Wednesday, May 7, 2014

World War II Veteran Attends Adelphi

by Alexandra Wurglics

At first glance, students may just see an old man walking around on campus, but as everyone should know, there is much more to a person than meets the eye.  In Mr. Edmund Rosenblum’s case, he is a 94 year old World War II veteran with a voracious appetite for learning and living life in service to others. The History Department’s Professor Kirsten Ziomek invited Rosenblum to speak to her special topics class, The Asia Pacific War: Regarding the Pain of Others, who learned all about many of the events that Rosenblum had not only lived through, but experienced first-hand.  One of the students taking this class, Samantha Rescigno, commented that “hearing about his experiences was amazing especially because there aren't many World War II veterans left to personally share their stories.  As a history major, it was an awesome experience getting to hear from someone that was personally involved in the war.”

In his presentation, Rosenblum addressed everything from education, his Jewish heritage, Hitler’s reign, Pearl Harbor, D-Day, the atomic bombs, and so much more.  He even brought in pictures of his Austrian passport , his United States uniform, and the flag that he made while in Manila.  It was incredible to hear his stories.  Beginning with his birth, Rosenblum took the class through his struggles during his younger years living in Vienna, Austria.  As a person of Jewish heritage, his entire family was forced to hide when Hilter’s army took control.  He loved school, but because of the war and his background, he did not have the chance to begin his higher education.  Once the United States began issuing affidavits, Rosenblum entered the country in 1939 and became a tailor after his father.  After being drafted for World War II, Rosenblum’s trade came in handy.  He was assigned to a regiment of craftsmen who went to the areas of fighting and helped mend soldiers’ uniforms, shoes, eyeglasses, etc.  This is definitely one aspect of the war that is not addressed often in regular classroom discussions, but was brought to life because of Rosenblum’s discussion.

Throughout his explanation of the events, Rosenblum included specific details and quotes from his time in battle.  One quote that really resonated with the class was when Rosenblum’s captain told his men right before they were about to storm the beaches of France on D-Day that “two things could happen: You could be wounded and you would be sent to the hospital and then home and your war will be over or you will be killed and the war will also be over.  Think positive!”  This just brought what Rosenblum lived through into reality.  He even discussed rations eaten during the war and the girls that he met in France.  His experiences were one of a kind and it was amazing to hear them first hand.

One of the most shocking events that Rosenblum spoke about was his encounter with freed prisoners from a concentration camp.  He recounted that it was a Sunday afternoon in Belgium and he saw people that were skin and bones speaking German, his native tongue.  After questioning them, he learned that they were freed prisoners from a nearby concentration camp.  He told the class that a few of the men from his troop put together a small amount of peanut butter, powdered eggs, and bread to give them, for which they were extremely thankful.  The images of concentration camps are horrifying enough, never mind seeing these people in real life.  It was brave of him to even speak about it with the class.  Professor Ziomek was riveted with his detailed presentation saying, “Mr. Rosenblum's talk was a rare opportunity for students to hear the perspective of a World War II veteran. More and more World War II veterans are passing away and soon there will be a time when no one will be able to talk with a World War II veteran. From hearing about what the rations for soldiers consisted of - salami and cigarettes- to describing his feelings seeing survivors of the concentration camps, and about segregation in the army- these are the details that only living witnesses to history can tell. His life story is not just about fighting for his country, but also a remarkable story of survival.”

After the war was over, Rosenblum returned home in 1946.  From this point on, he began a regular, fulfilling life.  He spoke about his wife, who he was married to for 66 years before her passing four months ago.  After personally speaking with him, Rosenblum said that “it is better to have loved and lost.”  Just the way he spoke about his wife showed his faithfulness and admiration for her.  He portrayed her in such a pure and loving light.

Mr. Rosenblum went on to become a small business owner as a tailor, making and repairing many pieces of clothing for people in Garden City and West Hempstead, where he still resides today.  In 1990, Mr. Rosenblum began taking classes at Adelphi to not only quench his thirst for knowledge, but to finally get the degree that was denied to him countless years before.  He graduated with his honorary degree and still continues to take classes to this day.  He refers to students as the future generation and has extreme respect for all of the younger people taking college classes today.

Even after all of the hardship that Rosenblum has faced and has witnessed throughout his life, he is still an extremely optimistic person.  He took the time to educate the class about his philosophy of life, which is “the joy of living is the joy of giving.”  Living this out daily, Rosenblum volunteers at a homeless shelter and is always seeking to do good deeds in his community.  He is always looking toward the future, not dwelling in the past.  Through his presentation, it was evident that Rosenblum appreciated everything in his life as it had an impact on the man he is now.  The events that he lived through and the trials that he dealt with have helped him view his own life in different ways.  As he stated, “I didn’t want to be the smartest, or richest, I wanted to be a somebody.”  Well, to his community and to everyone that has heard about his experiences, Mr. Edmund Rosenblum is definitely a somebody.  He has not only shown all of us a new and valuable side of history, but also exhibits how to share history with others.  That same history has even impacted himself in more ways than one.  Mr. Rosenblum is someone to live up to and is the epitome of selfless optimism.  It was a complete honor to have him speak in Professor Ziomek’s Asia Pacific War class and hopefully he will visit many other’ classes in the future.

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