Book Review Thursday: Dancing With The Enemy

Dancing With the EnemyAuthor Paul Glaser was raised as a Catholic in the Netherlands.  While on a tour of Auschwitz in 2002, Paul and his wife viewed a display of artifacts – one of them was a large brown suitcase with the name “Glaser”.  He was stunned, although years earlier he had begun to piece together various clues about his family’s Jewish heritage.  The discovery of one more piece of evidence drove him to write the story of his amazing Aunt Rosa “Rosie” Regina Glaser.

Even though his father was reluctant to discuss or even admit his Jewish background, Paul turned to his maternal grandmother for clues.  Paul knew of his Aunt Rosie but not her story.  When Paul began to piece together her life by researching her diary, journals, pictures and other records, an amazing story began to unfold.

Rosa Regina Glaser was born in 1914 to parents Falk and Josephine (Philips) Glaser.  Her family didn’t practice their Jewish faith, but that, of course, didn’t stop the Nazis from targeting Rosie and her family later.  Rosie grew up free-spirited and often defiant, much to her parents’ consternation.  When she left home to pursue her own path and live with her boyfriend she distanced herself further from her family.

It becomes apparent that her life is marked not only by her vivaciousness and zest for life, but the penchant for picking men who later betray her.  She was determined to make her own way after an unsuccessful marriage (her husband joined the Nazis), so she opened her own dance studio but was met with resistance from her husband.  Despite that her studio was wildly successful and Rosie refused to be affected by the seething political climate in Europe.

Gradually, however, restrictions were put in place preventing Dutch Jews from engaging in business.  Rosie decided to ignore all the new laws and regulations, even openly appearing in public places where signs were posted clearly “No Jews Allowed” (even having her picture taken with German officers!).  The thread woven throughout Rosie’s story is her promiscuousness – she had several lovers.  Later when the situation became more grave and serious, Rosie slept with the enemy, literally.

But she also danced with the enemy – when she was finally taken into captivity and forced to work in the Nazi labor camps she found a way to survive by not only sleeping with various Nazi officials, but also teaching them to dance.  She even found a certain amount of freedom in her captivity, although her life was still very harrowing.  She was harangued for being a “slut” – for prostituting herself in order to survive.

When the war was all but over, Rosie managed to join exiting Swedish prisoners of war and decided to settle in Sweden rather than return to the Netherlands.  Eventually, her nephew Paul Glaser was able to track her down and arrange a meeting, although Rosie had been estranged from her brother John (Paul’s father) for several years.

Rosie Glaser was a survivor above all else – of the twelve hundred people who arrived with her at Auschwitz, only eight survived.  The book includes almost one hundred photos of Rosie and her family through the years.  It’s well worth your time to read this fascinating story of one woman’s determination to survive in a time many did not, simply because they were Jewish.

Rating:  ★★★★★

Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!

© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2014.


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