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My ‘Feh’ Mood Seems Overwhelming

24 Jan

There are certain Yiddish words that just fit.  When you say them, you know that everyone understands exactly what you feel and why you feel that way.  And lately one words keeps coming to my mind all the time: Feh!

Feh:  I am so disgusted.  I have reached the age where I look at life in a different way.  I get so disgusted with unreasonable behavior.  With those more concerned about their own glory than the people they are supposed to serve. People so caught up in their political side that they are forgetting that people are now suffering without pay.  That our economy is hurting, our people are hurting.  Feh on them all. Actually, our political world is beyond feh!  I would say it was all “verkakte,” screwed up!   I have been calling my two senators several times a week.  Does it help? Who knows! But I feel better for trying.

I am disgusted with baseless hatred.  And with people who spew hatred. I am disgusted with the increased acts of ‘anti’ behavior: anti-Semitic, anti-LGBTQ, anti- immigrant, anti-anyone who is different than you. Feh on all the haters out there. I honestly never thought I would see an America so filled with hatred. But here we are! FEH!  I could just ‘schrai,’ scream,  in aggravation. And I do.

But my feh mood is more than just on the atmosphere of the political structure, it is also on the atmosphere of the world!  Reading or watching or listening to the news has brought about many feh moments the last few months.  I am at the point where I do not want to hear any more. But then I realize I have to listen. Despite my disgust and my temptation to yell, “Feh,” at my television, I keep on watching. But to be honest, this mishegoss is making me meshugah!

Then there is the atmosphere of the weather. Feh on the weather!  Climate change is killing me.  The summers are too darn hot!  And this winter has been a polar bear of ice, snow, sleet, graupel, freezing rain and more.  I am done. FEH! I do not want to kvetch, but who needs this weather? Not me.

Feh on the dirty snow piled on the roads and my driveway. Feh on the mud and muck coming into my home. Feh on the downed trees and limbs felled by 10 inches of wet nasty snow.  Just FEH.

I am so tired of schlepping!  I am tired of putting on layers of clothing and my boots.  I am tired of schlepping a scarf and gloves and hat with me wherever I go, and then running back when I forget something or if fell as I was walking into a building.  I am tired of schlepping my coat around when I go shopping at the grocery store.  If I take it off it takes up too much of my cart; if I leave it on, I get too hot.  Feh on my schlepping and my winter clothes!

I remember my grandmother saying feh on little things, like a mud-covered child, a dirty diaper, a messy face.  My fehs have reached epic proportions this year.  I am in super feh mode.  There has to be a word to express my extreme disgust.

I honestly do not want to become verbissen, totally bitter, by all that is happening in the world at this time.  But my feh mood seems to be over whelming some days!

 

 

Oy, An Egg Kichel! Delicious!

9 Jan

Amazing how the taste of a freshly baked egg kichel can bring back so many joyful memories!

It started with a Facebook post by a friend.  She posted something from My JewishLearning.com, entitled “Kichels Recipe: Jewish Bow Tie Cookies.    (See link below, it includes the recipe.)

A few of my friends started commenting on the post about how much they loved these cookies, including me.  I commented: “My grandpa made these in his bakery and continued making them for us.  I loved them.  I would glad to be a tester for you!”

Next thing I knew I had committed to meeting a different friend and making them.  What a delight! She had posted that her Bubbie made these treats.  And she wanted to make them again.  I was all in!  (I do feel a bit of guilt that we did not have the person who posted the article with us!)

You do not bake egg kichel, you fry them.  You do not need much, just flour, salt, vinegar, eggs, oil and powdered sugar.    Mixing bowls, a mixer and a frying pan, along with lots of paper towels are required.  I promise you an hour or so of fun, and then a delicious reward.

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One of our early batches.  A bit too thick!

We learned something from our foray into making them.  The dough does have to be paper thin!  It is best to have all the dough rolled out and cut into strips before heating up the oil.  And really, you must make sure the oil is hot, hot, hot before you start putting the dough strips into the frying pan.

My friend was in charge of mixing, then rolling out the dough, and making the paper-thin morsels for us to fry.  The learning experience commence with our first frying. The strips were too thick.  So for the next batch, she started cutting the strips and rolling them out again. SUCCESS!

The excitement once we did it correctly was encompassing.  Each rectangle of dough would almost instantly turn white, bubble up and float to the top of the oil.  In a few moments one side would be golden brown, and I would flip them over.  Watch them a few moments more and then out into the towel to soak up extra oil.  Then I sifted the powdered sugar over them.

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I combined some batches.  But here they are letting the oil soak out!

We had to try one from each batch to taste the difference.  The thinner the dough, the hotter the oil, the crispier the fried kichel, the better it tasted.  We had six batches, so we had to try six. YES!  We really did!

I am so happy my friend not only said that we need to make them one afternoon, she set a date! It was not only the fun of tasting and frying, it brought back the memories of cooking with our grandparents.  We cannot bring them back, but we can in our minds relive happy moments like this!

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 Mine are on the right!

Even after tasting, we had so much left over.  We divided them up relatively evenly.  I suggested she keep extra as she has a grandson living close by to help in the eating.  But I was happy to bring a plate home for my husband and me.

My husband doesn’t have the same memories.  He never tasted egg kichel.  A Shanda!  Can you imagine never eating them?  I cannot.  But then he did not have anyone to bake traditional cookies and treats when he was growing up.  Both of his grandmother’s died very young.

For me, however, each snap of a kichel in my mouth along with the melting of the powder sugar gives me joy.  Oy!  Egg Kichel!  It is so delicious

 

https://www.myjewishlearning.com/the-nosher/kichels-recipe-jewish-bow-tie-cookies/?utm_content=buffer717d6&utm_medium=social&utm_source=thenosher&utm_campaign=buffer

 

Discovering Karola’s Kielce Pogrom Testimony

12 Aug

In February 2017 I published a blog about discovering my grandmother’s cousin was in Kielce, Poland, during the Pogrom in July 1946. (See blog link below.) Since then I have been continuing my research on the lost remnants of my grandparent’s families.  Along the way, I have discovered more about Karola.

First off, I now know her entire name, which brings me more understanding. Korala’s mother and my great grandmother were sisters.  My grandmother was her first cousin.

Our families did keep in touch.  My father often went to Paris on business, occasionally my Mom would accompanied him and would visit a cousin who lived there.  That cousin was Karola.  She had changed her name from the Polish sounding to a more French name, and of course I recognized the last name.

In any case, it was when I found the village where my great grandmother was born, that I found also the Viroshov Yitzkor Book published in 1970.   In it, written in Yiddish, was Karola’s testimony about the Kielce Pogrom.   I must thank my friend, Blumah W., the local Chabbad rebbetzin, who spent several hours with me as she translated this moving memory.

I think with what is going on in Poland today, with the country’s wanting to deny their people’s involvement in the Nazi’s intent to destroy and annihilate the Jewish population.  Karola’s story and memory is even more important because it tells the truth of what really happened in the years pre, during and after the war.

The Kielce Pogrom By Karola Manes F. as translated by Blumah W.

 “A lot has already been told about the ferocious anti-Semitism of how the majority of Polish treated their Jewish neighbors during all the years of the Polish existence. It is still fresh in memory.  The anti- Jewish politics in pre-war Poland using power against the Jewish workers and merchants, and the hooligans acting against the Jewish young students. 

        Also, during the time of the War, being under the German occupation, the Poles did not forget their anti-Semitic tradition.  They were very much supportive of the Nazi program and worked with the Nazis for the annihilation of the Jewish nation.  (“G-d forbid,” added by Blumah.)

          When the war finished, the Jewish remnants were hidden in different places. A few Jewish people who were saved began to look in their birth places for their relatives; their flesh and blood.   Also, then there came upon these survivors, unruly/wild Polish bandits, bands of Poles, who murdered these few left over Jews.

           The culmination point of this ferocious Polish behavior was the tragic well-known Kielce Pogrom, which was accomplish over these few ‘leftovers’ in the summer of the year 1946.

            Being be that I was in that time in Kielce where I lived through this tragic chapter, then I will tell what happened during this incident.

            After the war, in Kielce there was the concentration of a larger group of Jews.  The portion of them came from hidden places and from the forests, where they were involved with the armed partisans combat.  Larger groups from back from Russia, where they found themselves during the time of the war.  In order to deal with stream of survivors, a Jewish committee was formed that found themselves on Planty Street. 

           The Polish people right away, in the first days, immediately began to agitate and incite against the Jews.  “TOO many of you remained!”  They said with extreme hate.

           The first provocation was when someone threw the dead body of a Christian woman into the Jewish compound.  It was accompanied with an incitement that they said the Jews murdered this woman.

           Only at night, Russian soldiers came dressed in Polish uniforms and made order. They arrested a number of Polish hooligans.   The next morning, on the way to the funeral, the Jewish people accompanying the dead, were guarded by the Russian soldiers in order to avoid any further incidents by the wild and unruly Polish population

            May these words act as a monument for the holy martyrs of the Kielce Pogrom; May G-d avenge their blood. “

In the last paragraphs, Karola does not talk about how people were murdered or what truly happened on the day of the pogrom.  Instead she talks about the fact that it was Russian soldiers who stopped the pogrom by dispersing the Polish hooligans.

To be honest, I was a bit disappointed.  I wanted to know from her mouth/her pen what truly happened. What she as a survivor saw.  But then, I realized, it was too much.  She had survived a ghetto, a concentration camp and now a pogrom, who am I to want more from her?

https://zicharonot.com/2017/02/27/what-happened-to-karola/

 

The Sorrow of Shalom Hollanders

7 Jun

In my blog “Murdered in Belzec” I wrote about Shalom Hollander, the relative who put in the information about my great grandparents and great uncle on the Yad VeShem datebase.  I had met him in 1976. when I was 20 years old in Israel, when took my Grandmother to Israel to see her brother (See blog link below).

After I found those three names, I decided I needed to see if Shalom entered other names on the Yad VeShem website, since I could only find one of my grandfather’s siblings.  I did an advance search using only Shalom’s name as the one who put in the testimonies.  About 45 names showed up.  After going through all of them, I realized that he had duplicated some names.  Mainly his own children.  So in reality there were probably 40 names of people that were somehow related to me, of these 18 were children.

And although I was looking for my grandfather’s siblings and their children, finding these three families and their children touched my heart.  They were also my family.

Among the many names were his wife and his five children.  With this information I found out how he was closely related to me.  His wife, Cerla or Tzira Feuer, was my great grandfather’s niece and so my grandfather’s first cousin.  She was 38 when she was murdered.  (I knew two of her brothers who survived the Shoah, one settled in Montana of all places and one in England. Another brother also survived.)

Shalom’s children were:  Elish (Ptakhia), 11 years old when murdered in Auschwitz; Etla, seven years old when murdered at Auschwitz; Mordechai, five years old when murdered at Auschwitz; Gital Tila, four years old when murdered at Auschwitz; Ita, two years old when murdered in Auschwitz.  They all were murdered in August 1943.

Before they were murdered at the camp, they lived in the Tarnow Ghetto.  What a horrible short life they lived.

In the earlier blog I wrote that I thought he had no family in Israel.  I now know why.  All of these deaths.

But it doesn’t stop there.

His sister also perished: Chaja/Serka/Khala Holander Viner/Wiener also died.  I like how he gave all the names she used.  She died in Belzec.  Also dying was her husband: Pinchas Viner/Wiener. He died in a different camp, Plaszow Camp, which was first a slave labor camp. Then a death camp.

It doesn’t stop there because his parents Mordechai and Tova also perished in the Shoah.  They died on September 3, 1943, in Beredechow, Ropczyce, Krakow.  I wonder what happened that day?  Why were they both murdered then?  I tried seeing if such a date was important in some way, but could not find anything.  But I guess it was important because Mordechai and Tova were murdered that day.

His father was related to my great grandmother, an Amsterdam. But Shalom chose to use his mother’s maiden name. Or perhaps his parents never had a civil marriage as what happened to many Jewish couples in Galicia, so he had his mother’s name.

I am looking back at my 20 year old self in horror.  I remember spending several hours with Shalom and my grandmother.  We had a meal or drink together in a restaurant.  We walked around for a while as my Grandma talked to him.  I remember being a bit annoyed because I had to take Grandma by bus to a place I really did not know so well to meet him. I think it was in Haifa.  I knew Tel Aviv much better.
I still remember what he looked like.  He was relatively tall for an ‘old man.’ Probably in his mid-70s.  He had the look of my grandfather, but not as much as another relative I had met.

They spoke in Yiddish.  I tuned it out.  I was so exhausted from all the Holocaust memories I had been listening to during that four-week trip.   Can a person have delayed Jewish guilt?  Can those memories really cause so much sorrow to me now?

They do.   I went back to Israel a year later and spent over three months. But I did not go to see him again.  Other survivors who I knew, I did see. But not Shalom.

I cannot imagine what losing all those people he loved did to him.  I cannot imagine what sorrow he carried with him.   I knew another of my grandfather’s relatives who survived. I wondered if they knew each other.  Now I know that they did.  Although Ziesel and Shalom were both related to my grandfather from different sides of his family, they married into his close family by married sisters, his two first cousins.

I do remember a bit of that visit with Shalom.  I remember Grandma telling me that this visit would be different, that I would be meeting one of Grandpa’s relatives, not one of hers. And that she did not know him very well.  I remember the overwhelming sense of pain that came from him while they spoke.  My grandmother spoke to him in a way I had never heard before.  With him she was so gentle.  Almost whispering to him as they conversed.  Easing the words out of him.

I remember Grandma and me being exhausted after this visit.  I remember Grandma went to bed as soon as we returned to the hotel.  It really was too much to comprehend.  Too much sorrow.  So maybe I just let myself forget.

Now, as an adult,  I realize that I must remember Shalom and his wife Tzira; his children Elish, Etla, Mordechai, Gital and Ita; his sister Chaja and her husband, Pinchas; his parents Mordechai and Tova.  May their names be a blessing, may I use this blog to keep their memories alive.  Baruch Dayan haEmet.

https://zicharonot.com/2018/06/05/murdered-in-belzec/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/05/01/zysel-ziesel-feuer-survivor/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/04/28/speaking-yiddish-always-brings-me-holocaust-memories/

https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mielec

My Grandpa’s Voice Can Still Be Heard

15 May

On November 7, 1981, my cousin made a cassette tape of my grandfather singing his favorite songs in Yiddish.   It sat in my house for all these years. I could never listen to it after he passed away.  Grandpa had a wonderful singing voice and used to sing to us all the time in Yiddish.

Two months ago, I took the cassette tape to a company that turned it into a CD.  I got it back on Friday.  On Mothers’ Day, I listened to my Grandpa sing in Yiddish and listened to him speak about his life in Europe and coming to the United States in 1920.

He passed away in 1989, so it has been a long time since I heard his voice.  It was just as I remembered it.

Listening to this tape was interesting in many ways.  Most of the stories he told, I have heard before.  I had spoken to my Grandpa about his life in Europe many times.  I just never recorded him.  I am extremely grateful that my cousin made this tape.

He sang six songs.  Tumbaliaka, Hativah in Yiddish, Ofin Primpinchick,  Yiddisha Mama and two others I had not heard before.  He left out some I remember him singing. But it doesn’t matter. Hearing him sing these favorites is a gift.

Grandpa left his home in 1918.  He was the oldest of five children who lived on a 16-acre farm, that they owned, in Austria.  He said if he had stayed in Austria, he would have eventually had two acres for him and a place to build a house.  (I wrote about Grandpa leaving Europe in an earlier blog, see link below.)

When he first arrived in the USA, he lived with his uncle Morris and went to work as a butcher.  A farm boy, he knew about animals.  He worked for $4 a week.  He did not know English.  It was a job he did not like.  A month later, he switched to being a baker for $20 a week on Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn.  (I never knew the address in Brooklyn. ) He was lucky. He had relatives who were both a butcher and a baker.  And they provided him with jobs.

Grandpa was brought up to follow the rules of Shabbat, although they were not extremely religious. He had no beard or payos.  But when he first started working at the bakery, he had to light a fire on Shabbat.  “I sat there and cried,” he said, “because my Mother always told me that if I light a fire on Shabbat I would die.”   He did not die, so the following week he lit the fire without crying.

Grandpa excelled at baking.  But he said he was very bashful.  People would say to him, “Do you want to meet a girl,” and he would say yes.  But they did not work out.  Then, by accident, he met our Grandma in Brooklyn.  He went to deliver a gift to someone, and there she was.

“Before Thelma, I did not look for someone. But when Thelma came it was different.  Something drew me to her,” he said.  “I was 25, she was 18 or 19.  To look at, she was nothing.  But it is the person she was. Someone made for you.”  (I disagree. I think my young Grandma was lovely.)

They got married in September 1925 and lived in Brooklyn, till my uncle was born. Then Grandpa opened his own business in the Bronx, where they lived for five years. And my Mom was born. In 1929, they moved to Linden, New Jersey.  My grandparents opened a new bakery.

But they had it for only about 18 months.

My grandmother was ill.  Grandpa said she had to go back to Europe to see a Dr. Lapenski in Krakow.  He could help her.  She was sick from the fumes from the gas in WW1.  I honestly had never heard that story before.  (I wrote about her time in Europe in earlier blogs, see links below.)

When Grandma came back, they moved to West New York, New Jersey, and opened the bakery they would have for almost 30 years.

“I wanted my children to have a better life,” Grandpa said.  “My Mom did not know that I had to learn to read.  I worked on a farm.  I had no education.  My parents said, you know how to work in the field that is enough.  My Mom thought I would stay in Europe.  She did not know that I would leave.”

My cousin asked if he was afraid to come to the USA by himself.  He started to laugh.  He was not afraid.  “It could not be worse than where I was,” he said.  “It had to be better.”

He told us a bit about his younger siblings and his parents. But the main discussion was the fact that none of them survived.  “I could not convince them to come,” he said.

As for his wife’s parents, my other great grandparents, Grandpa said, “From the day I got married I had to support her family.”  Which is true. Her mother had died during WW1.  And her father, was an educated man.  He studied.  “His wife made a living for him,” my Grandpa said.  When she died, there was not much income.

The tape was made just over three months after my grandmother died.   It was strange to hear Grandpa say her name.  He never said it when she was alive, to keep the evil eye from getting her.  He was still in deep mourning.  They had always thought he would die first as he was six years older.  But instead she died.

“You struggle and you pay for those things you did,” Grandpa said.  “Maybe I did something wrong.”  This was his explanation on why she died before him.  It made me so sad to hear him say this.  I remember how desolate he was without her.  (See Autumn Leaves blog link below.)

My cousin asks questions. Some Grandpa answers.  But he made his point.  He loves his family.  “I accomplished my mission.  I would have my own home.  And I did more than that,” he said.  He got to see four of his five grandchildren marry.  He saw the arrival of six of his eight great grandchildren.

Before he ended the tape, he sang one last song.  He sang of traveling the world, always  wishing he could go home and kiss the stones where he was born.  My cousin asked if he would want to go back to Austria.

His answer, Yes and No. (Grandpa told me that he never wanted to go back there.)

Hearing my Grandpa talk about his family; his children, and his grandchildren was bittersweet.  I made CDs for my siblings and cousins.  I think they need to have this experience as well.

https://zicharonot.com/2016/06/06/the-mysterious-kalsbad-photos-who-are-they/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/06/25/how-world-war-i-saved-my-family-or-my-grandpa-was-a-draft-dodger/

https://zicharonot.com/2015/02/23/the-melody-of-autumn-leaves-haunts-me/

https://zicharonot.com/2017/12/04/the-us-passport-a-matter-of-life/

https://zicharonot.com/2016/08/02/a-chair-a-baby-grand-piano-and-yiddish-songs/

Zysel/Ziesel Feuer, Survivor

1 May
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The document that Scott G. shared with me.  Zysel is line 79.  I know that Lejzor Feuer, line 77,  was also a cousin.

I am thinking a lot about Zysel/Ziesel Feuer this week, a cousin of my grandfather’s who survived the Shoah.  This weekend another Tracing the Tribe member, Scott G. shared a document with me that lists the names of the survivors from Mielic, Galicia, Austria/Poland. And on that list is my relative: Zysel Feuer.  Even though I knew he was a survivor, seeing his name on that list just broke my heart.  I see him again in my mind, and I am sad.

Scott is working on a project to get all the names of survivors and victims of the Shoah from Mielic, Austria/Poland. I contacted him with the names I could share.  My grandfather’s entire family except for a few cousins died. The last names Amsterdam, Feuer, Brenner and Hollander were all in some way related to me.  And many perished.

I have written about Ziesel before.  He went to Israel after the war.  And lived there until his death.  I met him when I went to Israel for my sophomore year of college in 1974.  I would visit him in Tel Aviv, whenever I went there from Jerusalem where I was studying.  I first met him because my grandmother sent me on a mission.  I wrote about that in an earlier blog (see link below).

When my parents came to visit, during my winter break, I took them to see Ziesel as well.  His roommate, also a Holocaust survivor, was home when we arrived.  With no phones it was difficult to make definite appointments.  His roommate told us that Ziesel was at shul davening and we should go and call for him.  My Dad was embarrassed.  So, the man went with us.
“Ziesel, Ziesel Feuer,” he called through the doorway.  “Come here, your family is here.”  Of course, he called for him in a loud Yiddish/Hebrew whisper.  “Ziesel, Ziesel, comen ous, eir mishpacha du.”

My Dad told that story for years.  Standing outside a small shul in Tel Aviv, watching the elderly men daven. And having this embarrassing moment.  I however, was not embarrassed.  Not me, six months in to living in Israel in 1974-75 and nothing surprised me anymore.  Having to call someone out of services was no big deal.  I knew he wanted to see my parents. We had discussed their visit when I last saw him, and I promised to bring them to his apartment. He was especially looking forward to seeing my mother.

Ziesel left services as soon as he saw us.   We all walked back to the apartment.  Dad and Ziesel speaking Yiddish. Mom adding a comment or two.  They spoke about the Shoah and what had happened to him. And my mother cried. I do remember how happy he was that we came to visit him.  We had cake and tea, and then we left. For my mother it was especially difficult.

Ziesel lost his family in the Shoah.  His wife and children were murdered.  He could no longer have any other children. He told me that the Nazis did terrible things to him.  He did not remarry.  When I met him, he was working in a bakery across from the shuk in Tel Aviv. I now know his wife was Dvorah, my grandfather’s first cousin. The daughter of Zachariah. Ziesel entered her in the Yad VShem data base. But not his children.

Now I wish I could go back in time to my 19-year-old self, and say, “Ask more questions!  What did he do when he got to Israel.   How did he get there?  Ask more, be more interested.” But I was just 19. Whenever I saw him, he would mainly ask me how I was doing.  He was more interested in me, than I realized at the time.  I gave him family for a year.

I do know that it was  Zysel/Ziesel  who contacted my grandfather after the war.  It was Ziesel who told him that everyone had died.  My grandfather only had four cousins who survived.  Ziesel and one other are on this list.  The other I did not know well. But Ziesel was part of my life.  Although I have no photos of him, I really do not need one. He looked so much like my grandfather. They could have been brothers, not cousins.

In 1976 I took my grandma to Israel to see her brother and her family. (See link below.) She also went to see Ziesel.  That was a different type of meeting.  Ziesel had stolen something from her in 1931.  My original contact with Ziesel had to do with him paying off that debt. Their meeting was more an acknowledgement of the debt being paid and the past released. I think he felt relief after speaking to my grandma.

I was not a part of their conversation. That was the last time I saw Ziesel.

https://zicharonot.com/2014/07/06/a-strand-of-pearls-is-not-just-jewelry-it-is-a-circle-of-love/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/04/28/speaking-yiddish-always-brings-me-holocaust-memories/

The US Passport: A Matter of Life

4 Dec

I recently saw the documentary, “Big Sonia,” about a local Kansas City area woman who survived the Holocaust and three concentration camps from ages 13 to 19; how she and her husband started their own tailor shop; how the tailor shop became an important part of her life; and how the Holocaust impacted her life, her family and those around her.  Although I do not know Sonia, I do know her sister-in-law, who belongs to my congregation.

Both Sonia and Ann are contemporaries of my Mom.  And when I hear of their Holocaust survival story, I cannot help but think, “there for the grace of G-d, could have been my Mom.” But she would have just been 10 when the horrors really began, and she might not have survived.  It stabs at my heart.  Here is why:

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When I look at the smiling children in the 1931 passport, I feel fear in my heart.  They are my Mom and my Uncle.  My grandmother is getting ready to take them to Poland.

In 1931, most Jews in Poland and Europe were not yet concerned about escaping. Although Hitler’s rise to power was advancing, he did not become chancellor of Germany until January 1933.  Thus, I guess in some ways, my Grandmother was not afraid to take her two small children, my Uncle, who was 4 ½, and my Mom, who was 2 1/2, to Europe to stay with family while she tried to regain her health.

Boat to Europe 1931

The kneeling sailor is speaking to my Mom;  behind her my Uncle; behind him my Grandma.

I always knew this had occurred. I have seen the photo taken of my Mom and Uncle on the ship to Europe. I knew that my grandmother almost died aboard the ship on the way to Europe. I have seen several photos of my grandmother in Kalsbadt and with family members during that trip.

Both their visa and Passport were issued on May 18, 1931.  I think their visa was good until May 18, 1932.  This part of the Visa is in German. Since my Grandfather’s family lived in the area of Galicia which was then Austria, it makes sense. They arrived in Europe on May 26, 1931.

I heard the stories of my Mom and Uncle coming back from Europe only speaking Yiddish. Their English left them while they spent six months with their paternal grandparents.  This would not happen again, as these grandparents perished in the Shoah.

img_5528

This registers my uncle and mom as living in Boleslawiec.

But now that I have the Passport, and have had part of it translated,  I know that this story is not totally true.  They spent at least two and half months in Boleslawiec, Poland,  from August 14 to October 3, 1931.  This is where my Grandmother was born.  They spent at least that time staying with their maternal grandfather and his children. That was a surprise.

So at some point, my Grandmother traveled across Europe with two small children, going from Mielic, Galicia, Austria, to Boleslawiec, Poland.  WOW.  I wonder how the trains were then.  I am sure she went with her American dollars and was able to travel easily.  But the idea of them on a train in Austria and Poland sends shivers through my body.  I can so easily image the other members of my family who traveled on much less kind trains a number of years later to their deaths in the concentration camps.

I also knew it was this trip and her visits to the mineral waters of Kalsbadt that saved and cured my grandmother.  Her experiences in Europe over these months also made her resolute to get as many family members out of Europe that she could.  Unfortunately, she was only successful in rescuing her father and sister.  Her in laws refused to leave, and they perished.

However, until I held the Passport that jointly named my Uncle and Mom as USA citizens and saw the visas, I somehow did not quite fathom the enormous consequences.   This passport was only valid for two years. What if they had been stuck in Europe? I had asked my grandfather when I was younger what he would have done if Grandma died in Europe.  He assured me that he was not going to leave his children in Europe.  He let her go because she was ill, but his children would return to the USA.

That always made me feel better, as the family they stayed with, my grandfather’s family, all perished.  I always believed that Grandma took the children to her in-laws and traveled by herself.  But that is not true.  She also took them to see her father and siblings as well. And miraculously my Grandmother’s two brothers and their wives survived even though Grandma could not get them out of Poland.

The Passport was originally made out only for my Uncle in May 1931.   I found that strange.  Was my Grandmother going to leave my 2-year-old mother with my grandfather in the States, while she traveled with my Uncle?  What changed her mind? I will never know that story. I found the Passport long after my grandmother had passed away.

I do know that they came home.  They arrived back in the USA on October 13, 1931. I can see the US Immigration stamp. The trip itself took a week or so crossing the Atlantic.  They grew up in New Jersey.  They married. They had children and grandchildren. Their memories of Europe faded quickly.  Perhaps my Uncle remembered more, but for my Mom it was just stories she heard.

My Mom did not go through the horrors and Hell that Big Sonia experienced.   Her American Passport and visa and ticket to return saved her and my uncle.  In 1936 Mom went with my Grandmother to Ellis Island to gather my great grandfather and Tante (great aunt).  My Grandmother was successful in saving them.

Not everyone had a life saving Passport. I often think of those who perished.   I still remember the day I found out about the Holocaust.  I cannot forget.

With the vitriol and anti-Semitic language and acts of bullying throughout the country, I think it is important that no one forgets.  Everyone should go and see “Big Sonia” and learn about real courage, and the horrible consequences of baseless hatred and bigotry.

Thank you to members of the Facebook Groups: Tracing the Tribe and Jewish Ancestry in Poland for the translations.

http://www.bigsonia.com

https://www.facebook.com/bigsoniamovie/?fref=mentions

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/the-mysterious-kalsbad-photos-who-are-they/

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/speaking-yiddish-always-brings-me-holocaust-memories/