If there was ever a love story to make you cry and smile at the same time, it’s the story of John Jacob Rothschild and his wife, Renee Rothschild. The Holocaust survivors, who were married for 75 years, recently passed away within weeks of each other. Talk about kindred spirits.
Last week, John died at age 98 of a stroke at his home in Louisville. Renee died of a stroke seven weeks earlier.
Their love ran so deep that John famously snuck into a Nazi internment camp in France to find Renee, then his fiancee. This was in the fall of 1942; Renee was on the list to be sent to the Auschwitz death camp and John was determined to set her free.
John negotiated Renee’s release and the couple escaped to Switzerland. They married on December 5, 1942. Both John and Renee were the sole survivors in their families.
John, who worked as a mechanical engineer, got last patent at age 93 (!) for a door handle modification that made it easier for Renee come in and out of their home. Renee, meanwhile, was a French teacher who received a master’s degree in romance languages at the age of 47. The couple relocated to Louisville in 2003 to be closer to their son, Armand, a cardiac physician.
Rabbi Robert Slosberg, of Congregation Adath Jeshurun where the couple attended, described them as “lovebirds,” adding that he was “so glad they moved down here. It’s been an honor for us to have them as part of the synagogue family.”
The couple are survived by their children Sylvia Kerpel and Armand Rothschild, four grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. What a story, what a life.