The Art Deco mahogany clock that chimed in Rosette Priever Gerbosi’s dining room when she was a girl in 1930s Paris was a symbol of middle-class success. When she went into hiding after the Nazis invaded France in 1940, so too did the clock.
"My mother was so proud of that room," Gerbosi, 88, said Wednesday from her home in Naples, Florida. "That was her pride and joy, and especially that clock."
Gerbosi and her brother, Bernard, survived the war and immigrated to the United States — and so did the clock.
The timepiece, which is now on display at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County in Glen Cove, is one of the family’s few personal belongings that survived and was the subject Wednesday of an online presentation by the museum.
"This one object was this bridge back to their pre-war life," Thorin Tritter, director of the museum and programming at the center, said Wednesday in an interview.
"It’s a reminder of Rosette’s family, a reminder of the life they had," Tritter said. "On the other hand, it’s a reminder of that life that was taken away."
The center featured the clock and its story in the latest of its online talks, which have been held since the pandemic began last year and that focused on particular objects or images.
Gerbosi’s parents, Shama and Dora Priever, immigrated to France from Poland in search of a better life. Her father made fur coats and eventually opened a factory and she was born in 1932. Her family was vacationing in the south of France when the Nazis invaded in 1940. They returned to a changed Paris. Her father refused to leave, and with the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 he thought he would be safe because his factory was making coats for German troops.
But the family became scared and spent a weekend at their factory in fear as Jews were being arrested at night in their homes. As life became harder for Jews in occupied Paris, her parents sent her brother away and he joined the French Resistance afer being refused entry to Switzerland. They sent her to live in a village in southern France under control of the Vichy government. The family stored a few personal belongings — photographs, jewelry and the clock— with a non-Jewish neighbor. Gerbosi never saw her parents again; they were arrested and died at Auschwitz.
Gerbosi came to the United States in 1946 and settled in Brooklyn. Her brother came a year later, and when his ship docked in Manhattan she saw he had something in his arms.
"He was cradling this large object wrapped in a blanket and it was the clock," she said. "It was like a miracle."
The clock stayed in her brother’s house and eventually was passed down — when Bernard died last year — to Gerbosi’s son, Robert Fishman, a trustee of the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center who donated it to the center.
"For these families who came from Europe in the 1940s after the war, they really had so little of their own personal histories that to have a clock or to have a photo of their families, of their parents’ wedding, it’s an amazing thing that it survived," Tritter said.
Online Museum Presentations
The Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County has held virtual “Curator’s Corner” presentations of objects and photos in its collection since March due to the pandemic. Though the museum reopened its doors to visitors in October, the online presentations have continued.