Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Barbara Schechter Cohen - May 1, 2002


That's probably best. [laughs] So tell me about Brooklyn.

Um, I remember we lived in uh, Williamsburg on the fifth floor. No elevators. I remember my mother being pregnant and uh, she sending me uh, to the store to get milk on credit. Uh, she says, "You know, you look like Shirley Temple. They'll give it to you." 'Cause I had these big curls. And uh, so uh, I remember her struggling up and down the stairs and us being poor. Um, and uh, I remember my dad's sister living with us for awhile. Because she came on the boat with us. O...one of the sisters.

One of the sisters, yeah, uh-huh. Because the other two sisters went to Israel. One went to Sweden. And one came later, much later.

To the States.

To the States. Mm hm.

So were these the teeming streets of, of Brooklyn--Jewish Brooklyn? I mean, Williamsburg, there must have been a lot of Jews there.


A lot of survivors.

Yeah. I remember being part of the greeners, being part of this group that my parents met very often.

All survivors.

All survivors. On Sundays and uh, they, they couldn't stop talking about me. "Oh your Basha, your Basha!" You know.

Your name was Basha.


That's why your e-mail is what it is. Um, did they talk about it at home when you were a child? Do you remember that?

They, they talked about it a lot. Um, to the point like um, like I felt like saying enough already. Enough, you know.


Details, detail.

Was it the kind of thing where they were trying to tell each other what they had each experienced or was it just repetitious of uh, what...

Well uh, you know uh, they certainly were very brave, how, how brave they, they were, you know. And um, um, you know, how, im...important it was for me to, to succeed and, and that I should be good. And they put me on this pedestal and if I wasn't that good I had came crashing down.

And, and were they extremely protective do you think?

Extremely. They had...

They were really worried about you.

Very worried and uh, um, they had a lot of fears. You know, close the window uh, you know, close the windows, don't leave the doors open. Um, you're not dressed warm enough. You know, I had layers of clothes and I still wasn't dressed warm enough. Um, uh, my mother complained that nobody really understood her. Because when she did try talking about the Holocaust to other people--to Americans um, it was like they didn't want to really hear that much.

And they both had the same experience with that. Your father too?

Um, my, my father was a lot more outgoing than, than, than my mother was. And he um, you know, he didn't really care to talk about it that much to other people.

So when they would tell you these stories, how would you react to them? Do you remember? Did you finally say, I don't want to hear this anymore?

No, I, I, I don't, I don't think I did. I think I got to that point when I got married and I had my own children and they talked to them a lot about it. And uh, my husband wasn't too eager to hear about it. And he was the one that said, enough already. And in fact uh, that, that caused a lot of conflict between us, my husband and I. Because I was the only one that could say enough already, not him.

And what did your children do? How did they react?

Oy, they said enough already! [laughs]

[laughs] They said--not to you, but to their grandparents.

To their grandparents and to me. Because I was getting uh, maybe I was getting a little obsessive with whatever came on television. You gotta watch this, you know, you've gotta read this. And, and then it ca...dawned on me that you know, maybe I'm doing to them what my parents are doing to me and maybe that's enough.

Which was what?

When they were teenagers.

But what were they doing to you?

Um, they were being very sarcastic, I felt and rude. Maybe I was being uh, oversensitive. You know, like I've had enough mom, I, I--you know, I can't remember the words but I remember it was very hurtful.

You think is a consequence of the war, that they were behaving this way?

A consequence of...

Of their experiences during the war, during the Holocaust?

My parents?

Yeah. Is that what made them so bitter? If they were bitter. Sarcastic.

Oh no, I, I mean my, my children were sarcastic.

Your children.

My children were being sarcastic.

But what did it do to you as a teenager to hear all this say? Did you have nightmares?

I think I did. I did have nightmares.

Did your parents have nightmares?

They had nightmares also.

And would you hear them in the night? Did they tell you about them?

Um, well, later--I just have to stop because I'm going to cry. [pause] I need a break.

Okay, okay.

[interruption in interview]

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