They Thought For Themselves, Chapter 3
by Rose Price
I am a survivor of Hitler’s Holocaust. My family, which lived in a little city in Poland, was warm and caring. We looked out for one another. My relatives lived within walking distance of each other, so if it rained and you ducked into the nearest house, you were always in the home of a cousin or an aunt or uncle.
My upbringing was very Orthodox. My mother instilled in me that Judaism was life. I never knew a difference between a high holiday or a low holiday. A holiday was a holiday. Every Shabbat (Sabbath) was even celebrated as a holiday.
My mother and my grandmother would start getting ready for the Shabbat on Wednesday, baking challa (bread). On Friday they prepared the fish and the chicken soup and made the noodles. In the afternoon we would take a cholent—a one-pot dish with meat, vegetables, and potatoes—to the baker to cook.
We would take special baths and dress in our finest clothes. The table was all set in beautiful white linen and whatever silver we had.
Meal time was family time. On Friday nights we had fish. Father would come home from the synagogue and recite the Kiddish, the blessing over the wine and the challa, then he would bless the children.
Saturday morning we would go to the synagogue. After services, we would stop by the bakery and bring home the cholent. We all sat around grandmother’s table and enjoyed the Sabbath meal.
The Nazi Horror
When Hitler took power, change came quickly. The Germans invaded in September 1939. One day at school shortly after the invasion, all the Jewish students were called up to the front of the classroom. With a guard standing nearby, our teacher told us, “Don’t come back to the school anymore because you are Jews.” I was ten and one-half years old. We were all absolutely devastated.
The next thing the Germans did was throw us out of our home and force us to live in a ghetto. They took the whole town of Jews and put us on one street.
My sister, who is two years older, and I, were among the first to be sent away. We were on our way to visit our grandmother when the Germans grabbed us and put us to work in the ammunition factory.
It was a horror because we went from a warm house into freezing conditions and from a loving, hugging, kissing family to a man constantly beating us with a whip. For a while we went back to our parents in the evenings. But one day, instead of letting us return home, they marched us into the woods. That summer I had been in the woods gathering mushrooms, blueberries, and raspberries. Now I was confined to a prison camp in those same woods.
It’s unthinkable what those people did to us. It’s almost indescribable. In the morning, they woke us up when it was still dark. We had to go outside, no matter what the weather was, and line up five deep for them to count us.
We worked a full day at the factory. I operated a machine that stretched out a piece of aluminum from a quarter of an inch to the length of a rifle bullet. I had to grease it, feed it, and take away the shells.
Before the invasion, my biggest responsibilities were to go to school, learn, come home, help my mother with the housework, do some gardening, and watch out for my younger sister. Now I was being told that either I learned how to work that machine or I would die. And I had to learn quickly.
I cried for a while, until one day I just couldn’t cry anymore because I didn’t have any tears left. That happened after the city was evacuated and I knew I would never again see my parents or my family. That was my last day of crying for 25 years.
At first I would still pray. I would get up in the morning and say the Modeh Ani and during the day I would say the Shema and just pray to God. One day I prayed that God would send my mother because I was hungry and homesick. I needed a mother’s hug instead of the beatings. I wanted to take a bath because I was covered with dirt and we didn’t have soap. I prayed and nothing happened. When my prayers were not answered, I concluded that there was no God.
The Concentration Camps
I was transferred from one concentration camp to another until I was sent to Bergen-Belsen and then Dachau. It’s hard for me to believe that I lived through such horror. Such horrible, horrible things happened at Bergen-Belsen. We were tortured. We were put in a field and forced to dig sugar beets out of the almost frozen ground with our bare hands. I remember my hands bleeding badly.
We had many difficult experiences in the camps. One stands out as particularly cruel. I was working in the field one day digging up sugar beets and by then I was more like a zombie because I had been in these conditions for several years. I decided I was going to steal a sugar beet and eat it. I was determined that my belly was not going to hurt that night.
All we used to receive was a quarter-of-an-inch thick piece of bread—it was 80% sawdust—and a cup of coffee. That was our food for 24 hours. Obviously, this was barely enough food to exist on, let alone to sustain someone working in the extreme cold.
When the guard caught me, I got such a bad beating that even today when I talk about it I can still feel the cat-o’-nine tails on my back and on my face and around my body and the punishment of hanging by my hands—all because I stole a sugar beet.
The cold weather alone killed many of us because we were not dressed properly. We would have to stand in line for hours, no matter how deep the snow was, half naked and without shoes.
One time while we were lined up, we were completely un-dressed for an experiment to see how long it would take for our blood to freeze. To this day, when I am in cold weather, and my toes and fingers go completely numb, I remember that time when my body started to freeze. The only reason I survived the experiment was because several people fell on top of me and their bodies kept me warm.
I had made up my mind that I would survive the same day that I had said there was no God. When I did survive, I took full credit. Later, I realized it had to have been the Lord.
But there were days when I thought I wasn’t going to make it. When we were on our way to Dachau, our train was bombed. As we ran into the woods to get away from the train I thought to myself, That’s it. I’ve made enough bullets. Let them use the bullets on me. Death looked better than life.
One time when I was still in a camp in my own hometown, I was walking across the field with somebody and I smiled. For the offense of smiling, the Germans put me in a sewer tank for 24 hours. I had to stay on my toes to keep from drowning. I was no more than 12 years old at the time.
Another difficult time was when my sister, who was in the same camp, got typhoid fever. She was my last living family member and I didn’t think I could go on if I lost her too. The guards came in periodically to check for those who were sick. Then they would take them outside and leave them to freeze. I laid on top of my sister to protect her and when they asked for people to lift up their hands to show they were healthy, I put my hand up in place of hers.
Selected to Be Shot
Twice, I was selected to be shot. Both times when the guards unlocked the chain, I ran away. The second time I ran into a guard. I was running so hard I bounced off of him. But he didn’t see me. It could only have been God. If he had seen me, he would have shot me himself. I looked up at him and then fled into a wooded part of the camp.
When we were finally liberated in May 1945, I was full of unforgiveness for what I had been through. I hated the Germans with a passion. The unforgiveness literally poisoned my body, causing me to need 27 operations.
I was looking for somebody who would be willing to drop a bomb on Germany and Poland. I had lost all of my family except my sister and one aunt—nearly 100 relatives.
My New Life
After I was released, I came to America and got married and had children. As much as I hated God, I became active in the traditional synagogue. My children needed to learn about Judaism, but I couldn’t teach them because I was dead inside. Socially, I was the best Jew. I was active in helping to build the Hebrew school. I even worked my way up to become president of the sisterhood.
If someone had asked me back then, “Do you believe in God?,” I would have said, “No.” Even today many rabbis don’t believe in the Bible and very few believe in God. But I believed in maintaining my Jewish identity and tradition.
My Daughter Believes in Jesus
One day my teenage daughter came to me and said the worst thing I could imagine. She said, “Mommy, I believe in Jesus Christ and He is the Jewish Messiah.”
I nearly had a heart attack. I told her what Jesus Christ did to her family and why she didn’t have many aunts and uncles. The Nazi guards had told me over and over that because I killed Jesus Christ, He hated me and put me into the camps to kill me.
When I was seven or eight years old, I was hit in the head with a crucifix by a priest in Poland for the “crime” of walking on the sidewalk in front of his church.
So for my daughter to believe in Jesus Christ was death. I threw her out. I couldn’t have this enemy living in my house. When my husband went to the house where she was staying to check on her, he became a believer too. The house was used as an outreach to Jewish people.
My younger daughter was still going to a private Hebrew school. But somehow I knew that she had secretly become a Messianic believer, and I beat her for it, even though I don’t remember doing it.
After my husband accepted the Lord, he came home and started reading Proverbs 31 to me. I didn’t know what Proverbs 31 was, but when he told me he believed also, he became a traitor to me too. The rabbi couldn’t do anything with him. He was very stubborn.
I was ready to leave my family, but I couldn’t. A friend of mine, a lawyer said, “If you leave the house, the authorities will put you in jail for desertion of your minor children.”
I had lost my first family under Hitler, and now was about to lose my second family, all because of this Jesus. I was ready to meet Jesus and kill him.
I tried everything possible to reach both children. For the first time I told them about the concentration camps. I begged them. I pleaded with them to reject this Jewish enemy. For two thousand years we had been persecuted because this man was supposed to be a Messiah. I told them everything I had learned and nothing helped.
Since my husband had become a believer, he insisted that my daughter come back home. They witnessed to me constantly. I would find my Jewish Bible opened and little pieces of paper with Scriptures on it. I didn’t know they were Scriptures because I didn’t know the Bible.
I Go to the Rabbi
I ran to the rabbi. He would tell me different Scriptures with which to challenge my family. In response, they would give me five more.
At the urging of my family, I asked the rabbi about Isaiah 53. He said, “No Jew reads that, especially a Jewish woman.” So I couldn’t read it. The same with Psalm 22. There are 328 prophecies of the coming of the suffering servant Messiah. I asked the rabbi about almost all of them. Finally, the rabbi told me not to come to the synagogue anymore because I had read him Isaiah 53.
I kept yelling and screaming and crying, “Help me! I’m not going that way. What do you want from me? My family is dead because they believe in Jesus, you tell me, but my food disappears. Who is eating the food? Why do I have so much laundry? If they are all dead, then why is it? Help me!”
He just replied, “No. I can’t help you anymore.”
So I started sneaking down to the basement and reading the New Testament in a locked room. I read Matthew first and it showed me Jesus was a gentle man. He wasn’t a killer of my people, but a very gentle man. Then I started to think about what I believed.
I went to another rabbi for help, but he said, “Look, I can’t help you because I don’t read the Bible very much.”
Shortly after that encounter I went to a dinner at Arthur DeMoss’ house. Mr. DeMoss was a wealthy Christian businessman who would open his home once a year as an outreach to Jewish people. He asked me if I would mind if he prayed for me. I told him, “I don’t care if you stand on your head. It’s your house.”
Instead of standing on his head, he started to pray. Jews never close their eyes in prayer, but all of a sudden I closed my eyes and said a very simple prayer: “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, if it’s true, if He who they are saying is Your Son and You have a Son and He is really the Messiah, okay. But, Father, if He isn’t, forget that I talked to you.” That was the first prayer I had prayed since 1942. I felt the biggest stone rolling off my back. For the first time since the war, I cried and I felt so clean. I knew He was real and I made Him my Messiah.
When Holocaust survivors get angry with me today because I am a Messianic Jew, I just show love to them because I know how they feel. I’ve been there. I don’t argue with them.
One day I got a call from Sid Roth. A friend of his, a pastor from a large church in Berlin, had just called him to say, “We’re going to rent the largest coliseum in Berlin, the one that Hitler used for his meetings, and we’re looking for Messianic Jews to take part in the events we have planned.”
Sid said, “I have the perfect person,” meaning me. But when he called me, I refused.
When I left Germany I swore I would never, ever go back to that accursed land. And here he was asking me to go back to Germany. How could he? For six months I wrestled about whether to go. I asked the Lord to kill me, to take me home, but not to send me back because as soon as I started praying, the word came, “Yes, you have to go back and you have to forgive.”
I finally surrendered. I went with my husband and four other believers. Many more came later. It was, as I said, a six-month struggle. I had people pray and fast for me.
This was a big event. A number of prominent Christians were there including Pat Robertson, Demos Shakarian, and Pat Boone.
When I walked into that coliseum, the one where Hitler said the Nazis would rule the world for a thousand years, it was jam packed with young Germans. A number of them had stars of David, Jewish stars, around their neck. Israeli flags were waving.
When I saw the American leaders, some of whom I knew, and I saw the German people wearing stars of David and mezuzahs, I thought, It’s impossible. Then I thought, What am I doing here? Lord, what do you want from me? Get me out of here. I don’t want to speak German. Am I doing this right or am I telling the Germans and the world that it’s okay to go kill Jews? These thoughts tormented me until I spoke.
Confronted by Nazis
On Sunday they called me up to speak. I don’t remember saying the things that were printed. I don’t remember speaking on forgiveness. But after I finished my talk, some people came up to me who were the last people on the face of this earth that I wanted to see. They were ex-Nazis. Apparently, I had asked for any ex-Nazis to come up and be prayed for and be forgiven. I don’t remember saying it, but here they were asking me to forgive them. Could I forgive them face-to-face as I had from the podium?
That’s when I realized that I had spoken on forgiveness. One of those who had come forward was a guard from Dachau. He had been in charge of punishment. When he came and identified himself, my body shriveled up in pain as he knelt down. He was pleading with me to forgive him.
I am a believer, but people cannot comprehend what I experienced in Dachau and Bergen-Belsen. They cannot imagine the hell I went through. It was only by the grace of God that I was able to forgive those who came forward, because Rose Price could not forgive them for the atrocities I went through as a child.
As I was ready to leave Berlin, one of the ex-Nazis whom I had prayed with for forgiveness came up to me. He said that after I had prayed with him he had his first night’s sleep since the war.
Show Me the Strength
Another time I was in Germany again and I realized I was not far from Bergen-Belsen. I knew that I had to go back. Once and for all I had to bury Bergen-Belsen. I had a Swedish couple with me, Susan and Gary, and a German man named Otto—all believers.
I had to ask a guide for the location of the main gate. I didn’t recognize it because the barracks had all been burned. But I knew if they put me where the main gate had been, I could find where the barracks had stood. I was amazed that even today no grass grows where the electric wires were located. No matter how many times they plant grass, it does not grow.
The guide gave me a list of the names of those who had been at Bergen-Belsen and I found my sister’s and my name on the list. We were on the last transport out from Bergen-Belsen to Dachau. After that, all those who remained died of typhus.
I cried and I wept. At one point I was hollering at Bergen-Belsen, “You died, but I survived! I am here! I survived!”
While I was hollering, I started to pray for the salvation of the country and that the German people would learn of the Messiah’s love and forgiveness.
At one point I asked, “Lord, how can I pray that prayer at this cemetery where so much happened to me, so much that is indescribable?”
As I was praying, the German man became hysterical. I went over to him to hug him and he said, “How can you pray for us when we did that to you? My family was involved with this. We put you here. How can you? Show me the strength. Show me the strength.”
Then he asked for forgiveness and the four of us just kept on crying and praying for one another and for the German people.
You Have to Forgive
If you feel you cannot forgive someone, you cannot hate anyone more than I hated the Germans. I lost my stomach. I had 27 operations before I went to Berlin.
Hate has an address in your body. Love cannot dwell in the body with hate. When I finally gave up all the hate and love started coming in, something happened inside my body. I didn’t have pain anymore. I haven’t had an operation since 1981 because the Lord has taken all that poison out of me.
Nobody knows the pain you have gone through and nobody knows the pain I went through. But there is no excuse for hate. You have to forgive. You have to give up the hate.
It’s not even up to you to have the strength to forgive. You cannot do anything in your own power. You have to go to the Lord and the Lord will give you the strength.
Commentary by Sid Roth
What kind of power could allow Rose Price to forgive Nazis who tortured and murdered almost her entire family?
What kind of power could allow another woman to forgive the drug-crazed man who killed her husband with a hammer? I interviewed the man, Frank Sherry. This widow visited him in prison. He kept his eyes to the ground in shame as she spoke. Her supernatural forgiveness caused Frank to turn his life to God and today, after being paroled, he devotes himself to rehabilitating prisoners through this same supernatural power.
This power is the Holy Spirit of God. God predicts a day will come in which He will change man’s heart and give him a new spirit. “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will remove the heart of stone out of your body …” (Ezekiel 36:26).
This new Spirit that God will put within us will allow us to live at a higher level and overcome all fears. Jeremiah 31:30,33 (31,34 in some versions), written hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, predicts a new covenant from God that will not only cause God to remember our sins no more, but allow us to know Him!
Imagine having intimacy with God. You can hear His voice. You can experience His love. I know this is true because I know Him. And what He has done for me, He desires to do for you.