Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Josef Slaim - February 7, 1982

Life in the United States

What were your feelings when you first came to United States?

Uh, very bad. I was feeling not against the country, I mean uh, I just got uh, the wrong place and I got uh, like they say everybody needed a little push or a good work, or whatever it is, and I somehow it wasn't working mit me and I was feeling very upset. As a matter of fact, I took three jobs. I could find jobs to this time, as much I wanted. I worked in a, in a tailor shop. I couldn't go to the place, they had to pick me up. And five 'o'clock they brought me back. At--my life was so miserable to this times, I couldn't stay in the house. So I found me a job for the night in a bakery.

When you say life was so miserable, what do you mean?

Uh, well, we couldn't get along mit mein uncle, I don't wanna say. We couldn't get along, and that's the only place we had to stay with him.

Where were you living at the time? What, what street?

In Taylor, in his house.

In Taylor, Michigan?

In Taylor--no Taylor Street, Taylor Street.


Linwood and Taylor Street. It was--wasn't too rosy like I mention it. In fact, many nights I slept in, in a park. I left my wife in--mit the kids in the house and I slept in the park on the benches.

Must have been bad at home. [laughs] Sorry.

I had--I was so down that I wouldn't wanted to go home. So find me a job in the night in the bakery. So in the bakery, how can you go on working day and night with no sleeping? So one night in the bakery, I collapsed. I fall down. So they called the ambulance and brought me home. And my wife said, "No more, just one job a day." I gave up the second job. And uh, it wasn't taking too long, I bought a cleaning store. Uh, but the beginning was, was a lousy thing--was very bad. I couldn't take in the dollars. So I looked for other jobs. I, I uh went for a plumber. Uh, somebody called me to help him out mit the plumbing, worked on the uh, projects. And I went mit somebody on the roof uh, a roofer. I did everything that I could 'til I got my store a little bit going, you know. Then I called uh, to stores for work to other stores. I did uh, jobs, you know. Stores...

What kind of stores?

Uh, clothing stores. The alteration I did for them, in my store.

When you say clo...retail, uh...

I was in retail, yes. Uh, it didn't took too long, I got my license--drivers license. I got my car. And somehow I moved away from this place um, to another place in a shopping center, and uh, it felt good. And I wou...I succeed in this store. I was doing very, very good. I raised two children--nice children. I gave them the best I could in the education.

Two sons?

Two sons. Both doctors. Had a nice wife by his side.

Very nice.

Nice granddaughters. Nice grandchildren. I got four grandchildren. Two girls and two boys. Both of them got a boy and a girl.

So who do you have in Israel now?

In Israel I have--my side I got just a cousin there. In France, she still have two brothers there mit their families.

Do you ever talk about your experiences?


At the--in the war? Do you ever talk about it very much? Other than let's say an interview like this?

Very often. Whenever two people from concentration met it doesn't take too long. They coming always with something up. Not I wanna talk--just I can't forget. That comes by itself. Whenever I turn around, this is on the table. The shadow doesn't go away. It's always in the front of you.

Do you think about it a lot?

Many times I still screaming in the night, she wakes me up, or sometimes she is screaming, but we got used to it. She knows that I'm screaming--probably a dream from the camp. Same thing mit her. In these things, what we always start talking--we always talking in the house, when the kids were still in the house. Then my kids forced me to go on mit this book what I'm writing. They said they want to have because they're listening, but they couldn't turn over to their children. They want that their children knows. They want have uh, a live uh, in a written things that their grandchildren could see what was going on in those times, and what I suffered. And they forced me to go on mit this book. As a matter of fact I'm collecting pictures, plus my own pictures. Well, this is mine. This is mine. I gonna come to the other one. Whenever I go someplace, or if I can make myself, or I can get from somebody, or through a paper--when I see something, I start mit him here. He was um, Mordechai Anielewicz, he was the uh, organizer from the ghetto, War...Warsaw ghetto. The &Łód&3378; ghetto.

What's his name?

Mordechai Anielewicz. He was a hero. This is another guy he was the camp leader in the &Łód&3378; ghetto. His name was Chaim Rumkowski.

He was the head of the Judenrat, yes?

Judenrat in &Łód&3378; ghetto. Here you got forced labor reported inside occupied Poland. So on and on you know.

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