Ida Tenenbaum (Part V)

As told to Mrs. Chaya Feigy Grossman

Were the non-Jews decent to you after the War ended?

We walked and walked until we came upon a stable. Outside the stable stood a farmer tending his crops. One woman approached him and begged him to please have pity on us and allow us in. But instead of helping us he began screaming, “Cursed Jews, run or I will kill you.” We were in no shape to run but we quickly walked away. We walked and walked until we came upon another farm. Here we saw a husband and wife working their garden. This time I approached the woman and begged her to let us in. The woman saw the situation, realized that they had lost the war, and said to her husband in German, “Hans, luz zei arein” — Let them in. Immediately, he opened the stable and we all walked in. We sat down on dry straw — to us this was a luxury. There were potatoes prepared for the animals on the farm. Right away we attacked the potatoes; we were famished. The woman became hysterical and she begged us not to eat raw potatoes. She immediately offered to cook them for us. But we were too hungry to wait.

Suddenly their young son came running with the report that the Russians had arrived in the city. A general arrived riding a horse with a number of soldiers following. He took a look at us and saw that we were children from the camp. He said to the farmer, what are these children doing here? The farmer was proud of his good deed and told the soldier that he had allowed us in. The Russians weren’t impressed and commanded him to take us into his house, not to leave us outside in a barn. A small argument ensued and before long the soldier shot the German farmer dead.

Where did you go next?

We couldn’t remain there for much longer because the Russians were mistreating people. So we took a train headed for Poland. At some points we got off and walked, for the railroads had been blown up during the war.

Finally, we arrived in Poland. I returned to my hometown in the hope of finding someone alive. There was no one there. My friend contracted TB. She was very sick. The doctors said her only chance of survival was if she would eat nutritious food. I got hot meals from a gentile woman who had worked for my mother before the war, and my friend Hella recovered. (Today Hella lives in Israel with her three sons who are Belzer Chassidim.)

Can you tell us about the kibbutz that you organized?

When my friend Hella recovered, we decided to organize a kibbutz for Bais Yaakov girls. We traveled by train through the different cities in Poland in search of girls. We brought them back to my hometown and some community members who were there and remembered my father from the years before the war gave us a place to stay. At this point we had enough food.

One day I received a letter from my uncle. It had been very complicated, but he had managed to discover my whereabouts. When my uncle and my cousin were liberated from Buchenwald they went to a DP camp in Munich. My cousin went to visit a friend in Fehrenwald and there was a woman there who said she knew a girl with the same last name. She continued to tell him that they were probably not related to the girl because this girl by the name of Ida “…was very religious and you are not.” He ran home to his father and told him the news that I was alive. From there my uncle made connections to locate me and I received a letter from him that he was in Munich and he wanted me to join him.

I was very hungry for family. I had no one. So I traveled to Munich to be with my uncle. He accepted me with open, loving arms. From his house I got married.

What message would you like to impart to future generations?

The most important thing in life is middos and chessed. Be kind to your fellow man. Education, as well, is very important. My children, baruch Hashem follow in my footsteps.

These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.

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