Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Fred Ferber - September 11 & 25, 2001

Life in Germany

So this priest was trying to convert you, actively trying to convert you?

I was going to school. I was taking--no one in that school knew that I was Jewish. There was about forty, thirty children in this particular class, and eh, I, I took the Christian religion, I was getting good grades. But then came to the point that everyone has to go through a communion. And, and that was already too much for me. I didn't want to go through the communion. Uh, besides I didn't know how to behave in a church uh, properly. So, I, I had many concerns, so I finally told the priest who was teaching us religion, I told him the truth, that I'm Jewish and I don't want anyone else to know. He didn't tell anyone else, but everyday after the school. Just about every day after the school, he walked me home, it was about a fifteen minute walk. And befriended me and yet he begin to eh, to explain to me the benefits of being a Christian and laying the pressure on me more and more. And eh, at one point the family decided that eh, we were not safe there anymore and eh, that's why we joined the, the group in, in Krakow to, to leave Poland.

What, what were your feelings when you taken in by a German in Bavaria?

That was three years after the war. We were, we were concerned. We were concerned. We were worried. 'Cause he may have had guns in his, in, in, in his home. Eh, it was, it was in a village like. Eh, but you know it was nine of us and we had no choice because after you travel for eh, ten hours at night eh, through eh, through snow uh, and, and then we thought, it's after the war he wouldn't dare to do anything wrong, eh.

But just hearing German, wouldn't that...

Well German was not uncommon to us. We knew everybody there is German. When we knocked on the door we knew it must be a German. But it was quiet. There was no one in the home. We took it for granted there is no army, you know, in, in this particular home. Eh, so uh, it was nine of us.

So you, you, you were in Bavaria for how long?

Oh Bavaria I was uh, really the whole of 1948. No, let me know just see. I, I, I'm making mistake over here. Forgive me. I'm making some--I'm making mistakes. I'm making mistakes. It is 1947, in January that I came to Stuttgart. Just a moment. Eh, we, we eh, traveled, we traveled eh, from Poland, we ran away January, 1946. We actually left Sopot in December 1945, but we stayed in Krakow for a few days and we didn't travel 'til 1946 to Germany, to Bayern, to Tirschenreuth. And that's where I stayed a whole year. Had plenty of private lessons over there. Eh, some from a Polish professor. There was a priest eh, who was teaching school before the war. And also my cousin was getting private lessons, but I was getting so much more of it, of it eh, just about daily And then we moved to Stuttgart nine...like January 1947, because I wanted to start the school in Eslingen. There was a Polytechnische Hochschule.

What were you living on?

We lived the... In Tishenroit we were getting food from eh, HIAS, the American organization eh, supported the Jewish people. It was like a camp, even though it was not a camp. We all lived in separate homes, eh. We were supported by the...

It was HIAS.

I believe it was HIAS, I, I, I don't know.

Hebrew International Aid Society.

Possibly. One of those eh, organizations.

The Joint maybe?

Maybe joint, maybe joint together with HIAS. And eh, also when we came to, to Stuttgart, we also were supported by the similar type of organization.

So you were in Stuttgart, then you went to...

It--let, let me say something. Eh, the DP camps--eh, let's, let's put it that way -- it was no pride to be living in a DP camp, you know. Supposedly we won the war, supposedly we were the free people. But yet, it was very hard for the Jewish people to get dispersed because the Americans, the English, they kept us together. There was no--they, nobody, so to speak, raised their hand, was willing to take us in at that time. Eh, people were willing to go to Israel in, in great groups. But, but Israel, the English again wouldn't allow people to, to go to Israel. I will tell you a little story what happened to me after the war while I was still in Tirschenreuth. My mother wanted to send me out in the worse way, out of the country. Because they always talked about another war, there was a Cold War beginning. And my mother thought if, whoever can leave first, I should leave and then she will follow me. So I was sent to a camp near Weiden in Germany, it's also Bayern. And there was a camp of Jewish children, mostly youth, who were eh, willing and eager to immigrate to Israel. And we got our training over there. We were trained to talk Hebrew, we were trained on how to eh, how to ride eh, farm equipment, how to deal with farm equipment. And, and, and I'll tell you what it was, eh. In, in the morning, in, in, the eh, let me say the uh, the Rooakh, the other word for it is the...


The spirit was such a great spirit over there. The, the children and the people, they were all in their twenties mostly. Eh, such a great spirit and willingness to, to go to Israel. In the morning everybody, at breakfast time, every one was singing the, the Israeli songs. At lunchtime, singing Israeli songs. In the evening, singing the Israeli songs and other songs. And we heard that pretty soon there will, there will be a transport. And eh, we will go through Italy, we were trained, how we're going to go. We go through to all illegal immigration. So we knew we may have to be quiet the places where we go through and we may be going on, on ships which eh, eh, are not com...completely legal. We may, we will not be able to get to Israel. So we were trained through all that. What happened really, after a week or two or three weeks actually eh, I felt that I'm wasting time. The reason for the word wasting is because I didn't have my teacher over there. I, I di...I didn't learn anymore English. I didn't learn eh, my, my mathematics. I, I, there was, I, I felt I was losing time. The time was great, we had a good time. But I, I was of the mentality that I have to continue going to school. My mother kind of eh, eh, expressed it to me in so many different ways and so many different times. So it was ingrai...ingrained in me. So, so I felt I was losing time and the truth, the truth is that one, one day eh, came a truck with milk or whatever else. I, I--on the way out, I hid on the, I, I got, I got on the truck and I left the camp with this truck eh, legally or illegally and I went back to Tishenroit. They eh, everybody was surprised to see me back, but I expressed to them. I, I missed everyone, number one. Number two I didn't know how much longer or when the immigration will, will, will, will start, so I wanted to be back with my people. So the truth is that after we moved to Stuttgart and I went to this particular school, the second semester, once again I had a lot of help. Eh, I, I was very good in science at that time. By science meaning eh, physics eh, mathematics eh, chemistry and other things like that. Eh, at one point my mother dec...told me that she would like me to go back to Israel-- to uh, to America. She would like to send me to America. Of course it was eh, at first eh, it, it was eh, something I, I couldn't even understand why she was asking me to leave. We just got together. I mean, we been just year and a half together. And we, we haven't seen each other for quite, for pretty near eh, two years because she went to one type of concentration camps and I went to a different type. So we, I wasn't going to eh, eh, to part again. But she was insisting on me going to the United States and going under the quota. I wasn't seventeen yet. I had an opportunity to go because children under seventeen had special rights. And especially children under seventeen who didn't have mothers or fathers. So the thing was that I had to make believe eh, in order to go--and I finally ag...agreed with my mother that I will go, eh. So we had to uh, uh, register in a way that my mother was really my aunt. That she was not my mother. We, we had to uh, make believe that she is uh, my mother's sister who's taking care of me. Otherwise I, I could not come to the United States, eh. And as...s...so I did get my papers. I did come to the United States under this particular quota. And eh, I ended up in San Francisco. And the reason I ended up in San Francisco 'cause when I came to New York and I expressed to the social worker that I really don't want to be sent away together with all the other children. Because all the other children, I mean, they, they knew how to play soccer and they were a good uh--they, they knew how to hustle, how to be eh, streetwise. And I spent all the time in school surrounded in being eh, eh, eh, en...en...enjoying so to speak eh, the word was organizing things. Organizing meaning. Organize...


...food and, and clothing in order. It was not really stealing. Organizing in concentration camp was stealing, to organize things. But eh, eh, after the war it was more like eh, trying to get clothing and food and things eh, that we needed for everyday. I really didn't hustle too much during all this, during the two years after the war.

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