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Judy Schrieber

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Interviewee:  JUDY SCHREIBER

Interviewer: Lawrence Boocker
Interview Date: January 13, 2019
Location: Oak Park, MI
Interview No.: 01.13.19-JS (audio digital file)
(Approximate total length 1 hour, 4 minutes)
Transcription: Yousaidit (DS), Fiverr

Themes: Jewish Identity, Holocaust

Summary: As a young child (3-6 years) Judy Schreiber and her father and mother were kept at Terezin, a central transit camp for Jews during WWII. From Terezin, Jews were deported to extermination camps. Judy does not remember her early life in Prague. She was able to live with her mother in barracks, but her father was separated from them. Her earliest memories of Terezin were that it was always scary and always being hungry. She has memories of the camp becoming briefly as a “show” or propaganda camp for the Red Cross, with fake money being printed for a pretend bank. There was a place on a hill where she played. There she also saw wagons carrying bodies from crematorium of other concentration camps. Towards the end of the war, her father had to dump the ashes of deceased and burned bodies into the river. He hid some of the human ashes and many years later her father took them to Yad Va Shem for Jewish burial. After the liberation of the camp by Russian forces and due to her father’s survival skills, the family left the camp by horse & buggy, took a train to England and were eventually relocated to Louisville, Kentucky. Her mother’s six sisters and brothers, mother and father, nieces and nephews did not survive. Judy’s adjustment was at first difficult, because while she spoke Yiddish, Czech, and Hebrew, she did not speak English. Eventually they moved to Detroit where she went to a Yeshiva. In the Yeshiva, she was the only camp survivor kid, but she felt more comfortable because they were Jewish and she was now fluent in English. She describes her father as never recovering from the experiences of the camps, going into the camp as a strong man and coming out broken.

Example of proper citation/ attribution:

Boocker, L. (Interviewer) & Schreiber, J. (Interviewee). (2019) Judy Schreiber: Jewish Journeys [Interview transcript]. Retrieved from Jewish Journeys Oral History Collection of Congregation Shir Tikvah: https://shirtikvah.org/cstoralhistoryarchive

                     INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

Interviewer:              Today's date is January 13th, 2019. The interviewer is Larry Boocker, the interviewee is Judy Schreiber, and we are in the library at Congregation Shir Tikvah in Troy Michigan.

And I've explained to you the purpose for the interview, and that it becomes a property of congregation Shir Tikvah. Do I have your permission to continue with the interview?

Interviewee:                         Yes, you do.

Interviewer:              Okay. So let's start with where were you born?

Interviewee:                         I was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

Interviewer:              Okay. Do you have memories of what your life was like before the Germans came? You were very young.

Interviewee:                         I have early childhood memories that interestingly begin right around; my memories begin right around the time that we were occupied by Germany.

I was about three then. And that year, at some point that year, we were taken to Theresienstadt so I was about three years old, and that's where my memories seemed to begin.

 

Interviewer:              Okay. Can you tell me about your family?

Interviewee:                         I had a father, my father's name was Nachman, and my mother's name was Etchvalah? and I was the only child at that time.

Interviewer:              Okay. What did your father do?

Interviewee:                         My father learned in a Yeshivah prior to World War two when he was a young man. He was a twin, and he lived in a small village not far from, somewhere in Prague, outside of Prague.

And when we lived in Prague from what I was told, he worked two types of work. He worked in a broom factory for a while, and he also worked as a basket weaver. I'm not sure what that entailed, but that's the story I was told.

Interviewer: And what about your mother's background?

Interviewee:                         My mother was unusual for her time. They married very early, and I was usually by a Shidduch, it was an arranged marriage.

But apparently, my mother found no one that she was interested in until she was about 28 or 29, so she was considered a little bit of an older maid. And somehow they ended up being introduced, they met, and they got married.

Interviewer:              They were introduced through a matchmaker of some kind? Or they found each other in a different way?

Interviewee:                         I don't know, I don't know if it was a matchmaker. I think someone in my mother's village actually, is the way I remember them telling it to me, knew my dad who was from another village and that's how that meeting came about.

Interviewer:              Did your mother work then?

Interviewee:                         My mother did not work, no.

Interviewer:              She lived with her parents until marriage?

Interviewee:                         She lived with her parents, and interestingly my father was a twin.

Interviewer:              Okay.

Interviewee:                         And my father had a really harsh beginning in his life because his father was taken away when my father was very young to World War one, he went to fight World War one. And his mother, while he was still very young, passed away in a hospital, he did not know of what, but I think I figured out eventually later as we talked about it.

I think his mother was probably diabetic, and this was in the 20s, and they didn't know how to treat it or whatever. So he essentially was an orphan, but his grandparents lived next door, so that's who took care of him until he grew up and became older.

Interviewer:              Okay. So was your family religious? You said your father attended your Yeshiva; he continued to be religious?

Interviewee:                         Yes. My family, there was a really strong Jewish presence in my house. I think that my dad was also interested in secular news and causes, and whatever, he read a lot. I never remember him without a book [00:05:00.00] or a newspaper in front of his face, that's how I always remember my father sitting at the table. But yes they were frum, I mean they kept Kosher.

[00:05:00]

And I went with my father when I was a very little child, and after the war also to the Altneuschul, which is the oldest I think existing Shul in the world. It was in Prague, and the floor was just, it was like ground, earth. And I think behind that I remember was an old old old cemetery, and I just remember. I know I was given my name in that Shul.

Interviewer:              Okay. I've been in Prague, and I've been to the Altneuschul, and I've been in that cemetery.

Interviewee:                         Well that's where I was named; my Hebrew name is Yehudith

Interviewer:              Okay. Do you know anything about the Jewish community, but again before the Germans came. I know you were very young at the time, do you know how they were treated by the general public?

Interviewee:                         I don't have a real consciousness of that, because I would have been too young. But I do know this, for whatever reason we lived at the end of the trolley car line that ran in Prague.

And we did not live in a particularly Jewish or religious neighborhood for some reason; I don't know why. And the only memory specifically with that that I have is going to Shul with my father.

Interviewer:              Okay. So you want to tell me, do you remember when the Germans, the Germans first came to Czechoslovakia in 1938?

Interviewee:                         Around 38, yes. My earliest memory and I do have some kind of a weird early memory, has to do with the fact that it must have been on a Friday. And I've talked to my parents about this, some of the things I got answers for, some I didn't.

I remember candles being on the table for Shabbat, and somehow I have this memory of soldiers or police, I didn't know which it was. In uniform, coming in, and I remember distress, and I remember feeling fear, and I didn't know what all that was exactly except that it was a fearful time. And I connect that memory back to my earliest memory of anything Nazi or German.

Interviewer:              Okay. So there must have been sometime between when the Germans came before they sent all the Jews from Prague to Terezin.

Interviewee:                         Right.

Interviewer:              Do you remember what it was like living under Nazi rule, but before the Terezin opened?

Interviewee:                         What I do remember, I don't remember much of that. But what I do remember is my sort of memories tend to be vague and symbolic sometime. But what I remember next is that I was wearing a coat that had a Jewish star on it, so were my parents. And we had to go to a train station, and we were allowed to bring some stuff.

And what I seem to remember is just, those early memories I mean almost all of them have stayed with me all of my life. I think that even that first initial trip because basically, I understood later, we were ripped out of our home, and I was taken from what was my home and my secure place, and I don't know, whatever baggage they were allowed to take I don't know. But I know we went to a train station, I remember that.

[00:10:05]

Interviewer:             And that's how they took you to Terezin?

Interviewee:                         And from that train station, and there were lots and lots of other people there, I remember that. From there we were taken to Theresienstadt.

Interviewer:              Okay. And Theresienstadt was a concentration camp?

Interviewee:                         Yes, it was a concentration camp, and it housed Jews from several different other areas. But all of the Jews that were living in Prague were sent to that station, and from there we were sent - I later realized that a lot of very important and famous Jews lived in Prague. Freud’s sister, for instance, was one of the people that was sent to Terezin, from there the head of the Symphony Orchestra. And then there were all the regular Jews like my mom and dad that were sent there.

I remember Prague visually to some degree, I think, because my father probably took me around to a lot of places by streetcar. And I just remember feeling this terrible sense of fear and anxiety of having to leave home. And we left Prague, and we got to Terezin, which I understand was sixty-some miles from Prague, a little over 60 miles. And my specific personal memory is that we were taken to some sort of building that had like a huge attic floor, and there were hundreds and hundreds of us there, a lot of people.

And I don't know if my parents told me this or I remember it, but I mean their stuff was taken away, they didn't get to keep it. And it was very crowded and uncomfortable up there, and there was no place to lie down, it was like the floor. And people were packed in there, and I got bitten by a bee on the lip, I still remember that. For some reason, a bee had gotten me, and that was my terrible memory about initially being there.

Interviewer:              So, what was life like there?

Interviewee:                         Life was bad, and I didn't understand after a while of being there. I didn't understand that life was really bad because after being there a few months you know a kid adapts to wherever they're at, I mean that's just what you do. First of all, my father was separated from my mother and myself.

We ended up being put in different barracks; there were army barracks that were built in Theresienstadt originally when Theresienstadt was built for their army like I don't know the 1800s whenever that was, those were all there. My father was taken to some work detail, and my mother and I were put in another; families were separated in other words.

Interviewer:              Did you and your mother have a place apart, or were you living with other families?

Interviewee:                         We were living with other families, in a women and very young children barracks.

Interviewer:              Okay. Older children were kept together?

Interviewee:                         Once they were a little bit older, they were separated from their parents, and they were sent to children's barracks. Now I don't know at what age that separation happened, but those children ended up living with other Jewish children, teenagers, and younger, separated from their parents.

They did get to see their parents periodically, but I stayed with my mother I was only three. And I don't remember much about the barracks, I remember that my mother was very fearful of the women that used to choose to call them Marishka's which I think is a Czech word, and I think it means ants like literally ants, I don't know why she called them that. But they used to come in and check on things. If someone had done anything wrong, they would be taken out.

[00:15:26]

Interviewer:              Were they Jews or not?

Interviewee:                         Mostly not, no. Originally, they were German and Czechs that worked in Theresienstadt also. There were some local Czechoslovakians that came to work in Terezin, but mostly German.

Interviewer:              So the workers there were not people that you could trust, they weren't there to take care of you they were security, they were guards?

Interviewee:                         They were security; they were guards. What I've come to understand is that because my mother didn't know what was going on and because my father was removed, and my father was my mother's interpreter of life. He always told her this is what's happening, typical very European early 1940's, the late 30s. She relied a lot on him, and he wasn't there. So there was an ongoing sense of fear, and not knowing.

And I didn't understand it then through therapy, in later years I came to understand it. I grew up with this internalized sense of general fear that I couldn't exactly process what it was, because to me very quickly Terezin became the way of life, I didn't remember my Prague living after a while. I just remembered that the environment there, and it was always scary, and it was always hungry; those are the two things that I remember about it.

There was a fearfulness that went on; there were things that you had to keep quiet; there were things that you didn't bring up or talk about. And there was hunger, a lot of hunger. Eventually, we got these; they were food cards and every inmate, I have a picture of the food cards in here. But anyway, every inmate got a food card, and I used to go with my dad to one of the barracks where you would stand in line summer, winter, freezing whatever long lines.

If you didn't have your food card tough luck, you didn't get any food. And when you got up there, I remember my dad had like a cup, and you got some kind of a soup or something like a soup and a cup, and you got a piece of bread, and that was your food for the day. I'll tell you an interesting side story; there was a well that was in the area where we went to get food, where we stood in long lines.

And the well was covered, it was a round well and it was covered by two slabs of concrete that had been put together. And there was a separation between these two slabs of concrete on top of the well. I used to hold the food card for my father. That was my job. I would hold on to it. I climbed on the well one day and dropped the food card into the well between these separations, which would have meant zero food until whatever they did, they did.

Some Jewish friends of my fathers, who were also in line, moved one of the slabs of concrete away and I don't remember exactly how they did it, but my dad was held on to and went down into the well which obviously wasn't all that too deep however deep it was, got the card and pulled it up.

So he retrieved the card, and then he gave me a smack [00:20:00.02] on the tush. Because I remember I was upset because I thought when they dropped him into the well, I thought they weren't going to be able to pull him up. And it would have been a deadly scenario had they not managed that, but they got it up, and we survived that.

[00:20:22]

Interviewer: So I know that Theresienstadt was called the model camp, that when international organizations like the Red Cross would ask Germany we want to inspect your concentration camps, they take them to Theresienstadt because it was better than the other concentration camps.

Interviewee:             Yes, I remember when they came the Red Cross; it was the Swiss Red Cross. I think it was. There was a period of time when they, I remembered they were sprucing up to Terezin. They put up like what was a pretend store, and I still have, I don't know if I have it in here. But I have money that my dad saved and confiscated during the war with a picture of Moshe Rabbeinu.

Moses holding a Torah, and it was called kronin it was German money that they printed, and they had a pretend Bank. I've read about it since then, but the money that they printed they passed it out to the concentration camp inmates, and it was like a show. And literally a show was put on, there was some kind of a musical or something that they did because I remember my father singing songs from that.

Interviewer: So there was fake money, so it would look to the Red Cross that people had money.

Interviewee:             So it looked like people could go purchase.

Interviewer: But it really was just paper.

Interviewee:             No, I have that money; I have the original fake money. I thought I had it in here, but I don't. I had that fake money at home, they passed out fake money, they spruced up the trees, and they planted flowers I remember. In the center, there was like a little park thing, and they planted flowers there.

And we were strictly required to like just; I remember being told I wasn't allowed to go here, there or there. I had to stay in just a certain part where I was allowed to stay, and they brought in the International Red Cross, too, and the Germans apparently managed to fool them to some degree.

Interviewer: Were you instructed to look happy or whatever?

Interviewee:             I don't remember that I just remember being told to be quiet.

Interviewer: Okay. So I was in Theresienstadt, and one of the things we were shown were drawings made by children, they had art classes, and things like to show to the Red Cross. That's something that you did?

Interviewee:             I could not because I was too young. Now that was done by the slightly older children that were removed from their parents, and they were monitored by older Jewish teenage children and then the German adults that took care of them. I have pictures of a lot of the artwork that they did; I have all of that in here. Because of my age, this is some of the art work, and these are some of the children that died; in fact, all of them died.

My understanding is that they found artwork between walls, hidden between walls and hidden underneath the ground by engineers, Jewish engineers that were working for the Germans who would draw, children would draw, and they were drawn. Some of the adult art that they did and some of the children's art survived because it was hidden, and it was discovered after the war. I was too young for that, and what I remember mostly spending my days at is where we lived.

We lived in a courtyard; we ended up living in this courtyard where some other Jews lived. And it was near the edge of Terezin where the trains used to leave. And I remember leaving the courtyard; I was free to go play around. And I would go out of the courtyard, turn right and go a little way down the street and there was a real nice hill there, little hill. It was grassy, and it was like a small hill, and I used to sit up on that hill and watch stuff.

[00:25:15]

And there was a building across the street from that hill, and I used to go play there every day, that was my favorite play place. And I began seeing wagons, and then I, at some point, understood that it was bodies that were being brought there. I didn't know until really-really many years later, but the memory stuck with me and always bothered me. It was a crematorium, and there were lots of dead daily in Theresienstadt so they would load them on a wagon.

Interviewer: From hunger and disease, right?

Interviewee:             From hunger, from disease, from beatings.

Interviewer: But there were no gas chambers or anything like that?

Interviewee:                         There were no gas chambers. However, towards the very near end of the war, they began building gas chambers; my father was on one of the work forces that were building them. They began a very rudimentary beginning, but there wasn't time, and they had many, many, many deceased and burned bodies.

So part of my dad's job, this was just before the end was to transfer ashes to this, I think it was called the O.J river, there was a river there and dumped all the ashes that were around the crematorium from all the bodies that they were burning. This was when they had a lot of Jews there that had been brought in from other concentration camps. So it was not just the Jews that had been there through the war, but other Jews, I remember those trains bringing them in.

But my father was on a detail that took the burned bodies and went to dump them in this river. Because the Germans knew that they were losing the war, it was at the very, very end, and they knew that they would soon be invaded in Theresienstadt, and they didn't want all that deadly, deadly evidence there. So they made up details, and they dumped the incinerated bodies that they were now filling heavily daily in the crematorium.

My dad's job was to take it to this river along with a group of other men, dumping. What my father did was he, I don't know exactly how he did it, but I know he did it. He took like two big handfuls of human ashes, put them in something, and hid it in his clothes. My father saved those ashes for years and years and years; they were the burnt ashes of whomever. I remember when I was a kid, and after the war, he put them in a little leather case, the ashes.

I remember finding that case; I don't know how many times in the house somewhere, and asking my parents what it was. They took it away, nothing, they put it away whatever. In the 1970s, my parents went to Israel, and my father took those ashes to Yad Vashem, and they were buried there, which is an interesting side story.

Interviewer:              Yes, it is. Okay, so you said that there were trains coming in bringing Jews from other camps, and from around the country side. But there were also trains leaving Theresienstadt, right?

Interviewee:                         Well, here's what was happening from what I read, because there were people leaving to be gassed because there were no gas chambers there, to empty out the camp on the one hand. So they were sending them to Treblinka, or to whatever other camps that train serviced. But after a while, when the Russians and the U.S. Army came in and began conquering the other camps, they began sending Jews from those camps to Terezin to empty them out.

[00:30:00]

It was like a crazy game of [00:30:00.02] back-and-forth they were playing, which made no sense; I read that later. But what I remember clearly, and I do remember this so clearly because by then I was already six, it was near the end of the war. A train had come in from; I don't know which concentration camp, but it was one of the death camps. With people that were half alive, all sick, diseased, and whatever, and they were sending them into Theresienstadt.

I don't know what their logic or logistics, the Germans they were crazy at that point anyway. And they were unloading the trains, and my father somewhere had stolen or gotten a couple of pieces of hard square sugar that you would drop in coffee. He became a good thief during the war in camp and stole a lot, which helped us. I went with him, and as they were unloading the people, and the people were lying down like, they weren't stretchers whatever they were on the ground.

And my father took out one of those little squares of sugar, and he handed a to a man I was with him. He handed it to a man that was laying down, probably dying; I mean, most those people were deathly ill. And as soon as the others near him saw that he had gotten something, they began to put their hands together like in prayer to give them something. He had a few pieces of sugar, and he passed it out.

Interviewer: Certainly not enough for everybody.

Interviewee:             No. No. No

Interviewer: So in the early years, there were trains coming in bringing people, there are trains going out taking out people. But at the end, it was only people coming in, and it got more crowded.

Interviewee:             It got very, very crowded. Terezin was basically just a way station, it was a place to put the Jews of Prague and nearby whatever other places they came from. It was meant to be a temporary place until they sent you away from there to the death camps in Poland, so it was a way station. Most people did not stay there very long; they stayed there maybe six months, maybe eight months. The sad thing is that they had, I think, was called a Judenrat. It was top Jews.

Interviewer: A Jewish council.

Interviewee:             Like a council, and they were the ones responsible for making out the lists of those who had to be sent to their deaths. I'll tell you one quick one, my father who was a laborer and he was also a worker for one of the German, I don't know what he was, he was some kind of a big deal. His job was to bring milk; they had a bunch of cats he and his wife, bring milk to the cats. He had to milk the cow, feed the cats, and whatever else he did. Anyway, more towards the end of the war, my father's name ended up on one of the lists to be sent away to death; it was certain death then.

And the train came that was to take all these people, I remember my father had a sign on him and a number, they were all like designated to go on this particular trip, to be taken to the death camps. They were called, I forgot what the name it was, but just trains that took people to die, transports. If your name was put on a transport, you had to leave there was no choice, and if you didn't leave, you were shot, it was that simple.

I went to the train station with my mother, and my father ended up being near a tiny like open space window thing, and we were able to see him a little bit. So were other people they took turns by the windows, they were waving and whatever. By then, it was near the end of the war, and a lot of the Jews there had a good idea of where they were [00:35:00.04] going.

[00:35:05]

They did not know at the beginning of the war that there were camps where they were killing Jews. Maybe some knew, but an average person like my dad, he told me. He said when we first came to Theresienstadt, he didn't know they were killing Jews in Poland and gassing them. So my dad was on this train. I was at the train station with my mother. Eventually, the train pulled out with my dad, and they were gone. Larry, I know that sounds like science fiction, but this is what happened.

My mother, gradually the people at the train station where these poor souls were taken to be gassed, everybody left and went back to wherever they belong in Terezin. My mother went to leave, and I refused to leave, I was about six, a little over six. My mother she tried to schlep me, and take me back to where we lived, and I wouldn't go, and I stayed there. I refused, my mother said stay when you're ready to come home, and you’ll come home.

I stayed there; it was where the booths were with the guards, with the guns on their shoulders. It was near where the train pulled out, and they had extra security there. And I remembered the booths that the guards used to walk back and forth in and guard. And to make the long story short, I got it in my head that my father was coming back and like right away, at least that's what I remember thinking, and I was not going home because I was going to wait there till he got back.

Interviewer: Okay.

Interviewee:                         Either I didn't understand that the Train was forever or whatever, but in my mind and I do remember the feeling of it. I don't remember necessarily exactly, but I remember the feeling of thinking, but he's not going to stay away, he'll be back. Could have been an illusion I was trying to form in my head whatever. The train pulled out, and at some point, which I didn't recognize, or I wasn't aware it happened.

About an hour or so, whenever an hour and a half or so after the train pulled out whenever it was a truck pulled out also to go catch the train, I was still there. The story my father tells me is that the German, the Nazi guy that he did work for, and his wife, who lived in Theresienstadt on the grounds. When his wife found out that my dad was gone because he didn't come to feed the cats and do whatever it is he had to do. She made an enormous fuss, he went and got a truck, chased after the train, got the train to stop at some point.

And they started going from each of those, some of them had no windows people were jammed in you couldn't stand or breathe calling my father's name. My father said he heard his name being called, and he thought he was being called out to be shot, so he didn't answer. He was fearful of saying here I am, well you know what the hell is going on.

He said he was terrified; he was sure he was being called off to be shot. Somehow someone identified my dad eventually and said he's here. The guy pulled my father off the train, put him in the truck, and I was still standing near the guard booth at the train station when the truck brought my dad back about whatever two hours, two and a half hours later.

Interviewer: That's an amazing story.

Interviewee:             It's an amazing story, it sounds almost whatever, but it's a story that I remember and I remember my father talking about it, thinking he's being pulled off the train and he said he's thinking I'm going to say Shema Yisrael he was sure he was going to be shot, and he ends up being brought back to the camp.

Interviewer:              So tell me about the liberation?

[00:40:00]

Interviewee:             Liberation was interesting because I remember that really quite well. Typhus broke out, and another illness, and it was mainly brought there by the sick people that were brought there from other camps [00:40:00.02] at the end of the war. Massive infections broke out, and people were dying in the streets like crazy from illnesses. There was no medicine, everybody was getting sick with this, my dad called it Tiphus, and it was Typhus and one other illness.

My dad said the day that the Russians came in, and it was mostly Russians, not very many Americans, it was almost all Russians. They came in, and they freed us, I remembered them throwing some stuff. I also remember the Russian soldiers believe it or not had multiple watches; they stole it. They stole watches from Jews and from dead bodies that they encountered along the way coming, it was very interesting. I didn't understand that then, but I just remember thinking, why do they have all these watches on their arms.

 

When they came and began to liberate us, that very day my father said we have to get out of here, get out of here we have to leave, we're going to get sick and die. He saw that there was an epidemic; people were dropping like flies; they were sick. He managed it, I don't know it wasn't that day, but within a day or so he managed to get a horse, and some kind of a small buggy thing behind it. My mother was crying; she wanted to go say goodbye to this friend and that friend and whatever because they recognized the war was over and that the Germans were being taken and arrested by the Russians and maybe a few Americans

My mother didn't want to leave, and my mother and father had a major argument. Because I remember them arguing and father schlepping me and pulling my mother and saying we are leaving now, we are leaving now. And we got on that horse and buggy, and my dad is sixty miles.

We drove back to Prague, and what I remember mostly on that journey in that horse and buggy is seeing dead horses along the way. You know they bombed around there also, there were bombings. I remember when airplanes came by and dropped silver papers to let us know that there was going to be a bombing. Anyway, there were dead horses and a lot of different dead bodies that I would see; we got back to Prague.

Interviewer:              So what was Prague like then?

Interviewee:                         Prague, what I remember of Prague after that, is that I have pictures, in fact. My dad found a house for us. Eventually, I don't know where we...

Interviewer: You couldn't return to your original house?

Interviewee:                         No, oh no, he found some kind of, I thought it was here no I don't have that picture. Well, there in front of the house, he eventually found some kind of a house for us to live in. My father, I think, was permanently and severely, emotionally and physically he managed to have us survive, but I think it was at the cost of his own well-being.

Because he was a young man actually after the war, probably in his late 30s, I would say something like that, but he was never the same after the war. I think my parents both of them came back different people than what they left; they looked different. This is a picture of when they first came back, and you could see my dad's eyes and his look, versus how he looked three years before. We were there three and a half years, almost four years, and my mother.

I didn't understand when I was growing up in the United States, why our lives were so different when I was young. But I recognized that our lives were different than other kids in school that my parents were different, and ultimately I began to recognize that my father was permanently injured psychologically. He never got it together again, [00:45:00.01] they never came to understand. Many survivors’ parents did okay after the war, as best as they could.

[00:45:00.01]

My dad never did okay, he came out severely injured psychologically, and he was never able to consistently hold a job. He was never able whatever it was that haunted him from that, and my mother lost all of her family, she had like six sisters and brothers or seven of them, one survived, all of her sisters and brothers died. Her mother and father died. All of her nieces and nephews died, everybody.

She had one brother that survived the war, and that brother had two daughters after the war that ended up in Israel. And my father's twin, fortunately, ended up going to Israel just before the war; she went as a 17, 18 whatever, oh no, she would have been my dad's age. So however old he was at the beginning of the war, she took off like a year and a half or two before that and went to Israel. So she didn't suffer any of that, and she lived all of her adult life in Israel.

And my father ended up taking a trip there with my mom to see her, but some Jews made decent adjustments in the U.S. they really did. They came to understand the system here; they continued to educate themselves. One of my good friends that was a survivor was Dr. Tonigh, Emmanuel Tonigh, and he and I were friends, and he was a teenager when he came here. But he was strong enough to get himself through school, get himself through med school; he became a psychiatrist. My father went in there a very strong man, and I think he used up whatever strength and [Inaudible 00:47:24.03] he had.

Interviewer:              But he had been very resourceful.

Interviewee:             He was very resourceful, and he did a lot to help other people also in the camp. He stole, and he put his life on the line a lot. But when the war ended, I think was the beginning of his falling apart.

Interviewer: But before we get to the United States, I do want to ask you. How long did you live in Czechoslovakia after liberation?

Interviewee:             After the liberation, my dad began to understand early clearly on that the Russians were beginning to take over that area, that they were coming closer and closer. And he sensed that we were going to somehow, or he knew I don't know how but whatever. He understood politically because he was a big reader; he thought the Russians were coming. Somehow, at the very end, when the Russians began to close off borders, we managed to board a train.

He bought papers, I don't know if there were false papers or real papers, but he managed to get papers for himself, my mother and me and we boarded a train that took us from Terezin to England through Germany by train. What do I remember about that train? Two things that train ride after the war, the two things I've always remembered. Number one, someone must have given me a pair of little boots, and I was wearing boots on the train.

And I was standing and looking out the window, and there was a man next to me drinking something out of a cup. We were standing looking at the windows; the train is traveling. And I complained, and I don't remember what language I would have been talking about. Could have been Yiddish, because that's what I mostly spoke with my parents. But I could speak Czech, and I understood some Hebrew, but Yiddish was my primary language.

I remember saying that my feet are hot because I'm in these boots. However, I told it to the man; this is a funny one. But for some reason, this man who I [00:50:00.02] never knew who he was or whatever, took whatever he was drinking, and poured it into one of my boots. That was one, and the other thing I remember is on that train, my father took whatever money he had, which I think he told me in later life was something like four hundred dollars.

[00:50:23]

And he hid it on the seat that he forced me to lie down on, for the most part, don't get up, don't talk, don't anything I was supposed to act like I was sleeping if they came into where we were sitting. Because I was sitting on top of the money, and whatever other papers that he had hidden under there.

Interviewer: Do you know why he chose England as a destination?

Interviewee:             Well, it wasn't the destination; it was a stop-off point. We went to England where we had to stay awhile; I remember England it was totally bombed out, and it was gray and buildings were broken everywhere, I remember that.

And in England, we had to stay there a few weeks because we had to get vaccinations in order to come to the United States. And then, eventually, we left England and got on a boat, and the boat took us to America, to New York.

Interviewer: So the papers that he had gotten back in Prague were to come to America?

Interviewee:             Were to come to America.

Interviewer: Do you know why he chose America?

Interviewee:             Because he thought he had some distant relatives here. And maybe they sponsored him I don't know, or maybe they were totally fake papers, I actually don't remember if I even asked that of my dad. But the point is we did come to New York, and New York was frightening, I could not speak a word of English, not a single word. I spoke Yiddish with my parents and Czechoslovakian. I didn't understand anything that was going on around me. We were placed in a hotel of some sort, where they placed refugees as soon as they got there.

The hotel had a drugstore; this is one of my big memories downstairs on the street floor. And the drugs store sold ice cream cones, that was one of the things they sold, you could go in there and buy ice cream. And I was so enthralled with that concept, and apparently, I must have gotten some money, but I didn't speak English. And so I go into the drugstore, and I'm pointing because I could see where the ice cream was.

I mean, this was like an unbelievable dream come true, ice cream, and the guy spoke English to me, and I did not know what he was saying. But later, because I taught myself English, I understood what had happened. He pointed to a sign, so it said vanilla, chocolate, strawberry whatever I had no idea. The only word I knew was yes, I knew yes, and I knew no, so every time he said something, I said yes, and he laughed at me, and I felt humiliated.

Because I understood he was laughing at me, and I didn't know what he was saying, and I didn't understand it. So I remember. Eventually, he gave me the ice cream, and eventually, I got through that. But that was like my first humiliation, so when we moved from New York to Louisville, Kentucky, why we ended up in Louisville, I'm not sure. I think there was a Jewish family that sponsored us to come live with them originally until my parents found work and whatever that was a 1948.

And I remember this Jewish family he was a pharmacist the guy, and they let us live with them, my mother was pregnant by then. Which was my youngest brother, who was, well, I had a sister born soon after the war, and then my brother was born in Louisville. But I remember going to school in Louisville, and by then I was about eight, eight and a half after I came here. This was [00:55:00.01] just a month or two after we left New York when we were rescheduled to live where we were going to live, which was Louisville.

[00:55:11]

And I started school, and they put me in kindergarten because they had no English for foreign-born, and I that was like my second big humiliation in life. I knew that I could read and write in Czech, and I could read Hebrew, I could read a little Yiddish I mean my father taught me all that, but I couldn't speak English yet. And I told her my name, I remembered it, they got me to say my name which was [Inaudible 00:55:41.28] and after she asked me to write my name, I must have understood. And when I said my name, my first name was Yezichah [Inaudible 00:55:55.29], and I didn't understand it then either; those are things I came to understand later when I had memories.

She told me I can't use that name. It's too long, and because it started with a J, she changed it to Judy, and that's how I got my name. I went home and told my parents you can't call me Yezichah anymore; they wrote out the name for me, and then eventually, my dad shortened Tevlovic to Tevlo. But this was the interesting thing I was so embarrassed at being in a kindergarten class with littler kids, and I was embarrassed anyway because I knew I was a fish out of water.

That I had a radio in my room in this Jewish family's home, I stuck that radio to my ear, and three months later, it wasn't long. I knew every song on the hit parade from the radio of 1948, and I was speaking English. And it wasn't from school because they didn't teach you English, I just literally learned how to speak from their radio, I listened constantly. And shortly thereafter, after a few months of being here, I was speaking English whatever, and they moved me up to my regular grades.

Interviewer: So once the initial shock was over, what were your impressions of living in America? Did you ever feel homesick for Prague?

Interviewee:             You know it's an interesting thing, the way that I remember growing up here, especially originally was that we were not the same as other families. I didn't want people to know I had been in a concentration camp; I felt embarrassed about my parents because they spoke no English. My father couldn't find a job.

Interviewer: Did they ever learn?

Interviewee:             Yes, they did learn. I mean, my dad was a prolific reader, so eventually, he began. But I think what saved my life was that in; I don't remember what grade, maybe third grade or fourth grade.

When we moved to Detroit, my dad registered me at first, not in a public school but in a Yeshiva. And in the Yeshiva, I was still the only camp survivor kid, but I recognized them as similar souls. In the sense that they understood what Shabbat was, and they were Jewish.

Interviewer: And you could speak Yiddish?

Interviewee:             They didn't speak Yiddish; they were American kids. But by then, I had passed through the Louisville stage, and I was a fluent speaker. I will tell you one last story because I think it's fascinating. I loved the Yeshiva. I loved my rabbis. Rabbi Friedman, Rabbi Goldstein, Rabbi [Inaudible 00:59:33.10] Rabbi Weinberg.

I became deeply, deeply attached to them because they served a paternal role for me that my dad wasn't able to do after the war, really. He was in his own world with his own issues. But here I was in the Yeshiva; I went to day school half day English, half day Hebrew. And a new girl came to the school after I [01:00:00.01] was there, I don't know how many months. I was there; I don't know, six months, eight months whatever. She came from another concentration camp, and she had just gotten there.

[01:00:15]

Her head had been shaved for some reason; she just had little wisps of hair. Maybe she had lice when she came; they did stuff like that. She was a redhead; she had little wisps of red hair. And she was put into another class, and they used to serve us lunch at the Yeshiva. We had kosher lunch every day between, we had Hebrew in the morning and English in the afternoon.

The first day that she came to lunch with us, which was in a room that was next to the Shul in the Yeshiva. One of the things that they served were baked potatoes cut in half, everybody got a baked potato, and I don't remember what else we had. We ate our lunches and this girl whose face I remember so clearly because she was like impressed into my soul. We finished lunch, and the kids began to clear off their plates, there was a big garbage can, we were responsible for cleaning off leftovers in our paper plates. And the kids began to go and dump their the potato shells from the baked potatoes that we had.

This girl, she was at my table, she rose up from the table, ran to the garbage, and began pulling out all the potato shells that were being thrown away. And instead of being able to be empathetic towards her, I felt ashamed. I just remember feeling see how different we are; it was like what the hell she's pulling. And I understood why she was pulling the potatoes shells out, and I realized the other kids didn't have a clue as to why she was doing it.

Interviewer: So we're running low on time, there's so much I wanted to ask you. But I want to make sure that I have time to ask you about being a teacher, and how you came to be a teacher in a Jewish school.

Interviewee:             First of all, I went to the Yeshiva, and eventually I married. My first husband was Albert Carbyl, who was a teacher at Shaarey Zedek for many years. I think at some point he became director of the Hebrew school there.

But my mind was always with learning, and teaching from my dad. I knew that my dad was a learner, and stuff that I wanted to know I would go to him, and I knew he was a reader. So my husband was a teacher, he taught at Shaarey Zedek. are we out of?

Interviewer:              So we're running low time, just got a few seconds left.

Interviewee:                         Okay. Well the point was he was a Hebrew school teacher, and I began initially as a young kid to teach at the Yeshiva, that was my very first teaching position. At the Yeshiva Beth Yehudah when I was married, I taught like early reading.

Interviewer:              Well it sounds like we're just about, there's so much more I wanted to ask you, but I guess we'll have to let it go with that. Thank you very much for participating, I just learned so much in listening to you.

Interviewee:                         I'm glad Larry, I'm glad I was able to do it. I think it's important to do stuff like this. You know I have a friend who's a PhD teacher in San Jose California, and he specializes in Holocaust denier, that’s his specialty.

[01:04] 

[End of Recorded Material

 

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Tue, January 21 2020 24 Tevet 5780