Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Henry Krystal - September 19, 1996

Emigration to America

This was by nineteen, fall, 1946.

1946. So I was working at the uh, HIAS.

That's the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. Um, and uh, then I found a room in Frankfurt so it would be easier for me to work there. And then uh, when the university started I went right to medical school. In, in Germany they have a, a five year medical school. You start with anatomy, chemistry and biology and things like that. The HIAS was very kind to me. They let me work there part time and there was a number of Jewish students there uh, and I became, was elected the president of a, of the group I was able to get to organize some things for the group, extra food as a group of students. Um, so I was doing this until uh, March of 1947, when my visa came in and I did another very, very risky thing. That is that I just took advantage of my visa, taking a chance that I could get accepted to medical school here. Well, when I came here uh, my, my aunt, my, had a little beer and wine and um, uh, worker supply store uh, on Michigan and 29th street, which was across the street from the Cadillac plant there. And so she was in the store all the time. My uncle uh, it's complicated, came and picked me up at Michigan Central Depot, took me to 29th street. I came into the store, it was a little store and there were papers spread on the floor. It was Purim and I think it was Friday. She had the floor scrubbed and then she would put newspapers on the floor. And then the two of us took my suitcases to the house and put them down and I changed to work clothes and I came back to the store and started working. So there was not too much of a sense of celebration either. Then they didn't have actually a phone in there. They had two pay phones and one of the two pay phones, my cousin uh, called, my, my cousin called and she wanted to talk to me and welcome me and she said, "How, how shall we speak?" and I said, "Let us speak English." So we talked a little bit about my coming there and uh, a couple of days later her sister took me down to Wayne and I applied to Wayne. And they went through my papers and they said I'd have to go to pre-med for some time and then I could apply to medical school. So I did. But uh, at the same time I continued to work at my aunt's store and she paid me ten dollars a week and eventually she paid, she added two dollars for car fare, I think through the intervention of my cousin. My, my aunt gone, had a very, very rough life. And my uncle also. They were rather tightfisted. But I have to say that they accepted me with, with love that, they loved me just like they did their, their own. Uh, this was an uncle by marriage. My aunt's second husband and he had left a family in Russia, he didn't know what was going on, but anyway, we, we, we, we got along pretty well.

What was it like seeing her for the first time?

Well, it, it was again I, I was, I realize that at that time I was still in a kind of a numb state and for a long time in, in stressful occasions or in happy occasions uh, even on my wedding day I would go into that numb state.

Did anyone ask you about what had happened?

Well, not actually, no.

Did you tell anyone?


Why do you think?

Well, I was not angry about it. I just, I didn't feel like talking about it any more than they wanted to hear about it. And I was just busy trying to get myself so that I would be more secure and that I would uh, reach the goal of, of my, my professional goals. And uh, when I finally, when I applied to medical school, at that time the veterans were coming home and it was virtually no chance of being accepted. But, somehow I got accepted. And so I, I just went like from one job to another and this was another thing to do and I was ready to go.

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