Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Hilma Geffen - February 15, 1985


Was it hard to say goodbye to the Kerbers?

Yes and no. The same thing with Gerhard. I was so anxious to leave everything behind me that uh, I was glad to leave. I wanted to get out very much. I was not, I was very unhappy the first couple of years in America because I felt the Americans were very insensitive. The American Jewry was very insensitive.

In what way?

Uh, toward what happened. I don't know how it was in New York, but I'm talking about the Jews in Miami, Miami Beach. Uh, they asked well, how was it? How did you manage to survive? And when you wanted...and was it hard. And you said yes it was very hard and was very difficult and was dangerous and you had very little to eat. Oh, we had food rationing here too. We couldn't buy any meat, we had chicken only. We uh, couldn't, we had a very hard time, we couldn't take our cars out on weekends. We only could take the cars to go to work. We didn't get enough gasoline. And I just sat there and was stunned, you know.

Two different worlds?

Two different...no, no concept of what...I still don't think people have a concept. Because you can't imagine. Really, you cannot imagine. Unless you live through something you don't imagine what it is like. And then when you look back at it I still say, "How did I manage to survive?" It's almost as if this was a different person who went through all this. From what I am now. I'm totally different. And my feelings are totally different. The only thing I know I'm...and it came out in many ways, that I'm not, my feelings are not different uh, feelings toward Germany. And towards the Germans. I mean that has not changed. As a matter of...I think it has, the hate has intensified.

I see.

I'm not forgiving. Uh, do you have some time? A few minutes? I would just want to say one thing. We were always told that why were the Jews like sheep and go through. It was, first of all, there was always the uh, hope you were surviving. If you just comply and you're quiet and you do it, you will survive, and it...how long can it last? And I wrote this and I felt this and there was always a certain dignity and I think that uh, the more they stepped on us and the more they uh, they, the Nazis would degrade us, the more we felt our own worth. I know I felt my worth. I said they can do anything to me but I know I, who I am and what I am. Uh, going to the factory it was also very much brought out the way we dressed. Even though we had very little clothes, or it was hard to get clothes. Jews did not get any uh, coupons to buy clothes, we always dressed and we were always kempt. I don't think I ever saw anybody unkempt. That was very important, the appearance. Always. Yeah. And one of the girls I worked with left, her name was Lada and she sent me a postcard. She couldn't say goodbye personally, she was transported. And she uh, wrote a postcard. It was on the 15th of November, 1941. And she wrote, "Dear Hilma, I'm leaving tonight and I don't want to miss to say goodbye, at least in writing. Uh, keep well and be well and most of all uh, remain a human being and be a human being until uh, until you reach ???. It's a long road but it is worth it. And regards to all the colleagues and to Mrs. Eunice," that was a woman we were very much attached to. And uh, "Kindness, the best regards, your Lada." And I don't think anybody who can write this in the face of leaving for your own destruction can be called a coward. And I think this is what should be brought out. Not that we went to the gas chamber like sheep but uh, that there was dignity and that we all wanted to until the last moment to remain human being. And give advice to others. Stay that way. Stay to be a human being.

Thank you.

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