Visit the Museum





Academic Research

Remember Survivors and Victims

Genocide Prevention

Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial

Outreach Programs

Other Museum Websites

< Echoes of Memory

My Mothers


By Esther R. Starobin

I have been an orphan since August 14, 1942, but I have never thought of myself that way. At the May 14, 2019, meeting for Echoes of Memory, the survivor memoir writing group, I listened to two people read their writings. Both writers talked about their mothers and specific actions their mothers had taken. One person spoke of all the actions his mother took to save him and the family. The other writer spoke of the ways his mother had made his childhood a time of happiness and encouragement. Both writings made me feel very sad. It has made me think of my mother, but I cannot remember her at all.

Of course I know my mother was Kathi Lemberger Rosenfeld, who with my father saved me. I spent two years and two months with her before I was sent to England on the Kindertransport. Then there is my foster mother, Dorothy Harrison. I spent eight years and five months with her. Lastly, my sisters finished raising me to adulthood. Thinking of these people has led me to look for a definition of mother. I like this one: “Mother,” when used as a verb, is defined as “to bring up (a child) with care and affection.”

I have been lucky that so many different people took on this role. So many of my characteristics and habits can be traced back to these different people. As I read through the letters from my mother, written while she was in the concentration camp, I appreciate and continue her belief in God and family. My birth mother truly believed family takes care of one another, and she also believed in the goodness of others. I know throughout my life, I have followed her beliefs in helping my family in times of difficulty as they have helped me. I must say, my belief in God comes not only from my birth mother but also from my foster mother. Through Dorothy, I came to appreciate the value of being part of a congregation and the community that comes with it. My love of gardening also comes from Dorothy. Though as a part owner of an animal feed distributor, I would imagine she had a different view of gardening and plants. Through both of these mothers, I came to understand family is not only made up of the people born into it, but also of others who serve as family.

Lastly, of course, were my three sisters, Bertl, Edith, and Ruth. Many lessons were learned from them. The fact that we all had responsibilities toward each other, even when it wasn’t convenient, was the main lesson I learned from their mothering. It certainly would have been much easier for my sisters, as young immigrants making a new life, if they hadn’t been responsible for me. The value of education was another important item that I learned from them and from my foster mother. And then there were other skills they taught that seem maybe trifling but are necessary to learn, such as cooking, cleaning, handicrafts, mothering, and celebrating holidays. These last skills my birth mother didn’t have the chance to teach me, so I’m lucky that others could fill in the gaps.

Of course, there are things I would like to know that no one can fill in for me. Through research that I and others have done, I have learned a lot about my birth family. What I can’t learn this way is medical history, family traditions and background, and expectations and hopes my parents had for their children.

Somehow, I go back and amend my initial statement. I do feel like an orphan now that all my siblings have died.

© 2020, Esther Starobin. The text, images, and audio and video clips on this website are available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined in the United States copyright laws.

Tags:   esther starobinesther rosenfeld starobinechoes of memory, volume 13letterskindertransportmemory

PREVIOUS POST: Interconnections

NEXT POST: Bridges

View All Blog Posts