by Dana Mandel
The world lost another witness to the Holocaust last month. One of our dwindling number of survivors, Rose Mark, a survivor of Auschwitz, passed away on December 27, 2017 in Brooklyn, NY at the age of 93. She and her husband, Zoltan Mark, resided in southern Cayuga County for nearly thirty years and were responsible for bringing the production of kosher milk to our local dairy farms.
The circumstances under which I met the Mark family were remarkable. In 2002, I was reading my daily issue of our local newspaper, The Citizen. I came across a small article about a single car accident involving the Rabbi in Genoa. Needless to say, I found it remarkable and amusing to learn that there was a Rabbi residing in Genoa. I was performing a good deal of adult home physical therapy treatments at the time through a contract with the Cayuga County Health Department. A few days after reading the article, I received a phone call from the County with a referral to treat the Rabbi in Genoa. I couldn’t wait to meet this individual.
Upon my arrival at their home on a large dairy farm in Genoa, I was greeted at the door by Rose Mark. She was dressed in tradition Jewish Orthodox attire and spoke with a heavy Eastern European accent that I later learned was Czechoslovakian in origin. I thought I had been transported back to the lower east side of Manhattan, but the strong smell of 2,500 cows within arms reach of their home quickly convinced me otherwise.
Zoltan had lost consciousness while driving and left the state highway at a high rate of speed, drove through the drainage ditch, clipped a couple of trees, and barreled through the wall of a barn and came to a sudden stop when he struck a parked tractor. No-one had witnessed this accident, and he remained unconscious in his vehicle until the owner of the barn came home, saw car parts strewn around her yard, saw the hole in the side of her barn, and investigated. Due to multiple head and neck injuries, Zoltan was airlifted to Upstate Medical Center for treatment. Zoltan had also been a victim of the Holocaust, and had survived the forced labor camps in Germany and a lengthy imprisonment after the war thanks to the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. The radiologist at Upstate was unable to identify what fractures in his neck were from the accident, and which were from his time in the camps.
Needless to say, the Mandels and the Marks became fast and very close friends. As a means of dealing with her years of starvation, Rose would cook incessantly. She had found a welcome and eager recipient to her mountains of cakes, challah breads, soups, and traditional dishes. Zoltan had taken an opposite pathway to deal with his memories of starvation, and would only eat if food was presented to him at a table and a fork was placed in his hand. They were a very interesting couple in many regards. Our friendship continued after Zoltan’s recovery and their subsequent move to Brooklyn to be closer to their immediate family. Zoltan passed away shortly thereafter, and Rose continued on surrounded by family and loved ones. She attended and danced at the wedding of one of her 18 grandchildren two days before she died.
Rose and Zoltan were remarkable in their ability to live, love, work, and contribute considering the horrors they had experienced at the hands of the Nazis. They enjoyed the company of people and were able to find joy in spending time and conversing with local friends and acquaintances. Between them, they were fluent in 7 languages and would often switch between them to my dismay during conversations. They are survived by four children, 20 grandchildren, and “too many to count” great-grandchildren. Their contributions to the culture and the dairy industry in Cayuga County are significant on many levels. Their ability to bear witness to the one of the most horrific periods in history has made them immortal.
January 27, 2018 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Global Campaign for International Holocaust Remembrance Day has requested that people take a picture of themselves with a sign that reads “We Remember” to bring attention to this important landmark. It is of utmost importance that we continue to teach our children about this penultimate tragedy and learn from the lessons of our past. May their memory be a blessing.
Watch a very special video of Rose Mark singing Hatikvah, the Israeli National Anthem, accompanied by her youngest granddaughter on the flute: