Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Noemi Engel Ebenstein - July 22, 1996

Deportation to Strasshof

You were in a box car?


Your grandmother and your mother?

No. I skipped a whole big part. In the ghetto--let me drink some. I'm looking for a tissue here. Um, they established old age homes, nurseries, children's homes. And my mother was in a dilemma. My grandmother was quite sick. And really disabled and helpless. So she could, she had to put her, my grandmother in an old age home, like a nursing home. And she was debating whether to volunteer as a nurse or as a helper in the old age home and put us in a children's home. Or to put her mother there and stay with us as a family. And at first she wanted to put, um, to put my mother, uh, to put her mother there and also go as a, as a helper. And my brother, who was at the time nine years old, no.

Twelve years old?

Twelve years old. Same mistake. He said to my mother that she had no right to do that. That grandmother was old and sick and she had a long life behind her and she was going to die. And we were young. And that, he said about himself, "And I wanted, I want to live life too. I want a life and experiences. And if you go and volunteer there we are going to lose you. And your obligation and loyalty is to us." And she listened to him. And that's why I'm here to tell the story. Um, so that's what happened. Now the old age home, the nursery, the children's home, all of those institutions were put on one side of the train. And all the rest were put on the other side of the train. We were in the train I don't know how long. But there was at one point that we, the train stood still for 24 hours. And the train was divided. Half went one direction and another went another direction. And the old age home, the nursery and all that, they went to Auschwitz. That we found out later. And we went to labor camp. Now on this side of the train there were many families. We were not the only ones. And the selection process was not done like in Poland. They did not have time. This was 1944. Um, so everybody, and, and you probably know the details, the objective details, much more than I do, but we just all landed in one big selection camp.

Now on this trip, how old were you then?

Three years old.


Just three years old. I, it was a debate. My mother and I couldn't figure out when my birthday was. Whether it was in the ghetto or whether it was in Strasshof. Um, but somebody gave me some, she, she always told the story how I was given a little, um, can of chopped liver, of... Everybody gave me some food item for my birthday. And that I used to call those food items, "birthday," you know, when I was little because I did not know what they were. Um, and when I was interviewing my mother she, we were, we were trying to figure out, was my birthday July 2, was it in the ghetto or was it in Strasshof? I think it was in Strasshof actually. Because I think we were, we were deported in May. I mean, that's, I don't know the historical accuracy of any of this. Um, so I was three years old. Just turned three years old. Um, so...

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn