JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Jacksonville woman whose grandparents survived the Holocaust is carrying their legacy forward and helping other families do the same through a custom jewelry line. The collection uses the identification numbers tattooed on prisoners at Nazi concentration camps.
Dana Rogozinski’s grandmother, Ella, was born in 1920’s Czechoslovakia. When Ella was around 12 years old, she was forced to wear a yellow star identifying herself as a Jew. Eventually, her family was sent to a ghetto in Budapest and ultimately ended up in Auschwitz.
There she endured unimaginable horrors.
Rogozinski described one of the jobs her grandmother was forced to do at the concentration camp.
“She had to collect their [people coming off the train] clothing and their belongings and send them to the showers,” Rogozinski said. “Which of course were the gas chambers.”
The task filled her with guilt, but she had no choice.
Ella and her two sisters were among their family’s few survivors.
Rogozinski’s Polish-born grandfather also survived the concentration camps.
“My grandparents met in a displaced persons camp in Germany and were married within two weeks,” she said.
The couple moved to Israel, then joined Ella’s two sisters in Jacksonville. Ella worked at a local jewelry store for 50 years and shared her passion with her granddaughter.
“When I go to work every day and I wear their numbers, it’s like they’re helping guide me,” Rogozinski said of her jewelry, which bears the identification numbers her grandparents were given by the Nazi’s.
In August, Rogozinski launched Jakob Ella Jewelry, a customizable collection that pays tribute to Holocaust survivors.
Some people may wonder why survivors and their families would want to remember the numbers that were forcibly tattooed on their bodies. Rogozinski said the numbers don’t only represent the Holocaust; they represent life before the war and the ability to flourish after.
“And she was happy to share her story to teach what hate can do so we can ensure that we only teach love to our kids, not hate,” Rogozinski said.
That’s the goal; make sure the stories remain after the survivors are gone. All jewelry purchases come with a story.
“So that you’re able to learn from these pieces and carry on the stories and the conversations when people ask,” Rogozinski said. “So we can really learn important lessons from what happened so we don’t repeat it.”
A portion of all sales goes toward local Holocaust education and scholarships to send people to concentration camps to see the history first hand.