Eva Derby

Eva Derby
Nationality: Slovakian
Location: Czechoslovakia • Humenné • Lučenec • Michalovce • Missouri • New York • St. Louis • Theresienstadt • United States of America
Experience During Holocaust: Family Died During the Holocaust • Family Died in Concentration Camp • Family Survived • Liberated • Sent to Ghetto • Was a Child During the Holocaust

Mapping Eva's Life

Click on the location markers to learn more about Eva. Use the timeline below the map or the left and right keys on your keyboard to explore chronologically. In some cases the dates below were estimated based on the oral histories.

“[T]hat void in family is unexplainable. That feeling of aloneness is unexplainable and there's nothing to remedy that, you see, because we can't fix everything.” - Eva Derby

Read Eva's Oral History Transcripts

Read the transcripts by clicking the red plus signs below.

Tape 1 - Side 1

PRINCE: My name is “Sister” Prince and I’m interviewing Survivor for the Oral History Project of the St. Louis Center for Holocaust Studies.Today is June 17, 1985.S, please tell me where you were born and when you were born?
SURVIVOR: I was born in a city called Humena, which is in Czechoslovakia near the Hungarian border.It is in the Slovakian and part of Czechoslovakia in July of 1942.
PRINCE: And your mothers name?
SURVIVOR: My mothers name is Julia Rosenberg was her married name.I was born though, under the name of —.Because at the time that my mother was due to deliver me, her name was on the list to be taken.So she checked into the hospital under her mothers maiden name which is —.So that I technically have the name of — on my little green card that admitted me to the United States as —.And then, as I my mother remarried, which is something that I would like to discuss at further length, but at the time that I was, I think, a senior in high school, I decided to change my name once and for all, for the way I wanted it to be.So because I had used the name Judd, which was my step-fathers name, for so many years, I had to keep that name.I then went to the legal aid office in New York, and technically, or officially changed my name to —.And then when I got married in 1962, I dropped the Judd altogether, so that I have all my professional names, so to speak, is —, and I dropped the Judd and I dropped the Weinberger, but felt that it was important to keep my fathers name, and when I graduated from college and my graduate degree has Rosenberg as my middle name.Makes me feel that thers a perpetuation there,My son is named for my father, but I felt that the other surnames were really meaningless to me, so I went ahead and made that move.
PRINCE: What is your sons name?His first name?
SURVIVOR: My sons first name is Dan and my father s name was Alexander, Alex, but nobody ever used English names, so he was called Shy. And my sons name is Yoshiah, which is my fathers name.Shlomo, named for his father, my rather, my father, and my maternal grandfather.
PRINCE: You were born in Czechoslovakia?Where were your parents born?
SURVIVOR: My mother was born in a city in the Slovakian part called Meszalapertz.My father was born, I really dont know where, but it was also in the Slovakian part of Czechoslovakia.But I dont know the city.
PRINCE: How old was your mother when you were born?
SURVIVOR: My mother was in her middle thirties when I was born.She married pretty late in life.She was very late for that period of time.She was one of six.There was boy, boy, girl, then another boy, and then younger sisters.And so she stayed at home, whereas a lot of the other siblings had left and become very professional types of people.She was much more attached to her family, because I know very little about my father just as an area she really doesnt want to talk about.But I know a lot about my grandparents.
PRINCE: Your mother is living still?
SURVIVOR: Yeah.My mother is living, lives in New York City.
PRINCE: What about your grandparents?
SURVIVOR: My grandparents were taken in 1945.Well, they were taken on the last transport to Auschwitz.And my mother hid them in the basement of the house.I was a Mischeling, I had baptismal papers.That my mother was not Jewish, but my father was.So
PRINCE: This is true?
SURVIVOR: This is true.No, no, no.It so happens that my mother is Jewish but she did have, she was able to get papers from the priests.
PRINCE: Will you explain what mischeling means?
SURVIVOR: Well, my mother claimed that she was not Jewish, and had been married to a Jewish man.
PRINCE: And she could get away with that?
SURVIVOR: Up until around 1944, because if Im not very well-read, I mean I was a history major in college, but I scrupulously avoid reading a lot of painful things.But as we look at history, we know that the Hungarian and the Romanian Jews had very difficult living situations but it was not until 43, 44, 45 that they were started to be deported wholesale and thats where everything fell apart.So until 1944, actually the beginning of 1945, my mother was able to hide her parents in the basement of the house.Everyone had been taken away already.And I was hidden also with my grandparents.
PRINCE: Okay, in the basement?
SURVIVOR: In the basement.
PRINCE: Can you describe the basement.
SURVIVOR: No, no.I had a chimney seat.Thats the joke was that I had a chimney seat, and so whenever there was a knock on the door, my grandparents would go into the basement, and I would go into the chimney seat.But I cant describe it.No, no.MY memory of Europe clicks in probably right after the war.I have vivid memories of living in Europe, but I cant describe my seat.
PRINCE: Can you describe any feelings?
SURVIVOR: Im not sure I understand the question.Feelings as I talk to you now, or feelings about
PRINCE: No, feelings like you cant remember where you were sitting, but do you remember how you felt?
SURVIVOR: If were talking about do I remember how I felt when it was my, when it was 1944 or so No, no.I can describe feelings I have as I talk to you now, but I would not be honest if I said this is how I felt.
PRINCE: How do you feel now?
SURVIVOR: Well, I think now as I get older, I feel more and more cheated.Not for myself only, but for that whole group of people who dies.And, much more militant.Vocally militant.For example, I hope that Mengele is alive, so that he can be punished, so that he can have horrible things happen to him, which I know in a civilized world isnt going to happen.But I hope with all my heart, hes alive so that he can be captured and something can be done to him.I make no bones about my feelings.
PRINCE: I find it interesting that everyone does seem to feel that way.That they are speaking out.
SURVIVOR: Yeah.It would be just too kind for him to have died.
PRINCE: Was there a ghetto?In Humena?
SURVIVOR: Well, what I am sharing with you now is that which my mother has told me.Okay, where they lived was a town of about 5,00people.And the Jewish people lived in uncertain streets so to speak.But it was not a ghetto in the sense that we would have a ghetto like in Warsaw or in Lodz or in Brodyslova where there were larger groups of people and you could say this is the Jewish section of town.It was not that large a city that it could support that type of ghetto existence.And a lot of the young boys went away to learn in Yeshiva, because there wasnt a Yeshiva there.
PRINCE: Do you remember your grandparents?
SURVIVOR: No.I have pictures of my grandparents, I know that they were fine, respected members of the communities.It gives me pleasure to discuss them if this would come up in our conversation, but I dont have personal memory of them.
PRINCE: Lets discuss them then.
SURVIVOR: Well, my grandfather was a very, very respected man.They had a confectionary store.One that would probably be on the par, where they sold chocolates, European chocolates and ground nuts.So it would be a confectionary store, not a candy man.And he was a very learned man.His honesty is summed up, in that my mother tells me that he was the man that was chosen to equitably distribute the Passover flour, in the time that the Matzah was hand-baked.Not hand-baked in the fact that they were super holy, but that that was the only way you could get matzah.He was the person that saw to it that the distribution of the flour was equal.Rich, poor, saw to it that people had food.Fridays and Saturdays and my grandmother, from what I gathered, supported him in all these activities.She was a fine homemaker.They were beautiful people, beautiful people.Elegant, well-groomed, modern clothing although they were Hassidic, that was strictly for Saturday, but theres a picture of my grandfather that people wore in the 1930s, not the Hassidic garb.And my grandmother dressed in a long skirt in the backyard under an apple tree, with a beautiful sheitel on, one that one would wear today.And they werent poor people, they were not poor people.
PRINCE: And your mother was able to save their picture?
SURVIVOR: (Agrees)
PRINCE: What were their names?
SURVIVOR: My grandfathers name was Solomon, and thats whence comes my sons name, Shlomo.And my grandmothers name was Blima Rocho.And I have a daughter, my oldest daughters name is Blima Rocho.And she also has the name of my fathers mother, Gitel.So she has three names, because you know,usually the first child, the mother gets to name, and since we had so many my husband also has no memory of his grandparents also, because his background was somewhat similar to mine, so we tried to have be as fair as possible, so our middle daughter is named for his paternal grandmother so that between my husband and his brother, the grandparents have been mortalized.
[Tape cuts]
PRINCE: Now —, your father, you told me that you were born in July of 42, and you told me on the phone that your father died in May of 42.
SURVIVOR: My father and my mother married and it was an arranged marriage.My father was a Talmudic scholar and he was also, I guess by todays standards, it probably be an accountant, but probably not a CPA.So he went to live in my mothers home and studied and took care of the books for the business.Now, when I say arranged, I dont mean that the first time they met was under the wedding canopy, but someone suggested that this daughter here, Yached, was the daughter of these fine people, and heres this Talmudic scholar.Anyways, I think he was about a year younger than my mother.They were married for a pretty short period of time probably about two and a half years or so.And in May, the city, town really, where his parents lived, there were rumors of deportations.And as we know from history and WWI, Jews were indeed deported.It didnt necessarily mean that they were going to be killed.WWI, you have the Germans come in and move you from one town to another town my father-in-law tells these stories, and he went in May of 42 to say goodbye to his parents before they were to be deported and was taken off the streets.So, whether he died in 42 or not, we dont know, but after it was said that he was seen in Auschwitz, because after the war, my mother had to go to a Rabbinic court in Brotyslova, and I have the papers at home to say that she was a widow because Yoshia Alex Rosenberg had been seen in Auschwitz and was presumed and they quote a particular verse from the Bible that said that so that she did not become an aguna.Which is a woman, who no one can testify that she is a widow, yet her husband is missing.Just as an aside, we see this in Israel happening, where they try to find out that the soldier had died, and they would take everybody and anybodys testimony and aguna is a person who is chained, which meant that you could never have remarried.So the Rabbinic courts in Brotyslova said that she was indeed a widow.So we dont have a Yartzeit for example, for my father.There, he was a family of seven and there is one uncle living in Israel, and he said that Yom Kippur was the Yartzeit, because he felt that no matter how far we all strayed, Yom Kippur was the thread that held all Jews together and it was on that day that we would remember the Yartzeits.
PRINCE: Eva this is Orthodox, not Hassidic?Your background?
SURVIVOR: You know, my own background, you know we joke about this all the time. My grandparents were Hasidic, my father was not a Hasid.But, we joke about it cause in my family, in my husbands family, my father-in-law, grew up as a gerer-Hasid, and my mother-in-law grew up as a misnogid, the exact opposite.And were still having these battles over Hasidic versus, I guess, more secular type of orthodoxy.
PRINCE: And what are you now?
SURVIVOR: Probably two steps left of orthodoxy and about six steps right of conservatism.You know?We belong to a traditional congregation, yet our children dont personally travel on Shabbos, or eat non-kosher food, and theyve all gone to Epstein, the glatt-Yeshiva high school.Because of our coming to St. Louis, and weve gone progressively more into the orthodox arena, because of moving to St. Louis, and because we didnt have that rich heritage that I grew up in, in terms of you always knew when it was a holiday.And because I wanted my children to be very, very Jewish, at least have the knowledge of being Jewish when we made the decision to send them to day school, even though my husband and I had gone to public school.
PRINCE: —, what is your first memory?
SURVIVOR: My first memory, chronologically, must have been 1946 or so.Its a two-story with the stairs on the outside, and my mother is a housekeeper for two cousins, brothers.
PRINCE: Where are we?
SURVIVOR: Were in Europe.Were in Czechoslovakia, but I dont know where.Were in Czechoslovakia.And because its not right for her to live up there, she and I lived downstairs with this very old woman, who I see in front of me as I talk to you, and her daughter is a cripple.And her daughter is a big, big woman and she is a cripple.And it is cold.It is around Sukkot time, because I remember on the second floor there was a sukkah.And she and I lived down there.And were sitting on the stove cause its cold and I topple forward and she catches me.
PRINCE: The mother?
SURVIVOR: The old woman catches me, and my mother is upstairs doing something for these the two men, the two boys.
PRINCE: When she caught you, what did she do with you?Just set you down?
SURVIVOR: Just set me down, thats all.I mean, I was their mascot, and so I remember being with them.
PRINCE: Describe her.
SURVIVOR: Describe the old woman?
PRINCE: Yeah.
SURVIVOR: Shes small, shes small.Shes got white hair, and shes very much on the thin side, and shes very old.And were in the kitchen, and its one of those stoves where you have to put in this thing to pick it up, okay?And you put in coals; its a coal-burning stove.And theres a table.And her daughter is a big woman, shes got kind of like reddish hair, shes a big woman, she uses crutches all the time, and shes sitting on a stool right near the stove.And Im sitting kind of like on the edge of the stove.And its the kitchen, which kitchen, it was the room.And when I went to sleep at night, it was cold, and so there were bricks, brick was put at the foot of the bed before you got in.They wrapped up and that was put at the foot of the bed.So my kids joke with me, when I watch Little House on the Prairie, I say, forget it, you know, this happened in 1940-something.
PRINCE: And it was me. (laughing).
SURVIVOR: And it was me, and it was cold.
PRINCE: Did you sleep in bed with you mother?
SURVIVOR: Yeah, always.I slept in bed with my mother until we came to the United States.
PRINCE: And when was that?
SURVIVOR: 1948.I was a few months shy of my sixth birthday.So I remember that and I remember these two boys, Mendlevich is their name and they live in Williamsburg now, and my mother sees them, still keeps in touch with them just on a catchers catch can type of basis.And she kept house for them.. And I must be very honest with you.I do not remember being hungry.Im sure I was, but I dont remember being hungry.
PRINCE: Why are you sure you were if you dont remember?
SURVIVOR: Because my mother tells me that there were times especially in 1944 1945 where it was very, very, very bad.See, what happened was that in 1944, they found that the papers were false.
PRINCE: They?
SURVIVOR: They the Gestapo, the Germans.And the Russians were coming in at the same time, so were really talking about at the end of the war, the very end.The Russians were coming in, my mother was arrested, I was arrested, my grandparents had just been deported to Auschwitz.
PRINCE: Now what happened when you were arrested?
SURVIVOR: We were sent to Terezenstadt.
PRINCE: Now is this something you remember?
SURVIVOR: I dont remember.No, I dont remember.We were sent to Terezenstadt, and Terezenstadt was full.And there was a very, very powerful Hungarian Rabbi who apparently was taking in women and children into what had been an old age home.And so Terezenstadt was full, and we were so close that I have money from Terezenstadt.They took the crowning form my mother, and I dont remember this, but you know I can reconstruct a picture, its like something you see on television.My mother –
PRINCE: Because of what youve been told
SURVIVOR: Right, because of what Ive been told.My mother gave me the money about five years ago, and its in a safe deposit box and its Theresienstadt money.And I was once asked if I wanted to donate a piece of it to the Center and I said selfishly, No.I need to divide it among my three children.And then we were diverted to this old age home and liberated by the Russians.
PRINCE: Alright. The first memory you recall was falling off the stove into that old ladys arms.
SURVIVOR: Right, right.
PRINCE: What is the next memory you can recall?
SURVIVOR: The next memory is about some kind of reunion.Now, were now back in Mishlabritz because my mother went back as soon as she could.And maybe these two boys were in Mishlabrits too and theres a cousin who had also come back.I remember kind of like walking on the street with them and just skipping along the street.I have pictures of that, of my mother, my cousin Ibby, and myself. She at the time gave me this little necklace that I still have with her name on it and my name on it.And I can tell you its 1947, its 1947 cause thats the date on the necklace.
PRINCE: Were you happy then?
SURVIVOR: I was very happy.I mean, I was very happy.I wont fill you with anything other than the truth.I think I was very happy.I was not very happy later on, but at this point in my life, I was very happy.
PRINCE: You were with you mother.
SURVIVOR: I was with my mother and I was with all these people and I was the center of everybodys world because I was this little kid, and I was a cute little kid.I wasnt emaciated.
PRINCE: Youre a beautiful lady.
SURVIVOR: (laughing) Thanks, thanks.But I was this really cute little kid.
PRINCE: Probably a hope for them.
SURVIVOR: Yes.And my mother everyday would go down to the Red Cross to see the names that came out.I dont remember that, but I remember being left with a lot of other people a lot of times.It didnt bother me.But I always remember being left with a lot of people.
PRINCE: Then you didnt mind her leaving.
SURVIVOR: No.It was like for short periods of time and then shed come back.I remember, though, that the legacy that I have is that when I was young and we came to the United States cause I was left in Europe for January through April.I mean, I wasnt abandoned but I was left because my mother had to come to the States before me.So, when we came to the United States and my mother enrolled in night school, I was panic stricken when she had to go out at night.I remember she used to have to get into bed to comfort me.
PRINCE: I have two questions.How do you say mother or momma in Czechoslovakian?
SURVIVOR I dont know.We always spoke Yiddish.
PRINCE: And how do you say it in Yiddish?
SURVIVOR: Mama.Just mama.I spoke Slovak but when I came to the United States, nobody spoke Slovakian or Hungarian to me, so I quickly lost my ability and thats probably why my English is flawless and I never spoke another language.I understand Yiddish and I understand a little bit of Hungarian but thats only because I married someone whose mother is Hungarian.Twenty-three years ago, I didnt know a word.
PRINCE: What were the circumstances of your mother coming here first, and who did she leave you with?
SURVIVOR: Well, theres a whole part of my life that clicks in after my mother was a housekeeper for these two boys.The part of my life that clicks in and therefore, it needs to be sequential they, I dont know how, but my mother found my fathers brother, S.R. whos now living in Israel.So we went to Lucenec, which is not that far from Bratislavia, and we went to live with them.
PRINCE: Did he have a wife?
SURVIVOR: Wife and a son who is a year and one-half older than I am.His birthday is in January, exactly a year and one-half before mine, and we went to live with them.In retrospect, I guess, we werent badly treated, but we werent really nicely treated either.My cousin, D, whose name was I at the time, had this huge room filled with toys and white furniture.It was a big room.And my aunt and uncle had this big bedroom.My mother and I had a day bed in the corner of what was the living room, dining room combined.In retrospect, it was kind of humiliating.
PRINCE: You did feel that?
SURVIVOR: Yes.
PRINCE: How old were you then?
SURVIVOR: I was probably four, four and one-half.We lived with them for a pretty long time.And then, contact was made with the United States.
PRINCE: Excuse me did she do some work for them?
SURVIVOR: Yes, she was the maid.When we came, the cook and the maid were both let go and my mother assumed those roles.I was out playing with the kids, but it was like my cousin I had this great big room and I didnt.The interesting thing is that my aunt in Israel, whenever I see her, always says, Whenever I bought D something, I was sure to buy something for you too.Now you know Ive had enough counseling training to realize that theres a lot in that message.Theyre very wealthy and whenever they have contact with my kids, there are lots and lots of presents and lots and lots of gifts, and lots and lots of How we always took good care of your mother.
PRINCE: Shes still trying to make up for it.
SURVIVOR: Yes, I think so, I really do.But shes sick now and theyre old and so on, but…Contact was made with the United States, and they married my mother off because they really didnt want this responsibility anymore.So this man came to Europe and you talk about differences in ages.Okay, this man came from the United States to Europe, to Lucenec, and he was a widower no, it was to find a wife, my mother.He was a widower.He had been married to my mothers aunt, a contemporary of my grandmother.You know, when I talk about this, I get very angry.So, he had been married to my mothers aunt my mothers mothers sister, this widower.He had two children and a stepchild.The children were in the armed services, one in the European area and one in the Pacific.And they were taken out of college to go into the army.So you know what we were talking about age-wise.So he came to Europe and married my mother in January in Europe, because were talking about quotas and visas and sponsorship and so on.He took her to the United States and then she put in her time here so that she could become sponsor for me.And I was left in the care of my aunt and uncle in Europe.I missed my mother very much.They were already starting to do pretty well economically, so there are pictures of us Im standing, my cousin is on skis.I remember I used to walk him back and forth to school.That was the big activity of the day back and forth to school.
PRINCE: You went to school too?
SURVIVOR: No, because they knew I was coming to the United States, so they didnt enroll me in Kindergarten.There were a bunch of other kids on the block, two of whom Ive met subsequently in Israel, so everybodys still well and so on.These are all people who are a year and one-half older than I am, and I met them in Israel.
PRINCE: By accident, or?
SURVIVOR: No, no, no, no.They were all still in touch with each other.My cousin D who lives in Israel is in touch with these friends we had in Lucenec.

Tape 1 - Side 2

PRINCE: So how long was it before your mother sent for you?
SURVIVOR: She left in January and I came in the middle of April.We had a very the house in Lucenec was a beautiful house.It wasnt a farmhouse.It just so happens that we had chickens in the back yard.And when I speak to a group, not to a group, and trying to have a little bit of levity, we joke about how my cousins D and I used to have to go catch the chickens on Thursday to bring them to the shochet (ritual slaughterer).My aunt and uncle were not religious people, but there is a form of Judaism that Of course you eat kosher in your home.You can do whatever you want, but you just eat kosher in your home.So we had chickens in the back yard, there was a woman who used to come in towards the weekend to prepare the chickens.We used to take the chickens, try to catch the chickens to give them to this maid who would take it to be slaughtered and there were kids on the block, and my uncle ran his business out of the house.He was in, like, machinery and there was this non-Jewish secretary who made me this beautiful little silk handkerchief, about this big (demonstrating) and got my initial on it and is embroidered all around or crocheted it.She used to take me to church with her and so some of my vivid memories are kneeling in church and feeling vaguely uncomfortable.There was a gym we used to go to, so I used to walk all the way with her.I think this was the period of time that my mother had gone already.Id walk on this little balance beam that was on the floor and doing excersizes and all.We went to a pretty resort in the mountain area, so I would say that my uncle was able to quickly recoup some financial losses. They were hiding in Polish woods during the war, although they werent Polish.So they were hidden in the woods for the entire length of the war but here were no other survivors of my mothers family and no other survivors from my fathers family either.
PRINCE: So you spent about three months by yourself.
SURVIVOR: Four, four.
PRINCE: You were close to your mother.
SURVIVOR: Yes.
PRINCE: And did you feel comfortable knowing that you were going to be reunited with her?
SURVIVOR: I think that I felt comfortable, there was just this emptiness.
PRINCE: Did you cry?
SURVIVOR: A lot.As I think about it, I wasnt very comfortable there.You know, I was always like the little waif.There would be business people coming through and, This is my son and this is the daughter of my deceased brother.I remember playing with the kids but I just wasnt particularly comfortable in the house.Theres a famous peas and carrots story where I refused to eat my peas and carrots, and I was isolated from the family until I ate those peas and carrots, but since I refused, they finally gave in.I mean, I once ate a meal in the bathroom because I was supposed to be eating my peas and carrots.Im a lefty, but I stood at this desk while this secretary had my left hand behind my back.I guess we would not call it abuse, but in those days it wasnt.They taught me how to write with my right hand, but Im still a natural lefty.If you give me something, Ill extend my hand.
PRINCE: They did that here too, though.
SURVIVOR: I know that.But it was a high-top, roll-top type of a desk and I had to stand in front of it and practice writing with my right hand.
PRINCE: What did you do that was fun there?
SURVIVOR: We used to watch the gypsies.
PRINCE: Do what?
SURVIVOR: They used to come through the streets, sharpening knives and we used to jeer the gypsies.You talk about prejudice we used to go out there and there was a big gate around the house.
PRINCE: Tell me all about that.
SURVIVOR: You have to visualize the house.There was a high gate.
PRINCE: At your house?
SURVIVOR: Yes.In Lucenec where I lived.And you opened up the gate and walked up a couple of steps, and off to the right was the house, and then over here there was a gate, over to the next, a very high one.There was a kind of yard and behind the house there were chickens, a couple chickens there were.Outside of the house there were steps going up to the attic.They were outside steps, and that was where the Passover dishes were stored which I promptly began to take down and tumbled down a whole flight of steps.I remember it vividly.My mother was still there at the time.So, you see, I dont really have a chronology I can share with you.So, when the gypsies would come to town to sharpen the knives, we were not allowed out.The gypsies are going to steal you.So we spent our time watching the gypsies.
[tape cuts]
Like you see on television, they had these wagons with the big wheels and they came through the town.Elenka, the maid, would run out with the knives and wed then follow the gypsies down the street a whole bunch of us would follow them down the street, yelling and screaming at them.
PRINCE: What would you yell?
SURVIVOR: I dont know because I dont speak the language, but like Gypsies or what have you.I remember being much more of a follower, not for any social reason, but because I was the youngest I was the little kid.So I remember being the follower and theyd have to take me along.But I remember the gypsies vividly when they used to come by.We once followed a funeral procession down several blocks.It was still horse-drawn, a non-Jewish funeral, and this big, black funeral procession.
PRINCE: I think I asked you what you did for fun.
SURVIVOR: (Laughing)Yeah.Thats what we used to do for fun.But the gypsies were out main source of amusement.Its funny cause I once said to the kids, Dont go or the gypsies will steal you and the kids just roared.But I think that was not that uncommon in the 40s.There were gypsies probably in the United States also and Dont go out because the gypsies will steal you was a real common threat.
PRINCE: Did you believe it?
SURVIVOR: Of course.I believe anything that anybody told me that could possibly be harmful to myself or to my mother.If youre not a good girl, then something is going to happen to your mother, or something will happen to your mother.I believed all of it, all of it.
PRINCE: And did you hear a lot of that?
SURVIVOR: Yes.
PRINCE: Who did you hear this from?
SURVIVOR: My aunt, mostly.At the time we were living with my aunt and my uncle, most of my mothers family the few cousins well, first of all, they werent in the same city anymore.They were marrying and the one I told you about then went to a D.P. camp, and she came in 1951 to the United States.
PRINCE: Why did she go to a D.P. camp?
SURVIVOR: She didnt have a sponsor.
PRINCE: And when you went to a D.P. camp?
SURVIVOR: Then you waited your turn or you waited for a sponsor.A lot of legalities, I frankly dont know and Ive avoided knowing.But, slowly but surely, as the family came, that which was left of it several people came via Canada, several via the D.P. camps.In my husbands family they came to the States in 1940.My father-in-law did very well in business and he was on the first ship back to Europe after the war to see who was left.He then brought everybody over just as soon as he could arrange visas.But that didnt happen in my family.There were no heroes.There was a lot of back-biting and still is, and there were no heroes.Quite frankly, no one tried to help anyone else in any way that might have diminished their own capitol.We were really poor when we came to the United States.I was strictly hand-me-downs, and youd better go work in a factory.We do not, unfortunately, come form a family that was this romantic picture of welcoming the refugees.It wasnt that way.
PRINCE: Okay, youre with your aunt and uncle
SURVIVOR: Im with my aunt and uncle and its time for me to leave and they took me to Bratislava and tried to get my smallpox vaccination.They used to take me back several times, I must have had some kind of natural immunity because they kept just taking me back and back and back.Bratislava was a very dark city.Everything is built in the courtyards.We had to go in through this archway and the doctors office was in this very dark area.Finally, my smallpox injections tool and they took me to the airport in Bratislava.I was put into the hands of a stewardess and another couple.I vividly remember them weighing me before I got on the plane.I think it was smuggling because they checked my weight against my passport weight.I had a bouquet of flowers I was taking to my mother.I got on the plane and it took off, and the flowers spilled over and the water got on the floor.The stewardess took the flowers and threw them away.I flew over 48 hours and landed at LaGuardia.
PRINCE: When you cried for your mother in Czechoslovakia and when you cried on the airplane, did anyone hold you?
SURVIVOR: No.
PRINCE: When you were getting your smallpox shots and kept going back, were you concerned that maybe it wouldnt happen?
SURVIVOR: No, I was just a little kid and my aunt is a big woman not so tall, but rather square big boned and square.And I always remember walking very fast, holding on to somebodys hand and trying to catch up.Its interesting that I remember her much more than my uncle who was probably out trying to make money and converting his money into machinery when he was being sent over to Israel.You know, in 1948, there was so much stuff coming out of Czechoslovakia into Israel.Thats how he started his fame and fortune.He had the machinery sent to Israel to a Kibbutz that made brooms and brushed.And so when he went there, things were going along pretty well.But I was always this little kid, trying to catch up, walking really fast (laughing) behind all these adults.But I do remember how dark Bratislava was.
PRINCE: Did you ever wish for a brother or a sister?
SURVIVOR: No.When I came to the United States, I had these two step-brothers whom I worshipped and adored.Okay, so I was on the airplane.And we landed for refueling a couple of times.It was a plane with four propellers in front.It took us two days to get to New York.We landed at LaGuardia, the LaGuardia of 1948, and there was a lot of mesh.I cant believe how psychologically stupid my family was.My mother wasnt allowed in because she couldnt speak the language so what good would she do?They had sent me a picture of this person who was going to meet me at the airport.(laughing)You talk about it and say, My G-d, I hear people telling stories like this.Anyhow, I had this picture of this person who was going to meet me at the airport.This was a college picture of him my step-brother.So I got off the airplane and there was a mesh which hes looking through and Im looking through.I didnt recognize him at all, and nobody spoke Slovak, while I didnt speak a word of English.So I ran away.I ran the other way.
PRINCE: But you spoke Yiddish.
SURVIVOR: It didnt do them any good and I didnt really speak Yiddish because when I was left with my aunt and uncle, the language of the house was Slovak.
PRINCE: I though when I asked you about your mother
SURVIVOR: Yes, to my mother I spoke Yiddish when I was a little kid, but more Slovak.I knew I had a good knowledge of Yiddish and I still have, but Slovak was the language of the house.So I ran the other way and really high-tailed it.I could see LaGuardia and all this mesh and I just ran and ran.My step-brother, G, caught up with me and I guess I must have believed it was he because he hugged me and took out a matching picture.So then I came back to the luggage area and they thought I was a pretty funny sight, because they burned my clothes.You know, my high-topped shoes and so on.They just took all of that European stuff away.
PRINCE: With your mother?
SURVIVOR: No, they burned my clothes after Id seen my mom.Shed been waiting for me in a taxi, but she was pretty powerless to do anything.So, I didnt have a key and I didnt understand what they wanted from me.
PRINCE: The key?
SURVIVOR: The key to my suitcase.I didnt know what they wanted from me.The customs inspector and my cousin G, couldnt communicate with me.So they had to pry open my suitcase and I dont even know what was in my suitcase.It was a cardboard suitcase.But I was not poor.I did not come here dressed in rags.Then, the joke is that after all this was done, I reached in and produced they key and said something.Im now 42 years old and have been here for a long time, but they are still telling me this story, and I no longer think its funny.So the long and short of it is that Im still the greenhorn.Professionally, Ive done very well.My mother had done very well, but were both still the greenhorns.Anyway, thats just a personal anger that I let loose.My cousin, G, and my mother are first cousins as well as being step-son and step-mother.They escorted me out and my mother was waiting for me in the back seat of a taxi.We were hugging and kissing and so on.
PRINCE: Did she look like you remembered her exactly?
SURVIVOR: Yes (sobbing)
PRINCE: Did you feel safe?
SURVIVOR: Yes.It was incredible.
PRINCE: And you were still only six?
SURVIVOR: A couple of months short.(laughing)
PRINCE: A couple of months short, so you were not even six, and youve lived a lifetime already.
SURVIVOR: Yes.You know, a lifetime of feeling that youre a charity case which you know, youre out playing with the kids and thats one thing, but that subtle feeling.You know, like I could never fall asleep at night unless my mother was in the bed with me, holding me around my waist and how that spills over into my mother and me —
PRINCE: How it spills over?
SURVIVOR: Yes and I wasnt everything in my childrens life to be perfect, so I dont think that Im a calm parent.Theres only so much of life we can control.
PRINCE: How do your children respond to you?You have three?
SURVIVOR: Two girls and a boy.How do they respond to me?I like to think tat although we do a lot of fighting in our house, they tell me that they really prefer to be at home than any other place.They see our family and they dont think were queer and they think a lot of other people are queer.My daughter just finised her freshman year in college and she was accepted into an Ivy League school.I said to myself, G-d, you know, weve really come a long way in a very short period of time.
PRINCE: This is true.
SURVIVOR: But not really, not really
PRINCE: Well, its sort of the full circle because your mother —
SURVIVOR: Yes, and I get a little bit.
PRINCE: — educated you.
SURVIVOR: Exactly we did not come from ignorant people, so for me to go to college was something that was accepted not accepted it was taken for granted.
PRINCE: You know, when you say that youve come a long way, I interpret that as not that you were down here somewhere and came up here, but rather that having started up here and with all the things that happened to you and your family, you all came back to where you started from.
SURVIVOR: I agree with you, but at the same time, Id like to think that weve come a long way in a short period of time, but in truth, in my heart of hearts, I really dont believe that because weve proceeded along the same path.Im not really able to articulate what Im trying to say.But, all of the factors have been in place for a long time in my family and in my husbands family, in terms of respect for education, wanting to get ahead and so on.So, I dont find it so incredible cognitively that my daughter is there.On an intellectually level, my oldest daughter is very bright, the middle one struggles in school, and the youngest is very bright.This is ver typical in a family of three.So cognitively and intellectually she is where many people my age are.American born or not American born.But emotionally, I say, Damn, this is pretty good.
PRINCE: I have to go along with your emotion which plays a tremendous part.
SURVIVOR: Yes.I still see her, though at a little bit of a disadvantage because I guess she is like the other kids at school and yet at the same time I dont know if shes had enough ou know, we havent been here generations enough to take too much in out lives for granted.
PRINCE: You talked about the subtleties before.Can you enlarge on that?You talked about being not quite on a par–
SURVIVOR: I was always being yelled at.You see, D was the prince and I was always being yelled at and always embarrassed.I was always being made fun of.
PRINCE: You mean he was always yelling at you?
SURVIVOR: He yelled at me, his friends yelled at me, my aunt was yelling at me.That may not sound so subtle, but Im not sure what it was that I did, so the subtlety is We are feeding and clothing you.That would come out in that I was never comfortable there.I was just never comfortable.
PRINCE: You talked about that before too when you were living at that other place.
SURVIVOR: Well, when I talked about living with an old woman?
PRINCE: Yes.
SURVIVOR: No.
PRINCE: There was another place where I thought you said you were uncomfortable.
SURVIVOR: No.I loved that old woman and her daughter. They were my friends.
PRINCE: I thought there were two places.
SURVIVOR I think I went back and forth to my uncles house.What I did say was that when I was with the kids and everything, I was really very happy.I wasnt starving and it was a beautiful home.How it would look today, I dont know, but when I was a kid it seemed huge, it was big So the subtle feelings that I had were more when I got into the house, not when I was outside with the other kids.
PRINCE: Now that youre an adult and youre successful at what you do, and your reputation is good, how do you feel you fit in?
SURVIVOR: I think that I fit in well with the community.Im very, very selective about who knows who I am very selective.Very few peiople in my professional world of work know who I am on this personal level.The Jewish community knows I was born in Europe.I talk about the peas and carrots story and chasing the gypsies and different things.Im angry with my aunt and uncle, two people who could well afford to, who were in good health, who 23 years ago didnt come to my wedding, but came to the wedding of a cousin because business-wise that was a good thing to do.But coming to my wedding was really all this flowery shit about oh, we would like to come but you know how expensive it is and so on and so forth.Then they show up two years later,Im angry that they didnt come to my sons bar mitzvah or that my cousin D didnt come because money is no object.I really did not need their gift.They sent my son $1000.We dont really need that $1000.Then all of these flowery letters about how, when you come to IsraelWeve gone to Israel.My uncle has given me this huge wad of money so that he can take care of me when Im in Israel.Ive been to Israel three times.So, its like when youre on my territory Ill take care of you, and tell everybody Im taking care of you, but I dont think this event is important enough to take time away form my business to attend.But, I will be in the same place a year later.
PRINCE: So hes fulfilling his needs, not yours?
SURVIVOR: Exactly.So, Im very, very angry, and of course, theyre getting on, but Im still angry especially when he promised my son in a letter that he is going to come.
PRINCE: Is your mother also bitter?
SURVIVOR: Yes, her bitterness is acute, very acute, and Ill probably feel guilty as hell when something happens to one of them because, you know, they are well into their 70s, for having expressed these feelings, but Im really very, very bitter.I think Im even more bitter that for my sons bar Mitzvah, my cousin didnt come because theres nothing holding him back.Hes able-bodied and wealthy.
PRINCE: Do you think they had any idea of how much it meant to you?
SURVIVOR: I stated it at the outset.
PRINCE: People are just irregular.
SURVIVOR: No.Im still basically the neice of his deceased brother which is really not on the same plateau of people who are more influential, people who are more wealthy, people who can affect their lives in a way thats more meaningful to them, be it power or money or social prestige.
PRINCE: I call that irregular, you know.When you came here and were in that taxicab with your mother and your world has kind of gotten a little better and you go home.
SURVIVOR: I went home. Home was a cold-water flat on 34th Street.

Tape 2 - Side 1

PRINCE: This is “Sister” Prince and this is the second interview with this survivor on November 3, 1986.We continue to refer to her as Survivor because she does not want to be identified.This is for the Oral History Project of the St. Louis Center for Holocaust Studies.When we met before the last time, and it has been just a little over a year, you said that you would like to wait until you had resolved some things.You were going to see your mother and time got away from both of us.So now, here we are and my first question is did you see your mother and what did you feel you wanted to resolve and what did you resolve?
SURVIVOR: Well, last year with low airfares, I started going to New York.Actually, I did that twice on my own for a long weekend, and about a year ago, my mother, who I guess at the time felt that the timing was right, filled in the details of 194to 1945.She told me more about the family and about her marriage to my father.This was over two evenings where we talked for hours and hours.I mainly listened, and all of the sketchiness has been filled in.Theres a lot that I dont know about my aunts and uncles, but I realized that the gist of what happened during that period of time and the relationship between my parents, and understood why it was that in May of 42, which always seemed odd to me that my father should pick up and leave in May of 42 to go visit with his parents who were in Poland.It didnt sound right and so the story was that they were going to be deported and he went to say good-bye to them, but during this period that I was with my mother, she actually told me what had happened.What had happened was that their property had pretty well been confiscated, although they were allowed to live there.
PRINCE: In 1942?
SURVIVOR: In 42.
PRINCE: In Poland?
SURVIVOR: In Hungary and Czechoslovakia in Mihlovce which is where they lived.But they were confined to a very small part of the house and that consisted of my mother, my father, and my grandmother, my grandfather and a younger sister.There were that many people basically living in one room and it created a tremendous amount of friction and disharmony.The reason that my father left was to see if it was any better where his parents were, if there was any more room, or things were better for my mother and myself because she was pregnant with me at that time.So that was the reason he left not because of a gesture to go and wish his parents a safe trip.
PRINCE: Is this something she withheld from you?Or did she assume you knew?
SURVIVOR: It was withheld.You have to go back to that whole mentality were dealing with.We have never had a face-to-face discussion about what happened.This was the first face-to-face discussion that we ever had, whereas the rest was bits and pieces.
PRINCE: So did you make your own story from bits and pieces?
SURVIVOR: I wrote my own story.Well, it wasnt wrong.He was going to his fathers.In other words, my mother fed me the cues and then I developed my own story.
PRINCE: So he was really going not to leave you, but to find a better place?
SURVIVOR: He was really going because there were tremendous problems.
PRINCE: To take care of you?
SURVIVOR: Well, no.I think thats making it too romantic, and if we want an honest history, there was apparently a lot of tension in the family, and it was not possible to continue living with so many people.
PRINCE: But I mean, he still wanted to take care of you and your mother.
SURVIVOR: Yes.I kind of dont think that it was a separation but I wouldnt swear to it, as in how we use the word separation today.I wouldnt swear to it and I wouldnt ask my mother for more details.I doubt it because people didnt do that then.But he was really looking to see
PRINCE: Excuse me.But why cant you accept the fact that he was I mean.There were tensions because there were so many people living in one room, but thats got nothing to do with the relationship between your mother and him.
SURVIVOR: Yes, but the relationship between the two of them hes not the one that my mother wanted to marry.My mother really wanted to marry somebody else.
PRINCE: But were talking about from HIS point of view.Even though she might have wanted to marry somebody else, they were married and were talking about your father who may have wanted to marry her, and he was going to find a better place.I dont mean to be pushing this on you.
SURVIVOR: No, I dont deny that.I think were really looking at two separate issues.One, were looking at the relationship between my parents which I dont really think was a good one, and a lot of that was circumstantial.At the time that they married, the tension of that time, and the fact that my mother did not have an appropriate dowry to marry the person she did want to marry.My father came from a large family and on balance it was a pretty good match because at least my mother had more than he had.So they were really entrenched in the European ways.So were looking at the relationship and I guess thats kind of difficult to realize.My parents didnt have a good relationship.And then were also looking at why it was that in May of 1942 he went on this trip.And theyre connected in that obviously he wanted to find a better place and got out of the tenseness of the atmosphere.The other thing that became clear s why, in the questioni9ng that Ive done over the years discussing the family and overhearing conversations, my father is very rarely mentioned.My mothers loyalty to her father is really what comes across.In other words, theres never really been much talk about their marriage.When I asked my uncle in Israel tot ell me, he said Well two people got married and three years later he dies, and what more is there to know?So, its in a perspective and Im not judging it, but now I understand that it was not really that significant a part of my mothers life.
PRINCE: You were not surrounded by feeling people.
SURVIVOR: Uh no, I dont know if I want to accept that statement.What I think was happening and is still happening is that there is a lot of self protection and some of the romanticism of the period is actually easier to swallow because we see it on TV and in movies.You know, Holocaust is big business rather than the reality of what happened.You know, for example
PRINCE: He wasnt going to save you, he was going to get out of an uncomfortable situation?
SURVIVOR: No, thats not what I said.I was talking about what my uncle in Israel said.
PRINCE: I know but instead of saying he was going to find a better place, he was getting out of a ..
SURVIVOR: But he was not getting out of an uncomfortable situation, he, himself, alone he was looking to find something better for my mother.I was not yet born at the time.But, I think the point is that I finally understand why he chose to leave at what would seem to be a very strange period of time.And so thats become clear.
PRINCE: My reason for saying that you were not surrounded by caring people was the way your uncle answered you.
SURVIVOR: Right, right.But, that goes back to the first part of our tape that is theres been this always that I guess the feeling, and Ive tried to avoid the word its guilt.And that is that I dont know what motivated him to act as he did and he certainly was not alone.I can cite you scored and scores of people who were treated similarly by whoever were the male heads of the family, who had their own families in terms of caring for the families of others and so on.But theres the kind of guilt he has, and at the same time theres a fear that I think he has that Im going to ask him for something.
PRINCE: But you ever have, except just to come to your wedding and your sons bar Mitzvah.
SURVIVOR: And, thank G-d, Ive never needed it.And theres another element of that and the main ingredient is my mother, and that is that I think hes afraid that shes going to ask for something.You know, now that shes getting older.Its interesting that you cant let go of those ghosts, that shes economically self-sufficient, hes economically self sufficient and it is the truest meaning of the word ambivalence because on the one hand, theres this anger and on the other hand I get scolded for not writing to him often enough.Thats not unique.
PRINCE: Its a push-pull.
SURVIVOR: Oh, definitely a push-pull.And it ties in very well because it ties in with the whole experience and that is you want to make a break with the past.You want to say, hey, Im going to confront you and Im going to do all these things that they teach you in America.If you dont like somebody, you can tell them.But there is still that bonding, that bondedness.
PRINCE: I want you to need me but I dont want you to need me.
SURVIVOR: Yes, and I want you to realize that although I may not like you, we are still related by blood. And that still counts for something.You know, life isnt spent yelling and screaming at each other, and this is my mother with a cousin of hers, and yet theres no question that theyre cousins.Theres no question that they would ever stop speaking to each other.Whereas here, if you have a cousin you dont like, you simpy dont talk to that cousin anymore.
PRINCE: Is this because there are so few people in the family because of the Holocaust syndrome?
SURVIVOR: I would think so.
PRINCE: Perhaps they cant afford to lose someone?
SURVIVOR: Well, no, no, no.Just at the point when they vow never to speak to each other again, they remember their parents and they remember how important it is to stay together and so on.
PRINCE: Because of the Holocaust?
SURVIVOR: Well, thats part of it.Its definitely a combination of Family is really very important and also, look, we came through this, so isnt it silly for us not to talk to each other anymore?
PRINCE: When you talked with your mother, did you have any certain times?Did you talk at breakfast or sit up late at night?
SURVIVOR: Late at night.It was very interesting because we started talking Friday night.
PRINCE: When did you arrive?
SURVIVOR: I arrived on a Wednesday and Thursday was shopping and shit-chatting and spending time with my friend.My mother began the conversation, kind of like, I know you like to hear stories, and then she led into it and I cant even describe how.And the interesting thing about it was that this is what says to me that my mother was ready to say something.It was on Saturday evening and it was November, so Shabbat was over early.We went to visit a cousin and came ack, and it would have been absolutely perfect to not continue.It must have been about nine, ten oclock at night, probably closer to ten, and yet she sat herself at the table which was a signal that Well continue.I didnt know which way it was going to go, and I wasnt going to push it.
PRINCE: You know you went to New York for this kind of thing.
SURVIVOR Yes.
PRINCE: But she didnt know it.
SURVIVOR: No she didnt.It was the first time that I have ever gone to New York without at least one child in tow.But I think that had I done it five years ago, the results would not have been the same, and one of the benefits of a project such as this Im talking about the Oral Histories and the gatherings and so on is that it gives people courage.It gives the average rank and file, not the Bejamin Meads or the Elie Wiesels, but it gives the average person the courage to say that :Telling my children is the right thing.You see, we go right back to Should I tell them or shouldnt I tell them?It was so horrible, it was so unbelievable.Should I tell them or not, in terms of family background.I know youve heard this before, this absolute silence that was just recently broken.And when we have programs that are broadcast, what it says is and I really believe they want to say, but they dont have the courage and theyre not sure its the right thing to do because they dont know the effects it will have on their children.So, when you have what I described, it gives the average person, the non-hero, the courage to sit down with children and say, Let me tell you.Thats how it worked for me.Im sure thats how it worked for me.Now, you look puzzled.
PRINCE: No, I just want to be sure I understand.Do you mean doing the first tape?
SURVIVOR: No, Im sorry.The whole focus on the world gathering, on hearing Wiesel speak, on the media and so on.And then the Oral History Project in terms of my own self saying, In St. Louis they are interviewing people between the ages of 4and 45 who came from one foot in both worlds.But thats an outgrowth of Hey, its okay to tell and were not going to jump off a roof top.
PRINCE: A combination of everything?
SURVIVOR: Right, exactly.
PRINCE: Okay.So, when did you and your mom start to talk?
SURVIVOR: We started to talk on a Friday night and we continued through Saturday night.
PRINCE: Did she start that or did you?
SURVIVOR: She started it.
PRINCE: Well, the timing was unreal then.You came and she was ready too.
SURVIVOR: Yes.
PRINCE: Of course you had been thinking about all of this, but she probably had too.
SURVIVOR: And I go back to the awareness that its okay to tell.
PRINCE: Yes, and she probably needed it as much as you.Okay, so you started talking with her?
SURVIVOR: And we talked, and I dont know where you want to go with this tape, but
PRINCE: Where do you want to go with it?
SURVIVOR: The picture of the family was my grandfather and my grandmother had six children and I think that my mother was the one who was the most stay-at-home of the six two boys were born, then my mother, and then the three younger children.My mother was the oldest of the girls and basically the story is that all of them were very secular.Now, none of them married non-Jews, but they were all very secular, moved away form home, became involved in teaching, and dentistry, and business and so on.I cant tell you what each of the six, including my mother, did, but what it came down to was that they had a confectionary store, which was an okay type of livelihood.It wasnt wonderful, but it was okay, but it necessitated members of the family taking outside jobs.One of these outside jobs tat my uncle, my mothers oldest brother, I think, took was involved in the manufacturing of mens clothing.So he was a representative who sold clothes mens suits.Interestingly enough, my grandmother actually worked in this store.The people who owned this store were cousins and several family members survived.They are living in Montreal now. My mothers brother, my uncle there was kind of a series of events where this store to be un on that basis until it was finally being run by mother.People were in hiding then in the basement level of the store my grandparents.
PRINCE: This was what year?
SURVIVOR: This was 44.
PRINCE: Your mother was doing it because she had papers?
SURVIVOR: Yes, she had papers saying she was not Jewish.And the interesting thing is that today is my grandparents yartzeit, the anniversary of their deaths.
PRINCE: Thats interesting.
SURVIVOR: And I didnt even think about it because when we called, it was from my office and I have an appointment book that doesnt have the Jewish calendar on it.It just turned out that way.Anyway, then in 1944 everybody was arrested and that was really the particular Holocaust of Slovakia and Hungarian Jewry.My grandparents were sent to Auschwitz apparently on the last transport, which does make sense, because it was November of 44.
PRINCE: Do you remember seeing them?
SURVIVOR: No.
PRINCE: This is all from being told about it?
SURVIVOR: Yes.My memories come into play, I think chronologically, around `946 when I was about four years old, with the old lady and her crippled daughter, with the two men my mother kept house for, with the house that I lived in with my aunt and uncle in Lucenec, with the trip to the United States.Thats about right because I was about three and one-half,. Four years old, four and one-half, or so.
PRINCE: When you talked with your mom, was it a discussion or a question and answer?Were you sharing feelings or was she just telling you stories?Were you afraid to ask her certain things?
SURVIVOR: No.
PRINCE: How did it go?
SURVIVOR: Well, the way in which it went is that I listened.I teach communication skills and I find that if a person is upset or distressed, asking questions can pose a barrier to the communication because the person may interpret the question differently, and so its always been my experience t listen and to just let it all pour out.Then I can always go back and ask.Now, Ive not gone back to ask specific questions, but I really think that I can.Id like to know more about my aunts and uncles.
PRINCE: What would you like to know?
SURVIVOR: Well, my aunt, for example, married a Jewish person a secular Jewish person and my grandparents didnt attend the wedding.
PRINCE: Is this the aunt and uncle you had so much to do with?
SURVIVOR: No, this is on my side of the family, my mothers side.That;s a little bit strange.And they once went to visit her.She had a child.Her husband survived and is living in Brooklyn, but my mother apparently, to my knowledge, never made contact with him.So there are still a lot of missing pieces and I dont want to analyze the situation but there are some components there that speak, maybe, about some family disharmony and Im not exactly sure where to go with that because my mother has a very idealized picture of her parents and theres nothing that I would want to do to ruin that.I would like to turn the table for a moment and tell you that I had a very good experience and yet, at the same time, it kind of validated the fact that Im this little orphan out there by myself.Most of the family living in New York are related on my grandmothers side.My grandfather had a large family and a cousin living in Columbus, Ohio a first cousin to my mother.Thats another story in and of itself.At his daughters wedding, I met my grandfathers cousin, my grandfathers family whom my mother does not know.The reason she does not know them is because my grandfather was from Poland and was the oldest of seven boys.He left Poland as a young man and went to Hungary, and he did not do a lot of visiting.So I spent a weekend with these cousins this past summer.They all were very nice to me but they really dont need me.I need them more than they need me.You know, there were four who survived.They had hidden in the Polish woods.Each of the four has three children.So, they are their own enclave and I felt like I was patted on the head, Isnt that nice.She comes to visit, but shes really not part of our group.
PRINCE: How did they make you feel that way?
SURVIVOR: Well, Ive called them and theres really not been any contact since.I could go back and say at the time of my cousins wedding we all exchanged names and addresses, and these are fairly close relatives.And I have not received any invitations to any Bar or Bat Mitzvah since that time.They didnt exclude me, but they didnt include me.They thought it was really interesting that I should want to know about the family.And all these kids were born here.Im the oldest of that whole group.A couple of them were born in D.P. camps, but Im the oldest.
PRINCE: How many overtures have you made to them?
SURVIVOR: My connection is this one particular cousin, who is the daughter of the oldest of my mothers cousins.The connection there is not the fact that we are cousins, but rather that shes an orthodox woman and we know a lot of people in common.So I stayed with her and it was very friendly and comfortable.On of her best friends is a woman I went to college with and so the connection is really secondary.So, I initiated a call for the holidays and she did return my call and Ive invited them to come for Thanksgiving.I doubt that they will, but I invited them.And Im not even sure whether Ill push the relationship, selfishly, because theres really nothing I can learn about the family form them.I know those stories.They were seven or eight children and their father was murdered by robbers and the family in the United States took care of them.I know all those stories.
PRINCE: But thats not why you would necessarily push a relationship, to learn stories?
SURVIVOR: No, but I wouldnt push the relationship because I dont really feel that I could really be thought of as a member of the family.
PRINCE: S, what would it take to make you feel not like and unwanted waif?
SURVIVOR: Oh I feel that way with my own contemporaries.In other words, its kind of like Thats past and I can accept that.The void is a sense of family.Thats the void (voice is breaking) and theres nothing that can be done about that.As much as I admire the project, and youve heard this form other survivors, Im not doing a Polish person versus a Hungarian person number on you.But that void in family is unexplainable (near to tears).That feeling of aloneness is unexplainable and theres nothing to remedy that, you see, because we cant fix everything.
PRINCE: You cant put something back that is gone.
SURVIVOR: Yes, and we cant fix the suspiciousness of a lot of the survivors towards the other.We cant fix the guilt.We cant fix the Ive suffered more than youve suffered, so you cant come into my club.We cant fix those things.And it may be harder for you to accept the fact that we cant fix it than it is for me to accept it.But, we cant fix it!
PRINCE: S, Im a listener and a learner and I cant even attempt to try and enter into that.
SURVIVOR: Right.So what Im saying is that Im sensing that you would like for it to be fixed for me.Okay?
PRINCE: Thanks.
SURVIVOR: Im feeling that I need to tell you that these are feelings that I have that do not overwhelm me.I am a healthy person and they dont overwhelm me.
PRINCE: That I have to accept you even if there are certain things I cant fix for you, as much as I would like to.
SURVIVOR: Exactly Right And other people have their own particular burdens but feeling as a waif is not contradictory to satisfactory living.Okay?
PRINCE: Im sorry it cost you some explanation, but Im glad that the explanation is there.I think its most important for you to say what you just said.
SURVIVOR: Right, Right.

Tape 2 - Side 2

SURVIVOR: Id really like to state that again and I dont want to tie it into your guilt or American guilt.But if anything is to be learned from this, the statement that I made, that feeling a waif, feeling alone does not in anyway say that I cant lead and am leading a very productive life, doing things that are important to me and that when I become angry or morose its for as many reasons that exclude being who I am as including who I am.There are periods of time when I may become somber, so to speak, but a person can be healthy.
PRINCE: And productive.
SURVIVOR: Right.And one of the reasons that I choose to do the tape in this manner and choose not to participate in activities is because I have a healthy image and I dont want people t think well, I just dont want them to know.Thats it.And why dont I want them to know?And Ill state this for the tape, is because I dont want anybody to feel guilty, I dont want anybodys pity and most of all, I dont want anybody to ask me questions because I dont always and this is my own shortcoming and this is my own intolerance, this is my own prejudice I dont always trust peoples motives for asking questions.
PRINCE: And the fact is that some people are more private than others.
SURVIVOR: Im not a private person but this is an area where I choose to be private.Im not a private person by nature.Do you want to go in a particular direction?
PRINCE: Yes, I want to finish just a little bit with your mother.I just want to hear about your talk.
SURVIVOR: We talked on Saturday night.
PRINCE: Was she comfortable talking to you?
SURVIVOR: Well, the subject was uncomfortable.Let me just describe it and then maybe that will help in terms of the phraseology.It was filled with emotion, with both of us crying, yet she kept going.I think that says it in and of itself.If I were to describe it, I would say that she fels that she had made a decision to tell me and therefore, she was going to go ahead and tell me.Was there a sense of relief?Was there a sense of closer bonding between the two of us?I really dont know.I dont know if there was a sense of relief or not.Maybe.But, whatever I say is guessing and I need to sort it out in my own mind so that I can tell my own children.(Pause)When I got off the plane, I said to my husband who also has survivor background, but its 18degrees different than mine.I said, I learned a lot of things about my family and it was very important.Im glad I went, and Im not ready to talk about them.And that was respected, and thats why I think its important for him to have a background.You know, a lot of people might say Well, you know, you should have and so forth.The thing is hat my wishes were respected, that I didnt want to talk about it.
PRINCE: You said it was important for him to have a background.A similar background?
SURVIVOR: A similar background, yes.
PRINCE: Do you talk with your mom on the phone or do you write letters?
SURVIVOR: We talk on the phone a couple of times a week.Were very close.
PRINCE: Has this made this opening up?
SURVIVOR: No, because we have a very good relationship and weve really not discussed it, but Id like to go back and ask specific questions.Right now, our main topic of conversation is the stock market.
PRINCE: (laughing)
SURVIVOR: Shes decided that it when I say that, I dont mean in a heavy handed way but she really feels that I should have my own money and so we wheel and deal in world finance together.I shouldnt say that because thats on of those kind of cutesy remarks, but she turned over some stock to me which was sold and we discussed the pros and cons of making certain other investments.Her only concern is that I keep the money in my own name for and her we go for my own sense of security so that I know I have a certain amount of money that I can use if and when I need it for whatever I damn please.
PRINCE: Did your mother have that, or did she feel a lack of it and so thats why she knows the importance of it?
SURVIVOR: I think here it would be an interesting point where we could continue our discussion.One of the things you said as we were reviewing the tape was that my mother felt powerless.That powerlessness ended with he death of my stepfather and I believe that was in 1954.Im pretty sure it was in 1954.I want to say 1956 isnt that funny?No, it was 1954.Thats when she really started to take hold of her life.So, the second marriage was fairly short lived and he died.Thats when she began to take hold of her won life and it took some training.She went to work.
PRINCE: What kind of training did she take?
SURVIVOR: She took clerical training.
PRINCE: So this was really the first time your mother was in conmtrol of any part of her life.
SURVIVOR: Yes.1954.She had a hysterectomy in 1954 or 55, and I need to say that because this was the aftermath of the war, something that happened to a great many women.And then my stepbrother was a psychologist he still is and he has a very good friend were still in touch with. Who worked for the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation in New York.And my mother had legitimate infirmities and went to business scholl through them.She then got a job at an advertising agency in 1956 or 57, and began the upward climb.Shes still working and shes thinking about retiring.But thats when she started to be in control, to play the stock market with her friends.She started developing her own friendships and going out, and that is when life really began for her.
PRINCE: And you said somewhere that life really began for you when your stepfather died?
SURVIVOR: Yes.And I say that because I was acclimated, I was doing well ins chool and he wasnt around anymore.Its not that he ever did anything mean to me.You know, were so aware of abuse and all that.He just wasnt a nice person.
PRINCE: Who did your mother want to marry?
SURVIVOR: Well, in Europe?
PRINCE: Yes.
SURVIVOR: I dont know his name.I asked her.I said, Did you want to marry my father? and she said, No, I really wanted to marry somebody else.I really liked this guy.And she said this with a real sincerity, and she said, But I didnt have enough dowry.
PRINCE: Is there a direction you want to go now?
SURVIVOR: I think that the direction that I would want to go in is the feeling that being a survivor and the child of a survivor, I never felt that if I wasnt a good girl, my mother would die, but
PRINCE: Even though thats what they told you, your uncle?
SURVIVOR: Yes.
PRINCE: For the sake of keeping you in line.
SURVIVOR: Yes.But my mother would do that to me, but not related to survivorship, but just related to good old Jewish guilt.
PRINCE: So many times and even on this tape, I think, when people say something, I wasnt to say that It happened here too.
SURVIVOR: Yes.If you dont do this, then youre really going to make me upset and sad.Thats the old Jewish guilt.
PRINCE: Step on a crack, youll break your mothers back.
SURVIVOR: Yes.
PRINCE: Step on a line, youll break your mothers spine.But that was true with non-Jews also.
SURVIVOR: Exactly.And I think thats important.I think the direction that I want to go at this point is really unfocused except, for whoever is listening to look different, we dont speak different.Whether we have a heightened sense of guilt or accomplishment, I dont know.The joke is that we all seem to go into the helping profession.I dont know if thats unique or if thats they Jewish way we look at professionalism.But, on the other hand, there is this feeling in the pit of ones stomach that can quickly be brought into play.Its not there all the time and there can be months and months and months where I dont have any thought, but its really easy to get into a I guess a sadness mode == an aloneness mode.And if anything makes me different, I think thats it.In other words, there is a feeling which is not active most of the time, but when it is, it feels awful.You know the feeling of being a little kid in Europe, coming to the United States, hand-me-down clothes, and I think its different than rank and file poverty.
PRINCE: I think its different than anything on this earth.
SURVIVOR: Yeah, I think it is.
PRINCE: While youre talking, Im thinking and Im thinking this happened there and this person lived, but no one can enter into your world of what it was like or what it was like to lose people in that way, and as much as I try, I cannot grasp no one can grasp that.So you have something in the pit of your stomach that youre entitled to.
SURVIVOR: Exactly, exactly.And what I expect, from you, from people I share it with, is a respect for it.As I said, theres a wonderful line in a movie, Best Friends with Bert Reynolds and Goldie Hawn not a great movie, but theres a line that says, Im in a bad mood and Id like to stay that way for a while.
PRINCE: (laughs)
SURVIVOR: So what I would want form people, if I choose to share my thoughts with them, is not a question of Why, how come? nor But arent you glad in America?In other words, dont talk me out of my bad feelings.Im going to share it with you because I think its important and dont try to talk me out of it.
PRINCE: Dont try like I did before to make you feel better?
SURVIVOR: Yes, yes.
PRINCE: To make it better.
SURVIVOR: Yes.And I have a sensitivity as to why thats important to you, but its not important to me because I know and heres where I think there may need to be some education, is that I know if I feel terrible, if I feel sad, that Im okay.Im still okay.But my American friend is worried about me.
PRINCE: If you tell a story like you did before and I try to make it better, I cant nothing can make it better, right?
SURVIVOR: Yes, thats the way it is.And Im still a very healthy person who is aggressive and is a go-getter and trying to make money and thats okay.
PRINCE: Im so glad this is all coming out.Im so glad I tried to do that.Im learning from this.
SURVIVOR: And I think thats a very important lesson from oral history.I think there are survivors who are more comfortable sharing.There are survivors who need a certain amount of attention.I have some in my own family whose calling card says, Survivor, but Im not one of those.
PRINCE: S, can you be in a group of people, or has it happened that all of a sudden youll get a feeling that and were talking about people who were born between 38 and 45 or 4and 45 –people who would be like yourself as you said before, You cant spot us.We dont have an accent, etc.Have you ever been in a group and thought you identified someone you thought was like you in background that was born at that time in Europe?
SURVIVOR: No.I really cant honestly say, unless the conversation turns to that.Nor do I think that people can spot me.
PRINCE: Youve taught me a great deal.Ill say that, and not only by your stories, but by your honesty which I deeply respect and your ability to open yourself up.I have said a few things that, in my effort to really do just what you said, to make you feel better, I have realized that some people would like that and some people wouldnt, and youve spoken very plainly that you stand on your own two feet.
SURVIVOR: Right.And that, again, Im not going to leave a message for the group or what have you.Its interesting that were doing this because I do a lot of video taping in my work and one of the questions asked clients is Do you have a message for the groups?
PRINCE: Messages are all right.
SURVIVOR: For someone who is listening to this tape, to repeat myself, that is, that its very important to share, very important to talk.I guess what Im wondering id would I have ended up in the same profession, would I have ended up being the same type of person, had I not had this earlier experience.I dont know the answer to that, but I do think that I would be a more relaxed person if I didnt have this.There is a book called The Female Imposter where women can only reach a certain level of status or prestige because then theyre going to turn around and say, Hey, somebodys going to find out that Im only a housewife.But I think that Im really driven to be the best because I have a tremendous need to be recognized and thats a legacy.Thats part of the heritage of really not feeling comfortable in a variety of situations.I have a tremendous need, almost like an empty sponge that needs to be filled, with praise, with approval, with prestige and its very important to me.I definitely feel that thats linked to my earlier feelings and experiences.
PRINCE: Do you get this through your work?
SURVIVOR: Yes.I got it through my work, through college, and I work very hard for it.I take everything very, very seriously.If I leave the office an hour early, Im just afraid that theyre going to spot me.Theres an intensity and its not driven by scrupulous honesty, its driven by I dont want anybody to dislike me.If I do something that isnt exactly according to the rules, then maybe I will be either disliked or less professionally thought of.If I walk around with this scar, so to speak, on a daily basis, its that need to belong and get some positive attention.I think that is left over from earlier experiences, I really do.
PRINCE: S, I thank you, I really do.

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