Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Esther Feldman Icikson - October 23 & 29, November 5 & 12, 2001

Knowledge of the Holocaust

Had you--at any time had anybody begun to talk about what was going on back in Chelm?

No. I don't think we knew what's happening. We knew that there's, there is a terrible war, because nothing, we didn't know about it in Siberia. We knew more when we came out of Siberia into Central Asia.

So you'd never heard of Sobibor.

No, no, no. We didn't hear about concentration camps or anything. We knew there was a big war, but I don't think we knew anything about concentration camps or killing of Jews. We had it tough, I mean, you know. But no one was killing us, uh. We were very hungry. But, uh...

Do you know what happened to the Jews of Chelm?

Do I know? Uh, most of them were killed. I know that very well. When we came back--are you kidding?--when we came back we almost got killed. We went back to Chelm in 1945.

And there was nobody there except non-Jews.

Non-Jews. There was a few Jews. There were a few Jews and, uh. Do you want to tell you, tell you about?

No, we'll come...

Yeah, you don't want...

...to that.


Um, did you then know about the folklore about Chelm?

When I was little?

Were there jokes then about...

No. I don't remember when I was little, I don't remember.

Obviously very endearing, Sholem Aleichem wrote...


...the stories about.

I didn't know it, about it, not until I came to, until I was a, a teenager and I came back all the way to Israel. That's when I started going to school and I learned about it.

Okay, let's go back to Asino. Let's say, the train stopped at Asino. Do you remember what it was like...


...getting out of that train?

I do not remember nothing. It's most unusual. Maybe not because I wanted to block it out. I don't remember anything from the moment we got on the train. Maybe a week later I remember the snow. The snow was--I, I couldn't believe so much snow. I would lay and look out that tiny little window, you know. And then I realized, there I was in a desolate area. All you could see is snow and trees. And you've never seen such tall trees in your life.

Evergreen trees? Just winter trees.

Winter trees, evergreens, all kind. Evergreens mostly. So tall that you cannot see the end of them, yeah.

When they sent you off, did the Soviets tell you where you were going and why?

No, no. This I know that they didn't tell us. We got there.

So what did you think?

You don't think.

You don't think, you just...

You just follow through.

All right, so you get off the train.

And we--and they put us on boats and took us to that particular area in Siberia.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn