Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Ella Baker - May 11, 2011

Conclusion II (Volunteering)

And you've been a volunteer at which uh, organizations?

In the past?


Oh, that is such a big line uh, but this is more activism more than volunteer. It was activism...

Ah, okay.

You know. Uh, that was there uh, American-Jewish Congress.

American-Jewish Congress

And then, and B'nai B'rith and uh, uh, uh, it strictly Jewish, you know.


The uh, Association for, those, those days they called it Retarded Person, the Mentally Challenged, which I am more at peace with. And then, which was everything and everywhere uh, International for Peace and Freedom, Round Table for Christians and Jews. Council of Jewish Women, Council of, of Catholic Women, there dialogue, dialogue, dialogue, this is 1 of my messages too. This is there uh, Jewish Council is doing and I'm very, very feeling so secure because they are looking for dialogue with the blacks, with the Catholics, with the Muslims.


This is the only way find a dialogue, that's my message. And, uh...

Find the dialogue?

Yeah. Then I was an ombudsmen looking for rights and rules and uh, implementation the uh, with the hourly waging for nursing homes. I was a volunteer probation counselor for the youth. I was board member of the YWCA with the ??? and uh, Council of, of the Northville State Hospital.


Council, Systems Council R.S.V.P, this is the Catholic Social Services uh, senior branch. Which ??? those days was part of it too. And we are here part of them, Yeah. And um, so...

You've done a lot of good.

Yeah, so everywhere where there is, where I can make a balance, where, where, where I can set the record straight or wanting was at 1 time the Catholic Social Services, there was a big luncheon and I don't know who knows I am Jewish or not. But if you ask I have nothing to hide, otherwise I don't say I am Jewish, you know. So uh, 1 man at my lunch table, this was the idea, to looking from inside out, I says I can set the record straight. So he says Jews are Catholics.


That was in the early '80s, Jews, Jews are, Jews are um, communist.

Jews are communist?



So a Jew must never be on a defensive or put anybody on the defensive.


I very calmly said to him, I says, "okay, how would you then explain that most, if not all, the immigrants from Russia are running away, they are all Jews."


Very calmly.


It took me an effort, you know...

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Not to jump. And he was open minded enough, here again, you know, you had to hear what it is. He says, "now you just gave me something to think about."


[laughs] I was very pleased with that.

Very good.

Yeah. [pause] And establishing the holidays it meant to me a lot and then there was in that same uh, the same nursing home this uh, was happening and Mr. ??? who knowing he didn't, he didn't speak. And he was in a corner uh, corner there cooped up. And so I, I went behind, but I was supposed to do there and he wouldn't talk to me. But when the holidays started and I had a Rabbi of all things at that time it was the Lubavitcher, Rabbi.




And uh, it took me an effort to drag him in for the holiday...


But he came.

This is...

And I introduce him to the rabbi.


Little I knew what's gonna come out of it.


And when that happened, Mr. ??? who we thought who is mute...


Started to talk marathon.


Without stopping, I says, "oh my god the needs of this man is being violated, he needs a Jewish atmosphere. He's going to live longer just to see that the Jewish chapel somewhere."


And where uh, where you have, way I got their uh, teleph1 number, 1 of the family members and they said that they are already offer a day, offer for Bormann her $5,000 uh, contributions to transfer the father there. And they got nowhere. So, I had no bragged but I was always affiliated with boards I was also auxiliary Jewish, auxiliary Jewish when the luncheon I was part of them too.


Yeah so uh, I, I says um, how long, how long there's a 5 year wait, I says how long can an 85 year old man wait.


How many 5 years does he have.

Right, right, right.

And I was talking about it and every table and a board member picked up on it.

Oh yeah?

Because I was very passionate about it.


And Mr. ??? was transferred to Bormann Hall.

He was.

He was transferred. I made a follow up visit, what, what's happening. And I said he'd been in a corner in his room have big conversations at the nursing station. And when he say me he came and greeted me. And listen what he said, I never forget, he says now I don't have to eat traife.

Wow, wow.

That was his reasons to me it didn't matter, doesn't matter what I eat. But that was his needs and his rights and this was violated to the point that he stopped talking. He got isolated, he withdrawn. And so, this was a very, very meaningful things for me.

Yeah, I'll say.

Very meaning, I made a difference in somebody's life.

Yes you did.

Yeah, that is, that is another that a...

Excuse me, this was from Bormann Hall, he was at uh, at Northville?

No, no, not the mental he was in nursing home and that time was name Williamsburg, this is a different ownership now, but is 8 Mile and Middlebelt.

It was a non-Jewish nursing home?

Non-Jewish nursing home, yeah.

Very nice.


And you said there's another story too that you, uh...

No, there is about 1 ??? story. There where I got from Lansing, which they give only 1 recognition a year. I got 1 there hanging from Lansing. Based on that, that um, they were trying there was an adult, mentally challenged person living with mother. Mother was, I call it, was killing her with love or selfishness, selfishness, or whatever. But they were living in a neighborhood somewhere in uh, in Livernois and their staff of this agency couldn't do anything to provide some volunteer help then because uh, a very undesirable neighborhood.


And they couldn't do nothing. So, I befriended 1 of them and she says Ella, see what you can do. [laughs]

Oh yeah.

So, here we go, they gave me a driver because this was a very not good and getting in to the, to the, to her um, house it is another things I have learned is that you have to find something in common...


To build trust.


So, I didn't come from school just common sense...

Yeah, just common sense, mm-hm.

Just come and sit.


So, finally the mother allowed me to come back. She locked the 50 year old daughter and she was going around everywhere on the Friday night they went to Temple Israel uh, services, which was at that time, not where it is right now. And, and uh, they wanted to transfer them to the Jewish neighborhood. And I almost succeeded, but last minute she withdraw, didn't want to move because there was no balcony in, in Oak Park. So, I says where there must be another way that Barbara is being helped, this is the daughter. And uh, so as I was going around, around, around, around, around and Barbara was threatening that she's gonna run away. I took it half faith for truth and right away I didn't offer my teleph1 number because this would be over you run away call me, I don't want to encourage her to run away. But next uh, next uh, week I says Barbara do you have my teleph1 number, she says no, I says here is my telephone number, keep it in your purse whenever you want to, call me. And what has happened is she ran away. And the only contact the police had is me.


Yeah, and she was at the Salvation Army for overnight. I also, in-between, was talking to her and a very innocent things. I put my hands on her and I said Barbara, who is signing your SSI checks?


She says I do, I said oh my god I got it made, she's her own guardian. And I got the, the form, the application for the group homes of the Jewish matter, because now here for me the family hated me...

Oh yeah.

But I didn't care that, that is Barbara's life here. And uh, and uh, I, I came when the mother wasn't home, she's never was home.


And she signed it.


So this is that order.


So, when she was in the Salvation Army, I run there, it was on a Friday afternoon, I couldn't find nobody what is happening. So I went to the Salvation Army and brought her toothbrush and the necessities there and, and truly assure her that she is not forgotten.


And uh, they took her out straight to there somewhere on Jefferson to a group home, temporarily.


And from there she came to the, to our, our area to a group home. And the family hated me. So I went underground, I stopped right there. I got what I wanted there. And Barbara Hedberg is still living in Southfield, she is writing poetry...


She's got a boyfriend.


And she is living on her own, she progressed so much that uh, they uh, there is somehow uh, after mother died, there was an inheritance and bought a house and which way ever there, there uh, there process is about at home. But she's living on her own uh, close to the agencies to give her...


Help and whatever. But this made a big, big difference in another person's life.


Yeah. [laughs]

Alright, excellent.

So this is my life and this comes out of the tragedy...


Which were just got, you know, it is just bursted out, it just had to, it was already there but it brought it out. So let's uh, positively thinking if that wouldn't have happened maybe I'm not a person I am, who knows?

Who knows? It was a pleasure to meet you, pleasure. I will uh, type all this up nicely, and like I say, this will go into the Holocaust Memorial...

Can I have a copy?

Yes you can.

Because I want to share it with my daughter.

Yeah, and I also, we made a videotape of this. And if you want, I can make you a copy of the videotape too.

Yeah, yeah, I, I would like it because my daughter would like it. I would give it uh, to her.

Very nice.

Yeah so uh, right now what I, what I am going to look for when, when is all that gonna be?


In its place?

I would say uh, let's see this is, um... 1

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