Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Esther Praw - May 22, 1983

Arrival in the U.S.

What was it first like for you when you first arrived in the United States um, as far as...

A disappointment, very disappointed. First, the reason we were disappointed is, we came to United States with my first husband's family, and uh, she wasn't so pleasant to us, and she gave me a rough time, especially me. So we make up our mind where we're going to live. We were going to New York. We came to New York. So we were there for six months, and after that we try to get out, and I had here an aunt, lived here, an aunt, one cousin, I have a living cousin here. Yeah. That I forgot to mention. And uh, they brought me here, but I was so disappointed in New York and the family, that the Jewish Social Service brought me here, I told them I didn't want anything to do with the family helping us. And I did the right thing, because the Jewish Social Service, they give me first a room, and they give us something what, some money until we got a job, and they take care of us, and in New York they didn't help us. Because we came to the family, but the family didn't take care of us. And it was a very big disappointment. And cousin, a cousin's husband came to eat Friday night. He was so religious that Saturday he didn't carry anything with him has to be, the handkerchief has to be tied into a button or whatever. He didn't know that me, I start to learn a little English in Germany. And when I came to United States, I understood a little. We're having dinner, and my husband, my first husband, he didn't understand, I did. He said, "Hitler should kill all of them." So I was sitting quiet, and I was listening what he meant, what he's saying, because we didn't do anything bad. Because a refugee bought a store, open a store, the same store what he had. Competition you know. When I went to bed, I cried all night. And I told my husband, my first husband, what he said, and he said, did you understand? I said what you mean, if I understood? If I did not understand, I wouldn't mention to you, and he mentioned why I was listening what he was going to say, you know. And I was very disappointed, that our people, how many is left, and how many they killed. They took little kids! And by, by the way, I have to tell you, mention something. I have friend in Toronto. The lady was pregnant when she came to the camp, to Starachowice, I think, the first camp. The baby was born, they didn't tie the cord, they let the baby die. The lady is still in Toronto, alive with her husband. And I introduce my husband now to them, in the mountains, we were there and they were there. She never had any kids anymore because she couldn't have any kids. And this what I am mentioning, is just one incident that happened, but millions. In, in camp where I were, in, in Starachowice, they took all the kids, and one look exactly like Shirley Temple, white, light blonde curls, and the mothers, and in the evening, the clothes came back. No sick. Nothing, you know. And that's what I'm adding, everything, something, you just come back my memory to remember. But it happened so many things that it's--people cannot--I know, sometimes I think to myself, how this could be. And uh, lately, I don't know, I woke up in the night and I sweat, and I, you know, from the nerves that comes back to me, things. It's not all the time, but lately. My husband said you said lately, and I tell him, just lately, he said I have that all the time. Sometimes he dreams, he screams in the night. He got--my husband, was not in Auschwitz, but he was in Bergen-Belsen, we got liberated. I didn't know him of course, I just--after I met him. But in the same camp. And uh, they did so many things and so many killing, and what a brutal killing, what, what suffering, it, it's unbelievable, you know, it's, it's not to believe it. In the wintertime I remember now, I was walking in open, a pair of wooden shoes, they were all open, they were holes on the snow, and I don't know, God wants me to survive, no pneumonia, no coat, nothing. Just like that. Now I am so used to the things. I was used from Europe too. Not to have luxury because maybe this helped a little bit. Because a lot of people, they just left, you know, they couldn't take it, they couldn't take the cold, they couldn't take the, the no food, they couldn't take the suffering. You had to go to, to the, to the bathroom, you had to in Auschwitz in a certain hour. In, in Starachowice you had to go in a nightgown. We had a nightgown. I don't recall what we wear because we didn't--maybe in Starachowice we had a nightgown or a little bit of clothes yet. But then, when they took us away from there, then they took everything away. Nothing. They give you just uh, one piece of cloth, and you know, that's what you were wearing all the time. You didn't have uh, you didn't have anything except uh, what you wear there and a pair of shoes, underwear probably or, I don't remember, I don't know what to say, I just don't, don't remember.

Tell me, what were your options? You were very disappointed, you were living in New York...


What were your options, what did you...

I tell you why, I tell you. When I was at the Appells in Auschwitz, and uh, I always was thinking, when we get free, I will come here. People are going to put us on a pedestal, and the people in United States, they are going to see a survivor. And they are, and they are going to know what a person went through. This person is going to be just something. You know, they are going to take real care for all the suffering. Why I was suffering? Because I was born a Jew? And, and I was thinking, for what? And now I come to New York. Nothing. Nobody cares, you know. Why, why people don't care? Why people didn't take really interest? Why I'm thinking, why did the rich people here, they should go out and help as much as they can. Okay, the Jewish Social Service, they help, how much they can give you, you know, they gave you. And here, not there. There, they couldn't help you, because the family is supposed to help. The family, the family didn't help the way they should. Nothing. Somebody gave me 5 dollars, I'm ashamed to mention it. I, I hide the five dollars and bought oranges. In the night, we ate the oranges, and throw the peels away so that my first husband shouldn't see. Because, she would say, take a look, they don't have--we didn't have enough food, she didn't gave us enough. This was after the war. That's why we came here. But when we came here, everything started to straighten out, you know. Find a job, you know.

You say when you came here, when you came to Detroit?

To Detroit. Yeah.

And you had one cousin here in Detroit?

Yeah, yeah, he's still alive, he's a very nice man. You know. He didn't have too much, but when we need help, he helped a little bit. He couldn't help too much, but whatever. But I start to, to do a little work here too, and we manage to, you know.

Did you become a citizen?

Yeah. After five years I became a citizen.

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