Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Hilma Geffen - February 15, 1985

End of the War

And uh, we received daily new youngsters. People up to eighteen were kept there. We received food from both, from all the Allies, both the Russians and the Americans. And I went there, because if you have no one you could, they would make transports to either, to Israel, to Palestine. And I wanted to get out as quickly as I could.

You had no thought of staying on in Germany?

I had no thought, no. I uh, I filed as soon as the war was over and Berlin was uh, functioning, I mean functioning in that the Allies were there and there was peace, the Jews came out. The ones who survived. Which was a handful, about 2,000. Uh, the Jewish Federation started up again immediately and you registered. The names were sent all over the world. There was the uh, in America you had the Aufbau. The Aufbau published all these lists and the Allies sent lists all over the world. And I uh, that's how my relatives in Palestine knew that I was alive, and friends. That my cousins knew I was alive and in turn I read some of their names. And these lists were published and Jewish Federations were uh, established all over Germany. Wherever there were a few Jews, or made a gathering place of Jews. The ones from the camps.

What made you come to America instead of going to Palestine?

I got in contact with my, with relatives that we had in Miami, Florida. The aunt of my mother. That branch of her family went to America and uh, we had the address. They had sent us affidavits, but we never got out. It was too late. I wrote again through the Council of Jewish Women and they uh, uh, contacted me and I contacted my uncle. Meanwhile, during the war, this aunt had died but her husband was alive and her two sons and uh, they uh, were instrumental that I went to Miami, Florida. They also paid the passage. They uh, they reimbursed the American Joint Distribution Committee for my passage. Those who could pay were asked to reimburse the Joint. Uh, that's how I got to America. Also the quota was established uh, uh Victim of Fascism. We received special identification papers, which were for Victim of the Fascism. And uh, once we registered with the American Council in Berlin, papers were issued and very soon you could move out. I was in the Jewish children's home and I, whatever came first, either was going to Israel or I was going to America. And it happened that I could go to America. Which was about a year and half later, in September, 1946.

That you came?

That I came to America, yes. After I was about oh, for six to eight months in Berlin, lived in Berlin, in the Jewish children home. I made myself useful. I worked, helped out in the office there and helped in the children's home because I was older than most, most of the kids.

During the early war years you mentioned you worked in the factory. What was that like for a Jewish person?

Well, we worked in the factory that made relays for telephones. And we were trained to adjust those relays. And then we did all day long. We had to get these relays in good working orders. And then they were, we were in a special room, we had special bathroom facilities. We had a, a woman who was our foreman and we had a man who was our foreman. And the uh, they really selected a very ardent Nazi to be our supervisor and he treated us accordingly. We had to be there I think six thirty in the morning and work till four, something like that. And uh, that was day in and out. We were about twenty to thirty women. All ages from fourteen, sixteen, up till forties, in the forties. And from all walks of life. There were girls I went to school with, one or two I knew from school. We worked together and people I never met before.

When did you exactly stop working at the factory?

Well I stopped, I didn't go back the day I, when my parents were uh, taken away. Were transported and uh, that was officially my transportation date too. From then on, I wasn't there anymore. I wasn't in Berlin anymore, yes. That was the end everything. There was a...later on somebody gave me a uh, newspaper, was a...where you had all these official notices, you have this in this country too, newspapers with official notices, there was that, all the uh, accounts and the assets of uh, the Ludomers were taken or liquidated. That means the Nazis took the money.

What was your new name?

Malga. Malga Gephart.

I see.

Malga Gephart. She was about my age. I never met her, I don't know who she is. I don't know of her. And I, I don't think she ever knew what happened, that somebody behind her back took her identity.

What was it like to have her identity? Her name for that amount of time?

I think I became that person for almost three years. And uh, I didn't think too much about anything else. Just, just that this person had to be uh, surviving, had to do whatever was necessary to survive and not to think of anything else.

Did the Kerbers know your original name?

No. They never knew my original name, until after the war, when I told them. They didn't want to. In situations like that in Germany, the least you know the better you off. If you ever get caught, you cannot tell anything. If you don't know a person's name, you cannot name that person. If you don't know where the person lives, you cannot denounce anybody. You cannot say anything. So the least you know the better you off.

That's how you lived with the Kerbers as well?

Yes. Well they knew I was Jewish of course. But they didn't know my real name. Uh, they gave me as if, as a bombed out niece that came to live with them.

What was it like during the height of the war living there? Were you aware of events going on around you?

Well we...Kerber had a radio. So at night time we did listen to the BBC. So we knew uh, to an extent what was going on, yes. Uh, remember we had a radio of course and then we heard the German news. But otherwise, I was very isolated, I, I very little, I did not go out very much at all. I, if I went out, it was mostly at night or I stayed in the...I had as little contact with any, any other people as possible. It was just too dangerous. It was not advisable to have any contact.

Did anybody suspect the Kerbers?

Well, if they did suspect, nobody said anything. Because if they did suspect and said anything I wouldn't be here. There were people around, I mean who saw me, couldn't help but seeing me. Whether they were satisfied or just accepted and didn't say anything, I don't know what they thought. I never asked. I never saw them again after I left. I never spoke with them. I never uh, with Kerber, after I came to America, she, she took me to the place uh, where, the gathering place, where the truck took us to the train station to go to Bremen and from Bremen to America and that was the last time I saw her. Uh, soon after, her husband died of uh, uh, he got very sick and he died. I uh, wrote several times. And then I lost contact totally with her because Waldensee was the Russian zone. And probably she was not, she didn't get my letters or I didn't get her letters. And I had uh, after the first or second year of my being in America, I lost contact. She wrote that her, that her husband had died and that was about the last time I heard of her, from her. And then we sent her some food packages. I think she got some of them. But uh, then I lost contact. And I'm sure she's not alive anymore at all because she would be too...this by forty years, thirty, forty years, yeah.

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