Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Sam Seltzer - November 29, 1982


To Detroit?

To Detroit. And I end up on my uncle's porch, four o'clock in the morning on my uncle Harry's porch. And he was going to work. He had a restaurant in Hamtramck and he was going to work and he found me. He says, "Who are you?" You know. And I told him who I am and uh, he looked familiar right away. He looked like his, hi...like his mother, my grandmother. And uh, uh, he recognized me. And uh, it was--and they had a write-up in the news, in the Jewish news about uh, uh...

A reunion.

...reun...uh, found me on the porch, you know. He found a nephew on the porch. So I was with my uncle for a while. And then uh, after being two years here, I brought my brother over. I brought him over from France. He married a French girl. He has a son in, twenty-seven years old. He is in California. And my brother had uh, open heart surgery about thirteen years ago. And he died on a--his valve was torn. That's when the war, when he was running back. And uh, they replaced a new valve, but he lasted three days and his heart wouldn't perk up anymore, you know. He lasted three days and he died there, so when I--and I just went to visit a year and a half ago, last year I think in July, a year and a half ago. And I went to visit his, um...

When, when you arrived...


...here at your uncle's, did you encounter any problems when you first arrived? What did you do?

Well, I uh, first of all, I spoke English.


I did. I learned at the Joint and I learned in the hospital. There was a guy with me in the hospital. He had a Polish and English book and kept asking me, "Ask me, ask me," you know. Meantime I learned, and he, he kept us, he was still, uh, you know uh, uh, a little rusty, but I learn fast. Which I, I'm learning English uh, uh. Languages don't come uh, hard to me. I mean, I can, I can pick up anybody, talk in any language. I played soccer with the uh, Hungarians and I picked up the Hungarian, I can talk Hungarian very easy. Yeah, I pick up a language very fast.

So you could speak English when you got here.

Yeah, in fact my, my aunt says, "Oh my God he speaks English too." "Better than," I said, "better than you do," you know. She, she was, yeah, she was a uh, European accent. She had a very heavy accent. So uh, she, in fact, she says, yeah, look at that, he speaks English too. So I said, of course. How do you think I came from Chicago here? You know. So I did. So uh, I came here in 1951. And, and, and I took the Greyhound bus and came here and I, I got settled here and uh, my brother was a watchmaker from Europe. And so--that I, I picked up--we worked in Germany, we worked on watches. Because he, he brought himself a machine from Germany, like a, like a um, the one you have to uh, pull with a pulley and--a lathe, a lathe. And I was, I--and he had a bow instead of machine, they didn't have a machine. So I, I was pulling the uh, the bow for him and the pulley and he was making a staff for a watch. He could make anything. My brother was everything. My brother was a mechanic. He could take a car apart, put it back together. He was a butcher, a, a salami maker whatever. Electrician and uh, watchmaker, one of the best. He could do anything.

Is that what you did then? You...


...went to work as a watchmaker?

Then me and my brother opened up a store in Hamtramck, because I speak Polish. So we open up a store in Hamtramck. And my brother didn't look like uh, Jewish either. So we, we got along very fine in Hamtramck, it was our first store. And finally he says, "Well I'm a family man and you're single, I have to make money." So he uh, he went out and moved to Flint and got a job at uh, Hirsch, Hirsch's jewelry store and, and he, he, he worked there. He lived in Flint, see? And I uh, uh, had the store in Hamtra...in Hamtramck. And that's, that's where I met my--my wife was a watchmaker too. And she was from a watchmaker family. So we met and uh, I got married uh, and...

Did you become a citizen?

Oh yeah, became a citizen. And uh, right now uh, before I was disabled. Right now I'm, I'm disabled. Before I was disabled I was a, uh, a Bulova Accutron technician. Factory, au...authorized Bulova Accutron technician. That means the, the watches which the uh, uh, guys went up to the moon, the uh, astronauts, used those watches at first when they came out. Where it's a, it has a tuning fork and coils and it's all magnetized, so it doesn't become magnetized. And I was a specialist on those watches, see? But I'm not working now anymore.

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