Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Harry Praw - June 30, 1982

Arriving in New Orleans

Forty-nine you ca...so your first impression of America was New Orleans?

Oh my first impression was terrible. I hate to say it. I couldn't believe I'm in America. I wouldn't even say it on the record.

No, tell us.

No, this I wouldn't say on the record. From what, from what I have seen there I didn't believe I'm in America, honest to God. So filthy. Rats--you'll excuse me--rats the size of my arm in broad daylight running in the streets--in broad daylight. And my first wife--may rest in peace--I said to her, "I, I don't know why they took us off the boat."

When were you married? I don't think you mentioned it.

I was married in '48 in Germany.

Oh, so you married, you married your wife in Frankfurt.

In Germany, yeah.


I lost my wife here--my first wife.

Uh-huh. Oh, so you both came together to New Orleans.

Yeah we both--yeah. I said, "I don't know why they took us off the boat here. This couldn't be America. It couldn't be. Rats running in America?" We had different uh, different ideas--different impressions of America.


But that was it. We got off the boat, a band was playing, they treated us very nice.

Mm-hm. Was it a big Jewish community in New Orleans at that time?

No. Must've been--the population was about 700,000 from what I heard at that time. It must've had about ten, ten percent Jews...

Uh-huh. Wow.

...maybe less than that. So I stayed at a hotel for a couple of days. I came in Labor Day so they couldn't unload us on Labor Day--it was a national holiday. So they unloaded us--they took us off the boats on Tuesday. I stayed at a hotel Tuesday, Wednesday. Wednesday I get a call from the Jewish community council or whatever it was. I guess it must've been the Jewish community center--the refugee department.


I come in there and the head of the center, "Sit down." I sit down. He picks up the phone, calls a friend of his--a Jewish manufacturer and he told him--and these are the exact words what he said, "I got a refugee here just got off the boat. Put him to work and give him fifty cents an hour." Of course, I didn't understand what he was talking about.

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