Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Noemi Engel Ebenstein - July 22, 1996

Arrest of Father

And your father, was he also arrested?

Yes, my father was sentenced to a year and a half hard labor.

For trying to emigrate to Palestine?

Palestine. And actually it was the, the official, you know when, in the sentencing it said, "Illegal emigration to Palestine," so they were not regular criminals or anything. In fact, when the Soviet bloc, um, voted for the creation of the State of Israel in the United Nations, after that, my mother was already, uh, released from prison, she started going from ministry to ministry to get, uh, the, the acquittal or the release, early release of my father, which was successful. He was released and we left Yugoslavia on the second legal boat going to Israel. My mother told the story how she went to these different, uh, offices and talked to these officials and said, "You were fighting for your freedom as partisans in Yugoslavia. Now let me go and I want to fight for my own country." So, oh she was an ardent Zionist, she had a lot of fire in her and...

Do you remember the vote?

Yes. I don't know why I cry more when there were good things. But that's a psychologically, that's a known phenomenon. My father was, I think, in prison, yes, and my mother was sitting in this room. We had an awful apartment. Post-war. We were sitting around this old Telefunken, radio, you know, those old radios. I remember my mother being here and I remember myself, I, I know there were other people, I don't know who. And we were counting as the vote was going on. And then it was unbelievable. Now that I think back of what we went through and suddenly you hear the United Nations voting to have a country for Jews, I, I don't think that today we can really grasp the meaning of it. It was just something that, that people in their wildest dreams in the camps could not fathom or imagine. Today we take all these things for granted. But then it was something else.

You, your parents were determined to go?

Yes, very much so. My mother more than my father, I think, but both of them were really determined to go to, first to Palestine and then to Israel.

Do you think the vote helped get your Father out of prison?

Oh definitely. Definitely. Because basically the communist countries vo...voted togeth...along with the Soviet Union for the establishment of the State of Israel and, uh, you know. They really, uh, were after people who were trying to smuggle, uh, money out and jewelry or whatever. But, um, those who were caught were beaten to death. One relative of mine was, in a communist prison. But the others, by and large, were let go. And, and my father was not an exception. There were quite a few who, who actually came from prison straight to the boat. My father did not came, come from the, uh, prison to the boat. Uh, there was a time that he stayed with us. I remember when he came back. They released him, uh, unexpectedly. We did not know. And it was a summer night. So this was like, uh, maybe five, six months before we went. Uh, and the window was open to the street, the window of the bedroom. And, uh, he climbed in through the window. And my mother woke up startled and she said, "Who is it?" and he said, "So who can it be?" Uh, so and right then and there we started, uh, preparing for departure. And, in fact, we took our furniture, we took things with us.

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