In Memory of




Obituary for Rose Schindler (Schwartz)

IN LIEU OF FLOWERS OR A TREE THE FAMILY REQUESTS DONATIONS BE MADE TO: (Holocaust education nonprofit co-founded by Rose’s son, Steven Schindler),; The Butterfly Project,; or USC Shoah Foundation,


As recently as three weeks ago, Rose Schindler shared her tale of survival at UC San Diego’s
Hillel Center, drawing tears from some of in the audience.
It wasn’t long before Rose Schindler’s words drew tears from her audience members, as often
happened whenever the San Diego Holocaust survivor would recount the harrowing, almost
miraculous tale of her survival in a Nazi concentration camp almost 80 years ago.
“You can’t imagine how horrible it was. We lived on almost nothing,” Schindler said, seated on
a stage during an appearance she made three weeks ago at UC San Diego’s Hillel Center. “But if
you have a problem, never give up hope, OK. Everything is going to be fine.”
It was to be her last public speaking engagement. On Friday, Schindler, 93, died following a
recent diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. She had been ill for more than a year battling metastatic
breast cancer. She learned she had pancreatic cancer only a few days after the Hillel speech.
A resident of San Diego since she and late husband Max moved here in 1956 from New York,
Schindler was known as a tireless speaker who regularly shared with audiences young and old
her moving but also terrifying story of wartime survival and the atrocities inflicted by Nazis on
the Jewish people.
For many years during her young life, Schindler was not so open about the death camp she
narrowly survived by lying about her age — she was 14 at the time — to avoid being herded
into a line that shuttled young children directly to the gas chambers. It was only after the
teacher in her son Steven’s eighth grade class learned that his mom was a Holocaust survivor
that Schindler launched her decades-long role as a public speaker.
“When I was in eighth grade, I was in the play, ‘The Diary of Anne Frank,’ and I told the teacher
my parents were survivors and she asked if they would talk,” Steven Schindler, 63, said
Saturday. “So my mom spoke — first time ever — and until three weeks yesterday, she hadn’t
At the Auschwitz concentration camp, Rose lied about her age — she was 14 at the time — to
avoid being herded into a line that shuttled young children directly to the gas chambers.
‘Stay alive’
There was always a common refrain in her speeches where she would evoke the last words her
father said to her at the Auschwitz concentration camp: “Whatever you do, stay alive so you
can tell the world what they are doing to us.” He eventually died in the gas chamber there.
“So she started when I was in middle school,” Steven Schindler says, “and that has been the
purpose that has been driving her ever since. She’s doing her dad’s bidding and in doing so, she
connects with children in a remarkable way who uplift her and show her love and appreciation
such a tragic thing that happened to her.

“My mom’s life was magical and remarkable and tragic for sure. But after losing so much, she
was really blessed, not blessed to the point that it would replace the family she lost. But she
was blessed and therefore we were.”
Rose Schindler’s words clearly had an impact on students at La Jolla Country Day School, where
she had been regularly making appearances since 2008. So much so that the students urged the
administration to make her a graduate of the private school, said Gary Krahn, head of the
school. She was given a diploma in 2018.
“Being a survivor, she’s lived through things none of us will ever have to live through, so she
wanted to share what she had gone through in hopes the students would become leaders of
their community and prevent something like this from ever happening again,” Krahn said. “The
students would listen to her because of the sparkle she brought in to the room. She was the
grandmother figure, light on her feet. The kids leaned into her, and you never got bored
listening to her. “She was the person we all want to be.”
Parents, 5 siblings perish
Born Rosie Schwartz Dec. 28, 1929, in a small village in Czechoslovakia, she grew up in the
nearby town of Seredne, along with seven siblings. Hatred against the Jewish people was rising
as Schindler reached her teenage years. In the spring of 1944, all the Jews from her community
were forced to a nearby town, where they were housed in a ghetto of tents erected for families
while they awaited the trains that would ship them in cattle cars to Auschwitz in Poland.
“They would tell me if they put you in the gas chamber line make sure nobody sees you, get out
of the line, and that’s what I did,” Schindler would recount during her many presentations. She
wasn’t shy about pulling back a sleeve to show the tattoo put on her forearm at the camp. “And
then my sisters, we’d do the same thing because we promised my father we are going to stay
She would remain in the concentration camp for five months until she and her two sisters,
Helen and Judy, were transferred to a work camp. There they stayed until World War II came to
an end in May 1945. By then, both her parents and five of her siblings had perished.
Rose and her two sisters made their way back to their family home in Czechoslovakia to find it
pilfered of all their belongings, her son said.
Now orphaned, Rose Schwartz eventually ended up in a hostel in Bedford, England, thanks to a
rescue effort initiated by the then Central British Fund for German Jewry that helped relocate
more than 700 children who had survived the Holocaust. It was there she met her future
husband, Max Schindler, also a survivor.
They married in 1950, and a year later moved to Brooklyn, where Rose earned a living as a

“My mom was the principal breadwinner then,” her son said. “She was a seamstress in a factory
in Manhattan making cocktail dresses. It was piece work and she was super fast, as she
described it, and was making more money than the attorneys of that day.”
Move to San Diego
The couple moved to San Diego in 1956 on the advice of a friend stationed there in the military.
Within two days of arriving, Max Schindler landed a job with a defense contractor, Steven
Schindler said. More than a decade later they settled in the Del Cerro community where they
raised four children and where Rose lived the rest of her life. She and her husband were
married for almost 70 years before he died in 2017.
Four years ago, a memoir was published — “Two Who Survived” — that tells the story of Rose
and Max Schindler in alternating chapters.
Tammy Gillies, former executive director of the Anti-Defamation League in San Diego, said the
impact Rose Schindler had in the retelling of her story is incalculable. Whenever asked to speak,
she was always willing, said Gillies, who worked with her for 15 years.
“For me, what I think impacted people most was always her courage and her strength and
willingness to share her message,” Gillies said. “Every year, ADL would have a nation of
immigrants Seder, and there was one where we brought community leaders together, and the
focus was on the Holocaust. Rose spoke to these community leaders, elected leaders, interfaith
leaders, and you could just see the impact on their faces when she tells them, now that they’ve
heard her story it’s their responsibility to carry that story on.
“There’s not going to be another Rose, she was one of a kind.”
Schindler is survived by her four children, Roxanne, Benjamin, Steven, and Jeffrey;
grandchildren Scott, Leigh, Shannah, Nicki, Ariana, Alexander, Moriah, Joseph, and Jonathan;
and two great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made in Rose Schindler’s name
to generationE, a foundation started by Steven Schindler to inspire children to confront hate,
and the USC Shoah Foundation.
BY LORI WEISBERG, The San Diego Union-Tribune
FEB. 18, 2023