Morrie’s early years were gruesome and filled with fear, but they shaped a man who taught his son to stand down for nothing and stand up for everything.
It wasn’t something you see often.
Nazi soldiers flooding the streets as Polish residents were called out, manhandled, and forced to their knees. The air was thick with crackling tension, only broken by the deafening sounds of gunshots, fearful crying, and angry shouts.
Morrie was only a boy at the time, but even he knew something was wrong.
As the stern, intrusive soldiers aggressively pushed people out of their homes and next to the railroad tracks, Morrie tried to keep close to his mother as they were shoved against a sea of Jews.*
As the Nazis overran Poland, Morrie’s remaining family members were killed. He didn’t know it at the time, but the destination of that fateful train was a concentration camp, where he’d struggle to endure the Nazi treatment until 1944.
When 1944 came around, the train this time took him and his mom to a death camp in Germany. For a year, they kept their heads low and did whatever they could to ensure their survival. By the end of 1945, the British had liberated the camp, and Jack and his mother were free, though they would be forever plagued by the experience.
They were placed in refugee camps as they tried to decide where to go next, until 1948, when Jack’s mother remarried and the family of three chose to immigrate into America, in which Jack’s aunt was already residing.
They hopped aboard a boat from Europe, enduring the rocky Atlantic, and landed in New York City in 1950. After anxiously proceeding through Ellis Island and becoming naturalised, they settled in Osh Kosh, Wisconsin, where a sponsor supported their welfare. Their sponsor ran the local grocery store, so Jack and his parents were given the small apartment located above. Soon, life began again, as his stepdad took on a job at a bubbly water company and allowed Morrie’s mother to look after the house and her son during the day.
Adjustment wasn’t easy, however. Discomfort settled in, and soon after, they moved to nearby Milwaukee, where Morrie attended the local high school. Though the language barrier presented a frustrating obstacle at first, Morrie learned English quickly. Nonetheless, the different culture and traditions created a divide between him and his peers, and the years after took a toll.
Yet, for his family, he marched on. After graduating from high school, Morrie enrolled in the Milwaukee Institute of Technology, which he later likened to “MIT” when discussing his education. But college ambience wasn’t one in which Morrie felt comfortable, and after a year, he decided to leave MIT to open up his own shoe business.
During this period of time, Morrie met his future wife, Harlene, a young woman with a brave heart, and they traveled out to California in 1967, settling in Los Angeles to raise their family and finally embrace America as his home.
Morrie’s legacy rests today with son Jeff Rosen, who rose to success as the Santa Clara District Attorney. Morrie’s hardships, perseverance, and journey into America have graced Jeff with a sensitivity and respect for all those who come into the country. “The U.S. is strengthened by immigrants,” Jeff says. “America is a land of opportunities, but everyone here also has something to give.”
From Jeff’s birth, Morrie instilled in him the injustices of World War II. That passion for fairness and equity carries on in Jeff’s work as prosecutor and public defendant of the victimized, and his integrity has won him much trust from the Santa Clara community.
Morrie’s early years were gruesome and filled with fear, but they shaped a man who taught his son to stand down for nothing and stand up for everything. Jeff knows that without his father, he wouldn’t be the person he is today, and for it he is grateful.
That, sentiments of loyalty and respect, is something you see often in the Rosen family, and it is something that will continue to be seen in future generations of this loss-strengthened love.
*Disclaimer: description of the Invasion of Poland imagined from published testimonies and accounts, not from Morrie Rosen himself.
Shared by: Jeff Rosen
Written by: Gunn High School reporter Shawna Chen