Start of Main Content

Esther Rosenfeld Starobin

Born: April 3, 1937, Adelsheim, Germany

Esther was born in Adelsheim, Germany on April 3, 1937. Adelsheim was a very small town, with only ten Jewish families living in the area. Her parents, Katie (née Lemburger) and Adolf Rosenfeld, had four other children—Bertl, Edith, Ruth and Herman. Esther’s father sold feed and other products for cattle, as well as occasionally arranged for the sale of cattle. Her mother often helped him, as he had lost a leg as a soldier in World War I. After they were no longer allowed to attend the local school, Esther’s three older sisters went to live with relatives, first in Heilbronn and then in Aachen. There the sisters attended a Jewish school.

In March 1939, Esther’s three older sisters went to England on the Kindertransport and none of them got a chance to say goodbye to their parents. A few months later, in June 1939, Esther was sent to England on a Kindertransport. She arrived in London and was met by a woman from the Quaker society who escorted her from London to Thorpe, Norwich, about 100 miles away from London

In Thorpe, Esther lived with Dorothy and Harry Harrison and their son Alan from 1939 until November 1947. Harry worked in a shoe factory that was owned by a Jewish family. He had responded to a flier on the factory bulletin board advertising a need for foster families for refugee children. Upon arrival, Esther was quarantined because she had scarlet fever, but her foster brother Alan played with her through the window. She was very much a part of the family. Esther went to school and had a happy childhood with the Harrisons, despite the effects of the war. Her sisters lived in different areas of England but came to visit whenever possible.

Esther’s parents and brother were deported from Germany to France during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot in October 1940. In France, they were imprisoned in the Gurs camp. Esther’s brother, Herman, was taken from the camp by the Oeuvre de secours aux enfants (OSE). In 1941, the OSE worked with other organizations to send some Jewish children to the United States, including Herman. He lived with an aunt and uncle. In August 1942, Esther’s parents were sent to Auschwitz and murdered.

In 1947, British aid organizations at Bloomsbury House arranged for Bertl, Ruth, and Esther to come to the United States to join their brother Herman. Edith was still in the British army so she stayed behind for some time. When the sisters first arrived in the U.S., they lived with an aunt and uncle in Washington, D.C. The adjustment was very difficult for Esther. After Edith joined them, she, Bertl, and Ruth took care of Esther through her junior and senior high school years. Later, Esther lived with Ruth and her husband while in college at the University of Illinois where she studied to become a teacher. Esther now volunteers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.