the destruction of property has been great.
One of the districts to suffer was Holloway Head and Hurst Street, the old centre of Jewish life, St. Luke's Road, Pershore Road, Varna Road, Princess Road, Belgrave Road, the new residential Jewish neighbourhood. Yet in the demolition of property in Hurst Street (which included the premises of the Frederick Jacombs and Eva Bloom Lodge Social Club, the premises of Mr. S. Plosktn, and the showrooms of Madame B. Woolf) the new Synagogue still stands untouched.
The remarkable escapes of the Singer's Hill Synagogue have already been noticed in these columns, but a raging fire destroyed the roof of the Central Synagogue in Bristol Street. Services there continue to be held in an adjoining room. The Jewish Social club in Bromsgrove Street, established in 1899, is in ruins, and the offices of the Singers Hill Synagogue, adjoining the Communal Hall in Ellis Street, have been slightly damaged by incendiary bombs.
There has also been destruction of house property and business premises, notably Henry's Stores, the Nelson Manufacturing Company, managed by Mr. S. P. Abrams, the Zionist and communal worker, and the offices of another Zionist worker, Mr. E. Alex. Colman.
Mr. Israel Witton, well known in the Friendly Society movement, is reported a casualty in Selly Oak Hospital.
The British public had been advised how to prepare against air-raids. For £5 the Grossmans had an Anderson air raid shelter erected in the back garden. First it was necessary to dig a large hole, about four feet deep, five feet wide and six feet long. Then the galvanised tin shelter had to be assembled and lowered into the hole, which was then covered with earth. This shelter was used by members of the family throughout the war. The bombing would start around six p.m. and continue into the night. Norman Grossman relates an incident which is amusing now, but which must have been very frightening at the time:
It would be 1940, and Birmingham was getting some blitzkrieg. For some reason only I and sister Sarah were in the house. There was an air raid, and a lot of banging going on, and the explosions were getting closer and closer. She turned to me and said, “Aren’t you afraid?” I grinned and said, “Not really. If it happens it happens.” Just then there was a terrific bang quite close, so we raced to the garden shelter, and held hands, and we were NOT AFRAID TOGETHER.
When Sarah went out in the morning, it was to see the damage caused by the incendiary bombs - fires burning with broken glass strewn everywhere, and air-raid wardens like her Uncle Morris clearing up the debris.
The Rose Family at War
A National Service (Armed Forces) Act had been passed, making all males between 18 and 41 liable for conscription. This potentially affected twelve males from the Rose family: Hadassah Lev’s four sons, aged between 30 and 40, Morris Rose’s three sons, Sol, Dick and Samuel, Jenny Grossman‘s three sons, Sidney, Louis and Abe, Dora Jacobs’s only son, Gerald, and Reuben, the oldest son of Rabbi Abraham Rose.
During the war years another seven Rose males turned eighteen and were liable for conscription: Morris Rose’s son, Norman, Jenny Grossman’s son who was also named Norman, Sam Rose’s son, Maurice, Jack Rose’s son, Basil, Rabbi Abraham Rose’s two sons, Leon and Haim, and finally Isidore, the only son of Phoebe Crown.
However those who did not possess British citizenship, like most if not all of Hadassah’s sons, were not liable for military service, nor were those with medical problems like Reuben, the son of Abraham Rose. Also exempt were those working in “reserved occupations”, considered vital to the war effort. These included Sidney, the son of Jenny Grossman, who was employed as a lorry-builder, Basil, the son of Jack Rose, who worked in the Rolls Royce factory and for the Midlands Railways, Maurice, the son of Sam Rose, who, when called up in 1943, volunteered for coal mining service as a “Bevin boy”, and finally Gerald, the son of Dora Jacobs, and Isidore, the son of Phoebe Crown, both of whom were studying medicine.
Those Rose males who were not exempt, served in various branches of the British Armed Forces. They included Morris Rose’s three sons. Sol served in North Africa with the 7th Armoured Division, known as “the desert rats”. Samuel also served in North Africa, in the Royal Army Service Corps, while Norman served in Holland and Germany in the 11th Armoured Division of the British Liberation Army and later in the Intelligence Corps.
In the US David Rose’s two sons, Norman and Harold, enlisted in the First Army and were stationed in the UK prior to taking part in the invasion of Normandy.
Louis, son of Jenny Grossman, volunteered for the British Medical Corps in 1938, serving in Palestine, Iraq and Iran. His brother, Abe Grossman, was conscripted into the Royal Marines, and saw service in three theatres of war – the Middle East, the Far East and Europe. Jenny’s youngest son, Norman Grossman, was conscripted into the Royal Navy as a stoker aboard a minesweeper, which was damaged by friendly fire.
Abraham Rose’s son, Leon, joined the Royal Fusiliers and was wounded at the Anzio beachhead, while his younger brother, Hyman, served in the Royal Air Force in India and Burma as a wireless operator.
The husbands of the female members of the Rose family who served in the British Armed Forces included Morris Rose’s three sons-in-law. Hans Heilbut served as an engineer in the South African Army. Mick Levy served in the Royal Army Service Corps in Holland and France, working in a mobile field bakery behind the front lines. Ray Altschuler served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st or 2nd Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers (London Regiment) in Holland and Germany.
There were also three friends who married three women from the Rose family. David Rothman and Jacob Klein married Freda and Minnie, daughters of Jenny Grossman, while their friend, Israel Tillinger, married the girls’ cousin, Edna, daughter of Dora Jacobs. The three were Palestinian Jews who joined the British Pioneer Corps in Palestine, which carried out engineering works on the Egyptian-Libyan border. Taken prisoner by the Germans in the battle of Crete in 1941, they were not freed until 1945, when they were brought to the UK to be demobilised.
Lastly there was Arnold Pink who married Renee, the daughter of Phoebe Crown, and who served in the Royal Air Force and trained as an Air Force pilot in Canada.
The Home Front
The 1939 National Register provides us with an overview of the Rose family at the outbreak of WWII.
In December 1938 it was announced in the House of Commons that in the event of war, a National Register would be taken that listed the personal details of every civilian in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This Register was to be a critical tool in coordinating the war effort at home. It would be used to issue identity cards, organise rationing and more.
On September 1st, 1939 Germany invaded Poland, putting the wheels in motion for Britain to declare war on the 3rd. On September 5th, the National Registration Act received royal assent and Registrar General Sir Sylvanus Vivian announced that National Registration Day would be September 29th.
Having issued forms to more than 41 million people, the enumerators were charged with the task of visiting every household in Great Britain and Northern Ireland to collect the names, addresses, marital statuses and other key details of every civilian in the country, issuing identity cards on the spot.
The identity cards issued were essential items from the point the Register was taken right up until 1952, when the legal requirement to carry them ceased. Until that point, every member of the civilian population had to be able to present their card upon request by an official (children’s cards were looked after by parents), or bring them to a police station within 48 hours. The reasons were numerous – it was essential to know who everyone was, of course, and to track their movements as they moved house, as well as to keep track of the population as babies were born and people passed away.
The 1939 Register, then, represents one of the most important documents in 20th century Britain. The information it contains not only helped toward the war effort, it was also used in the founding of the NHS.The 1939 National Register (pdf file).
Hadassah Lev’s Family
Read about Haddassah Lev's four sons in Family of Hadassah Rose and David Lev (requires login, opens in new window).
When WWII broke out in 1939 Hadassah and David Lev were in their sixties, and had both retired. All four of their sons, Velvel, Nochom, Sholom and Tevka, were liable for conscription because of their ages (between 30 and 40 in 1939). However, probably because they were not British nationals, they were exempt from military service with the British Armed Forces.
For example, in 1936 Velvel was obliged to obtain an identity certificate to travel back to Poland, since he was not a naturalized British subject. His marriage to Minnie Isaacs took place during the war, in 1944.
On the eve of war in 1939 Nochom was living at 79 Linnaeus Street, Hull, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, and working as a “Minister of Religion”, while Sholom was working as a tailor in Birmingham, whilst living with his parents at 111 Pershore Road. His younger son, Yitzchak Yaacov, was born the same year.
In 1939, aged thirty and already married to his first wife, Tevka was working as a commercial traveler, whilst lodging at the house of a family named Myers at 58 Derwent Water Road, Durham. During the war years, he continued to operate his pickle factory and worked as a cook for a non-Jewish man named Mr. Venables. Tevka was only naturalised as a British subject after the war, on 23 December 1947.
Morris Rose’s Family
Read about their Morris Rose's ten children in Family of Morris (Menashe) Rose and Martha Berkovitz (requires login, opens in new window).
In 1939 Morris was already serving as an Air Raid Precaution (ARP) warden, whose job it was to direct people to shelters, help enforce the blackout, assist with fire-fighting and police bombed-out buildings. Sarah Cook, daughter of Jenny Grossman:
We got used to “blacking-out” when we entered a room. Patrol wardens were very strict about this and would bang on doors or call out “Blackout! Blackout!”
Of Morris’s ten children, six of his sons and sons-in-law served in various branches of the armed forces. See Morris Rose’s Family in the European battle front and Africa and the Middle East (both open in new window).
Living under Morris’s roof throughout the war was his daughter, Lena, who served as a member of the British Red Cross, Netty Levy and her daughter and Sylvia who worked in the Naafi canteen.
NAAFI was established by the British Government in 1920 when the Expeditionary Force Canteens (EFC) and the Navy and Army Canteen Board (NACB) were combined to run the recreational establishments needed by the Armed Forces, and to sell goods to servicemen and their families.
NAAFI expanded its operation over the next 17 years, supporting military bases and deployments across the world, from Bermuda and Jamaica, to Singapore and China. At the outbreak of WWII NAAFI grew exponentially to support the troops on active service, with the number of employees rising from 8,000 to a peak of 110,000 and the number of trading outlets growing from 1,350 to nearly 10,000.
NAAFI History (pdf file).
Lena’s future husband, Hans Heilbut, served as an engineer in the South African Army. For his service in the South African Army: Rose family in WWII battle front (opens in new window).
Netty’s husband, Mick Levy, was away feeding the troops as a baker in the Royal Army Service Corps. For his service see: Rose family in WWII battle front (opens in new window).
David Rose’s Family
Read about David Rose's five children in Family of David Rose and Annie Greenhouse (requires login, opens in new window).
Annie and David Rose had immigrated to the USA from the UK in 1910. Following is a chronology of the main events leading to America’s entry into WWII:
After the German invasion of Poland and the beginning of the war in September 1939, Congress allows foreign countries to purchase war material from the United States on a "cash-and-carry" basis.
By 1940 the U.S., while still neutral, becomes the "Arsenal of Democracy" for the Allies, supplying money and war materials.
The sudden defeat of France in spring 1940 causes America to begin to expand its armed forces, including the first peacetime draft.
After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, America begins sending Lend Lease aid to the Soviet Union as well as to Britain and China. Harold Rose enlists in the First Army in June 1941. For his war service: Rose family in WWII battle front (opens in new window).
7 December 1941
The Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service carries out a surprise, pre-emptive military strike against the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu.
Japan announces a declaration of war on the United States later that day, but the declaration is not delivered until the following day.
8 December 1941
America declares war on Japan.
11 December 1941
On December 11, Germany and Italy each declare war on the U.S., which responds with a declaration of war against Germany and Italy.
Norman Rose enlists in the First Army in August 1942. For his war service: Rose family in WWII battle front (opens in new window).
America (and the American branch of the Rose Family) were at war!
Unfortunately, apart from Harold and Norman, we have no information concerning the lives of other members of this branch of the Rose family during WWII.
Jenny Grossman’s Family
Read about Jenny Grossman’s eight children in Family of Jenny Rose and David Grossman (requires login, opens in new window).
When war broke out in 1939, the Grossman family was living in a terrace house at 98 Varna Road, opposite that of Phoebe Rose. All foreigners living in England had to be registered with the police. David Grossman, who was never naturalised as a British subject, had to register like everyone else. Occasionally the police would call at his home to check up on his whereabouts.
During the war David or Davis as he was sometimes called, worked as a miller of woodruff keys. Woodruff keys, named after their American inventor, are half moon shaped keys which hold gears onto a gear shaft. He probably worked in the Phoenix munitions factory, formerly the Pinnick’s furniture factory, where his daughter, Minnie, worked on the machines.
Jenny Grossman, who had little money to spare, often went without food in order to feed the American soldiers her daughters brought home from the nearby base, where they helped out in the canteen. (Dr. Gabriel Sivan, the husband of Phoebe’s granddaughter, Viva, correctly points out that these soldiers were probably better fed than their British hosts!)
The Grossman’s eldest son, Sidney, worked as a lorry body builder during the war. This was designated a “reserved occupation”, exempting him from military service. Norman Grossman:
I think he was into cabinet making and sheet metal work, and was therefore into war work and did not have to join the forces.
After the outbreak of war in 1939, Sarah Grossman tried to join the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS), popularly and officially known as the “Wrens”. After passing all the required health checks, she was rejected because she was the daughter of a Russian “alien”. Ironically this did not affect the conscription of her brothers! So Sarah continued to work as a shop assistant for a wholesale grocery. In addition she served in the Ambulance Service and Auxiliary Fire Service, worked in the canteen at a nearby American army base, and packed parcels for prisoners of war. She would often include notes asking the recipients if they wanted a pen-pal.
In 1943 Sarah met her future husband, David Cook, whilst on a visit to London. They married on 21 December 1943 at Singers Hill Synagogue in Birmingham. David, who had been rejected by the army because of varicose veins, worked in the Napier’s factory at Acton, as an inspector of “aero” aircraft engines. This was a “reserved” occupation, which exempted him from military service. Instead he joined the Home Guard. It was his job to watch for fires at night from the roof of the factory in which he worked. Among the bombs that fell nearby was a V1 flying bomb which exploded on landing in Acton Park. Fortunately the factory was unharmed.
The Home Guard
The Home Guard (initially Local Defence Volunteers or LDV) was an armed, uniformed citizen militia supporting the British Army during the Second World War. Operational from 1940 until 1944, the Home Guard was composed of 1.5 million local volunteers otherwise ineligible for military service, such as those too young or too old to join the regular armed services (regular military service was restricted to those aged 18 to 41) or those in reserved occupations. Excluding those already in the armed services, the civilian police or civil defence, approximately one in five men were volunteers. Their role was to act as a secondary defence force, in case of invasion by the forces of Nazi Germany and their allies.
The Home Guard were to try to slow down the advance of the enemy, even by a few hours, in order to give the regular troops time to regroup, and also to defend key communication points and factories in rear areas against possible capture by paratroops or fifth columnists. A key purpose was to maintain control of the civilian population in the event of an invasion, forestalling panic and preventing communication routes from being blocked by refugees, thereby freeing the regular forces to fight the Germans. The Home Guard continued to man roadblocks and guard the coastal areas of the United Kingdom and other important places such as airfields, factories and explosives stores until late 1944 when they were stood down. They were finally disbanded on 31 December 1945, eight months after Germany's surrender.The Home Guard (pdf file).
Member of the “Home Guard” David Cook,
husband of Sarah Grossman (1944)
His nephew remembers that during the war a large battery of anti-aircraft guns was placed in Gunnersbury Park, behind David’s house in Popes Lane. This naturally became the target of German bombing. During the air raids David refused to go down into the shelter, and continued to sleep in his bedroom on the first floor of the house, despite the bombs falling around him. One even landed in his garden while a delayed-action bomb fell on a house two doors away.
At the end of the war, on 1 June 1945, David was listed in the London Gazette as a Royal Air Force Voluntary Reserve possibility.
After their wedding the couple lived in London. Sarah describes her new life in wartime London:
Everything was rationed, but married people were allowed utility furniture and extra coupons. Fortunately my husband had his own home in London. He worked in an armaments factory as a fitter on Spitfires, and therefore did not have to go into the services. In fact he was rejected. He was in the Home Guard.
My first child, Linda, who came in the first year, was practically born under a Morrison shelter which was then fairly new. It was a very large, cast-iron tabletop with a bed underneath. My son, Philip, was born eighteen months after Linda. Then two and a half years later my youngest daughter, Zena, was born - three children in four years.
Dora Jacobs’s Family
Read about Dora Jacobs’s five children in Family of Dora Rose and Nathan Jacobs (requires login, opens in new window).
In 1939 the Jacobs family was living at 10 Alexandra Road, Birmingham. Dora and her husband had a retail drapery shop at 24 Conybere Street. Twenty three year-old Gerald was working as an assistant minister to the Coventry Hebrew Congregation, twenty year-old Edna as a power machinist in a baby linen factory, and seventeen year-old Phyllis as a shorthand typist for the Birmingham Hebrew Congregation.
By 1944 the family was living at 112 Alexandra Road. This was the year that Nathan Jacobs died of yellow jaundice on 6 April after thirty years of marriage. He was only fifty five years old.
Dora and Nathan's son, Gerald, studied medicine at Birmingham University, whilst living at 148 Pershore Road Birmingham 5. In 1943 he had married Hessie Hass and qualified as a doctor on 27 December 1945.
In the first quarter of 1945 their daughter, Edna, married Israel Tillinger, a Rumanian Jew, one of three Palestinian friends who joined the British Pioneer Corps in Palestine, were captured in the Battle of Crete and spent much of the war in German prisoner-of-war camps. Israel Tillinger was one of the The Three Musketeers (opens in new window).
We presume that Dora's sons-in-law, Bernard Shindler, Sidney Leperer and Julius Matlin, were exempted from serving in the British Armed Forces.
Sam Rose’s Family
Read about Sam Rose's four children in Family of Samuel Rose and May Finkelstein (requires login, opens in new window).
When war broke out in 1939 Sam and his family could be found at number 10 Alexander Road. Sam continued to work as a ladies tailor, May at unpaid domestic duties, (in other words as a housewife), Marcia as a shorthand typist, while Alan Rose, aged thirteen, was still at school, as was his elder brother, Abraham Maurice Rose.
In 1941 their eldest daughter, Marcia, married Henry Jack Kalman, known as Jack Kalman, in Birmingham. Jack was born in 1911. Before the war Jack had a glass factory in the East End of London, possibly at Shoreditch. During the war he moved the factory to Birmingham hoping to escape the London “blitz”. This was a little like jumping from the frying pan into the fire, since Birmingham was also subjected to heavy bombing. However some good did come of the move since, whilst living in a house in Bristol Road, he met his future wife, Marcia, who lived with her parents a couple of doors away.
During WWII Britain was short of coal. Aneurin Bevan, a Welsh politician with a gift for rhetoric, used to say that only incompetence could achieve a situation in which a country surrounded by sea and famous for its coal mines, could face shortages of fish and coal. At first volunteers were asked to work in the mines. Then those called up to national service were given the choice of serving in the army or going down the mines. Finally men were drafted directly to work in the mines. In this way Maurice Rose came to work in the mines for three and a half years, followed by a year and a half of national service in the army. His obituary provides us with additional information about this period of his life:
Called up for Second World War service in 1943, he volunteered for coal mining service as a “Bevin boy”. This allowed him to live at home and observe Shabbat and kashrut. After the war he did 19 months’ national service in the army. Stationed for a year near Manchester, he lived with the family of Rabbi Gedaliah Rabinowitz, attending his shiurim (lessons) at Machzikei Hadath.
Rabbi Moshe Rose Obituary 29 May 2009 (jpg file).
Machzikei Hadath was an association of very orthodox Manchester congregations. The only synagogue still active today is the Machzikei Hadass Synagogue, located at 17 Northumberland Street (corner Leigh Street), Higher Broughton, Salford, M7 0FE. Its spiritual leader is Rabbi Mendel Schneebalg. Ironically these same premises served as the regional headquarters of Sir Oswald Mosley's notorious British Union of Fascists from 1934 to 1938.
Yosef Levkovitz, the future husband of Sam’s younger daughter, Beryl, was born in Bratislava on 17 May 1925 to Aba Zeev Levkovitz and his wife. Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia, located on both banks of the Danube River, on the border with Austria and Hungary. In 1938, the year that Nazi Germany annexed Austria, Joe, his parents and brothers, managed to escape on the last train out of the country. Joe was fifteen years old. They travelled to Greece and from there to Palestine.
Jack Rose’s Family
Read about Jack Rose’s three children in detail in Family of Jack Rose and Minnie Levy (requires login, opens in new window).
By 1939 Minnie and Jack were living at “The Uplands”, 394 Burton Road, Derby with their three children. In 1940, during the early years of the war, Jack applied to be naturalised as a British subject under the name of John Rose.
We have no information regarding Minnie and Jack’s eldest child, Sybil. However we do know that their elder son, Basil, worked in the Rolls Royce factory and for the Midlands Railways. Both were essential services, requiring him to work on the Sabbath which, as an observant Jew, he would normally have avoided.
Their younger son, Lionel, who was only seven when war broke out, was evacuated from Derby to a rural area near Chesterfield, noted for its church with a crooked spire. He returned to Derby in December of the same year.
Abraham Rose’s Family
Read about Abraham Rose’s four sons in detail in Family of Abraham Rose and Annie Berman (requires login, opens in new window).
On 1 September 1939 Germany invaded Poland, the act that started WWII. The same day the authorities began evacuating London’s children to the countryside, a process that took three days to complete. Among them were three of Annie and Abraham Rose's four sons - eighteen year-old Reuben who, born with a heart condition and a weak leg, was exempted from military service, thirteen year-old Hyman and eight year-old David. The only son to remain at home was sixteen year-old Leon who was registered as a builder’s salesman.
Reuben was evacuated to Aylesbury where, together with another boy of the same age, he was taken in by a couple who did so only for the money they were paid by the government. As a result they were not particularly nice to the boys. Both boys were big for their age, yet had to share the same bed. Fortunately they got on so well together that they remained in touch for years afterwards.
During Reuben’s time in Aylesbury he was visited by his younger brother, Hyman. Together with their youngest brother, David, Hyman had been evacuated to nearby Stoke Mandeville. Hyman bicycled all the way over, a distance of some eight to nine miles in each direction.
As rabbi of the Ealing and Acton District Synagogue, Abraham did all he could to ensure that throughout the war the synagogue never closed. Although Hebrew classes were initially suspended at the outbreak of war, they were reopened shortly afterwards. By the middle of 1940, about forty children had re-enrolled, with Abraham and Reuben, who had meanwhile returned from Aylesbury, in charge of teaching them. The synagogue suffered minor war damage but this did not interrupt communal activities. Abraham continued to conduct all the services, even if some had to be cut short. In addition he devoted much of his time to clothing and housing bombed-out London refugees.
Phoebe Crown’s Family
Read about Phoebe Crown’s two children in Family of Phoebe Rose and Philip Crown (requires login, opens in new window).
In 1939 Phoebe was living at 56 Varna Road and working as a draper. She was drafted into a factory that manufactured military uniforms. Her shop was destroyed in a German air raid. Fortunately she was not in it at the time. David Grossman, who lived opposite at 98 Varna Road, reputedly awoke the next morning and said: A dank tzu Got far a shtille Nakht! (Thank heaven for a quiet night!)
At the beginning of the war, Phoebe’s son, Isidore, worked in the pickle factory owned by his cousin, Tevka, the son of Hadassah Lev. His experience there later served as background for a work of fiction entitled ‘Poles Apart’. After being accepted to study medicine at King’s College Hospital in London, he lived with his uncle, Abraham Rose, at 35 Elers Road, Ealing. There he shared a room in the loft with his cousin, Hyman. Through a window in the roof the two young men were able to see the German bomber planes overhead caught in the searchlights, and the flashes of the explosions as they were hit by British Air Force planes.
Although compulsory military service or working in an essential industry was only introduced in 1943, the shortage in manpower caused by so many men serving in the armed services, led to compulsory labour orders being issued to women by the Ministry of Labour as early as 1940.
In 1941 Phoebe’s daughter, Renee, was either conscripted or volunteered to work in a munitions factory. Initially she worked as secretary to the manager, who was Jewish, utilizing her knowledge of shorthand gained during her studies at Kings Norton grammar school, but when she was required to work on Shabbat (Sabbath) she moved to the assembly line, filling artillery shells with gunpowder. This was dangerous work due to the hazards of working with explosives e.g. blowing oneself up by accident, which would have ended Renee’s dream of becoming a concert pianist. However, Renee, who was very religious, was willing to make almost any sacrifice in order not to work on Shabbat.
Another hazard of working in a munitions factory was the danger of being bombed by the Germans. Birmingham, being the centre of heavy industry with a large number of munitions factories, was the second most heavily bombed city in Britain. Hundreds of factory buildings were destroyed by German bombing, many of them munitions factories like the one in which Renee worked. Between 1940 and 1943, 12,391 houses, 302 factories and 239 other buildings were destroyed and many more damaged. 2,241 people were killed in the Birmingham Blitz, 3010 were seriously injured and another 3,682 suffered less severe injuries. But for Renee the only consideration was Shabbat observance.
The factory worked around the clock, with day and night shifts which enabled Renee to arrange her schedule so that she didn't have to work on Shabbat. After a while a change at the factory prevented her from being able to choose her shifts, so Renee left the factory and did a crash course as a paramedic. She was then assigned to casualty duty during the nightly bombing raids. As soon as a wave of bombing had passed, she and her colleagues would run to the bomb sites, pull the wounded out from under the debris and institute lifesaving procedures. This was very dangerous as often a second or third wave of bombing would occur whilst they was still out in the open, attending to the seriously wounded.The Birmingham Blitz (in Wikipedia) (pdf file).
During WWII Renee's future husband, Arnold, served in the Royal Air Force. He participated in a joint Canadian-British program to train air force pilots until it was terminated at the end of 1944. He returned to England where he was stationed in Cark in Cartmel on the edge of the Lake District.
Throughout WWII Moishe Rose continued to operate his tailor’s trimmings shop whilst sheltering Jewish refugees. During the Battle of Britain it was he who organized the evacuation of a number of his siblings to a mansion he rented in Halesowen.
The Rose Family Evacuation to Halesowen
During the Battle of Britain, which took place in 1940, Birmingham was heavily bombed. The Grossman’s house at 98 Varna Road was destroyed when a bomb landed in the garden next door. They were evacuated to Halesowen, then a village about nine miles from the centre of Birmingham, where several of the Rose siblings and their families lived in various rented properties. These included the families of Jenny, Dora, Sam, Phoebe and Moishe. Sam Rose’s son, Maurice, remembers living in the house of a man called Waxman who came from Manchester.
Moishe Rose rented a large house, described as an “old mansion” by Jenny Rose’s daughter, Sarah Cook. This mansion was in a rural setting. Nearby was a farm with a herd of cows which Sarah remembers helping to milk. In this mansion, with its stables and many rooms, for a while lived three Rose families and the refugees they had taken in. With Moishe Rose were his wife, Ellen, and Kurt Landes, a young refugee boy. With Jenny Grossman were her husband, David Grossman, and five of their children - Freda, Sidney, Sarah, Minnie and Norman - plus a twelve year-old refugee girl named Hannah. Missing from the Grossman family were Louis Grossman who had enlisted in the medical corps and Abe who had joined the Royal Marines. Finally there was Phoebe Rose and her two children, and the Moise family from Munich.
From Halesowen the Roses would travel into Birmingham every day to work. Moishe had a car, although he probably used it as little as possible because petrol was rationed. Sidney also had a car. There were car pools, and car drivers would offer lifts into the city to people waiting at bus stops. Most people used public transport. If Sarah wanted to attend a dance after work, she would stay overnight in the city with her Aunt Hadassah.
During this period David Grossman was hospitalized in nearby Dudley hospital with double pneumonia and pleurisy, the result of his addiction to cigarettes. He almost died.
Whilst living in Halesowen, Norman Grossman found work nearby with a welding machine manufacturer. The Germans were expected to invade any time, so Norman joined the Home Guard, was issued a rifle and spent sleepless nights on a pelisse of straw, waiting for the invasion to happen. Luckily it didn’t! After the invasion scare passed, all the families returned to Birmingham.
Helping Jewish Refugees
The tradition of performing ma’asim tovim (kindly acts) was handed down by Leah and Isaac Rose to their ten children. These acts reached significant levels immediately prior and during WWII, when sponsoring Jewish refugees so that they could come to the UK, could mean the difference between life and death. We do not have information about all the Rose siblings, but the information about four of them indicates a high level of concern over the fate over their desperate co-religionists in Europe. The four are Jenny, Abraham, Phoebe and Moishe Rose. No doubt other siblings shared their concern.
In 1933, Hitler seized power in Germany.
Ealing Synagogue, where Abraham Rose officiated as rabbi, launched an appeal to raise money to help German Jews. A large public meeting was held in Ealing Town Hall to protest against their persecution. This meeting was reported in the Middlesex County Times on 20 May 1933, together with a letter of thanks from Abraham Rose.
The Kindertransport Refugees
The Kindertransport, organised during the nine months before the outbreak of WWII, involved the use of sealed trains that brought an unspecified number of Jewish children aged five to seventeen from Austria, Germany, Czechoslovkia and Poland to Great Britain. They came without their parents and a £50 bond had to be posted for each child, “to assure their ultimate resettlement”.
Dr. Gabriel Sivan, husband of Phoebe Rose’s granddaughter, gives this account of how members of the Rose family rose to the challenge:
During the late 1930s, when Jews were frantically trying to escape from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, Britain agreed to accept a limited number on the strength of private financial guarantees. The Kindertransport that saved 10,000 Jewish children from the Nazis by bringing them to England stood in contrast to worldwide apathy. It was at this critical time that Moishe Rose took some refugees into his home while Phoebe performed deeds of valour – caring for other refugees and persuading Birmingham Jews to sign affidavits, which also enabled the parents of Kindertransport children to reach safety.
Phoebe’s methods of persuasion were unusual to say the least. Apparently she used to post £50 bonds, even though she did not have the money to back them. When a child arrived, she took it round to a wealthy Jewish family and told them that, if they did not provide £50 to cover the bond she had signed, the child would be sent back to Germany to be killed by the Nazis. Naturally no-one wanted to have this on their conscience and grudgingly agreed to pay. Phoebe Crown was one determined lady!
Some of the Kindertransport children were taken in by foster families, some went to orphanages or group homes, while others worked on farms. They were distributed throughout the country in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. For the most part child refugees were well treated and developed close ties with their British hosts; unfortunately a few were mistreated or abused. The older boys joined the British or Australian armed forces as soon as they reached the age of eighteen, to take up arms against the Nazis. Most of the children never saw their parents again.
One of the children rescued in this fashion, Bertha Engelhard, married Hadassah’s son, Tevka Lev. Her moving story is told in the book entitled ‘I Came Alone – The Stories of the Kindertransports’.
Minna Lev, the wife of Hadassah’s grandson, Mair, relates:
Our Auntie Berty was the person who brought about the reunion of the Kindertransport children who came to Britain in 1938/39, just before World War II. It has now become a worldwide movement and it keeps her active and busy!
In Birmingham various members of the Rose family took in Jewish refugees. Phoebe’s daughter, Renée Pink:
When the family moved from Gooch Street to Varna Road, the shop was relocated to Sherlock Street. Every room in the house was taken over by refugees, guaranteed by people whom my mother had recruited. Among these refugees was a family from Munich, who stayed with our family at the rented house in Halesowen. The mother found employment with an English family while her son, Bobby, was looked after by Jenny and David Grossman. The father of another German refugee family was the uncle of the former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Lord Immanuel Jakobovits.
In 1998 Sarah Cook, the daughter of Jenny Grossman, wrote:
Jewish refugees who were helped to come to England during the war were fostered with families. We had a young girl, and then we had a boy whose mother, brother and sister were with other members of our family. The father had perished in Germany. We are in touch until today. Women and girls who came were only allowed to be servants. We were friendly with all of them in our area and always kept in touch.
The Moise family from Munich, mentioned above, comprised a mother and her three children, Manfred, Bobby and Paula. Sadly, Phoebe and her family tried to get Mr. Moise out of Germany but didn’t succeed. It was Phoebe’s daughter, Renee, who introduced Manfred to his future wife, Ina Lewis, from Liverpool. Phoebe’s grandson:
I remember the wedding as Manfred stayed with my parents the night before the wedding, as I had to give him my bedroom and sleep one night in the box room I slept in as a small child. It was some time in the early sixties and Manfred was close to 40.
Members of the Moise family continued to attend all the Crown/Pink family simhas (celebrations). Manfred’s widow, Ina, lived to attend the shiv'a (seven days of mourning) of Renee Pink in 2015, the person who had been instrumental in bringing her and Manfred together.
However, as Renée goes on to relate, Phoebe’s good deeds sometimes drew a far from positive response:
After we returned to Birmingham from Halesowen, we found that one of the German refugee families had taken over our house and the husband would not let my mother into her kitchen. He was so irate that he chased after her with a meat chopper and we had to call the police to have him evicted.
In West London, Abraham Rose’s congregation in Ealing rented a hostel in Montpelier Road and another near Ealing Common, for some of the children who arrived on the Kindertransports. Abraham would visit them regularly to teach them not only about the Jewish religion, but also about English culture.
Members of his congregation also helped refugees on a personal basis. Twenty eight families pledged themselves to take in children, one of them being Sarah Cook, the daughter of Jenny Rose:
My uncle (Abraham Rose) and family were living nearby and I became a member of the ladies’ guild and we were asked to take in a young refugee girl. She was a sad girl who had lost her parents in Germany, but she was happy with us. Her name was Bella Schriftgeizer.
Phoebe Crown’s grandson tells the following story:
When I was about 16 I stayed for a few days with Uncle Moishe in Birmingham. One day we were on our way to shul (synagogue) when a man approached us wearing a tattered old coat that indicated he was very poor. As he reached us Uncle Moishe took a 5 pound note out of his pocket and shook his hand. When Uncle Moishe withdrew his hand the 5 pound note had disappeared. Two spies passing a letter between them couldn’t have done better. Uncle Moishe said to me, “Listen, chum, see all, hear all, say nothing. He put his hand over his mouth and said in Yiddish, “Shtum” i.e. “be dumb!”
The next day as we walked to shul he suddenly said, “Let’s cross the road.” I asked why. He answered, “There’s a man walking in our direction whom I want to avoid.”
Now Uncle Moshe was the friendliest man I ever met so it was quite a surprise. We quickly crossed the road and he continued, “When we got Jews out of Germany in 1938, the British government would only issue a visa if someone guaranteed to support the refugee financially if he didn’t find a job. You could only sign twice. I went round collecting signatures and if need be, I gave the signatory a guarantee to pay him back out of my own pocket, if he was called upon to honour his signature. All our family signed for refugees. That man coming towards us refused to sign, so a Jew perished in the Holocaust, and I have not spoken to him since.”
The act of passing the 5 pound note, described above, corresponds to the fifth level of charity as defined by Maimonides, a famous medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher:
Mishneh Torah, Laws of Charity, 10:7–14
 A lesser level than this is when one gives to the poor person directly into his hand, but gives before being asked.
Eight Levels of Charity (pdf file).