By 1945, when you were about 16 years old, you had been in the Siget ghetto, in Auschwitz and in Bergen Belsen. When were you finally liberated?
In May 1945, we were loaded into cattle cars one more time. We traveled for a week under the most inhumane conditions. The bodies of those who died on the way were simply tossed off the train. Finally, the train stopped and we found ourselves in Denmark. The doors opened and the Red Cross was waiting there. They began telling us we were free. We looked at each other and began to cry. We kept asking each other, “Are they crazy, or are we crazy?”
The Red Cross took us to a sanatorium. There, we found tables laden with food. We ran toward the people who were holding baskets of food and everyone began to grab. They promised us that there would be enough food for everyone, but we were like animals. We took the bread and hid it inside our clothing.
The next day, the Red Cross put us on a boat to Sweden. We were so sick from everything that we had eaten and the boat ride didn’t help things. The Swedes were very good to us. First, they took us all to bathe. For a year, we hadn’t showered and we were covered in lice.
I remained there for a year and a half, until I received papers to come to America, which was a nes of its own. We were told that if we had any relatives at all residing in another country, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) would locate them for us, so that we might get visas to travel. I recalled that when I was six years old, one of my cousins had gone to London. My parents spoke about him often and he had the same last name as we did — Weinberger. He was related to us in more than one way. I gave HIAS his name and two weeks later I received a telegram from him saying, “Don’t go home because the Communists have taken over. I will bring you out to London.”
Another nes occurred when I wrote a letter to a former neighbor of ours in my hometown. When we were forced to give up our business, my father had given this man our grocery store. He had no idea how to run it, but my father taught him everything. In the letter, I wrote the address where I was staying in Sweden and asked him to show my letter to anyone from my family who might return. My oldest brother, whose wife and two children had perished, went home and this man gave him my letter.
The day I received a telegram from him was a simchah I will never forget all my life. A few weeks later, I received another telegram, this one from my second brother. He had suffered through the worst camps. The two of them met in Bucharest where there were many other Jewish people. My brothers stayed at the home of the Twerskys, where many other refugees were staying. The Twerskys were able to arrange for papers for my brothers to travel to Belgium. One brother went there and the other one went to Israel.
In the meantime, my cousin in London sent me packages and money. Since he was much older than I was, he knew the whereabouts of some of my mother’s other cousins, of whom I had never even heard. He wrote to them in America, telling them that I had survived. They did some research and helped me get the visa I needed in a short time and they paid for the ship ticket, too.
I came to America in 1947. I got married and settled in the Bronx. As soon as I had a little money, I paid my cousins back for the ship ticket that they had purchased for me.
We must make sure that the world knows what happened. We have to tell them.
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.