Mr. Shlomo Miller (Part XVIII)

A large percentage of the non-Jews did not believe the story that the priest came back with.

Being that the palace was secluded, our only means of getting food supplies was from a Jewish farmer living in the next town. He supplied us with milk, cheese, fruits and other items. In order to get to the farmer we had to travel by horse and buggy through the town. Two bachurim volunteered to make the journey to get supplies. They traveled through the back roads to avoid the main roads, since the gentiles were already all riled up. There was a lot of strife between the gentiles and the Jews and travel was risky.

However, on the way back, they decided to chance it and go through the town. The non-Jews found out that the bachurim were coming through and they removed two planks from the bridge they would have to cross. One of the bachurim was injured and the waiting perpetrators caught up with them. They weren’t able to escape. The gentiles began beating them. They were ready to give up and they began saying Krias Shema. As they were saying the last word — Echad — a finger of one of the gentiles got stuck in the bachur’s mouth and he bit it. And then a clear nes happened. They were standing in front of a non-Jewish farmer’s house and the farmer saw what was happening and took them inside his house and protected them. We survived from one nes to the next. The story didn’t finish with this episode. The man whose finger he bit sued him in court; however, he was lucky that this happened just days before we were due to leave for America and he was able to get away.

Upon hearing what had transpired, the non-Jews in this town and the neighboring towns decided to teach the Jews a lesson. They mobilized everyone to come on Friday night when they knew the Jews couldn’t defend themselves with weapons. B’chasdei Hashem, the hanhalah of the yeshivah got wind of what was happening. Early Thursday morning they quickly and quietly packed up whatever belongings they had and left.

When and how did you travel to the United States?

We traveled to Prague, the capital of Czechoslovakia, to get visas. Most people were not traveling under their own names, for various reasons.

For Rosh Hashanah we stayed in Carlsbad. Carlsbad was known for its baths. There were beautiful hotels there where the Germans would stay when they came to bathe. When the war was over, the people of Carlsbad gave these hotel rooms to the Czechoslovakian refugees. (It was not for free — but we had some money, and the dollar had a high value.) However, most of the refugees did not remain there for long.

After Rosh Hashanah we journeyed through Germany and France to get to Cherbourg, where the ships docked. While in France we stayed in the Hotel de Noailles and we remained there through Sukkos. In the basement of our residence was the beis medrash. In Cherbourg we waited for the Ile de France [an ocean liner that was converted to a military ship during the war and later returned to service as a passenger ship].

Where did you go once you arrived on American shores?

Like every ocean crossing, travel was difficult on the ship. People could not keep the food in their bodies, but, baruch Hashem, we arrived on the shores of America. We were taken to Ellis Island. On Ellis Island we were escorted into a large room where judges were sitting at their desks, waiting to hear our case and make a decision as to whether or not each individual would be admitted to the United States.

to be continued


 

These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.