She looks just like me. But who is she?

I missed posting on Wednesday. Writing about my Tante Rosa was important, but it took a lot out of me.  By the time I had completed the post, I was emotionally worn down.  I didn’t feel like I was just blogging about my aunt; I was writing for all of  the families of the holocaust. As a parent and grandparent, I imagined being forcefully separated from my young children and grandchildren.  From a child’s standpoint, I imagined the horror of discovery that the people whom I put my deepest faith in could not keep me from being snatched away from my family and sent to an unimaginable doom. It was tough and I needed a break. So Wednesday’s blog comes today.

We are pretty sure that the woman on the left is Gisela. Standing in the back is Helene (we knew her). But the woman sitting to the right and the one in the doorway–we are unsure of . They are most likely Rosa and Sommer (Hermine?), but which is which?

I talked with my mother at length regarding September 3rd’s post (Why Grandma Cried). But memory is a fickle thing, coming and going without permission as we get older.  From my childhood I remember mom talking about Grandma’s four sisters; but as I started putting records together and gathering photos, I was only able to find evidence of three.  I told my mother this, and she began questioning her own memory.  Together, we decided that our memory had failed us. We labeled the photo of the four women according to this discussion, despite Mom’s insistence that her mother had four sisters.

A few days after my post appeared I got a phone call. It was my dad. “Your Grandma Rothsprack had four sisters. The one that was missing was named Hermine.”  Okay, now the story is starting to make more sense.  I remember Mom saying that Grandma had four sisters. So I did a little more digging and sure enough, it came out of my own Grandmother’s mouth.  My father had tape-recorded my grandma’s life story when I was just a baby and had made type-written transcripts for each of his children.  This is what Grandma said:

“I am one of five girls in the family–no boys. [She lists them] Gisela who lives in Austria. Rosa: killed in Auschwitz (sic). Not Married. Helen: Lives in Graten [California]. Sommer – lives in Austria.”


Didn’t dad say the other sister’s name was Hermine?  This is confusing. Tante Leni didn’t have any children, I’ve never met my Austrian cousins, and Tante Leni and Grandma are not around to help us get it straightened out.

Same eyes, same nose, same smile, same tilt of the head. Even the same eyebrows!
Same eyes, same nose, same smile, same tilt of the head. Even the same eyebrows!

As we were looking at the photograph I noticed something interesting.

She is either Rosa or Sommer (or Hermine?)
She is either Rosa or Sommer (or Hermine?)

When I pointed it out to my husband he disagreed. I kept thinking about it, and I was pretty sure that he was wrong. Until last night.  I was at our local family history library because I was trying to solve the mystery of the missing sister. I showed the genealogist my information and the photograph from my blog; as she looked at the photo, her jaw dropped open, her eyes got big, and she pointed at the photograph. “Do you see this woman?” She asked. I laughed with relief. She saw it too.  We know it is my grandmother’s sister. Because Rosa and Giselle were the oldest, I think it is my Tante Rosa. And she looks like me!

For me, this is the most awesome thing about genealogy.  I am living proof that I am related to this woman, and she is an integral part of my past. My dad tells me that he just uncovered several more photographs of Rosa.  I can’t wait to get the copies and make the comparisons.

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