Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Fred Ferber - September 11 & 25, 2001

Reactions to Holocaust

Were there things that would touch off or trigger a memory, a recollection? For example, there's one person used to go to work on the Southfield Expressway and go by the Old Farmer Jack plant that had three chimneys there. And everyday he went by there and he was immediately back in front of the chimneys in Auschwitz. He couldn't take that road without re-experiencing it every day. Were there things like that that happened to you?

I tell you eh, I, I, I don't remember. I, I know many times my memory reached back to my brother, to my father. But I could not cry. I could not cry. Today I can cry easily. I could not cry at that time. I remember this well that I, that I could, I could not cry, no matter what was happening. But I cried easily when I was happy. When there was laughter in the room, I had tears coming down. I was as happy as one can be. But tragedies, thinking about the past time would, would not eh, would not cause any tears to go down, eh.

Why do you suppose? How did you handle some...something bad that happened?

You mean during that time?


You, you just handle it. You, you're uh, you do what one has to do. The reality that eh, [pause]. I don't know, I tell you uh, there was a lot of questions, there was a question of religion I'd say. You know, a lot of people uh, became religious right after the war and, eh. In concentration camp, tremendous amount of people, a lot of people uh, couldn't understand why God allows things like that to happen. Is there, is there a God at all, is there someone like a God? Because the atrocities were eh, eh, done on people who, or children who had no fault or no sins.

Did you think about this then?

We, of course. We all did. We all did--where is God? Eh, the--nevertheless, we do need religion because--I'm saying it now--because when people were dying eh, the last words were still, eh...

The Shma.

They were saying the Shma Yisrael, yes, the Jewish prayer eh, to God.

But did you question God at that point, that He even existed?

I tell you, I questioned God then and I do now. I accept religions. Religion is a source of morality. But that does not mean that the people who believe in nature are not moral. I'm part of the Jewish society, organizations. Uh, I go to the synagogues. I, I, I teach my children, I taught my children eh, morality and, and understanding. But, but I, I questioned God then and I question now. You know, when once upon the time I, I was a president of the synagogue and the rabbi asked me to do something for him. He says that God will, and He expressed to me that it's such a need for it and that God will remember me, and, and... And I told him, "Rabbi, you're picking, you're talking to the wrong guy," I said, I said. "You're talking totally to the wrong fellow." I said, "Don't bring God into this formula," I said. Eh, I said, "There's no reason for it. If there are good reasons to do some good or to do, to make some effort on someone's behalf," I said, "I will do it. But, but where I come from," and I expressed it to him eh, eh, "there's no, where I come from there's no, really no reason to bring God into the picture because I'm not so sure if, if, if I will do it just for God. I'll do it for you, I'll do it if there's a need, but, eh."

There's a famous Jewish scholar who said that Judaism was the only religion you could be a part of and still be an atheist.

I heard that expression. I heard that expression.

A number of survivors that I know feel that way.

I, t...tell you, the beautiful thing about religion or any religion, you've got the ten commandments. I mean there's nothing more wonderful in the world. You've got the ten commandments, okay. I, I don't care whether God sent them down or people brought them down. Eh, there were Jewish people at that time who put it together, I, I don't care how. And there's a set of laws eh, the, the books that the, that the re-, that the peoples, that the religious people study. Eh, there's so many, so worthwhile to study it because it expresses so much about eh, understanding of the human nature, understanding other human beings. So much, so many wonderful teachings. So I'm in favor of that and I believe in that. And I have to give credit that they came up with some, some wonderful teachings for the world.

But God may have nothing to do with that.

May or may not have.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn