Mrs. Molly Joseph (Part I)

As told to Mrs. Chaya Feigy Grossman

Please tell me where you were born.

I was born in Lozi, Czechoslovakia, which was situated right near the city of Veretzky. It was a small town. We were a happy group of people living together. I was only 12 years old at this time, and in the sixth grade.

What do you remember about your family?

My father was a businessman. We were quite rich. My parents owned a very large house with a tremendous amount of land. We were eight children — four girls and four boys and I was the fifth child. My father was away most of the time on business trips.

We always had a non-Jewish maid. However, the maid never touched the kitchen. My mother was a very, very capable woman and she did all the cooking.

Did you know what was happening in other parts of Europe at the time?

No. We knew nothing. It happened from one minute to the next. They arrived and within the hour we were forced out of our homes.

How did life change once the Nazis invaded? Can you describe the scene that took place?

In 1938, the Hungarians took over. Life was very tough. The Hungarians had united with the Germans and they had in mind to kill out all the Jews. On Tishah B’Av morning of 1941, the Hungarian officers came to our house and ordered us to leave within the half-hour. We were allowed to take along with us whatever we could carry in our hands. My father’s package consisted of his tallis and tefillin, a Chumash and a siddur. We took along just a little bit. We were taken to the center of the town where many more were assembled.

Once you left home, where were you taken?

We were taken to the cattle trains. We were approximately 100 people all squashed inside, and then they slammed the doors shut. It was summertime and the heat was unbearable. The children were crying bitterly. They wanted a drink of water, and they needed to use the bathroom.

We traveled, but we had no idea where we were being taken to. We were taken all the way to Poland, to Galicia. There the train stopped in a large cornfield. There were Hungarian Jewish men from the army dressed as civilians, with Hungarian army caps. Here they began loading us onto trucks. One of these men let on to my father that if he could, he should try to escape. “They will be taking you to Kaminetztolosh, where they will turn over the trucks into the nearby water and you will be told that you can swim.” My father organized the family and we planned an escape. Of course we had no money, we had no connections and we basically had nothing but each other. I took my sister and I carried my younger brother on my shoulder. We each took a different route and we landed in the nearby town of Horodinka at the house of a Rabbi. They were very nice to us and shared with us whatever meager food they had. We stayed there a short while and then we heard that they were beginning to open up the ghettos. We figured we had better move on and try to get back to our hometown, where we would be free.

We walked about 20 kilometers a day. Every town that we passed had just a few Jewish people left. The Jewish committee in each town tried to help us out by obtaining some food and shelter for a couple of hours.

It was Erev Rosh Hashanah when we reached the town of Kolomai. The people in this town were already robbed of all their belongings. In this town again the Jewish committee tried to help us out. Each family took one wandering person. I was placed with a non-religious, childless couple. They were wonderful people. They treated me well and welcomed me to stay as long as I wanted to. They really didn’t know much about Judaism. Although it was Yom Tov, I understood that I would not be going to shul. They did have one round challah which they divided up.

After Rosh Hashanah my family and I tried to continue on our route, heading back toward our hometown. The couple I was living with packed food up for me to take along, and wished me the best. But the streets were filled with Polish people. They were out to rob us and beat us. We were forced to return to our hosts.

We set out again a while later on this treacherous journey and we arrived at the border of our hometown (between Poland and Hungary) before Sukkos. We had two aunts living on the border and we arrived at one of their homes on Motzoei Shabbos. The plan was to cross the border on Sunday night, which was Erev Sukkos.

to be continued…

These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.