Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Samuel Offen - December 27, 1981

Immigration to America

Why Detroit, why did you come?

Good question. When we were in the--when we were in Ancona, before we joined the Polish Army, my brother Nat and I we just reminiscing about the old days, we remembered that before the war we used to get letters and packages and some money maybe--not us, but our grandmother--from Detroit, Michigan. And we remembered--now that was many, many years ago and we--and somehow, for some--one name struck us. The name was Hirschmann family from Detroit, Michigan. Now mind you, these things came to our grandmother, we didn't, it uh, wasn't--for grandmother. My grandmother would share with us, whatever, something to eat, but we were not the--address. We didn't know about the name. It sort of came to us while we were dre...sitting in Ancona doing nothing. We suddenly, I think my brother Nat remembered the name, Hirschmann, Detroit, Michigan. So that was, what was that family there? Let's write to them and see--find out. So we write the letter, we wrote the letter in German. We--because our German was, was uh, well we didn't speak a word of English, we didn't know any English. We, we knew Polish or German. So wrote in German a letter...

Not in Yiddish?

Nothing. I was, I was not, I was, I was not that good in Yiddish. Although as I told you earlier, I didn't have a really good basic--although I knew a lot of things about Judaism, the religious customs and stuff-I...to me...we, we didn't read Jewish papers, we read Polish papers. We couldn't read Yiddish papers. I was--I could--I can read and write in Yiddish--I'm not fluent. I have a hard time reading it, but I can read it. So we wrote a letter in German to the Hirschmann family in Detroit, Michigan. And we joined the Polish Army. We didn't know what happened to that letter. We thought, "Well Hirschmann, who, who's going to know Hirschmann family there?" We didn't know. Um, eventually, a letter came back to us. Somebody found us in the army, too I don't know which way--I don't know how we got the letter, already en route, but there were a lot of organizations after the war, they were very efficient. They were very efficient. That, there was a Hirschmann family, the--so we had the Hirschmann family--there are a lot of Hirschmanns here--but since you lived in that town, we had relatives there. Send us some signal, some--give us some details about you--names and things. If you are the one that, that if you are the ones we looking for. Well, we wrote 'em back, we give him whatever details we can remember back came a letter immediately, "You are our family. ??? survivor and stuff. But anyway, they--that family, right away, wanted to come to Italy and to take us over immediately to United States. But they, they could not come to Italy. They could not get a visa because they were still, like a war zo...there was after the war, but it was like an enemy country. They could not, they could not, they could not get--but anyway, they started, you know, sending back the letters and some money and parcels they were so nice to us. Now again, the Hirschmann family is big here. But somehow to the Jewish community, they found...the letters still circulated to several Hirschmanns 'til they found the right Hirschmann. Of course, since then the Hirschmanns became Salzmanns and Fischmanns, they getting married and stuff. So they were our closest relatives. Now the closest--now the way, the way they're related, that my mother and these people were cous...first cousins. That's how we are related and these are the closest relatives that we have here. Now we have--thank God, we have a nice family and a big family but they the closest, they--they're cousins because they are my mother's cousins. But that's how we, we found 'em. In the meantime uh, we were discharged in England as I said, and we lived there for five years. And we lived with a family called the Friedman family and the Flitman family. And they adopted us. It's like unofficially, it's their own practically their own family. And we lived there, we did not want to come to this country. Also, our cousins, as soon as we got to England, they came to England they bought airplane tickets in 1947, to greet us and they wanted to take us back with them. They thought what an offer to take you to uh, to the United States. But unfortunately, because we were Polish nationals, we were born in Poland, five year quota for Polish people. So they couldn't do anything. And we had to wait in England for five years for our quota to turn up but by the time our quote came up we didn't want to go already. Nat and I were sort of established already, we had good jobs, we knew a lot of people, we had a lot of friends and that family like practically adopted us, you know, that they're like our brothers and we just didn't want to leave. But my youngest brother Bernard was anxious, he was young, he want to come to the United States He said, "Let, let's go to the United States. If we don't like it we'll come back, we'll come back to England." We had to extend our visa already because we just, actually didn't want to go but because he wanted to persuade us and again, we lived together, we didn't want to separate. We were still single we did not want to separate. So we decided alright. So we come to the United States the three of us, if we don't like it we go back. Well needless to say, we came, we liked it.

You became a citizen right away?

We became a citizen right away. As soon as--I came here in 1951. I was married in 1952 and my wife Hyla is American born and because of her--because of my uh, marriage to her, I was able to become a citizen sooner. But all of us were citizens. My brother Bernie, I guess he told you, you know he was a soldier in Korea and he became a citizen in Korea. An American citizen in Korea, during the war.

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