Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Noemi Engel Ebenstein - July 22, 1996

Mother's Separation from Father

That was just a couple months before she was, so it's seven months pregnant maybe?

About, yeah, six, seven months pregnant. And I, I don't want to go into, I'm, you see, it's interesting now, all the stories are coming to life. Her stories and the stories she told me in the interview when I interviewed her in 1984 about how, um, she was talking to her dead father in her mind about this unborn child and she was saying to him, "If you want this grandchild to live, you have to put in a good word for me up there so I survive this." Um, she got to the railway station and she found chaotic conditions there. Uh, she was asking, and here they see this woman, you know, running with a big belly. Um, anyway, she got on the train and she found herself with the whole, uh, symphony orchestra of Budapest that was visiting Yugoslavia, you know, on a concert tour. And they were trying to get back as well. And she described in a very, uh, colorful fashion how the camaraderie developed between her and the musicians, and, uh, her sister-in-law, my aunt was a, was an opera singer, so, the family was musical. So, um, anyway, then she, she asked, "Where is this train going?" And I want to talk about that for a minute because I think that it's relevant to our survive, survival. She was telling me how she had to make quick calculations and very quick decisions. She had to think on her feet. So she asked, "Where is this train going?" So they said "Osijek." Now she figured, Osijek was apparently in Croatia. She thought the Croatians were with the Germans. And amongst Jews they were known to be anti-Semitic. And politically they were aligned with the Germans. So she was figuring if that train was going to Osijek, she is not going to Osijek. So she got off the, she rolled off the train and then she went on another train. Uh, make a long story short, she did catch a train that went to Subotica. Actually to Petrovo Selo. Now Petrovo Selo is a big village near Subotica. That's where my paternal grandmother came from. That's where her family of origin lived, in Petrovo Selo. And my mother got there. Um, she stayed, she told me how she slept every night somewhere else because there were many refugees from, uh, Yugoslavia, from Belgrade. And the Germans came in and took away the refugees. So....

In Petrovo Selo?

In Petrovo Selo. So every night she slept at some other relative's home. Um, I have here another story, I don't know whether to tell about.

What's the story?

Um, my mother had this belief that whenever she was in trouble she would, uh, uh, promise, uh, how shall I say, give, to give tzedaka, to give, uh, charity, to a charity box was Rabbi Meir Baal Ha-nes. This is Rabbi Meir, the miracle worker. And, um, she was staying at this aunt and uncle's home, my aunt, my father's aunt and uncle. Uncle Bernard, who was the agricultural expert, and, and Rosika, his wife who my grandmother's younger sister. And this Uncle Bernard really loved my mother. Here were two worlds. You know he was very, very firm and he was really more like the peasants. Here is this lady from Budapest, you know, who can quote, uh, Hungarian poetry, who, who, who's very, a woman of the world. But they, they hit it off. They had chemistry. And, so my mother told him about this deal that she was with Rabbi Meir Baal Ha-nes. So, uh, so Uncle Bernard said to her, "So Lily,"--my mother's name--"Lily, why don't you promise something? Give Rabbi Meir, the, Rabbi Meir something?" So she said, "You know what Uncle Bernard? If, um, Gezell"--my, her, my father--"comes back by 8 o'clock tonight, then I'll give this, uh, hundred dollar bill that I have," --or, I don't know, maybe it was a gold coin, I don't know what it was. "Okay, it's a deal!" So she tells the story how quarter to 8 in the evening and Uncle Bernard looks at her and he says, "Lily, I think Rabbi Meir is going to disappoint you this time." So my mother said, "Uncle Bernard, not so fast, we have 15 minutes to go." At five to 8 there was a knock on the door and my mother heard my father's voice. Uh, "Uncle Bernard, Aunt Rosika, is..." she told the story, "is mama here," his mother. He tells the story, "Is Lily here." But anyway he showed up. How Rabbi Meir came through for my mother. My mother was a woman of great faith. She was not a very observant, uh, religious woman in the traditional sense of Judaism of, of doing everything. She didn't do everything. But she really had faith and she had a faith and, and total conviction that she would survive. And that was her driving force. She was convinced. Not only that, but she said, "I want to come back and tell the world. Furthermore I want the children to survive so they can tell the world what happened here." And that kept her going, I believe.

Now when this, this happened when your father came back from the war?

Yes. No this is not from, you mean what I just told now?


This is when the Yugoslav army was disbanded, fell apart.

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