Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Fred Ferber - September 11 & 25, 2001

Relations with non-Jews

At Passover, what happened in your town?

The church leaders--see there so easy to make peace in the world. Even today. If the, if the Vatican would just send a little letter to, to all these priests in Poland and all, and all over the world let's say all the, all the Eastern Europe. Say, you know, lay off that, that baloney, the bullshit about, about Jesus killed by Jews. Lay off the bullshit about the blood, the blood eh, eh, eh what's the word, eh...


Libel, the blood libel that the people--Jewish people don't, don't eat any blood in their meat, or...That, that's totally abhorrent to the Jewish people, opposite to what they're allowed to do. If they would send a little letter they would stop. But even today, in all these villages in Poland, they're learning slowly. But even today the priests in those villages is the closest man to God. If he puts his uniform on or his whatever he puts on, they kiss his hands, they kiss his feet. Today! You go to Poland today to the small villages, you don't. Pre-war was much worse. When their priest or eh, authority, religious authority expressed something, he was God. He, people were like in, in, in uh, Middle Ages. And, and to them the priest was the closest thing to God or whatever he expressed was, was nothing but the truth. So, the priest said things against the Jewish people. The Polish people believed, you can't hold it against them. They had no other point of view.

And Easter?

At not only Easter, but it was what happened at Easter, the Jewish people always had to be very, very careful, especially the small villages. Because the two things happened. You know this New Years there's such a thing as Three Kings. I don't know if you, Three Kings.


The people sing, call it kolende, stuff like White Christmas. They sing certain, sing certain songs and they went from house to house to sing songs. And eh, when they came to sing at our house, and we're Jewish, we're Jewish, we're not Catholic. But they came to sing at our house. You better be prepared to give them something or possibly end up with a chance of being beat up. Now they knew which Jewish homes are. So when they went to sing the kolende. What you call? The carols. Like Christmas carols, they knew that they're not singing Christmas carols to Christians.

It was blackmail.

There was fear. Blackmail. Life was very hard. Extremely hard. And even though we had--were well off. My father had all the--we had food, we, we could afford more things. But being Jewish was not easy.

It never is.

You know, even after the war, I want to tell you a little story I got few of them. But one story what happened in Detroit. I was already, it was 1949 Christmas. My mother and I separated after the war. I went to America alone, it's a whole story. I went to San Francisco to an orphanage. My mother came to America 1949, two years after I did. I already was a year and a half in City College of San Francisco, two summer sessions. I have to tell you how I got to, to school that fast. Eh, I came to Detroit, no more orphanage, no bread, no butter, no money. I came because my mother was here. At that time was once again stupid. I could have brought my mother to, to San Francisco where the orphanage was. It was a rich orphanage, she would have done extremely well over there. I thought maybe it would be too hard for her. Over here in Detroit she was with her brother. So I left the orphanage and I came and there was nothing for me. No school, signed to go to Wayne. Uh, they discredited number of courses of mine. Jobs were hard to get because Dodge men was on strike, it was 1949. I had quite a number of jobs, I worked, worked for Currents Department store, the fur department. I worked for Gratiot Auto Supply. Eh, it's a nice story over there, but not for now. Then I got the job for Christmas. I was fired from Gratiot Auto Supply eh, because I voted with the people for a union because the bosses were awfully harsh on, on, on the employees, awfully harsh. Eh, anyhow so I got the job with the Goodfellows, which we still have it in Detroit every year.

The newspaper?

The Goodfellows newspapers, right. And I got the position downtown Detroit of giving shoes to poor people to, to try, to try 'em on, on whoever--the poor people they already had tickets and now we had to make sure that the shoe, shoe fits. I was working with a Christian fellow my age. A grand, good fellow uh, good state of mind, easy to talk to. Eh, also was going to school already, to, to, to Wayne or wherever he was going. We made friends. And one time he asked me: then what is the difference between the Jews and us Christian? What's the difference? He asked me that question. He was a devoted Christian. Being Jewish...

I can't wait to hear your answer.

...being Jewish I was very careful, being Jewish, coming from the camps from Germany, I knew that I'm in trouble. But he wanted to know. So I put it very simply, I put it, you know, there's really no difference, I said to him, there's really no difference. I tell you what the difference is. I said, we both believe in the same God. We all believe in the Old Testament. But you also believe in Jesus Christ, who is the son of the God. And we don't believe in Jesus Christ. That's, that's the only difference. Left it that, okay? Next day, early afternoon, a policeman comes in, tall fellow in a moment I'll tell you who he was-- six point, six four, whatever, in eh, high shoes. He's looking for me, okay. Please point to Fred Ferber, I said, "I am Fred Ferber." I didn't know what he want but I, I had a high respect for eh, police.


Right, you know, fear, call it respect. Eh, so he tells me "I'm Fred Ferber, yes." He says, "Did you talk to my son yesterday?" "Yeah, we talked." What he does--he picks me, he puts his hand on my shirt, squeezes my shirt and picks me up against the wall and kind of pins me against the wall holding on to my shirt, he picked me up with my shirt front. And says to me, "If you talk to my son once again," he says to me, "I beat the hell out of you." I said, "You leave him alone. Don't ever talk to him." Hit me against the wall a little bit, kind of push me against the wall, drop me down, he left me. Now, I've seen this man later a number of times. He was the policeman on a horse in Grand Circus Park in Detroit. He was, he was for years after, he was still in Grand Circus Park. I've seen him there because at that time we all lived closer to Detroit. We visited very often. There was Hudson's there, Currents and everybody else. So that was not a pleasant experience. Eh, the question is he had a closed mind like many other people. Once again, that's what he was taught. He didn't know any better.

You want me stop?

Let, let me tell you something Sidney Bolkosky, for great number of years, you know, I believe in Jewish causes. I believe in the Christian morality and all, all the religions, all religions serve a purpose. They all preach morality which is the beautiful thing of it. It's just that also when, when they get, when they get uh, what's the word, uh...when they become Orthodox, what's the other word? Not...

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn