Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Alexander Schleifer - August 1, 1982

Returning Home and Coming to the United States

So, you were--after six weeks, you left the DP camp and then you went back to your hometown?

Well, they took us to Czechoslovakia. From Czechoslovakia, I went ???. They took us to Pilsen. In Pilsen, I went on the train and on the train I went home.

Did they give you some money?

Uh, actually they, you didn't need any money.

How did you travel?

Oh, they gave us a ticket. [laughs] Okay. They gave us a ticket. First they took us with the, with the trucks to--American trucks to Pilsen. And, from Pilsen to--on our train.

You went back to your hometown?

That's right. And I didn't find nobody home. Actually, I went to the maid who used to work for us and I stayed there for a while until I found out about my uncle and my cousins.

What about your house?

Well, actually, we did it own a house. A house we didn't own in this town in this town. [pause] We had a house in Michalovce and when we moved to Sobrance in '39, my father didn't buy a house, just rented.

So, you were just renting the house.

A big house, yes.

So, when you came back to the town you stayed with the maid. Um, this was the same maid that came at first and gave you the food?

That's correct.

Um, how long did you stay with her?

Well, I stayed there with her about six to eight months. Then, I went to Prague.

Were you, well, during the six to eight months were you working at all? Were you doing anything?


She just supported you for this time?


You were waiting to hear from the rest of your family?

??? If I would have known that uh, nobody from the family come back home--especially because I always was--I mean I was told on the way home that my father passed away in Dachau on such a such a day that I could hold Yahrzeit. That's the only thing what I knew which one comes out to the ninth year on the Jewish calendar and that's the only thing I knew. But, I, I, if I would have known that prior that my father passed away, I would have stayed in the DP camp. From the DP camp, when I was going to come out for the United States and didn't have to go back to Czechoslovakia and, and spend all the time.

Um, what made you decide to come to the United States?

Well, I had--actually, the papers from--sending the papers, it was a step-sister to my father. Her husband wasn't in that good of a shape, but one of the salesmen what he was dealing with he sent me the papers. Again uh, uh, I couldn't come out uh, directly because uh, in 1950, I was uh, under the law I had to go to service in Czechoslovakia so I didn't go to service, but I escaped to Vienna. In Vienna, I came out to the United States. All my papers from the American Embassy in Czechoslovakia was transferred to Vienna and that took about eight months. When all those papers came across in 1950, I came out to the United States.

How did you come to Detroit?

Well, Detroit, actually, my uncle he was in Detroit. Uh, which one came out after the war and uh, he was here so I came to Detroit because I, I just couldn't stay in New York with my step-aunt and her husband because they were Orthodox--very Orthodox people--and I wasn't brought up that way. I couldn't uh, but I didn't want to hurt them so, instead of hurting them, I came to Detroit and uh, to do my own things.

What year did you come to Detroit?

In 1950.

And you had been in the United States for how long?

When I came to Detroit?


About a month and I stayed, stayed a month of the year and I came here.

What were your initial feelings about the United States?

What you mean by that?

Well, you're in a new country. How did you feel about being in America?

Well, you had to uh, as I said--do, do in Rome what the Romans do--it's a felix.


You get used to it.

Did you, did you encounter any problems in America when you first came?

No, I would say not because uh, uh, I got into very, very well. I was a butcher before and I went to work right away and then--actually, I came in 1950--in September 1951 and in May I was drafted into the service for two years.

In Korea?

Well, during the Korean Conflict it so happened I ended up in Germany again. [laughs]

Wow, did you really?


How did you feel about that?

Well, how did I feel about that. It wasn't that easy but actually I was an American soldier at the time. I wasn't the first time. So, it was a little different.

Did you have problems coping with going back to Germany, even as an American soldier?

No, I didn't have no problems because you have to be a broad minded person. You cannot carry a grudge all the time against everybody. Actually, right after that--right after the war, you couldn't find a Nazi and everybody was all, uh...

Everybody was all no one knew nothing. Right?

That's right.

When you went back to Germany as an American soldier, did you run into any anti- Semitism there?

Well, actually, personally uh, you're talking about the Germans or the Americans?

Well, let's talk about the Germans first.

Germans, I, I didn't see it because I didn't associate with them that much. So, I couldn't, couldn't say that. Some talk in the army, you had some anti-Semitism, they basically hate you because you was a Jew. But you learn to cope with it. You don't no crap for nothing.

So, you ran into it from the American soldiers, huh?

Some, some of them. Yes.

You say that you, you came to this country--into Detroit--you started working as a butcher.


You had the experience before?

Yes, I learned the trade in Europe.

When was this?

Well, I learned it in 19... uh, started in 1947, [pause] '47.

This was, this was after you were out of the DP camp?

That's correct. I learned it in Czechoslovakia, actually.

While you were living with this maid?

No, no, no, I stayed with her--I came home in 1945.

I see.

By 1945, I stayed with her about oh, more than, I was, I was staying about six months. I would say about eight months to a year then I went to Prague and in Prague I learned the trade. In '46, I started to learn the trade.

And, and while you were in Prague, did you--with the whole time you were looking to eventually leave and come to the United States.

Well, I had the papers already uh, just about '46 I had the papers, but, see, you had a quota. So many people just could come out, see. So, my number come up. I was eligible to go, to go to the service and that's why I escaped.

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