Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Irving Altus - June 2, 1982

Immigration to America

So we were talking about after...

After they send us back the papers, so we had a child, you know. So then they did the papers for my child, for the whole family, for our son. And we got married in '46 with this uh, Mark, our oldest son, was born in '47. One in Munich. And by the time everything came to us it was already 1949.

Wife: ???

All the papers. And we came to America, to Albany, New York. March 21, 1949 I arrived in America. The day, the first day of Spring. And I was very pleased. I, I, ??? I have a good family. They're all still, my aunt is still alive. I go there to see her every year. She's now in a convalescent home. I have wonderful cousins. All nice to us, real nice. A real nice family.

Are they all in Albany?

All in Albany. You know there were pleased you know, I like them, they like us. Really, a very, very nice family. And I, uh...

Wife: ??? you couldn't get that job ???

In '49 I couldn't---that was so bad.

Were you in Albany?

Yes, I came and I, and I, and my aunt took us in and everything. But it was so bad. We couldn't--I couldn't get a job. And I was with my family. I--you know, room and board and food and everything and I had a few dollars, not much, but this was not the thing, but... What are you going to do? I mean, it--I'm already three weeks and my cousins, they were trying very hard, I mean hard. I couldn't get a job. Finally, look, they say, "It'll take a little, you'll start. What's going to be the end?" So, they did find a job for me after three weeks or something. They did find a job. Like I say, I used to do tailoring, you know, when I went to work, when I was thirteen--fourteen. So they found a job for me a cleaning store. So, do a little alterations, whatever. Twenty-five dollars a week. Five and a half days. Saturdays 'til noon. I grabbed it. It didn't matter how much. I want to make something. And move--how long can I stay with my aunt in--you know, with a child and--It's not a big house, she has the kids home.

Was that a low wage then or, it seems like...


It was low even then.

Very lowest. In '49, what, twenty-five dollars? It wasn't like the thirty, in the thirties, the Depression. Forty-nine they--it was, it was nothing. Normally you had to make seventy-five to one-hundred dollars a week. It was nothing. He just used me after so much uh, begging them and this was friend of my cousins and thing, so. I think he took me just uh, like uh, a favor. Just--whatever, he was a good man, let me tell you something.

So it was--you felt good about it.

I felt good even for twenty-five dollars. No question about it. And I worked there a few weeks.

Wife: ???

Then my father--besides in Europe--my father had three brothers in America too. Besides my mother's sister. But they were not good brothers.

You didn't know them that well.

No. No, no, no. And never they and maybe they shouldn't be here, but all right. They didn't do any harm to anybody, but you know, when they left to America you know, it was a saying in Europe, when you go through the, the, the ocean, you forget everything. So they forgot about the families when they came. My mother's sister didn't. Every holiday they send us a few dollars. And anything she could. But my father's three brothers, they didn't knew they had family there. So, when I came to Albany and I knew I had uncles here and I talked to my aunt and two brothers were living in Philadelphia, so it's not far from Albany, New York. But, but they didn't want to bother, but one of my father's brothers came to Detroit and then he had here two sons. So I knew about this too. And I told my aunt and she knew about it.

Even though she wasn't...

In America, yeah, but she.

She wasn't related.

No not related, but it's still like family, you know. If it's my uncle you know, my father was her brother-in-law. So she knew a little. She knew.

Was she the one who told you where they were, or...

I--she did, but I knew they were here. I didn't know that--she said two are in Philadelphia. I didn't knew where.

You didn't know where.

But the one here I did--I knew in Europe, that they are in Detroit.

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