Freud said there are no coincidences. Emma Bull said coincidence is the word we use when we can’t see the levers and pulleys. Heraclitus said the unseen design of things is more harmonious than the seen. I (and many others) say coincidence is the voice of God… like a wink of reassurance that we’re on the right path. It started with an apple…
“Herman was the youngest son in the Rosenblatt family, a loving and happy group of people living in a small village in Poland. But in 1939, the Rosenblatts were forced into a cramped Polish ghetto. Their lives would never be the same. Three years later, Herman’s father contracted typhus. It would be the first of many losses for him. And he will never forget what his father said to him on his deathbed.
“‘One thing you’ve got to remember,’ he said. ‘Don’t hold a grudge against nobody and tolerate everybody.’ And the next day, he died.”
Germany had taken control of Poland. And four months after his father’s death, Herman and his family became victims of Hitler’s Final Solution. The ghetto Jews were herded through the streets like cattle, to be transported to their deaths. They were divided into two groups: Herman was to be shipped with the men to a work camp, and his mother was placed with the sick and disabled, to be loaded on a train and sent to the notorious death camp Treblinka.
“I ran over to my mother, and I said, ‘I want to be with you. I don’t want to go with my brothers,’ ” recalls Herman. “She went ahead and pushed me away. She said to me, ‘Go with your brothers. I don’t want you.’ Remember, I was at that time twelve years old. I couldn’t get over why my mother told me she doesn’t want me. She doesn’t love me. She went to Treblinka, where she was gassed and died.
“After the war,” Herman continues, “I understood why. I still do today. I know why, in my mind, but in my heart, I don’t know.”
By 1944, Herman was a prisoner in a concentration camp outside Berlin called Schlieben. Life there was a daily struggle under the most horrendous conditions.
“It was hunger, hunger, and hunger,” explains Herman. “We didn’t get anything to eat. Just one slice of bread and water.”
The only escape from constant hunger was in sleep and dreams.
“Once, I was sleeping in the box, and I had a dream that my mother came to me,” Herman says, “and she said to me, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll be all right. I’m looking after you.’ And she disappeared. And then came an angel who touched me, and she disappeared. And then I woke up in a sweat.”
The next day, while Herman was walking near the camp’s barbed-wire fence, something caught his eye.
“There was a little girl standing there, looking into the camp,” explains Herman. “So I asked her if she had something to eat. And she looked at me. I had the paper suit on and some rags under my feet, and she had a nice, warm jacket, and she took out an apple and threw it. When I caught the apple, I ran away, but I heard her say, ‘See you tomorrow.’ I believe that the girl who came was the angel my mother was sending to me.”
Herman and the young girl continued to meet daily.
“She came every day,” Herman says. “Not almost – she came every day. I had it timed when the guards were gonna be in this area and how long it would take another guard to come up, so that when I ran up to the fence to grab the bread or the apple – whatever she threw to me – I wouldn’t be seen by the guards. If the SS saw me, I would get shot. But at that point, I didn’t care if I got killed or not. As long as I could have some more to eat.”
The day came when Herman was to be shipped to another camp, and he said good-bye to the young girl.
“I looked back,” Herman remembers, “and she was there. I saw a tear come down her eye, and a tear came down my eye. And I ran away….”
The little girl knew that she would never see him again. When prisoners left this camp, they were often sent to die in the gas chambers.
Nine months later, the Allies liberated the concentration camps. Miraculously, Herman gained his freedom on the very day he was scheduled to be put to death in the gas chamber.
“It was an unbelievable scene,” relates Herman. “I couldn’t believe it myself…. At last, I’m free….”
After spending several years in England and Israel, Herman and his brothers emigrated to the United States and settled in New York City. From 1949 to 1956, Herman was engaged to be married three times, but each time he decided to call it off because he did not feel that he had found his soul mate. And then, in 1957, Herman was invited to join another couple on a date to Coney Island.
“He said, ‘But she has a friend of hers who is Polish,’ ” Herman recalls. ” ‘And we can have a double date.’ I replied, ‘No, I don’t want to go on double dates. Especially blind dates.’ He persuaded me, so I said, ‘Okay.’ She was good-looking. I started to get attracted to her. Eh, I thought to myself, Maybe, maybe after tonight I’ll ask her for her telephone number.”
Driving home that night, Herman and the young woman, Roma, began talking about their past and discovered that they had actually met once before. It was during his stay in Israel while serving in the Israeli army. One night, he and some fellow soldiers went out with a group of nurses. Roma was one of them.
“She said, ‘I had a date with a guy,’ and I asked, ‘What did he look like?’ And she described him to me,” recalls Herman, “and I said, ‘That was me.’ She said, ‘Come on. It couldn’t be.’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ ”
It was an amazing coincidence that these two strangers had met years before. But what was about to happen could only be described as a miracle.
Herman continues, “She said to me, ‘Where were you during the war?’ I told her, ‘I was in a concentration camp.’ Then she said to me, ‘I was near a camp, where I would throw food over the fences to a boy.’
“I said to her, ‘Did he have rags on his feet instead of shoes?’ She paused for a second, and then said, ‘Yes.’ All of a sudden it just hit me like a ton of bricks. I said to her, ‘Did he tell you not to come around anymore? That he was leaving?’ And she stopped and looked at me.”
“Yes,” Roma told Herman.
“That was me. That was me,” replied Herman. “We paused for a while and didn’t say a word to each other. Then I looked at her, and I said, ‘Look, you saved my life. You are my angel. And you’re going to be my angel.’ And I proposed to her.”
“He said, ‘You know, I’m going to marry you,’ ” Roma adds. “And I said, ‘Crazy … we just met. How is this possible?’ ”
Not only was it possible, it was somehow mysteriously meant to be. Eleven months later, Herman and Roma were wed. The young boy who managed to survive one of the darkest periods in human history, and the angel who risked her life to help him stay alive, were now husband and wife. And it seemed that nothing could have kept them apart. Not a prison wall, not a separation that would last over twelve years, not even the thousands of miles between a German concentration camp and Coney Island.
“This is destiny,” states Roma, “something that I felt very strong. This is the man that God wanted me to have.”
Herman and Roma recently celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary, and they returned to Coney Island to reminisce about that miraculous night when they found each other again.
“Coney Island was the place that we really have special, special feelings about,” Roma says. “And I consider myself lucky that we met, and thanks to my friend, and thanks to God, really, that we are together.”
“I think that my mother is watching me and she wants me to be happy, and she actually sent Roma to me,” Herman concludes. “The miracle was that we kept bumping into each other all the time, and we didn’t know it until the last day when we were sitting in the car, and I asked her to marry me. I told her there are no others…. There’s nobody else for me. And that’s it.”