Mrs. Dina Fishman (Part I)

Please tell me where you were born.

I was born in Romania, in a small town named Lot with 37 Jewish families. It was a chassidishe town, where all the men wore shtreimlach. We lived on a farm and worked in the fields. We grew our own fruits and vegetables. We had cows, chickens and turkeys on our farm. We milked the cows and we drank the milk. There was no electricity in the town, so we bought oil for oil lamps to light our homes. We bought very few items. We sewed our own clothing. Everyone in the town was happy. Nobody had more than the next person. If another family was in need of something, we shared.

When there was a wedding in the town, the whole town prepared for it together. Each person donated something. One person gave some plates, and the next person gave glasses, and each home participated in whatever way they were able. The weddings were held in the home of the bride.

What do you remember about your family?

I had lovely parents. We were seven girls and two boys. One brother passed away at the age of twenty, and my parents took it very hard. I was the middle child. My father was a Chassid of the Borsher Rebbe, and he would travel to him for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

We appreciated what we had, and we loved each other. My older sister was married. I was twenty-two years old and engaged to be married in March. I had a ring that I hid inside my coat when we were taken to the ghetto, and my fiancée had a watch that I had given him.

My mother would sit up nights making feather pillows and blankets. Every child had two big covers and two big blankets.

Where did you learn before the war?

We didn’t have much schooling. In my town, there were only four classes. I graduated school when I was nine years old. We had a teacher who taught us how to read Hebrew, daven and make brachos.

How did life change once the Nazis invaded? Can you describe what occurred?

In 1939, the Hungarians entered Romania and the trouble started. They began with the Polish people. In 1944, they came to our town. My married sister lived in a neighboring big city named Rivadam, and my parents sent some of us to stay at her house. She ran a business in which she sold used clothing. My fiancée worked for my sister at the time.

We began to make a bunker at my sister’s home. On Pesach, during the Seder, we were still digging out the earth, and the bunker wasn’t ready in time. The only thing we managed to do was to lift some tiles in the bedroom and store a big box of items that we had prepared for my wedding.

Five o’clock in the morning they came knocking on our door. They made everybody get out. We took whatever we could carry and closed the door behind us. A non-Jewish neighbor said to us as we were leaving, “Give me the key to the house and I’ll watch the house for you.” We knew that meant he was going to take over the house, but we had no control.

While you were still at home in Romania, did you know what was happening in Poland and other parts of Europe?

Sure we knew. We knew that they took the Polish people earlier, and then the people from Czechoslovakia. We did have a radio and we heard what was happening in other places. We tried to prepare ourselves a little bit, but it wasn’t enough.

To be continued …

These survivors’ memoirs were collected by Project Witness.