Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Peppy Rosenthal - July 1, 2009

After the War

And, and did you continue from Bari? Is that where the...where you caught a boat?

No. In, in Nap...no, in Bremenhaven. We went by train from Italy to Bremenhaven.

I see. Wow.

In Italy um, my dad found his sister and, and an uncle in the States, and we found my mother's sister that emigrated to uh, to Israel. And my father re...married in Austria, and he had a son from that marriage. And...

Did, did you talk to each other about what had happened? About what had gone on since the war started? You never talked about it?

Mm-mm, no. I didn't even want anybody to know. I mean, it's kind of hard when you have an accent uh, I didn't even want anybody to know that I came from Europe, because I was afraid they would ask me questions. In the 1980s, at the beginning of 1980s, I administered a um, a neighborhood center in Flint, Michigan. And uh, things were really bad depression at the time; there were people, so I opened up a food stamp center, because a lot of General Motors employees were eligible for food stamps and other things. And in my office, people would donate things, like I had live chickens walking around in the hallway, you know, and there were, there was just...and this fella from the Journal has been after me to talk to him, and I told him, okay, I'll make...finally, you know, after several years. He somehow found out I was a Holocaust survivor, and for several years he just bugged the living out of me. But finally at that...1980, I um, I said, "If you keep in the paper the story alive, how people are suffering, and when this is over, I'll sit down and I'll talk to you. You'll be the very first person I've ever talked to." And he kept his promise, so I had to keep mine.

So it's the first time you told the story?


Um, when you would pick up and leave, I mean, you left the Kovalczyks at one point, or, or when you went to the Kovalczyks, did, did anyone, your father, did he explain to you why you were going where you were going, or, or did he just say, "don't, don't open your mouth, and keep..."


Was there ever an explanation about what was going on?

Well, he's, he, well, you know, the Germans were bad people, but he didn't dwell on it because I am, I am by nature a worrier, and I was even then. And I think, I mean, not that he told me this, but I can see my dad saying, "Ah, if I go into detail, Peppy'll have nightmares," and all this, and there's no point.

I mean, did he say, "We're doing this because we're Jews"? Or were, did you just understand that?

I, I think I understood that.

And when you were covered with lice, living in the haystack, what, what was that, what was that like? Do, do you remember the experience?

Oh, do I ever. I used to pray to, to God, to, to have them stop. I, I still have the blanket.

The blanket that you had in the...

Mm-hm. I still have it. And, and you know, and even now, when I take a look at, at it, I remember as if it happened yesterday.

Does that happen frequently? On any given day you have memories, flashbacks?

Yeah, I have many flashbacks, at night my husband says I cry a lot, and scream, and hit.

What'll touch off such a memory? Any...anything in particular? And the blanket...

What touches off? Mm, different things. Um, sometimes I sit and see something on television, something I read, or something just, if it's my last thought, you know, before I go to bed.

You still have nightmares.


So, you were on your way to Israel...


Did you get to Israel?

No. My um, my father found his relatives, his sister and, and his uncle, and they uh, his uncle brought us to the States.

Is that how you came to Flint?


And what were they doing in Flint?

Uh, scrap iron.

That was my father's business.

Oh really? In Detroit?

No, in Rochester, New York.


Um, did you speak English when you came?


So, let's see, when, when did you come to this country?

1950. Can't you tell I have an accent?

It's very charming, it's very little.

Thank you.

Um, so you were fifteen?

Mm-hm, almost. I came in June, and I turned fifteen in October.

How did you feel coming to this country?

Strange. I really wanted to, I loved Italy, and um, and I wanted to go to Israel. When we stayed in displaced persons camp in Italy, um, the Italian Carbonari really liked me, they used to say I was very "sympatica," and they used to let me use their bicycles, and I was able to go with messages, the chayalim that were in the, inside our camp, versus those that were in the community. And um, we had this boat, or ship um, about two, three miles offshore. And at night, they would let us um, take kids to the, to the boat, orphans, primarily, so they could sail for Israel.

Hm. That's the Haganah?

We had a lot of folks from the Haganah in Italy. And we lived in a kibbutz in Italy too.

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