Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Noemi Engel Ebenstein - July 22, 1996

Talking about Experiences

Did you tell them the stories that your mother told you? Did you tell them about your experiences during the War, your own children?

Um, I told them some stories, but I did not have it in an organized fashion until I interviewed my mother. But see it was my daughter's idea to interview my mother. She was the one who was putting pressure on me. So somehow she got the idea. And when I finally, when my child number three, my second daughter was going on "March of the Living" in Poland, that's when I transcribed the tapes and translated them, written, uh, written it out, what I had here, and made copies for each one of my children and they told me that the moment they got it they read it. They kind of like read the whole thing in one sitting. Um, it's very much part of their legacy. In fact, my most cynical child is my youngest and he's the one who made the connection between you and me. When he went to Washington and you came to speak to, to this, uh, youth group, um, I don't know, I think he was about 15 or 16, he approached you and told you. And I would have never guessed that of all my kids he would take it upon himself. And then when he came back from Washington he brought me the forms to sign up as a survivor. Um, in 1985--I don't know whether you want me to talk about that a little bit um, I decided to go to Europe. Take my whole family. It was a costly trip. It was very important to me. We rented a car, a van, a very bad one. They gave us a jalopy. Uh, and my oldest was 17, it was 17, 15, 10 and 7. My baby, my Avi, the one who contacted, who talked to you, was only 7 years old. We rented this van and we drove from Holland through Germany to Czechoslovakia to Hungary to Austria, uh, and back. You know, like we made, in fact, I brought a map of how the, this whole tour took place. And, of course, you cannot see anything in depth. But the kids remember that trip vividly. Uh, it really whetted their appetite. Not just in terms of the Jewish aspect and the survivor aspect, which I will talk about in a minute. But culturally I wanted them to be exposed. On some level I'm, I, I have the European background. And I wanted them to be exposed to it. Anyway, when we entered Germany, second day, we arrived in Holland Friday so we spent Shabbat in Amsterdam. And we rented the van Sunday morning and we started driving. And you know how, how big Holland is. It didn't take much, much time, I think in an hour or two we were in Germany. Uh, the moment we entered German soil I became anxious and I was, I was afraid. I was regressed. And we spoke all day long about the Holocaust. Then we got to this hotel. I said to my husband, with my own prejudiced, I said to him, "You'll see it will be very clean." And sure enough. It was in a small town. Uh, and we did not, they had, this was like an inn, you know, and, kind of, almost like a country inn. Bed and breakfast. So we had to take three rooms. So my husband and I in one room, the two boys in one room and the two girls in one room. And at night I had nightmares all night. I, I, my, I was very restless. In the morning, Dani my older son comes in that Avi my younger son couldn't fall asleep. He kept on saying to his brother, "What if the Germans change their mind?" Because we said when he got all scared, we said, "No, this is peaceful times and so on and so forth, this was a long time ago." Um, he had a hard time falling asleep, and I thought, like, "Oh my God, I traumatized my child," you know. But he was scared to be in Germany. He picked up my fears. Um, the interesting thing about that trip was that we went to Theresienstadt in, in Czechoslovakia. And then after Hungary, it was very interesting in Hungary because I went back to where my mother's apartment was. We went to the Orthodox shul, um, where my grandfather had a, a life seat. I don't know how it's called when you buy a seat that is for you. Um, we saw, you know, in the courtyard of the Orthodox shul there is a frame of a chuppa and that's where my mother got married the first time. And then I called my parents from Budapest to Israel and I told them. It's interesting, my mother didn't want us to go to Budapest. She said, "I never ever want to go back there, ever." And I said to her, "But I want to go back there because for me it's associated with you." Um, anyway, when we got to Austria, I wanted to go to Mauthausen. See I did not know that Moosbierbaum was near Mauthausen. And you have to take the exit off Linz, I think. Is that correct?


My husband always drives and I navigate. Be it in Europe, be it in the United States and we are avid travelers and we go camping. By and large I navigate. We missed the exit, and I said, "Oh my God, I did not pay attention." So my husband, this was already awhile, you know, I mean we passed Linz exit. So we were debating should we go back. And then my husband said, "You wanted to miss it. You had enough." So we did not go back to Mauthausen. Anyway...

Let me ask you one more thing. It sounds like there are associations that you make regularly.


Whether it's trains or barbed wire or...


You mentioned this being part of your children's legacy.


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