Basia (Bess) Fiszel

Basia (Bess) Fiszel
Nationality: Polish
Location: Auschwitz Concentration Camp • Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp • Frankfurt • Germany • Lodz • Missouri • Poland • Salzwedel Concentration Camp • St. Louis • United States of America
Experience During Holocaust: Family Died During the Holocaust • Family Died in Gas Chambers • Family Died of Starvation • Liberated • Lived in Multiple Concentration Camps • Sent to Concentration Camp • Sent to Ghetto • Worked in Factory

Mapping Basia's Life

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“...the Germans got to being nervous. They were starting to run, and to go and leave. And I cannot believe when I talk about it I think it’s a dream. Just over night it was quiet and we went to the door, we could open it, nobody was there.” - Basia (Bess) Fiszel

Read Basia's Oral History Transcripts

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Tape 1 - Side 1

Burde: …Your childhood and what your family was like before the War. You were in Lodz?
Fiszel: Lodz. Uh-huh. As far as I can remember.
Burde: What was your family like?
Fiszel: I was the oldest of four. We had caps—my father made caps, caps, caps…
Burde: I know it was a textile center, wasn’t it?
Fiszel: Yes, we made it, and we had like a store in the market, you know, stall in the market and sold them [caps]. I was the oldest. I was…there were…three are alive, the youngest was taken away. You see, when we went out in 1939, right after the war broke out—in September the war broke out, and in January, I think, they took us to the Ghetto.
Burde: In Lodz?
Fiszel: In Lodz, yeah. I was there till ’44. My family, my father…oh, in my childhood in Poland, nobody was rich. I don’t know if somebody says maybe they were a little bit comfortable, but not rich…made hardly a living—I mean, just to be comfortable, to have something to eat, and we lived in two bedrooms…six people…not even two.
Burde: What do you mean, you made it?
Fiszel: Yeah, we made it, and maybe we were happier than today. You know, we didn’t see much; we didn’t need much, but soon the war broke out and they took everything from us.
Burde: Right in 1939?
Fiszel: Right in 1939. You know, they closed our business, and we couldn’t go to the city. And I remember that I wanted to leave, run like a lot of people…run to Russia. I was young…so…but I started and I came back, and I didn’t want to leave my parents, my family.
Burde: Did you try to leave alone?
Fiszel: Alone, yes, but I didn’t. That’s why I went to concentration camp. So, they, they took us all but the very small…small amount of belongings.
Burde: Was there a Ghetto before 1939?
Fiszel: No, no. They pushed our buggy with all the belongings down, so we lived in one end of the city, and the other end of the city was the ghetto. So we went there with very little belongings. And we had one room for six people. They gave us a room, and if somebody had more luck, they lived in a better section. We lived…when I was in Israel, I saw the house we lived in because, yeah, there was pictures all time. I saw the house we lived I in because it was the bridge to go from one end, you see, was fired, and you couldn’t go across the street. I mean, you couldn’t go, so they had a bridge made to go from one street to the other, to one end like South and North.
Burde: (OVERTALKS). Whatever…one direction.
Fiszel: Yeah…one direction. So the house was, our house was next to the bridge. That’s why they probably made a picture of it, because the bridge was there.
Burde: Oh, and so the bridge went over the street?
Fiszel: Over the street to go on the other side of the street. Like here on Olive Street Road, the south side and on the west side…
Burde: Yeah, we could use a bridge, right? (LAUGHS).
Fiszel: Yeah, so we went through, and we all lived in one room. They took me too…I worked in, how you call it here—construction. I was young, and I…you know they took the, you know, healthy people out. And I was lucky to work because I had something to eat. You know, I had something to eat for us.
Burde: Were you building…buildings?
Fiszel: Destroying buildings. They destroyed everything we helped to build there. We had cards to go and get food—bread—and we had lines, too. And in 1940…that was 1939 September, and we went, I think, in 1940 in January…about 2 or 3 months later. And in 1942, my father died from hunger; he just couldn’t make it.
Burde: There was not enough food in the Ghetto?
Fiszel: No. No. Then we were so, uh, beside food…we were so scared every day. They took people out from their homes, put them in the backyard, and just picked them, or they’d shoot them, or they just picked them and just send them away. They took me out in 1944, just myself, at night, to Auschwitz.
Burde: In 1944?
Fiszel: In 1944, in August, and I was there. See, 1944, it was already late in August because they didn’t…I don’t have a number because everybody has. We didn’t get it because they didn’t have time. I was only there two weeks, and they started to liquidate the Ghetto. They knew it was not…so they…two weeks later in night, they send me away to…they brought a transport with my rest of the family.
Burde: To Auschwitz?
Fiszel: Yes. I heard about from other people. And the reason why they took us in—how do you call it?—the wagons…the train…the closed on like the cattle stay?
Burde: Cattle cars.
Fiszel: Cattle cars, yes. And whatever you saw on the Holocaust picture, it wasn’t enough…it was much more. That’s why my kids always say, “How come you don’t tell us everything?” I say “It’s not to believe,” and I myself cannot believe that I went through, and I could make it. I mean…it’s a miracle that whoever’s alive, it’s a miracle. And I’ll tell you we feel it now.
Burde: I’m sure you do.
Fiszel: Yeah, we feel it. A lot of people, young people just go and mentally and physically…mentally even worse…everybody. I mean, in 1944, when I went to Auschwitz, and see my brother…they segregated one side whoever they wanted to work, and one side goes to the chamber, the gas chamber. And my mother, she was 43 years old, and they took her to the gas chamber. And my youngest brother, he wanted to go with my mother, so he ran across to mother…and is not here.
Burde: So he stayed with your mother?
Fiszel: Yes.
Burde: It…when you were in the Ghetto, what was it like daily? What was your daily life like?
Fiszel: Just fear, and what we gonna eat tomorrow.
Burde: It’s a long time to live like that…
Fiszel: Yes. That’s why hiding in the attic.
Burde: Did any of your brothers or sis…do you have one brother?
Fiszel: I have one brother in New York…one sister in Minnesota, St. Paul.
Burde: Did they have jobs too?
Fiszel: That time? No, no…I did, and that’s why I say, I was very lucky too, and the reason I was lucky because I really helped a lot my family by doing something. I was more in the circle that you could get around. You know how it is—if you in it, you eat, you know. And that’s all goes on all until today and everyplace, and when you’re in it, you have a something a little more. And I had a little more food because I knew this one…and I knew this one from…and I had a push that I could help a little, but in concentration camp, too…I helped myself. I didn’t care. I didn’t think twice the circumstance, the consequences, and I did it, and I helped quite a few people with it—helping by that surviving is that you had a piece of bread; that was the surviving. If you didn’t have it, and some people gave out, and if you…I didn’t, and thank God, I am here. But the Ghetto was just fear. What is going to be tomorrow? Beside food, fear that they’ll take you, and send you away because they did every day, and they shoot people just in the streets…for no reason!
Burde: The Germans?
Fieszel: The Germans. They came, and they took everybody…a whole building out in the backyard, and they picked, and they sent them away…nobody knew where.
Burde: How many…how large was the Jewish population in Lodz?
Fiszel: Before the war?
Burde: Uh-huh.
Fiszel: Oh, it was like St. Louis, I think. I was young, but it was pretty much.
Burde: A lot?
Fiszel: A lot. Maybe 100,000.
Burde: I think I’ve read even more…200,000.
Fiszel: Even more, yeah, in Lodz? Maybe you are right. I didn’t…I didn’t…a lot. See, Lodz and Warsaw were the two biggest cities, and the biggest in Jewish population. See, my husband comes form a big Jewish population too. He is Bedzin, and there were a lot. Over there it was a small town, it wasn’t a big town, but it was about 60,000 Jews—was a big Jewish population too. But Lodz had a lot of Jews, yeah. And I don’t even know how many are left, but Lodz was a big…yeah. Just a few thousand.
Burde: Was it a religious community? Was your family religious?
Fiszel: Not, oh, over…yeah, religious. My father had Jewish…oh how you say this?…With a beard. How do you call it? The Jewish used to wear those…
Burde: Not the yarmulke?
Fiszel: Not the yarmulke. There was a certain Jewish hat that the Jew, I think you see them still in Israel.
Burde: The schtreimel?
Fiszel: Nicht a schteimel is something special. That’s only for very high. I have a brother now in New York, and he’s very orthodox, very, very orthodox.
Burde: Then did your family keep kosher?
Fiszel: Oh, yeah. Oh, I think ninety-nine percent of the Jewish people kept…ninety-nine percent, I don’t think…even not so religious. They didn’t know any other way. See, Poland, European Jewish people…Polish people, they wouldn’t go close to pork, not because they were religious, but even in pork was a sin!
Burde: It had more meaning than just…
Fiszel: Yes, than just…because you were orthodox, no. Here is different, but in Poland nobody ate…no, we had a strictly kosher…we didn’t ride on Shabbos, and we didn’t…
Burde: You kept the Shabbos?
Fiszel: Yes, and we went…we knew that we have to go to Shul, to Synagogue, and yeah we knew about it. I still keep up, I ride Shabbos, but I still keep up the Jewish tradition. I am Jewish very much, but not so…my sister is more orthodox…I mean, more kosher than me.
Burde: But in Lodz, all…most of the Jews…
Fiszel: Most of the Jews…there were more Jewish in orthodox, half probably, but Jewish, yeah, and kosher. They had butcher shops, but poor…very poor, I mean, very little, very little. There were a few, you know, that they were rich. Rich there were higher in the small towns that were part of the Jewish rich people, cause they had land. They had cows, you know, more foreign things, but they were rich from the….
Burde: From the land?
Fiszel: Yeah, and some had factories. Like there was a very popular business, you know…factory.
Burde: Business?
Fiszel: Business, yeah. Materials that they made.
Burde: Mostly textiles?
Fiszel: Textiles. It was a nice city…a big city.
Burde: Was there Jewish cultural life there?
Fiszel: Yes, oh yes. We were always trapped in Poland.
Burde: Even before the war?
Fiszel: Yes, yes. We didn’t have the freedom we have here now. Yes. There were not cultural people very…how do you say, you know…
Burde: [incomprehensible due to low volume]
Fiszel: Yes…not educated.
Burde: The Poles.
Fiszel: The Poles…very…we couldn’t have any education. Very seldom somebody was a college graduate and somebody to look up to. Nobody could afford it.
Burde: Were the Jews primarily in their own community before the war? Or were they mixed in the general community?
Fiszel: No, most of them they were together—the sections like now. But some sections were really known as Jewish ones, and that’s why all of us who come here…they all have trades. There’s some very few educated, I mean, professionals…but trades people. My husband is a tailor, you now. There always were trades when they went out to public schools. First of all, to make…support the family…today, the kids don’t support the family, but we did. We knew that we had to support the family and bring in the meal. We didn’t move out today like the kids move out as soon as they have a dollar in their pockets.
Burde: So, in the Ghetto, did people continue their trades? Were there butcher shops?
Fiszel: There was a few that were under control from the Germans, not for your profit—nothing was yours. They were…they couldn’t get money for it. We had cards, and we took so much a day. So they didn’t have…they had it just to fill, you know, to spread the meal, the food for the people, but not with money for them, nothing, for them [the Jewish trades people]. They [the Germans] took away everything!
Burde: So all right, so there wasn’t a Jewish business then. Somebody had a butcher shop then.
Fiszel: No, they [the Jews] had the butcher shop, but not for them. It was theirs [the Germans]…the Germans took over everything, and that time nobody cared anymore, because we didn’t need anything. The only thing was the fight over food to survive. And people wanted to give everything just to let ‘em live…and it didn’t help.
Burde: And it was a poor community anyway?
Fiszel: A very poor community…very poor. And a lot of people ran to Russia.
Burde: Early, in 1939?
Fiszel: Yeah, 1939. Then they couldn’t get out anymore. But soon, still, you know, until we got to the Ghetto, you could run, because at first, we didn’t need anything. They took away everything. This next day, everybody was out, and…
Burde: But they didn’t take many people?
Fiszel: They took, but not ‘till they came to the Ghetto…slowly. They had five years, so they had plenty of time to take slowly. They took people then, and they rushed to it because they knew they didn’t have time—they didn’t have time to…the names and the numbers…so they brought in transport, and they had to send us out. They send me to Bergen-Belsen. I was there six weeks. Then again, they sent me some, you know, they didn’t have where to put the people. They send them from one place to the other. So I was lucky enough—from there, they send me to Zaltswedel, and that was the good place because they had ammunition factories, and we worked in the ammunition factory, and when you work, when you were capable to work, you had a little soup and a piece of bread and came home.
Burde: Once a day?
Fiszel: Yes. First of all, we were shift one week in the nighttime…one week in the daytime. I’ll never forget, we…I worked at night. We came home about 5:00 in the morning, or 6:00, and the snow was so high. We had just wooden shoes on, without anything. We stayed in the snow for hours. They [Germans] counted and whoever said something turned around the head; they punished them [the Jews] for no reason. We stayed for hours until we went to the room…we had to get up and leave again.
Burde: They were relentless.
Fiszel: So, and that was lucky enough that we could go to work because whoever got sick and they send them right away, and that’s it.
Burde: What year was that?
Fiszel: And I was there in ’44…’43 and ’44. In ’43 and ’44. In ’44 in April, I was liberated by first the English came to Zaltswedel…next to Hannover. And in that time, I met an American officer; he was from New York, and he took me…and he gave us a lot food for the rooms, and I brought food for the whole dorm…cabin. You know, they were laying on the, you know, bunk beds…eight to ten in a room.
Burde: Did you have any strength?
Fiszel: If…I had will…and that made me survive ‘till strength came, you know, and I was going after it to get the food…and I made it!
Burde: Do you remember the American officer’s name?
Fiszel: I have pictures someplace, but I don’t remember the name.
Burde: Was he Jewish?
Fiszel: Yeah, oh yeah. I could recognize him now, but he don’t look the same—maybe he’s gone already thirty years. It’s more than thirty years…it’s thirty-five years. I am here thirty years—last week was thirty years I came to St. Louis—that’s a long time. I came with Mimi, my oldest, when she was three years old.
Burde: Where was she born?
Fiszel: In Germany, Frankfurt, after the war in ’48. I met my husband, I got married in France in ’46, and then I came back to St. Louis…to New York…to Germany to come to the United States. Because from France you couldn’t go out, but from Germany you could go easier, so I came back to Germany. I am really lucky to be here. Yes.
Burde: And your sister and brother, did they come at the same time?
Fiszel: They came a little later. My brother came in 19…a little sooner than me, he came here. We had to…we supposed to go to Atlanta, Georgia, but he was here, and so if you had somebody, a relatives, you could change. So, he had me, and he ask me to come here, and I am here, and he is in New York now. (LAUGHS). So, my sister went to Minnesota. They send her to St. Paul because he [her husband] was a butcher, and maybe they had factories there…and she is there.
Burde: So that was all about the same time?
Fiszel: Yes, yeah…a few months apart. Whoever got the visa first. But America very good to us, yeah.
Burde: Was that when most people came? People you knew, did they mostly come to the United States?
Fiszel: Yes, the people I know now…they were in different cities in Germany, but the majority, yeah. The majority wanted to come here. In the beginning a lot of people went to Israel. Then they didn’t like it so much, so people heard about it—it was very tough there…hard…you know, at that time, was in ’48. So they came here to the Golden Land!
Burde: Well, right after the war, people couldn’t go to Israel.
Fiszel: No, but afterwards, yeah, they could go. 1948 they could go…1949…so…
Burde: In the Ghetto did the Germans let you have books? What did they let you keep—what kinds of things?
Fiszel: Nothing. We left, see the purpose was to leave everything and go someplace else. So you couldn’t have anything. They didn’t let you take more than…we didn’t have too much anyway. We didn’t have a closet with clothes like here. We only had two, three pieces, and that’s what they let you take…no valuables.
Burde: Did your family speak Polish or Yiddish, or…?
Fiszel: Polish and Yiddish. Uh-huh.
Burde: And what kind of schools did you go to?
Fiszel: Just to public seven, seven classes over there, seven grades.
Burde: And the schools were Polish schools?
Fiszel: Yeah, if you want to go to Jewish, was separate, like a Hebrew school for girls and Cheders and Bais Yaokov for the girl, a Cheder was for the boys. I had Jewish education.
Burde: What kind of Jewish education?
Fiszel: I sent to school like I went to school for Polish—I went to school for Hebrew, for Jewish, Yiddish.
Burde: Like, after school?
Fiszel: Yes.
Burde: Did all, like your brothers and sisters…
Fiszel: Yes, yes. Oh, my brother is very educated in Yiddish…very. He is now very orthodox, but he is educated in Yiddish.
Burde: From Poland?
Fiszel: From Poland.
Burde: Did…but your family spoke Yiddish at home, or Polish?
Fiszel: Yeah…Yiddish, Yiddish.
Burde: What about when your father had the stall where…his business? Were most of the people he dealt with Jewish?
Fiszel: No. Only Goyish, you know, the Polacks, they were not Jewish. Usually the farmers came to buy these things. Jewish people wore different hats, like the really…the Jewish people, Jewish hats. And there were regular hats for Polacks, mostly for farmers. It was very cold over there, so they were all kinds…those high…looked like a fur but it wasn’t, you know, the imitation furs. That’s what we made in the wintertime. But most of the time they wore all year around hats, but here the people don’t wear, but over there…there…they wore hats.
Burde: I guess our conditions…
Fiszel: Yeah. They wear hats all year around. That’s why it was a business. It was a business. But it was hard to make a living with four kids and very poor. I mean very little traffic, and, you know, you worked alone, and you did it just to get by…not to get rich. We didn’t have a house; we couldn’t afford a house. There was no houses, maybe in the small towns with the farmers, but in the city, very little. There were big buildings, and people lived in very little…poor circumstances.
Burde: And the schools were right there?
Fiszel: Yes. There were schools, and there were teachers. And the kids respected the teachers very much.
Burde: Were any of the teachers before the war Jewish, or were they…?
Fiszel: Yes, yes. Not too many… were women, and the teacher was very…not a young girl…was older, mature teachers. And a teacher was somebody to look up to, so that’s why the teacher had respect, and we were afraid of them. And there was no talk–back or do something that the teacher didn’t like…no. Now is different, yeah. And the kids were different to the parents too a little bit. More respectful…didn’t ask for much, and they thought about the parents just like you think about yourselves…to give them what we could and help them. And they say, we need more, not too much to share, but we shared everything.
Burde: How old were your brothers and sisters?
Fiszel: We are two years apart; so they were…my sister is two years younger, and my brother is four years younger than me.
Burde: So they were young?
Fiszel: So we were in the teens…we were in the teens, oh yeah. My mother was forty-three years when she went to……to the gas chamber. So it’s painful to talk about…(VOICE FADES).
Burde: Did you…you were alone, you said. And your mother, sister, and brothers were taken away at a different time.
Fiszel: They took me out first. The reason they took me out…see they took out people from certain work places, like that night they took out from this place that I was in the construction. They had the list of names, and they went and picked them and took them the same time. Like I have a friend here from the same city, and her brother went with me, together, the same time in the same transport. And because he worked in same place I did…and slowly they did first by working people and then the families. And they take out people just to send them some place. They never knew where they are. They didn’t like somebody, or somebody, for no reason, I mean. And that’s why we hide so much because people heard the rumors they’re coming and taking. So, some people were lucky to hide. We didn’t know what was good, or to hide, maybe later they send…they gonna shoot us out or…Like I ran away a lot of times from the transports from Bergen-Belsen. There were rumors were sending you to this place…to this place. With certain places we knew was death and certain places were work places, and we wanted to go to work places to survive.
Burde: And the Jews knew which were which?
Fiszel; We didn’t know. We just guessed.
Burde: Hazarded? (TALK OVER NOT UNDERSTOOD).
Fiszel: Yeah, and there were rumors. You know, there were rumors. It got to you. Some maybe were nice enough to the SS that they said something to somebody, because he was a little nicer to talk to somebody. Sometimes, he liked somebody and said something to him, and then the list went through, and that’s why we…I…hid a lot of times not to go on tomorrow. So I waited…next week they said they sending them tot the work place. They needed some people here, and they needed people there…and I was lucky enough that they send me to Southsweden where I worked there. And it was not a death camp that they just didn’t kill you. They were, you know, they slowly tried to get rid of you by punishing you and giving you very little food and standing in the cold, and, you know, so slowly people got sick and…but they didn’t kill you, they just put you to work, and they give you very little good food, and we…was by miracle we could survive. There were a few people that were sick, but not badly. I mean, because there were camps that they just fell like flies…thousands and thousands, and soon they see somebody’s not capable to work, they send them to kill them…they put them…take them away, we didn’t know where.
Burde: But you were young and strong?
Fiszel: Yes, and I surv…I fight for it, I really fight for it to survive. And nobody told about anything. It was such a…people got to be like animals; they didn’t think about their families, their sisters and brothers, they just thought about themselves—how to get a piece of bread, and how to survive today, and tomorrow another day. And we didn’t know if tomorrow will be another day…but we just have today.
Burde: Just one day at a time.
Fiszel: It was the will, and the strength, and the…the will to live. Really and a miracle. That would last a little longer…nobody would be left, but it was the miracle that didn’t last more than, I mean, the last few months they did so fast, and they couldn’t do everything, so that’s what it is.
Burde: And they knew it was the end?
Fiszel: Yes. So they…whoever they couldn’t get. And you know, a lot of people died after the war because they couldn’t make it, very severely sick and couldn’t make it. But the Americans then, they were so good, they right away…they did what they could. They helped, and they sent us to hospitals to Sweden. A lot of people went to Sweden, and they were cured there—a lot of people were cured.
Burde: Where did you go when you were liberated?
Fiszel: I was liberated in Southvaden in 1944, and they opened the gates and we ran. We didn’t know where we ran. First we ran for clothes and food, and then we…
Burde: In groups or by yourself?
Fiszel: In groups. Nobody knew what to do, where to go, and then we were so afraid. We weren’t sure even that we were free. Took us a long time to convince us that we are free. We didn’t trust nobody. We were afraid. And then we went to different camps that they got together. Everybody wanted to go under the Americans because some took English and Russian, and everybody wanted to go to the American…English part to the part where the Americans took over. I went to Braunschweig and there was a camp, and from there people got…they know…they put out lists of people from here…from different places, and people were reunited. So, like I found my brother and my sister through Gemeinde, you know, the…how you call it here?
Burde: The Red Cross?
Fiszel: It was not the Red Cross, it was Jewish agency.
Burde: The Jewish Agency? Was it American or was it…?
Fiszel: American. American, but our people were in it, but Americans set it up. And through the Americans we could do everything. They helped the Jewish organizations, the Hadassah…not the Hadassah, the…Hias.
Burde: The Hias?
Fiszel: The Hias and the Joint.
Burde: The Joint?
Fiszel: Yeah, the Joint and the Hias. I came to the Joint…to the Hias and to the Joint. I remember that because whoever had family, the family brought. I didn’t, the Hias, so I came to the Hias.
Burde: Did your husband have family here?
Fiszel: Yes, my husband had family here, not here, but New York—he has a big family. He had a grandmother and grandfather here in New York because they went from…his parents didn’t want to leave. They never thought it’s gonna happen. Most of his so…you know, aunts and uncles and granddad left in ’34 to ’35. I don’t remember, but yeah, they left. They’re still in New York, some of them. One cousin was even the same name—he was a lieutenant in the army in Germany.
Burde: Oh, in the American army?
Fiszel: Yeah, oh yeah. He was a big man there…very big man. He’s still in New York, but he was…he visited us, yeah. He could do a lot. Then my husband had friends, relatives too…aunts and uncles and the one cousin from France. He was a big man in the army in France, and he brought…he took us to France. Yah, he’s was here…still in the French…he’s a big man. He wasn’t in the camp. So he took us to France. But in Germany…bun in the camp when I…that was the time when most of ‘em got liberated. Some in Poland…they were in Auschwitz was liberated in January.
Burde: In 1945?
Fiszel: Yeah, I was liberated in April. And from there we went from camp to camp on the road to find relatives…to find yourself. And I was there, and then from there, we went to Frankfurt. And in Frankfurt, I met my husband, and I stayed there till…till we came to the United States. Then we were on our own.
Burde: You weren’t protected like teenagers today?
Fiszel: No, no, we have to do it on our own, with very little. We have a child, and we lived by German people. After the war then there were good ones who were very good to us. Some were good, some didn’t know what happened, you know.
Burde: A lot of Germans say that.
Fiszel: It’s true…it’s true. Some didn’t know even what was going on. The older ones, you know, not the young. The young they took in, and they brainwashed them, and…but there were some people who know; they helped, you know, some of them helped you.
Burde: After the war?
Fiszel: Yeah, even in the war. Some took a chance…a risk, they…and they helped because they couldn’t believe in it. It was not human to take a chance.
Burde: How long did you live in Germany?
Fiszel: After the war?
Burde: After the war.
Fiszel: From 1945 to 1950.
Burde: To ’50?
Fiszel: I cam in 1950, in February…took a long time, because everybody was on the list, and whoever you know as come out…slowly people came. Most of ‘em started in ’48 and ’49, but very little. The majority came in ’49, started very heavy. Then in ’50, ’48, but not much before, very little. You know, the first ones landed…they had visas that relatives sent them, so they came over as soon as they could. But there were people that waited to join to have to take, you know, their children.
Burde: But it took time to regain strength and get well?
Fiszel: Yes. Thank God I didn’t need it so much because physically, I was not…I wasn’t seriously sick. No, I wasn’t. Because like my husband had typhus, and a lot of people were very seriously sick, and, you know, didn’t…they didn’t heal. They weren’t healed, and they didn’t do nothing about it. They were afraid to tell them [the Germans] because they [the Germans] send them [the sick] to the hospital, and from the hospital they [the Germans] send them [the sick] away and that’s it, and they [the Germans] kill them [the sick] because they were not useful. See, they [the Germans] didn’t need sick people. So, most of the people didn’t say that they were sick. So how do they get well? I don’t know. It was…so I wasn’t that…I didn’t have a serious sickness. I was just down, I was like that. And first of all, when we came to, you know, you skip…you talk…you don’t remember…have so much to say. And you don’t know where to start. I came to Auschwitz and when you go to Auschwitz, they take…take everything away from you. They take you…and they shave your head—my head was like this.
Burde: And so they took your clothes and everything?
Fiszel: Everything. And I don’t know, maybe we didn’t know that much that they…how many people didn’t come out on the other sides, millions. So, you know, that’s why I say I was good for them because I was capable to work, and that’s why I was alive. And people went around these…and a lot of people couldn’t make it. I wasn’t so that sick because I had a camp that I work so they game me the soup, and then I went when the doors open, I could be a…I could function, I did.
Burde: In the ghetto, was there a lot of illness and disease?
Fiszel: Yes, and most of them died just like you see, and when my father, I was, I see him, and it’s terrible to see.
Burde: You saw it happening day by day?
Fiszel: Terrible…terrible to see…he died in 1943.
Burde: And that was three years in the ghetto?
Fiszel: Two years because we came the beginning. It was two years.
Burde: What did he do to keep busy if he couldn’t work?
Fiszel: Nothing, just sit and wait.
Burde: That must have been awful.
Fiszel: Awful. To fear and the hunger, and so you give up.
Burde: Did families, people, friends get together? Or were families isolated?
Fiszel: We were afraid, we were afraid. We lived in a building, okay, you could talk to the neighbors, nobody should see you, no, because gatherings were, you know, you couldn’t. They think we gonna do something. It just was very risky to see people, to stay and talk to somebody. No, you were locked in and sitting, waiting, like you were in a jail. In a jail you had more right to live than over there, because in a jail when your turn comes up, you get out. Over there you didn’t know if you get out.
Burde: So that your job was really very important to your family?
Fiszel: Yes, yes. I got out from the house, and I, you know, and if I was lucky, I brought the wood, pieces of wood to burn in the winter. We were laying matches to you…you know…to you…so I was a big help. Yeah, I did help a lot.
Burde: You were in contact with…
Fiszel: With, yes. Otherwise, nobody did nothing. The streets were empty. People were afraid to go to walk from the house.
Burde: There weren’t any schools?
Fiszel: No, oh no, nothing. There were no life. There was just sitting in jail and waiting, and waiting, and without food, very little. And people couldn’t make it…a lot of people.
Burde: Was there a synagogue, or did they permit that?
Fiszel: No, oh no. They would right away throw a bomb, and people knew.
Burde: Was there, were the captors in the ghetto all Germans, or were there Poles, or…?
Fiszel: Captors?
Burde: The people who kept you in the concentration camp.
Fiszel: Oh, most Germans, the other Germans, the Ukrainians, you know they were Polish, and then they turned to Germans because they…
Burde: Territory changed.
Fiszel: Yeah, uh huh. But mostly Germans. The Polish were kept too but in different circumstances. They were too war…they were arrested too some of them…the Polacks, but they had different circumstances. They didn’t kill them. I mean, we went, but the Polacks…just the Jews, they didn’t have anything to do with them. They gave them a chance to work, and they didn’t kill them. We were not…we were just people to wait for the deadline, at the time.
Burde: The construction job that you had, was that all in the ghetto area?
Fiszel: Yeah.
Burde: They didn’t let you out of the ghetto to work?
Fiszel: No, maybe some worked certain few people. They had to go with them under control. They wouldn’t let them free, yeah. They took them, they brought them back. Maybe some were men that they worked outside, but they were watched. Capable people to work.

Tape 1 - Side 2

Burde: (VOICE OVER) Because they were young…
Fiszel: That’s why we had a little more chance to survive, because they needed people to work in the…in the streets, and the sewers and the constructions…building bridges, building for the trains…how do you call it?
Burde: Rails.
Fiszel: Rails. Very labor…hard labor…very hard labor.
Burde: But it was work.
Fiszel: It was…yeah. And how many people go killed out there when they couldn’t pick up something—they just fell like flies. Couldn’t make it. It was very hard labor. And they punished them all the time.
Burde: Your mother must have been very isolated just staying in your room with…
Fiszel: Yes, we were all.
Burde: With three children all the time.
Fiszel: Yes. In a small room, very small, half the size normal room.
Burde: All six of you?
Fiszel: yes.
Burde: Did she get out, or she just stayed in the room a lot?
Fiszel: She just…yeah. Nobody got…went out. We were always hidden on the attic. So we were listening, looking out the window, that’s all we did.
Burde: And you could see from your window?
Fiszel: Yes, what’s going on. They could come any time, and there was no, or you know, to give orders. They gave them just like that. They didn’t ask you. They didn’t give you time to prepare yourself to come down even…and out!
Burde: It was hard to tell…
Fiszel: What they gonna do with you from one minute to the other.
Burde: How…that must have been very difficult for you as a family.
Fiszel: Now?
Burde: No, then.
Fiszel: Oh.
Burde: On a daily basis to not know what was going to happen.
Fiszel: That’s what the fear that…what it is. That’s why we are now very mentally weary. Not functioning so like we should. No. I think that was too severe not to leave a mark…to severe.
Burde: Very.
Fiszel: You know, when I talk about it, I don’t even think…I don’t even…can’t think of it that I could make it. You know, it’s like a nightmare that you cannot believe it’s happened, and when I talk about it, it come to me that I remember once we were laying under the attic…
Burde: For long periods of time?
Fiszel: Yes. Because the room was not safe in there. They knock on the door, and that’s it, and if you said one thing…they would give orders to knock you over the dead with a gun.
Burde: So even your room wasn’t safe?
Fiszel: No, no.
Burde: How did you sense that? Did sometimes you get a feeling that you shouldn’t be in the room?
Fiszel: That’s what it is. It was a feeling a lot of times, and like we went to sleep, and during the night they knock on the door, and take me just, and leave all the rest. What kind of feeling is this for a mother? Nobody knew what they do with me, and where they take me. And then, what feeling did I have to leave everybody, not to know what’s going to happen to them, and that’s exactly what happened. And it’s not exaggerating. Even not everything I say because when you talk about it, it comes back to you, and yes, it’s so down deep, that…
Burde: It has to be.
(SILENCE).
Fiszel: Uh huh. We suffered. I can’t talk about it. (LONG PAUSE). (BESS BREAKS DOWN). I told my daughter I’m gonna talk…I mean that you coming, and she said she would like to listen to it. Is that on a real recording that she can hear that?
Burde: It’s a recording…it will be kept confidential, but if she would like to listen to it, of course she can.
Fiszel: Okay.
Burde: It’s just an attempt to try to document.
Fiszel: Id odn’t think you can have enough document because it cannot be repeated even that much, and when I…they look at the movies, and they say to me, “Why didn’t you tell us everything?” I say, “That’s not much to tell.” There was much more. Here it was glamorized. It was…
Burde: You mean the Holocaust?
Fiszel: It was a love story. It was a lot of things that didn’t happen.
Burde: And everybody was beautiful.
Fiszel: And they see it so terrible. I said, “I don’t think that’s so terrible.” Because, okay, it was a lot what went on. Like the trains with the closed up wagons. I said, “Maybe you’ll see me there, because I was in it, how many days. How could we make it?”
Burde: And it was so close together.
Fiszel: On top of each other.
Burde: And no food.
Fiszel: And no food, and no air. How could we make it? But we did.
Burde: And no facilities.
Fiszel: No, no. And then where do they take us…where did they take us. Auschwitz. And then what was going on after the trip…with the train? I don’t think we thought about it, what’s going to happen. Nobody believed even, and that’s why people went so easy. First of all, a lot of people didn’t care anymore. They…see…they didn’t care anymore. They had nothing to live, nothing left, was nothing really left. So they didn’t care what’s gonna happen. But still everybody wanted to live, and we went through and they talked to us, that they gonna…you know. They took us in with such lies with such…they go…“on the other side you gonna get everything.” They took everything away here. You come back on the other side, you don’t know if it’s you or not. Not the same person at all. You know what it means? And then a lot of them didn’t even come to see how they are…how they look. We were fortunate to see that they looked like,. not people at all. You see the stacks, the stacks of skeletons. That’s what every day looks like, and we didn’t…
Burde: Did you see things like that?
Fiszel: Yes.
Burde: The Germans made sure that the Jews saw it?
Fiszel: Yeah. See, when we went, when they took us now from…to the camps…to the camps in Auschwitz, then we knew where’s the rest. So we were lucky to be here another day…another day. We didn’t know we gonna get out of there at all. And it wouldn’t be 1944, August, I don think we could come out. In Auschwitz very, they didn’t come out, but they didn’t have room for you because it was so fast. The transports were so big, and they didn’t put everybody in the gas chamber. SO, they had to send people away and put the others in. And two people through the gates to the wires, we found out where this one goes, and some people we knew each other from home. They said, “Oh, your mother’s already on the other side.” So we knew she is gone.
Burde: But it wasn’t until you got to Auschwitz that you knew what happened to people who went away?
Fiszel: Yeah.
Burde: In the ghetto you saw people killed, and, but you didn’t know what happened?
Fiszel: We thought. That’s what they said. They go to work shops…to work places. They [the Germans] need them [people from the ghetto] to work. That’s what we believed. And so, when we came to Auschwitz, we knew what was happen to the people, and then we found out that there were other camps that were death camps like Dachau and Treblinka, and I don’t know how many names—from there you couldn’t get out alive. So people were thinking, hiding. The rumors were sometimes that you go to Dachau, then some people could get away. One in a thousand, because they shoot ‘em, you know. So, some got, aw…like I did. The send me to Bergen-Belsen. That’s why I’m here, because they send me to camps that I could get out, that the…they didn’t kill you. When you were ready to work, when you were capable to work…they let you live. And if you would go on longer, nobody would be able, you know…nobody. Because even if you…they didn’t kill you…if you…you have to die in the ovens. Couldn’t make it. So that’s why—even when I look at the movies, that’s not even a tenth for what was really, and that’s what I know and seen and went through. Not, not that much…they couldn’t show you everything. And first of all, people cannot believe even what they see, and how could it be true—it was. Nobody knows or believes that people could live through. It is hard to believe. I know, but it was. We are people that we suffer so much all the time that we could go through.
Burde: You mean Jews, we’re used to suffering?
Fiszel: Yes. And in Poland, the Jews.
Burde: Because it was a struggle just to be alive, even before the war?
Fiszel: Uh huh. Very hard to live, you know. But we had the willpower, and the willpower was strong, and that counted. The most religious people went first.
Burde: Why?
Fiszel: First of all, they took ‘em first, and then they didn’t believe it’s gonna happen. They believed so much in God—how could he do this to us? And they didn’t hide. They didn’t want to give…I mean…like synagogue, they didn’t want to get out. SO they burned them with the synagogue. They took them out, and the first ones with the cards, you know. They really good people. And the strong one…not so good…they survived because they were fighting for life.
Burde: Do you remember what the synagogue was like before the war was?
Fiszel: We had a lot of synagogues. There was a synagogue that people went to…yeah.
Burde: It was part of the life?
Fiszel: Yes, but we were afraid. We were afraid to be a Jew.
Burde: Even before the war?
Fiszel: Yes, yes. (LONG PAUSE). So, we will try to erase everything, because it’s so. And the time it goes so much through your mind that you cannot…we lost our, you know…I was a teenager—I lost ten years of my life…my best years. SO that’s why we started late. And thank God we started late…thank God that I am here. Mentally, we are depressed. We thought after the war that we gonna just be happy if we have something to eat—that’s all we needed. But we need more…a little bit more if you live, especially here in a country like this. Thank God I have good girls, and I’m proud of them. My parents didn’t see that. They couldn’t see anything…(UNINTELLIGIBLE)…
Burde: Your children didn’t see grandparents?
Fiszel: No. A lot of the time they came home to say, “Oh, I don’t have a grandma to buy me this and that. You know, in school the kids they’re small, they…they go for the Hanukah and they have, you know, tradition and there they had no one. We missed it, they feel it, you know. I’m here alone, okay. We are together…the group that we are newcomers, but we are still newcomers (LAUGHTER). We are here thirty years. But we made our lives, we stick together—that’s all we have, no relatives. And Hitler did so much to the families. Even the people who are alive, they have sisters and brothers…there is not the feeling that used to be for each other. I don’t know. Just because nobody cared in that time, for nobody, and they made people without feelings…they lost their feelings. It’s a shame. A lot of people have brothers and sisters, and they’re not like it should be. And they’re not like it used to be in Europe, close…really devoted.
Burde: So you remember as a child your family was close and devoted to one another?
Fiszel: Oh, yes, oh yes. We cared…really cared. And if my parents said not to do it…I wouldn’t hurt my parents…I wouldn’t do it.
Burde: And did your parents come from big families?
Fiszel: Yes. Yes.
Burde: Did they have brothers and sisters?
Fiszel: Yes, my mother had three brothers…there were two brothers and four sisters.
Burde: All in Lodz?
Fiszel: Yeah. And there is only left one cousin…one son of the brother, and one daughter of the sister was left in New York, and so, from my father’s family, nobody…nobody. There were four children (CANNOT HEAR), but my mother’s side was two cousins.
Burde: So as a young child, you had a large family?
Fiszel: Yeah, and we were together a lot.
Burde: On holidays?
Fiszel: Oh, yeah.
Burde: And daily, you lived closer together?
Fiszel: Yeah, we didn’t live so, yeah. Family was family…very close. So many cousins. Today it counts nothing. Everybody’s busy with their own lives and things. It’s maybe because it’s thirty years back, maybe was still the same thirty years ago, but it’s not the same. It changes people. But there’s a lot of love, a lot of people from… wouldn’t watch the movies…they couldn’t take it.
Burde: I can understand that.
Fiszel: They have nightmares. They cannot take it. They cannot see about it. It comes back to the mind and…but…but I don’t try to talk about it. I really…and that’s what my children say. It’s true, “You never say…told us that much.” But I said, “There’s not much to say.” Why should I hurt them with it…you know. Tell them what I was…went through. They know a little. They see. And I say, “That’s not everything at all—was a nightmare.” Nobody believed it. No. If you would believe in it, maybe everybody would have ran more. They didn’t believe it’s gonna happen.
Burde: But you saw what happened. If people ran, they got shot.
Fiszel: They got shot. Some. There were some that they…some people would hide by the Polish. They were still some people that were good. They were you know, they hid, and they survived. And the Polish papers, and some ran to Russia—they survived. It was hard, but not the same like Hitler, no. What Hitler did was…I hope it never happens again, and I don’t think it will. It cannot happen. I hope not.

Tape 2 - Side 1

Fiszel: What are we going to talk about today?
Burde: Well, was there anything after we spoke the last time that you particularly wanted to talk about? …Was there anything you felt we hadn’t covered, or…?
Fiszel: My mind is so blank. [LAUGHS]. A lot of things to talk about…what should we talk about…you want to know…?
Burde: I’m a little bit confused about the dates. You went into the ghetto…
Fiszel: In 1939…
Burde: Shortly after…
Fiszel: In January 1940.
Burde: In January 1940. And how long were you there?
Fiszel: Until 1944, in August.
Burde: Do you remember the day that you moved into the ghetto?
Fiszel: The day?
Burde: Yeah.
Fiszel: What day it was?
Burde: It was cold, was it…?
Fiszel: Very cold, it was in January.
Burde: And did you have to carry things yourself?
Fiszel: We had a little bit of luggage.
Burde: And did you walk, or…?
Fiszel: Well, yeah…
Burde: There weren’t any carts or vehicles? You just had to walk with what you could carry?
Fiszel: With what you could carry, yeah.
Burde: So that must’ve been hard because…
Fiszel: Very hard…
Burde: You had to carry pots and pans and…
Fiszel: In Europe we didn’t have all of the stuff we have here… We had very little to begin with, and then the pogroms, it’s not the United States so I didn’t have that much. With four children, if we had a little bit to eat and a piece of clothes, well then we were very good.
Burde: So you could pretty much take what you had because you had so little?
Fiszel: Yes, we lived in one bedroom apartment with four children.
Burde: Before the war?
Fiszel: Before the war.
Burde: And smaller quarters later?
Fiszel: Yes. Then we had one room only for six…it got to be less and less. There were six people in one room.
Burde: Di d you have bathroom facilities or water?
Fiszel: No, outside.
Burde: Where did your mother cook?
Fiszel: We had a stove—not electric, not, uh…on coal. We had a, I mean to cook, we cooked inside on coal, but the bathrooms were outside.
Burde: And was it a big apartment building?
Fiszel: It was, they had big apartment buildings too, not as big as here, but they had, yes. We lived in not such a big one, it was three floors.
Burde: But there were a lot of people living in…?
Fiszel: Yes. We lived outskirts from the main city, and there was a little section of Jewish people.
Burde: You mean before the war, before the ghetto?
Fiszel: Yeah.
Burde: But when you went into the ghetto…
Fiszel: In the ghetto, then, this was the main corridor for the Jewish people, then it was the lowest, lowest…
Burde: Income?
Fiszel: Lowest category of people, too. How do you say, you know….?
Burde: They didn’t have much.
Fiszel: Not beside that, but, not educated, and lower trades. I mean, they were violent, they were not good for ch—you know, the people.
Burde: But when the Germans forced all the Jews in Lodz to go into the ghetto, then all the Jews were together.
Fiszel: All the Jews were together, no ___?___. There were no ___?___. They were all the same. No bad, no good—I mean the bad ones started to take care of the people that they thought they would survive by doing things to them.
Burde: So that they immediately knew how to use the situation?
Fiszel: Yes, yes. And they switched on a lot of people. They thought, you know, by telling them about another story to survivors, but it didn’t work out. They survived maybe longer, till the end. But a lot of survived by luck like I did, and others but not survive—they didn’t survive because they came and told them that they did a lot of good work for them. No, they didn’t. That’s the difference, that people were, you know, afraid of some Jewish people.
Burde: And they also knew the ghetto because they lived there?
Fiszel: They lived there, yeah.
Burde: So they knew their way around.
Fiszel: Yeah, a lot of people lived there. And they took us like we went to the ghetto so they destroyed a lot of buildings. They needed people to work, so they took me, and I was a young girl. And I helped out the…uh…I didn’t have, uh…I was lucky with them because they didn’t give me the really hard work.
Burde: What was the day like? If you went out to work, did you go early in the morning and stay out…?
Fiszel: In the ghetto, we didn’t have, you know, such a bad…we were not watched exactly under the Germans—we were watched under the Jews, you know, there were…
Burde: It was like a government of the ghetto?
Fiszel: Of the…yeah, yeah.
Burde: Who were the people who became like government leaders?
Fiszel: Whoever was the strong one, and you know, they liked, and they [Jewish ghetto leaders] did a lot of good things for them [the Germans], and…uh…as long as they [the Germans] needed them [Jewish ghetto leaders] they were very elitist.
Burde: So, the, then what the Germans did, if I understand you correctly is they used Jewish people to be leaders in the ghetto.
Fiszel: And then they [the Germans] watched over them [Jewish ghetto leaders], but the Jewish people were the inside, told them [Jews in the ghetto] what to do and, you know, how to do it.
Burde: And distributed food?
Fiszel: If you worked, yeah. Not food, that you really had food, but the minimum…that you could get by. And if you had a family you wanted to share it with, it wasn’t enough.
Burde: What was the food like, was it bread, was it…?
Fiszel: Bread, it was just a soup or bread…my father died from hunger in 1944, two years after we went there. It’s going to be now this month, or next month, but never ____?____ .
Burde: Next week. This is your ____?____.
Fiszel: Mhh-hmm.
Burde: So he was able…he only lived two years then in the ghetto.
Fiszel: Two years in the ghetto—couldn’t survive. It was painful to see.
Burde: And what about children? It was so painful to watch your father.
Fiszel: Yeah, very painful, it was such a bad, you know…
Burde: And he wasn’t able to work?
Fiszel: No, there was no work for everybody. See, the young kids, they could take a lot out of them, but the older people—they were not that old, my parents—but for them [the Germans], they [my parents] were too old. So he couldn’t survive…
Burde: And he had nothing to do all day?
Fiszel: No. It was a, you know, we went into the ghetto like to a jail, it was a jail, but a bigger one. We could go down in the street just at night, you know, our houses in Israel where you go, and you, what do you call it they have a…?
Burde: At Yad Vashem, like in the wall.
Fiszel: Yeah. Because we lived close to the bridge—they had a bridge going from one side to the other because we were ____?____. I mean, nobody even tried to get out—where would we go? There was no place to go.
Burde: Did you have that kind of a feeling—“where would you go?”
Fiszel: Yeah. Because we were afraid, this way we thought maybe we’ll still gonna live a little. If we get out without permission, that’s it—they took you away, and…they killed people in the ghetto too, they just called ‘em out everyday and just you stand in line, oh, you know. And they just went over you, and whatever they liked to do and if they were in bad luck, they just killed you, that’s all. They killed a lot of people.
Burde: And everybody saw it?
Fiszel: They didn’t call especially people to come. See it, sure.
Burde: So that you knew what was happening?
Fiszel: Oh yeah. And we were afraid that we’re going to send away. We still had each other. We were still a family, even that circumstances, we still had a family. And so, they send me away or, uh, you know…as soon as somebody left the family, that was heartbreaking. They knew, I don’t know if they’ll see each other anymore. Because we had ideas what they did, and where they send them, and then we knew about Auschwitz.
Burde: How did you know about Auschwitz?
Fiszel: I don’t know…I don’t think we knew exactly the name, but we knew that they send away people to camps. This was a good ___?___—my husband was in camps, but they didn’t kill. They took him right away so his ___?___ worked out.
Burde: Was he from Lodz also?
Fiszel: No he’s from ____?_____.
Burde: Was that close by?
Fiszel: Mhhmm, it’s Poland yeah. It’s not as big as Lodz, but it was a very big Jewish community. They sent him—and he came home sometimes.
Burde: You mean they let him come home?
Fiszel: See this was a ____?____ camp, especially just for working. And he was a young boy, and he worked very good, and they liked him—he did a good production, and it happened he was there with ourselves that we saw him—he came to see us after the war. And he knew nobody will kill him, he wasn’t afraid to come and see us because he was a good one. There was some good people too, even there was…he came to see us because he did a lot of good for the Jewish people, a lot of, he sent them home, you know, passport…to go home for two days to whatever…
Burde: So he kept in contact with an SS person after the war?
Fiszel: He came to see my husband, yeah, he knew where he was and came through the line (?)— right after the war.
Burde: But still!
Fiszel: Yes.
Burde: So there were some Germans who…
Fiszel: Oh yeah! Oh yeah! There were. There were. They just did the job, and then if they could help, they helped—they really did a lot, quite a bit. And this one, he was so good to him, he came to see him. Because he did a lot of good to a lot of people that he told some people, you know, “Go now” or “Go” or “Don’t go” or whatever, he knew what’s gonna happen. And he could give ‘em…
Burde: And he could give them hints?
Fiszel: Oh yeah, he was a very…he sent them home, a lot of times that nobody could know. And you know what? They found out, they send him away…they send him away.
Burde: You mean after the war?
Fiszel: No, no. He…they probably snitched on him, but he does some things for the people, the Jew, they send him away to some place else.
Burde: You mean they changed his camp.
Fiszel: Yeah.
Burde: They assigned him somewhere else.
Fiszel: Yeah.
Burde: But they didn’t kill him.
Fiszel: No, no. He came after the war, he was a good man. So nobody…a lot of Germans, if people see them after the war, they just kill them because he was a murderer, but he was a good man—he was not afraid to show himself with us. No, he was…I remember he came right after the—in 1946. So some people, had it not as bad as, I mean, the good part was that they didn’t kill him, just to go and kill him. They let him live, they did their job, they worked, they gave the production, and that was the good part, the good camp.
Burde: But he, was he the only, your husband, the only one in his family…?
Fiszel: No, there was six children.
Burde: And they were all in good camps?
Fiszel: Different camps. There were four brothers and two sisters. So two boys survived the war, one got killed—he was in the army, you know.
Burde: The Polish army?
Fiszel: Yeah, and then the other, they just killed him, right after the war. And he still has now—and a little sister died—and he has a sister and a brother left in Europe.
Burde: So out of six children there were three left?
Fiszel: Yeah, and thank God because some families didn’t survive at all, and I cannot say, I thank God every day I have a sister and a brother in Europe—my sister is in Poland, and a brother, one brother, I told you about it, he went with my mother. He tried to run, you know, with the segregated, and he didn’t he went back there, he was seven years old.
Burde: So he tried to stay with your mother?
Fiszel: Mhhmm…mhhmm.
Burde: But that’s…that’s a normal thing for a child to do.
Fiszel: That’s right. Maybe if you would be aware of it my mother wouldn’t let him go with her. But who knew, they didn’t know.
Burde: She was at Auschwitz, wasn’t she?
Fiszel: Yeah, we all went to Auschwitz, but see the difference was that I was late, and we were there in 1944. And all of us—they came two weeks later than me, by the time they came, they sent me already someplace else.
Burde: Where did they send you?
Fiszel: I was in Zaltswedel, from there I went to Bergen Belsen. I was in Bergen Belsen six weeks, and from Bergen Belsen they sent me to Zaltswedel. See I was probably appearing to them [the Germans] that I was so healthy and young that I could work because they send me to ammunition where I was working.
Burde: You remember the day they came to get you in the ghetto?
Fiszel: The day? What day it was?
Burde: No, not specifically, but how did they choose you, were you out working?
Fiszel: See they, like I was on the list on this postal (?) at this factory where I worked on the…how do you call it here…?
Burde: Construction?
Fiszel: Construction. And they had the list, and they came, like I had a friend and her brother worked with me, they took him too because he worked in the same place, so they just, this night they took this postal (?) and they went all over to pick ‘em up in the night.
Burde: Oh, so that you, they, it was according to where you worked that they chose you?
Fiszel: In the beginning, then they started…
Burde: But they picked you up from home, they went to your apartment?
Fiszel: Yeah, in the night they did everything. Yeah, they went to my apartment, and they just picked me. They didn’t pick my sister—my sister’s only two years apart, you know. They picked me, and then they, like I gave an example, they picked her brother too because he was in the same place working like I did, and he was on the same _____?_____ overnight. We didn’t know where they took us.
Burde: Was it a train?
Fiszel: A train, a closed train like the cattle trains.
Burde: And they took you to a camp?
Fiszel: They took us to Auschwitz. And Auschwitz wasn’t built up yet, they had still those…tents. When you start talking about it, it comes to you. Your mind, you know, you get so old…sometimes maybe you want to be blank, you don’t remember.
Burde: Auschwitz didn’t…had tents because…
Fiszel: No, no. Bergen Belsen had those.
Burde: Oh, Bergen Belsen.
Fiszel: Yes.
Burde: Because they were still…
Fiszel: Yeah, afterwards they had ready those…
Burde: Barracks.
Fiszel: Barracks.
Burde: So they took you by train. And then, did they make you go through any procedures like examinations?
Fiszel: They took everything away from us…but they didn’t…I was shaved off when…see…from Auschwitz to Zalts—to Bergen Belsen I didn’t have to do anything because we had ____?____ and that’s all _____?_____ shoes…
Burde: Like a uniform.
Fiszel: Yeah, sure, I didn’t have to go through anything. The only time I went through was when I came from the ghetto to Auschwitz.
Burde: And they shaved your head.
Fiszel: They shaved me, and they…you work out from one place to the other place, you didn’t have the chance to know if it was you or not…but you were lucky that you walked out from there because seventy-five percent didn’t.
Burde: Where did…at Auschwitz, were there women guards, were there men guards…
Fiszel: Yeah, there were women.
Burde: They weren’t Germans, were they?
Fiszel: Yeah, oh yeah, they were German. But the Jews worked there, they did the dirty work. Oh they were Germans, they were Poles that were on the German side, there were…how do you call them…but they were worse even some of them than Germans.
Burde: Poles?
Fiszel: Yeah. But the Jews they took to work there to segregate the clothes, to pick up the gold with the valuables, and to bring. I—they had those kinds of jobs.
Burde: And when you were going in, did they show you those things, like the gold and the clothes?
Fiszel: No.
Burde: No. They just took everything away, but you didn’t see where they took it?
Fiszel: Oh yeah…no. See when you came in, there was showers, you took everything, and then you went into another place and they shaved you. Until you got out to the villa (?) you were…
Burde: You looked like everybody else with the uniform.
Fiszel: Yeah, nobody knew who was who was who. And from there, they didn’t need to make inspection—they inspected you only if they liked you to send you because sometimes they just took you and you were not good enough. Or while you were there, you lost weight, you got sick, you…you know…you looked like a living mess, you know…
Burde: Like a living corpse.
Fiszel: Yeah, so you were lucky enough that they liked you to send you to a place.
Burde: You didn’t ask any questions.
Fiszel: No. And the way they had transported us. I don’t know, you know, when you talk about it, you cannot believe it, I…when I think about it, I don’t know how I did it.
Burde: I guess you didn’t have any choice, so you did it.
Fiszel: We lived from hour to hour.
Burde: And you just hoped you’d make the next hour. Did you think…you must have worried about your family when you were taken away.
Fiszel: Yes, you know we worried a much. Yeah. Then, we got to be like animals; that’s all we thought about—to survive another hour. So, there was no time in your mind to go to worry about your family.
Burde: And you worked long hours?
Fiszel: Yeah, we worked night shifts and day shifts, so when we came home, five, six o’clock, they kept us outside two, three hours outside to look us over because sometimes you could bring a piece of bread. There was some, you know…like the floor managers, they had, you know, it was regular practice that the Germans were working too.
Burde: Oh! So it was not just people from the camps working.
Fiszel: No, there were German people. There was a big ammunition factory that they took us, you know, they needed work, us to work, so we could give them a good production, so…but some of them got pretty good, they were pretty good, oh I just felt so sorry. Some of them were nice people, with a heart…
Burde: Were they allowed to talk to you?
Fiszel: Just about the job, you know. They were scared, maybe they wanted to do it, but they were scared because for their own life.
Burde: So they lived in nearby towns…
Fiszel: They, it was a town. The factory, you know, it was just camps outside, someplace where they took a camp and made a place and thought “oh sure, this town.”
Burde: And so the German people worked side by side with the people from the camps.
Fiszel: They didn’t let you stay side by side. There was special, you know, you didn’t see more than you saw, your boss, let’s say, but he worked with you. And then we came home by the morning, the snow was so high. We were standing, they kept us two, three hours in the line till they let you go into bed. And then before you went into bed, you had to get up again, all ready to go again. And it was cold, nothing to cover with, no cloak. How we stayed in the freezing, with the snow, and not get, you know, that was hard to believe.
Burde: I know, it is hard to believe.
Fiszel: Obviously nothing is [incomprehensible due to both speaking at same time] and naked is…naked, it’s the same way…
Burde: Right, barefoot and naked.
Fiszel: Naked, that’s it. But I said it in Jewish.
Burde: Well it sounds more interesting in Jewish. [LAUGHS].
Fiszel: That’s how we stayed out so many hours, with no cloak, with no sleeve and no clothes, and it’s colder than here. Cold, it’s very cold in the winter.
Burde: And did they allow you to talk to each other? Or did you just…
Fiszel: No.
Burde: You were afraid to talk.
Fiszel: Oh sure. I mean, they looked at you and spank or with whatever they had in their hand. And for no reason sometimes if they had a little suspicion, they could take you in, in a separate place and kill you almost. Oh sure, and if they know you had some major piece of bread or from…if you took something from someone, he would get killed and I would.
Burde: You mean if you took it from a German?
Fiszel: Yes. If they did something good for you. It was punishment.
Burde: And they just gave you enough food to keep you going.
Fiszel: It wasn’t enough to keep you going, no it wasn’t…but we got, you know, when you’re living with it, you got used to it. And sometimes, I think, I helped myself a little bit. I don’t know if I could survive on that, and I risked my life, I sometimes got a little extra, and I was good enough to share it with my room. We were…
Burde: How many were in a room?
Fiszel: We had which, how do you call those?
Burde: Bunk beds.
Fiszel: Bunk beds. Yeah. And straw. Six in a room, eight, you know, as many that you could put in.
Burde: So, you mean sometimes there was food that was available?
Fiszel: No. You got two meals a day, and a little water swimming around, a piece there…and a piece of bread—that’s all.
Burde: And everybody got the same.
Fiszel: Yeah.
Burde: You didn’t get more because you had a harder job.
Fiszel: No….Only ones that they had a little more, they were the ones that worked in the kitchen.
Burde: Oh.
Fiszel: Well, sure, you know how…
Burde: Oh, well sure.
Fiszel: You worked with the dishes, so you eat.
Burde: So, that was the choice job, right!
Fiszel: So, you have more than eat food, but that time you only had food if you worked in the kitchen, you had food. And we were lucky that they picked sometimes, they needed extra people to peel potatoes, or do…and we were rushing to get it because then we had a little soup there.
Burde: So, that was the choice job, to work in the kitchen.
Fiszel: Yes, yes.
Burde: Were all the people in your barracks, in the camp, working the same way you were or did they go different places to work?
Fiszel: They had different places. But mine, in Zaltswedel, we all went to the same. It was a camp just to go to this factory in shifts.
Burde: And the shifts were long.
Fiszel: Twelve hours.
Burde: So you didn’t have time to…
Fiszel: No, and then besides after working ____?____ they kept us outside for two, three hours just to punish us, to stay everyday, every morning and every night, before you went and after you went…after you came home.
Burde: And all this time you had no idea what had happened to your family. So you were alone, were you with anyone you knew?
Fiszel: I was alone. There were a few people that I knew, yeah. They were all from Lodz. And a lot of Hungarian, then they brought from all over, see they got not enough time, not enough room for everybody they brought, so they pushed in all over like the Poles they came transposing them, from Hungary a lot of people came, I was with a lot of Hungarians. They didn’t have room for so many people, they just pushed them…and then the time was running out.
Burde: The Germans knew that, but did you know that too?
Fiszel: That the time was going?
Burde: Yeah. How did you feel that?
Fiszel: There were rumors, you know. Let’s say somebody was a tailor, or a professional shoe maker; sometimes they took him so that he was a lucky man if he was to have such a profession because he worked for them as a tailor. And there was some man that were nice and good; they came to create and they came to just have the job, so they happy if they spread a little news, you know, what’s going on. And then they got to be afraid too, when they listened what’s going on at that end. They knew slowly, they didn’t believe it was going to happen.
Burde: The Germans didn’t believe.
Fiszel: No, but they spread it around, and maybe by that we came. We didn’t believe it’s gonna to happen because we were so ready…for a miracle to happen it was really a miracle, and it happened. But Poland was liberated before…in January…and we knew about it.
Burde: How did you know?
Fiszel: Like spreading, they were rumors. We didn’t know what’s exactly, what’s true, what’s not. Like I got liberated in April, and was such a there were bombs being dropped, they were bombed and they were saying, “Oh, they’re coming, they’re coming.”
Burde: Who was coming?
Fiszel: Who’s coming?
Burde: Did you know who was coming?
Fiszel: No, but the Germans got to being nervous. They were starting to run, and to go and leave. And I cannot believe when I talk about it I think it’s a dream. Just over night it was quiet and we went to the door, we could open it, nobody was there.
Burde: You mean you just woke up one morning and nobody was there?
Fiszel: Yeah, nobody was there, the Germans, they left over night. Sure.
Burde: Oh, so they ran away from the camp?
Fiszel: Yes, the city was the Germans who were living there. And they could walk right past them but they were nothing even that they did. You know, they were just resident, but the Germans, whoever was there, we just didn’t see them. We couldn’t believe it. And I’ll never forget, we opened the gate, and we ran.
Burde: Where did you run?
Fiszel: We ran to the store to get food, to the stores, we ran _____?______.
Burde: In the town?
Fiszel: Oh yeah, and this I’ll never forget—then I took a barrow, like a…
Burde: A wheel barrow?
Fiszel: A wheel barrow, and we loaded, I brought milk. There were a lot of sick people. Thank God I was strong enough to get out because a lot of people didn’t, couldn’t get out.
Burde: They couldn’t get out of bed.
Fiszel: No, they couldn’t get out. And I brought food and clothes, we went to the stores like live animals, and you know what? I though, we thought—not just me, all our people thought that that’s all we’re gonna need. We’re not gonna ask anymore. If we have food, and something, and clothes, we’ll never ask anything more, but we do. [LAUGHS]. Yeah, but we do, it’s funny, the life, you know.
Burde: But that must have been an incredible moment.
Fiszel: Yes. And God should help us all. I helped a lot of people because I was energetic to do, to bring, to go and take, and I brought food and clothes and, oh, what we didn’t do.
Burde: How did you distribute the food? Were people…?
Fiszel: We were there in the…ok, I didn’t bring food for a few hundred people…
Burde: No, but for your room.
Fiszel: You know, whoever, yeah. And a lot of people did it. And a lot of times we just did it, just to do it, that we didn’t even need it, but we did everything we could.
Burde: How long were you there after the Germans left? I mean…
Fiszel: We were there, you know, that’s a question I never even remembered—how long we were there, maybe a week or two. And then everybody except for me left wherever we could…
Burde: Where did you…?
Fiszel: See, see, there were, the trains were not good. We just got off trains and went from one place…first of all, we tried to remember, to get—to know who was alive.
Burde: How did you…
Fiszel: We…
Burde: Just talked to people.
Fiszel: We joined and joined, and they come in and…they made, like a place that we put down names. It was spreading around, and once they put our names, we…and by the names where somebody is we found each other. The first thing, we went to this Jewish organization to know that we are here…
Burde: Where were they?
Fiszel: They were just…
Burde: At the camp?
Fiszel: No, they just made one right away after they—see we were liberated from the English. And then right away, the American took over, but the English came first.
Burde: Oh. So you stayed in the camp until the English soldiers came?
Fiszel: Yes. And then they took over, they took over, like the German took over, they took over the English.
Burde: And how did they administer…?
Fiszel: Right away they gave us food, and they tried to…you know…and then we went on our own. We just went places, took the plane, we didn’t have to pay that time.
Burde: You mean you took a plane?
Fiszel: Not the plane—the train. There is no plane.
Burde: How did you get, I mean, how did you get the train? Wherever there was a train, you just got on?
Fiszel: See, we had all the privileges that, like we were afraid of them, they were afraid of us. They didn’t ask us anything. We just traveled from one camp to the other. The camps were still camps.
Burde: So you went from one camp to another to try to find people.
Fiszel: Yeah. I went to Hannover. From Hannover, then I went to Bergen-Belsen. How did I find my husband, or everybody else? From Bergen-Belsen I heard that they’re opening a camp in Zaltswedel, Frankfurt. They just started to open the port here, you know, the people. And people came from all—my husband was in _____?_____. And he had about it, he had somebody there maybe to come and visit a relative or a friend, just to see who was still alive or to see people, so he traveled to Zaltswedel.
Burde: And you met him in Zaltswedel?
Fiszel: Yeah. And this was a camp that just started to open again.
Burde: A D.P. camp?
Fiszel: Yeah, a D.P. camp, and some started trying making a camp.
Burde: What were the camps like?
Fiszel: Well that’s true…in the kitchen that we go in, and only difference was that we had kitchen that had enough for us, it was under the American, they gave it, the Americans supported us, they gave to prove that they put us in the hospital, they did everything.
Burde: Were you in the hospital?
Fiszel: No, I was not. My husband had typhus, but he didn’t go, he must have got it in the war, I mean, in camp. He didn’t go to the hospital. They didn’t even put him, a lot of people were afraid to go to the hospital because they were put away, they didn’t…sick people.
Burde: They were afraid because of their experiences before?
Fiszel: Yeah.
Burde: They didn’t trust?
Fiszel: No, and beside that, when you were sick, they put you away. They take you, and nobody knew where, and that’s it…
Burde: Even the Americans?
Fiszel: No, not the Americans. The Americans tried to make you feel better. No, they did a lot of good. I remember they had kitchens, like the soldiers, you know, they were there stationed, and one was the captain of the kitchen from New York, and he really helped us a lot. He gave me extra food, yeah, he helped us a lot.
Burde: So, that was after liberation.
Fiszel: After, yeah. And then everybody went, like themselves, I was at Zaltswedel. Then there was, the camp was dissolved, you know, because people started to get married and go on their own. Then we rented apartments.
Burde: How did you have money? Did you…?
Fiszel: We started….people started to make a little money by selling and doing all kinds of things. Oh yeah, and then we got…they paid us, no they just gave us food and room and board in _____?_____ and then whoever wanted to go on their own. A lot of people got married, they went…and I lived, and I was married, and I got my baby, I lived in _____?_____. In one room, she rented, but I needed the money, and I rented me a room…till I came here.
Burde: So that after the war, the Germans needed money, and they helped the Jews…
Fiszel: Oh yeah. After the war, they were very good to us. A lot of them told us they didn’t even know what was going on, and it was true. A lot of them didn’t know how bad it was…
Burde: So you weren’t afraid to live with a German family.
Fiszel: No, no, not after the war.
Burde: You felt a difference between the Germans that you were living with…
Fiszel: Ok, yeah, but you knew, maybe, some kids were SS, and the parents maybe didn’t know as much what they did, see, they didn’t even know, I mean…
Burde: You believed them.
Fiszel: Yes. Some I believe, some were no good, but a lot of them were good and they didn’t know. Yeah, they felt sorry for us, and they didn’t believe that it really happened. It’s like here, who believed what really happened?
Burde: And they…it was difficult after the war in Germany for everybody, wasn’t it?
Fiszel: Very much, yeah.
Burde: But better than before.
Fiszel: [SIGHS]. Oh, much better, yeah.
Burde: How did you get in contact with your brother and sister?
Fiszel: Through the joined that they found out.
Burde: You didn’t go back to Poland?
Fiszel: No, I didn’t…[long pause as Mrs. Fiszel leaves room and returns]…My brother went back.
Burde: He went back to Lodz?
Fiszel: Yeah, my brother went back. First of all, he didn’t know at that time about us. He was looking for us.
Burde: How did he get back? Again on trains?
Fiszel: Yeah. Oh people traveled all over, you know the trains were packed like with, like with the animals. They just took…there were thousands of people…
Burde: Did they have regular routes? How did you know where a train was going to be and when? You just saw it?
Fiszel: We just went. It was not organized, but wild, and we were…everybody could do anything because the ones with the power left. So it was no…nothing…we could do anything. And they were afraid to say anything, like, we went into the stores and took food, and they wouldn’t ask you to pay, just walk free. They knew…some knew, especially where the camps were in the cities…the camps were…they knew. We just took trains and went from one place to the other—we couldn’t stay here, we took a plane—uh, a train and went again, and we heard about it, like Bergen Belsen was ____?____, get together, a lot of people came…to find each other. Then if you see new people, one told the other, “Oh, I…this one is here, this one is here.” Because they knew, and they heard about it, they told you where to go to find them.
Burde: So that’s how you found your brother and sister.
Fiszel: Yeah.
Burde: Your brother went back to Lodz.
Fiszel: Yeah, he went back to look for who was left, or what he knows, he thought we all come back to…my sister didn’t go either. My sister found me right away…in Bergen Belsen…she was in Bergen Belsen…
Burde: How old was she?
Fiszel: But not the same time I was. She’s two years younger than I am.
Burde: And she was separated from your mother also?
Fiszel: Oh yeah—the same day. See, I was the only one that went two weeks before. And they all…the whole family they took two weeks later.
Burde: And then when they got to Auschwitz, they separated them?
Fiszel: Yes…mhmm. And then we moved after my mother went in ____?_____ That’s what they did…I don’t know. It’s all down, pushed down, that you really…that when you talk about it…it comes…it’s hard to think about it really. But thank God we’re here in the United States—that’s the only good thing that’s happened to us. Thank God that my kids are going to be here, and I hope that they’ll never know, they’ll never have this experience, I hope not.
Burde: I hope nobody ever has this experience.
Fiszel: No, ‘cause it can—I hope it can never happen again—it shouldn’t…it shouldn’t. And I think if the United States really would know what was going on maybe they would do something sooner about it, but they didn’t. You think that—thank God they didn’t let him get away with it.
Burde: No, but who could even imagine anything so…enormous?
Fiszel: One thing it is that nobody could can imagine really the hundred percent—what ever you imagine, whatever I tell you—it’s not one hundred percent, it’s not even half what it was really. Because I don’t think somebody can even repeat everything what was going on because it’s out of…it’s behind you really imagine that you cannot believe it yourself—I cannot believe it…what was really…what was…what else?
Burde: Well, you were mostly with young people then because you were with people who were working.
Fiszel: Yeah, I mentioned that was forty years ago…I sure was young. [LAUGHS].
Burde: You’re still young.
Fiszel: Oh, thank you. Forty years…nineteen…yeah…forty years ago.
Burde: So that you were…
Fiszel: Who would know that the war work out in 1939? Forty years ago I was in the ghetto. I was now…forty years ago now, I was in the ghetto. Today is May, in August…hmmm I was from January to August in the ghetto….forty years….The only thing is that my kids never knew, they never…when I talked to the class, my Jackie (sp?), she said, “Why didn’t you tell me everything?” I said…[long pause as Mrs. Fiszel leaves and returns to room]…yeah, I didn’t tell them everything.
Burde: And you still can’t tell them? Can you talk about it now?
Fiszel: I…see, the Holocaust showed them a lot. And then I said to them, see that’s the way I was transported…in those cars, those animal car trains. And they couldn’t believe it. And I said, “Maybe you’ll see me different.” And they said, “You never told us.” I said, “ No, I couldn’t…” I, you know, the only thing I told them was, “I don’t think you’ll see everything here, not even here, because they glamorize it so much. It was not so glamour, with love affairs with…no.
Burde: Were there any love affairs in the ghetto?
Fiszel: How could you? You were separated.
Burde: In the camps you were separated, but while you were still in Lodz.
Fiszel: In the ghetto, we were yeah, we were together.
Burde: You were with young people.
Fiszel: Yeah, probably… But in the circumstances—some people had a little bit better, the ones that were working, and the manager, you know do it, had a little better, maybe these had a little better circumstances—they thought about other things. Yeah, like I knew some man—a young man, he had a store, a food store, and he…we had, you know, carts to go and get food. And we were like the tram, so he helped me a lot by giving me a little more, and maybe I would marry him if…and then I had another guy that he went to Russia, my parents didn’t let me go with him…he was alive, but he got married over there.
Burde: He stayed in Russia?
Fiszel: I don’t know…maybe not…I don’t know…maybe he married a Russian and he stayed, a lot of people stayed, and a lot of people stayed for a while and then they came back. But I wish the kids today would do like them, say I listened to my parents and I didn’t go. I thought, you know, why should—if they would’ve let me go, they would have needed me there. And they did need me there. I was the oldest, and I didn’t want to leave them.
Burde: Maybe you were responsible for…keeping the family together.
Fiszel: I helped a lot, yes, I did. I helped them a lot by bringing a little extra food. Yeah, I helped them…but I didn’t help my father died from hunger. But in the ghetto, yeah…some people…I don’t think they got married there, maybe they were engaged to be married and they just got married, you know, and the worst thing was if they had a child…they couldn’t keep it…they killed it.
Burde: The Germans killed it, or they hid the baby, or they killed it themselves…?
Fiszel: A lot of German killed it…my brother taken to Auschwitz and they never seen him again. And it was one in a million they survived, you know the ones that were hid in the store, you know, that a lot of Polish people took families and hid them, and they survived on the Polish papers—I know a few, there’s a few…a very few…that the whole family survived.

Tape 2 - Side 2

Fiszel: If they would be taken long, and you know, if they would have time, they would kill everybody, just kill ‘em.
Burde: So there was a little luck.
Fiszel: Yeah.
Burde: Do your children ever ask you questions about…?
Fiszel: They used to.
Burde: Like not having grandparents.
Fiszel: That’s what the question when they were little. When they came home from school, that was very bad thing, everybody had, you know, when it was a occasion that grandma gave me, and “Why don’t I have…they got this from grandma, they got this from grandma…why don’t we have any grandparents…” That was difficult.
Burde: Were you able to tell them then?
Fiszel: Yeah, yeah.
Burde: But it was painful for you.
Fiszel: Painful. And the beginning, maybe some children were…you know they were maybe…they didn’t like to admit that their parents were there, you know, like refugees, it were called, maybe they were ashamed of it. But it made a big difference in my daughter after I went to school. She really liked, I felt that she was proud of me.
Burde: That must have been a wonderful feeling.
Fiszel: Oh yeah.
Burde: But that was just recently.
Fiszel: No, it’s about two, three years ago or more. Yeah, because she’s two years in college, and it’s about three years ago, four years, it was in the junior year. See they had a history day, it was on Holocaust, and she said, “My momma was a ____?____.” She was like proud of it. And then the actions of the kids, she was afraid they gonna boo me, they gonna, you know, that I’ll be—and the principal even talked to me before, he said, “Please, don’t take it so bad that they laugh or, you know, just ignore, or…” They all stopped to listen.
Burde: They were interested.
Fiszel: Very much. They were so good, and so…they made me feel so good because they were like feeling with me, see they thought it just like the pictures, you know, you kill and you shoot, and you…it’s not the truth, it just happened. And I talked, and I lived through it. They asked me questions unbelievable, really, I mean really. And afterwards, they felt like…felt sorry for me, and then at the same time they were proud of me, that I’m here, and I…you know…they were really very good, very good. And the next day, my daughter was so proud; she was the talk of the town. They told her about this, and how nice I was to do it, and how good I did. And she so _____?_____. And you know, I feel that they, like I told my kids at home now, and I talked to them and I told them I went to Webster College, and I really had such a beautiful result, and they called me again, but I couldn’t make it that time. They were like, proud of me, and I did, you know, they are proud of me. I thank God, I thank my kids are not ashamed of me.
Burde: But isn’t that a wonderful feeling?
Fiszel: Yes, yes. And then that…that I wanted to do it…that I did. That was really big thing for them, and I feel good about it that somebody listens, yeah…you know…
Burde: Well sure.
Fiszel: Give me another time, I’ll do it. I don’t know what to tell you. You skip so much…when you talk it comes to you…my mind is blank altogether…because its forty years—first was a ghetto, then a camp, then after the war, I mean, it was really hard, and then you came to the states, thank God, we all saw such sick people, and really a lot of people died so young because it shows. ____?____…we are not the same people that we were.
Burde: Physically? Emotionally?
Fiszel: Physically, emotionally, mentally, physically…at first it’s mentally, emotionally; now, it’s physically.
Burde: Do you ever remember times when you would wake up when you were sleeping, thinking about it, or have nightmares?
Fiszel: Nightmares a lot…yeah. But physically everybody now feels it. Because you know, emotions can do everything to you, and that’s what happens to us. A lot of people are sick, and then they die already. We don’t have to say…
Burde: Are you afraid? Are you afraid of dying early because of that?
Fiszel: Not because of that, but I…mental…mental ability, and emotions are already shot. We are nervous more, we are…you know, we are not as happy as we should be, no…there is something behind you that, you know, it’s dead.
Burde: And it’s always dead.
Fiszel: And it’s always dead. And it sometimes it digs you and digs you and…
Burde: Even on an occasion like your daughter’s wedding?
Fiszel: I’m happy for myself that I, you know, that I’m here to see it. But at the same time, we are…my kids feel it too…that’s all we have is each other, I mean, that’s all, that’s it. We have a wedding—you have only strangers. Ok, then, it’s good to have them. We live together, that’s all we have is each other, the few people that we came, we stick together, that’s good too. But that’s all there is there…
Burde: You don’t have any cousins?
Fiszel: My husband has…I have not too many. But you know what, we say it, what Hitler did to us, I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do because we should blame…you blame yourself for everything, not what Hitler did to you, that we are so apart, there’s not the feeling anymore that there was.
Burde: You mean you and your brother and your sister?
Fiszel: Yeah, I don’t know what it is. It’s not the same feeling that we had at home towards our relatives. And that what Hitler did—we just thought about ourself and to survive, not thinking even about your own family…what we did before. And the busy life here, you go just after the things you want, that’s all. It’s…it is…because we never did, you know, easily in Europe, our people lived from the ___?___ there too because they don’t ask for that much. Here we ask for more because we see more, we want more.
Burde: Right. And once you thought all you would need was food.
Fiszel: That’s all.
Burde: And one piece of clothing.
Fiszel: Really. That’s all. That’s all we thought, and that’s all we talked about then, “when we get out from the gate, that’s all we need is food—to eat enough.” Some people got sick because they wanted to eat enough, they couldn’t anymore. If we have enough food we’re not going to worry about tomorrow anymore. Look what Hitler did—took everything away, took everything, I mean everything. We probably didn’t have too much, but there were some people that had more than, you know, like its all the same.
Burde: It’s twelve o’clock, do you want to stop?
Fiszel: Yeah, yeah. Can I talk to you again?
Burde: Thank you. If you feel that you have something that you remember that you want to say, call me. I know it’s hard.
Fiszel: It’s hard. Thank you very much.
Burde: Thank you. I’ll always listen.
Fiszel: Ok, ok. Who do you have to do with? You do it on your own? Or what?
Burde: Well it’s…the Holocaust Museum…a committee called the Oral History Committee. And they take interviews with survivors, and then it will go into the Holocaust Center…the new JCC—the new Jewish Federation building.
Fiszel: When is it going to be?
Burde: Years.
Fiszel: Oh, I’m still going to be around here. [LAUGHS].
Burde: Of course you will. [LAUGHS].
Fiszel: Yeah, it’s good—it’s a good thing…
Burde: Because you have told me things I have never read anywhere.
Fiszel: No.
Burde: And otherwise I wouldn’t know them.
Fiszel: Oh, there’s a lot more to tell. I wish I would…maybe you just block it out…
Burde: Maybe it’s good.
Fiszel: Yes, because you have so much now to worry about that you cannot worry about forty years. And you worry about your own health, and I was worried sick, and I hope every year that there will be another year, yeah. This year I had cancer…
Burde: And now you’re fine.
Fiszel: I hope so.
Burde: I hope so too.
Fiszel: Yeah…I believe cancer comes from emotions…
Burde: I’m not sure I agree with you, but… [LAUGHS].
Fiszel: You know, maybe because I am always worried, and I am always tense, and…I don’t know, and depression comes from all the problems, and it shows up.
Burde: It does…
Fiszel: It shows up. I thank God that I’ve made it this far—I try.
Burde: You have a lot of good things.
Fiszel: Yeah, a lot of good things. And you want your kids to be happy, and you cannot live for them, and it’s all you think of—my two beautiful girls. And…yeah…this is my baby.
Burde: She is your baby…you do have three beautiful girls.
Fiszel: And all self-sufficient, educated, more than I am. My little one goes to Washington U…on scholarship…she’s a teacher—my oldest one is a teacher. And she is in college…and they can stand on their own feet. They’re married—two of them are married, ____?____ but thank God—I hope I did—I did the best I could, and the kids suffer too from parents like me, you know?
Burde: How did they suffer?
Fiszel: In a way they…I don’t know…maybe we didn’t do it as American parents do, we didn’t show them enough, didn’t have enough, probably, you know, that they could see a little more of kind of a life, the never seen it.
Burde: Do you think you were different than other American parents?
Fiszel: Now maybe not, but in the beginning maybe I was.
Burde: You think you were more worried about things?
Fiszel: Yes, maybe we were more of a perfecting…we made a lot of mistakes…
Burde: Who doesn’t? Everybody does.
Fiszel: But the only thing is that kids know that shouldn’t blame the parents, but they do. [LAUGHS]. That’s the best excuse for them, to blame the parents for everything.
Burde: That’s all kids.
Fiszel: Yeah. We tried to—both of us…see we don’t know any different. The European had not so much affection…they don’t show it, maybe they had…they do—the European people think that material things, and what we do…I didn’t have as lucky as kids have it. So we tried to, uh material things, and not show enough affection, or say enough, like Americans say.
Burde: It’s never too late.
Fiszel: No, but…I have good kids. ___?____ And I hope that to be around (?)
Burde: Well that’s good.

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