Sylvia Rozines was born Syvia Perlmuter on January 20, 1935, in Lodz, Poland. Her father, Isaac, was a salesman, and her mother, Haya, cared for Sylvia and her elder sister, Dora, who was seven years older.
World War II began when Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. Within only seven days, German troops entered and occupied Lodz. The Germans soon enacted antisemitic laws, including those that required all members of the Jewish community to wear the Star of David on the front and back of their clothing. In February 1940, 160,000 Jews were forced to move into the Lodz ghetto. The ghetto was surrounded a barbed-wire fence which separated it from the rest of the city. Food was scarce, and diseases, like typhus, spread throughout the ghetto. Residents of the ghetto were required to work for the Germans. Isaac delivered flour while Haya and Dora worked in a clothing factory, one of ninety-six factories in the ghetto. Sylvia, along with all other Jewish children, was no longer allowed to attend school.
In January 1942, deportations began from the Lodz ghetto to the Chelmno killing center. In the Gehsperre or “general curfew” deportation of September 1942, the Germans searched for and rounded up the children who remained in the ghetto. When the Germans began searching for children street by street, Isaac found hiding places for himself and Sylvia. Isaac often had to secure a new hiding place every day, and on one occasion, they hid in the city cemetery until Dora was able to tell them it was safe. It was dangerous for Sylvia to go outside alone, so when she was not hiding with her father, she spent most of her time with two other Jewish girls who lived in her apartment building. Since most of their toys had been traded for supplies and food, they invented new games and played with dolls made from old sheets to occupy their time.
In August 1944, the Germans began the liquidation of the Lodz ghetto. The remaining 75,000 Jewish residents of Lodz were told to pack their belongings and report to the train station. The majority of the residents were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. A small group of adults were selected to stay to clean the ghetto, Isaac, Haya, and Dora were among them. Isaac was able to sneak Sylvia into a cellar when the guards were not watching. Eleven other children were hidden with Sylvia in the cellar while the adults lived in two factory buildings nearby. In the winter of 1944, German guards discovered the children in the cellar, dragged them outside, and allowed them to live with the adults.
On January 19, 1945, the day before Sylvia’s tenth birthday, 800 Jews, including Isaac, Haya, Dora, and Sylvia, were liberated from the Lodz ghetto by the Soviet army. Realizing antisemitism was still rampant in Poland, the Perlmuter family relocated to a displaced persons camp in Germany. From there, they made their way to Paris, where Haya’s brother was living. Sylvia spent her teenage years in Paris until she immigrated to the United States in 1957.
Sylvia married David Rozines, a Holocaust survivor from Poland, in 1959, and they settled in Albany, New York. They had a son and two grandchildren. Sylvia worked in the New York school system for 24 years. Following David’s death, Sylvia relocated to the Washington, DC, area and is a volunteer at the Museum.