Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Nathan, Bernard, and Samuel Offen - September 3, 1987


BO: So I had to wait a couple months to get permission to travel to Italy. But once I did, it was a whole series of, of coincidences where uh, uh, once I got on the transport and I went to this camp they said they were in. It was already a military camp because they joined the Polish Army after the war. Uh, uh, so they said, "yeah they were here, but they were transferred to this other military camp, so... "And there were about three camps, different camps in Italy that they were assigned to. I was, I was like one step behind them. But finally I caught up, caught up with them in Bari, which is in southern, I believe southern...

NO: Adriatic, on the Adriatic...

BO: Yeah. And it was, was that Yom Kippur where you were in the synagogue?

NO: Rosh Hashanah.

BO: Rosh Hashanah. It was in Rosh Hashanah I caught up with them at the synagogue. They were, they were uh, on leave. The last guy came by and said, "Oh yeah, theyre here, but theyre not here, they are on leave and they are in town." So its like I went to this town called Bari and to the synagogue that they were in and when I encountered them it was...I couldnt believe it. These two uh, husky guys in uniform. Soldiers like they were, like, looked like...heroes to me. It was a, a...it was an unforgettable event. It still uh, lodged in my heart, I guess.

What was your reaction when you saw Bernie?

NO: Overjoyed. We couldnt believe it, that he survived because we gave up. It's...because we didnt want to go east anymore because we knew nobody survived from our family in our heart. But somehow you always hope. We go to those meetings and everything. We always feed in names of relatives or to a computer or to anybody. We know they are dead but we still, we still...search.

BO: Search.

NO: Its just unbelievable.

Do you remember what are, what your feelings were at the end of all this? Did you think anything? Were you angry or were you just exhausted?

NO: Well, the healing process took a long time. And uh, it took a long time to heal the wounds and find yourself. What are you going to do with your life and uh, pick up your pieces and start all over again but uh, the hate was so great.

BO: Hmmmm.

NO: Uh, and without education and you have to solve all the problems, get a job, start all over again and everything. But I knew in my heart that I keep on hating its going, its going to...self-destructive. Its going to be self-destructive for me. Somehow, I found my way into the mainstream. I start working. I got a job. I, I got married. I raise a family. Now I just became a grandfather three weeks ago, but you never can forget your experience. Never. Its always in the back of your head. Its always with you.

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