West Hempstead Army veteran Eddie Rosenblum was just a teenager when he watched Adolf Hitler march down the streets of his hometown, Vienna, Austria, in 1938. He also witnessed the carnage of Kristallnacht later that year, during which Nazi paramilitary forces and civilians murdered at least 90 Jews, ransacked Jewish homes, hospitals and schools, and destroyed hundreds of synagogues.
Because of Hitler’s “political uproar,” Rosenblum said, he emigrated from Austria to New York City with his older sister, Mitzi, arriving on a chilly, rainy morning in 1939. Despite the weather, Rosenblum remembers being full of hope.
“All I can say is that this country has been very good to me,” said Rosenblum, who turned 100 on July 27.
He got a job as a tailor shortly after his arrival, earning $10 a week. Living in the Bronx near the old Yankee Stadium, he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942.
“My thought was, I have to defend this country,” Rosenblum recalled. Japan’s emperor, Hirohito, “said he was looking forward to riding his white horse on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. That was his dream, but we couldn’t let that happen.”
Rosenblum served as an infantryman and, because he spoke both German and French, as an interpreter. A member of the 25th Infantry Division, he took part in the invasion of Normandy, France, in 1944, coming ashore on Omaha Beach. The following year, he was stationed in Manila, in the Philippines, where he sewed a Filipino-American flag for the islands’ provisional government after their liberation from Japan. The deed earned him an Army Commendation Ribbon.
When Rosenblum returned home in 1946, his family surprised him and his comrades with a homecoming party. There, through mutual friends, he met Shirley Levin, of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, and the two were married the following year. They moved to West Hempstead in 1955, and Edmund bought Edward Mitchell Custom Tailors, a shop in Garden City, from Edward Mitchell in 1956.
“Because I was always in demand” as a tailor, Rosenbaum said, “I told my wife that it was time for me to have my own business.”
Keeping the shop’s original name, Rosenblum transformed it into a center of fine European-crafted custom tailoring, which attracted several popular politicians and sports figures such as New York Jets legends Joe Namath and Al Toon. A board member of the Garden City Chamber of Commerce for more than 30 years, Rosenblum was named the Small Business Owner of the Year by the chamber in 1985. He sold the business in 1993, but in his retirement he became a self-described “continuing learner” at Adelphi University, studying history and psychology.
The Rosenblums had four children, and were married for 66 years until Shirley died at age 89 in 2013. Edmund took up several other hobbies in retirement, which included horseback riding at the New York Equestrian Center, bike riding and, until 2010, skiing in Colorado with his family. These days he goes for walks around his street to stay active.
“I’m careful. I put on my mask when I go out,” he said. “I just try to keep moving as much as possible. Like they say in the Boy Scouts, ‘To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.’”
Community groups, including the West Hempstead Fire Department and Boy Scouts Troop 240, and local elected officials surprised Rosenblum with a drive-by parade for his birthday. County Executive Laura Curran presented him with a proclamation for his years of service.
“Edmund represents the best of Nassau County and it was an honor to celebrate his special day in patriotic style,” Curran said in a statement. “We are all grateful for his service to our country and our community.”
Young Israel of West Hempstead, where Rosenblum is a congregant, named him one of its honorees for the synagogue’s 65th annual dinner in September. He became the 12th member of the synagogue in 1956.
“Ed is forever grateful to the United States for taking him in and he wears his patriotism proudly,” a statement on Young Israel’s website reads. “He frequently participates in Veterans Day activities and takes every opportunity to share his story with young people.”
Rosenblum, who often reflects on the friends he made in the Army, is all too aware of the fact that the ranks of living World War II veterans are dwindling. “Whatever I have left — whether it’s six days, a few months or a year — I say thank you,” he said. “What the future holds in store only the Almighty knows.”