Mrs. Leah-Lilly Klein (Part V)

Can you describe what transpired when you arrived at the sanitarium?

The sanitarium was run by German nuns. Luckily, I spoke the German language.

I questioned them about the whereabouts of my father, Joseph Levy. They informed me that the only way to find my father was to go from room to room and look for him. They had no registration of his name.

That’s just what I did. I went from room to room in search of my father. The only thing I found was people who were dying. They were burning up with very high fevers. I don’t think they even knew that they were free. I went around the hospital trying to comfort some of them. I went into the washroom and, using the underwear I had gotten as a gift from the Jewish soldiers, I washed their foreheads. I spoke with them and told them that they are free, they must get well because their family is looking for them just like I’m looking for my father. In one room I found a man who was doing well. I gave him all the gifts I had received from the soldiers besides the siddur.

I went back outside and looked up to the sky. I did not find my father and I felt like my world had collapsed. But the soldiers who had brought me tried to help. They asked me if I knew of any relatives who had survived. I did. I had a Wieder cousin, in Feldafing. They agreed to take me to him, which was a distance of a couple of hours.

My cousin Wieder had visited my father in the Saint Otiliam Hospital. On the Thursday before I arrived, he had come to the hospital and taken my father back to Feldafing with him.

I arrived in Felfdafing and those in charge used the loudspeaker to call Wieder to come to the front. Another man by the name of Wieder, who was mentally challenged, appeared. I was so excited to see him even if he wasn’t the right one. He couldn’t understand why I would want to see him when my father was there. I didn’t believe him but he brought my father.

When my father arrived, I froze. I was so shocked.

My father questioned me about my mother and my brother. I was only able to give him the good news that I was together with my sister. I knew nothing of the whereabouts of my mother or my brother. I told him that my sister Blima’la hadn’t come along with me because they needed her there. I couldn’t bear to bring him the news that she was sick.

Monday morning I went back to Bergen Belsen together with my father, my cousin and two other Jewish men. By this time my sister was much better. The general was so nice to us there. We decided to remain there over the Yamim Tovim. On Hoshana Rabbah we left for Budapest.

Did you return to your hometown?

In Budapest we met my cousins Eugene and Monica Hollander. We remained there for a few days before returning home.

Moshe Nicolas Klein was the first Jew to come back to town.

My parents were very wealthy. A high-ranking official occupied our house. We reported him to the Russian commander and he threw him out. When we arrived home, Moshe Nicolas Klein was waiting with the key. Everything was intact, but I didn’t have my mother, my little brother, no aunts, no cousins and no family. Life was very, very sad. I can’t describe how emotionally hard it was. We cried all the time.

My father told us that without my mother, my brother and the rest of the family we would never use the dining room again.

I have all the belongings which belonged to my mother.

I returned to school, which was extremely hard.

Four years later, my sister married Avraham Davidovitz, a lawyer. A year later, my sister announced that they would leave for America since the Jews were being persecuted by the Communists. Although they invited me to go along with them, I would not leave my father. They couldn’t get to America and went to Caracas, Venezuela, the only place that allowed them in, where my nephew was born.

Moshe Nicolas Klein came to our house for every Shabbos meal. After a while we were married. In the meantime, my father left for Israel. We remained in the city until 1962, when we arrived in the United States and settled in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn. I have a daughter who attended Shulamith School. She is, ken ayin hara, married with two children. I have einiklach and uhr-einiklach.

How did you keep your emunah through the horrors of the Holocaust?

I always pass the credit to my mother. She instilled in me a very strong bitachon and a will to live. I was very Orthodox and I continued to daven each day to Hashem, which helped us survive.

What message can you give today’s children?

My message to all young people is: It doesn’t matter how hard the challenges are; don’t give up. Be proud to be a Jew. Always pray to Hashem, for He is there for all of us.

to be continued…

These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.