I had a German medic as a nurse. He had escaped from Stalingrad and was now working in this hospital. He was very good to me and brought me all the news. I myself was very weak. I was given some rhubarb-apple sauce which gave me a little more strength. A doctor approached me and asked if I wanted to be sent to a sanatorium in Sweden. I was thrilled with that prospect.
Two days later I was put onto a train headed to Lübeck. Lübeck was a big city in Germany which had not been bombed, for it was a Red Cross city. I arrived in Lübeck the next morning. I had 300 cigarettes which I brought along with me. Although they were valuable, I gave them to the nurse who had been so kind to me.
Upon our arrival in Lübeck, the Swiss took over. I was given a hot bath and then a cold shower and some food. I was then laid out in the sun to dry off and rest until I was able to pull myself together. We remained there for a couple of days before they put me onto a boat.
Can you describe your experience on the boat and your arrival in Sweden?
We traveled by boat for three days to Sweden. Some sick people were let off in Marma, a city near Sweden. When we got off the boat we couldn’t believe how beautiful the city looked; we were used to the bombed-out cities in Germany.
We were taken to an empty school building where they fed us farina, which was a mild food for our stomachs. They continued feeding us until we began to regain our strength. We were famished and kept eating huge portions.
We were sent to different places. My friend and I were sent to a place called Enchepinc, a resort area, where we remained until spring. From there we were sent to a kosher camp, where we remained for another six months. After recuperating in Sweden for two and a half years, we finally traveled to America. I got a visa through a Jewish agency which took care of us. I immediately took the visa and I was lucky to be able to get entrance onto a boat. At this point I would eat only kosher food.
What happened upon your arrival in the United States?
The boat journey took 10 days. Once the boat docked on American shores, a Swedish worker lined us up and instructed us which agent to go to, in order to gain entry. The officer I was instructed to go to was an Irishman. I noticed him interrogating each refugee that was sent to him. It didn’t look good to me. I moved over to another bench and was sent to a different officer. This officer turned out to be a Jewish man. He looked at me and said, “A yeshivah bachur?” He took my passport, stamped it and instructed me to get off the boat immediately. “Don’t go back to get your belongings and don’t ask questions.” The rest of the people were sent to Ellis Island where they were forced to remain for three weeks.
I immediately left and went straight to Yeshiva Torah Vodaas. For each boy who came through Ellis Island, Yeshiva Torah Vodaas posted a $500 bond. I remained in the yeshivah for two and a half years. I then worked in a necktie factory where I was paid 75 cents an hour. I got married and raised a beautiful mishpachah.
What message can you impart to today’s generation?
This story cannot adequately express the agony of the prisoners. The many days they went without food or water, without having a bed to sleep in like a human being. To describe the way the Germans went about killing — they did it with tremendous dedication, without any human feelings; they cut the lives of millions as if they were cutting trees in a forest. The Hungarians were not any better; neither were the Poles or Ukrainians or Russians. The Catholic Church as well as the Protestant Church knew what was happening; there were ways to stop the Germans but nobody was interested. How in the world could a nation like Germany do something like this? Shame on Germany — and shame even on America! Let’s hope for better times to come.