Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Fred Ferber - September 11 & 25, 2001

Orphanage in San Francisco

Did you think of a barrack?


The cottages, did they...

Not at all, no, no. These cottages were, eh... Let's put it that way. First there were cottages. Then we had a field where we could go and play basketball. A huge amount of field. Thirdly, we had our own gymnasium. Fourthly, we uh, there was an old truck, a 1928 or whatever uh, uh, Model A Ford, which, uh. There was some work to be done some time and this particular fellow who was, who was bringing the food and was bringing the clothing, he kind of taught us a little bit how to drive that truck. And after awhile we each drove the truck ourselves. Eh, we got clothing. We were given clothing and were all sent to regular public schools. And so, it, it--and actually for all the clothing and the food there was really no one to say thank you to.

Did you speak English?

You spoke only English. There was just no other way.

So you were able to speak English?

I spoke a little English, yes. I learned throughout eh, in eh, I, I learned in eh, eh, eh, in Germany. And all I can tell you that when I went to Lincoln High School over there, which was the high school that was closest to the Homewood Terrace. I took--I went to twelfth grade. I'll tell you that. I went to 12th grade with as little English as I knew, I went to twelfth grade. I took eh, history. I took eh, what's that English eh, Macbeth and all this litera...

English literature.

English literature. I didn't know what I was asking for because I never went to American school before. And I took German eh, and some other things and all I can tell you, all I can tell you, everybody thought that I'm a total idiot. I can--I will never make it, eh. But I did well, eh. So back to, back to the Homewood Terrace. It was a fabulous place to live.

How about your mother?

And eh, I, I, within very short length of time, I became the big boy of Cottage 21, eh.

It was Cottage 21?

Cottage 21.

You didn't think of the barrack?



It was Cottage 21. Uh, and I became the big boy, Mrs. Strauss began to rely on me. So when we came to wash dishes I was the one in charge to wash dishes. I was in charge of the boys' group to make sure that the beds are done. And eh, it's, it's, it's eh, kind of important, responsible position.

Were you in touch with your mother at all?

I was always in touch with my mother. I still have the letters today, which is fifty, sixty years later. Eh, I was in touch with my mother, but in, in the letters I never wrote to her as to my mother, I never spoke to her as of my mother. I always wrote to her as my aunt. Uh, as a matter of fact, Mr.--FBI came in to--see, I don't remember who came to talk to me about, about my aunt. Somehow they uh, they, they, they thought that maybe my aunt is my mother, for whatever reason. They came to talk to me and Mr. Bonaparte told me, "Fred don't worry, you're in America, don't worry, you can tell them the truth." Of course, his "don't worry," eh, eh, eh, he, he did not know eh, what I had to worry about and I was concerned. I didn't want to be sent back. Eh, so of, so of course, she was forever my aunt eh, at that time. Eh, also, while I was, while I was at Homewood Terrace, we used to get paid, whoever wanted to cut lawn and do some other things eh, in, in spare time. Eh, we, we used to get paid thirty-five cents an hour for cutting lawn. So I want you to know I did cut my lawn, cut all kinds of lawns over there. And for the thirty-five cents an hour, you know, for uh, I, every, every month or month and a half I accumulated--I don't know, three, five dollars, it, there was a lot of money. And I sent a package to my mother with coffee in it, etc. Because she had no way of, of, of, of, eh, she didn't do so very well in Stuttgart. So I sent packages with coffee. And whatever I spent on coffee, of course, she got it back tenfold in Germany because if I spent eh, eh, thirty eh, let's say thirty cents a pound at that time, whatever it was, she could get two, three dollars a pound.

She was selling it on the black market.

So she was selling on the market and, and she had something live on, uh. In, just to tell you about how I was doing in the grade twelve eh, in Sa...in San Francisco there was for the twelfth grade citywide they had a contest advertisings contribution to better living, advertising contribution to better living. It was a citywide eh, contest. And I want you to know that I spent eh, was at least 2,000 words. And I spent tremendous amount of time looking through books, through libraries, whatever time I had, because there was I, I spent time through one, two o'clock at night every night eh, because learning was not easy for me. It was all in English. And uh, I, spelling wasn't easy for me, even though I became a good speller. Because a lot of big words, like eh, constitution or uh, or--lot of these words have Latin background, which we used in, in, in Poland, constituts...constitution, in, in German it's the same thing. So for me a lot of these words were eh, I, I, became very easy to spell. But nevertheless eh, on this particular contest, I spent, as I stated, I spent a lot of time in the libraries and all over. And I plagiarized a little bit, you know, I mean, I didn't invent everything. But I wrote everything from scratch in my own words. By plagiarizing means I, I learned ideas about advertising. The end of the story is that I was number three winner in San Francisco. The school got--was so proud of me. I, I became a star pretty near. The school was proud of me eh, because all of a sudden they had a winner, you know. And so I was in the, in the newspapers. And I still have it, I still have the, the essay and eh, eh, the, the school clip, and the, and the newspaper clippings, I, I still have it with me. Eh, I want to tell you one more thing about this particular eh, what happened in San Francisco.

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