My Boobie's Story.
Watching the News this weekend has gotten me down. My Boobie and Zaidy survived the holocaust and because of their fight through that horrific time, I’m here today. I have gone ahead and (finally) posted my Boobie (Grandmother’s) story on our blog. Scroll to the end of the post to read it if you would like. She is my hero. She is now 97 years young. She is still with us and I thank G-d for her presence in my life every day.
My husband and I chose to raise our children Jewish because of what our ancestors went through to bring us into this world. Our children went to a Jewish preschool and now attend Hebrew school weekly and in the future will be Bar Mitzvah’d. We make it a priority to speak of our Jewish traditions in our home and celebrate the Jewish holidays.
Growing up, my family would have Friday night dinner at either my Boobie or Bubbie’s house every week. Now a days our schedules are very busy BUT we always find at least 2 Fridays a month to be together as a family whether that be dinner or Shabbat services or both. On Friday night we took the boys to Temple for Shabbat services and then we went to dinner. I cannot imagine that night going any other way…
We will never live in peace. That’s clear to me. What I do know is that the most important people in my life are my family. I am truly blessed to have such loving, amazing family members and tons of them. A Great Grandmother who my children adore and beg me to take to Toronto to see, My mom, My sister, Aunts, Cousins and my best friends who I also call family.
I refuse to live in fear though it’s getting harder and harder. I will not change how I live or how I raise my children. I will continue to be kind, positive and put my family first. To those who lost loved ones in the horrible shooting this Saturday in Pittsburg, my heart goes out to you.
My Boobie’s Story
SAVED BY MIRACLES:A PERSONAL RECOLLECTION OF
BY MRS. FRIEDA TRAUB
The year was 1939. I will never forget it because it was the beginning of a big struggle which millions of people went through and never survived, but I was fortunate enough to see the end of the PHANTOM over the country that I was born in, Poland. For us Jews, the life in Poland was never very easy, but until the war we managed somehow and lived a quiet life. The first heartbreak I had at the beginning of war came when my older brother was taken away to the Russian army. Since that day, we have never heard from him again, but we still hope that some day he might come back, because we do not consider him dead. In our hearts he is still alive.
Two years with the Russians passed by, until one morning after the biggest bombing in the history of our town. Dressed up like paper soldiers with white gloves stained with blood, THEY had arrived, the murderers of six million Jews, and conquered Poland from border to border ruling over the country for the three longest, hardest and most unforgettable years of our lives. Before we met them we read and heard about them a lot, but never knew that people of the twentieth century could be as barbarian as they were. It was 1941. I was married and expecting a child in six months. It certainly was not the right time to bring another Jew into this world, but I believed it was meant to be like this. It was the will of God and it was in his hands.
The day the Germans arrived, our home was in ruins because of the bombs. It needed repairing, but for us Jews, it was better to hide and not be seen. Not only were the Germans our enemies, but even some of our friends and neighbours whom we had trusted, although they were of different faiths, tried to rob and destroy our lives, hand in hand with the Germans. Where do you turn and what do you do at such times? Lost and heartbroken, we turned to the people that we once considered as friends and they gave us some help.
The first days of the German occupation marked the death of several thousand people. Just because the Russians killed a few Ukrainian people before leaving the town, thousands of Jews paid for it with their lives.
One day, sitting in the house, miserable, cold and hungry, we heard a knock on the door. We rushed to open the door expecting to find that we had let in murderers that had come to take our men, but on the contrary they were just two little boys with sticks in their hands that our men had to obey since it meant certain death from the Germans if they had not come. My younger brother was still a kid so they left him to take care of me. This was when the miracles started to save our lives.
The first miracle occurred when my husband was being led by the two boys to the place where he was to be killed. A German soldier needing the repair of a radio stopped him not knowing that he was a Jew and asked if he knew of a place where he thought it could be fixed, for it was very urgent to him. He hopped into the car and went to the place where he thought it could be done. Our small town had only two radio technicians and they both happened to be Jews on their way to be destroyed. Right away it occurred to my husband that two lives could be saved by fixing of that radio. He talked the German soldier into taking him to the horrible scene of the murder of many innocent people where he might be able to save the lives of two people. Luckily enough the soldier's urge to have the radio fixed was so great that he listened to my husband and they went. The boys were saved, the radio fixed and my husband was brought home by the soldier and we were together again. It was only two hours, but to me it seemed like a lifetime. We did not know what would happen next, but in the meantime he was back and that was all that mattered that day. That is all about my husband. Now, how do we save the life of our father? The only thing we could do about it was sit down and pray with all our might and wait for a miracle. A miracle was the only thing that could save my father. Now this is the story of my father's return.
He was not fortunate enough to be picked up by any soldier.
He was pushed straight to the grave and stood in a long line waiting for his bullet, praying to God and still hoping that somehow a miracle could happen. And it did. All of a sudden a big storm came and the murderers were forced to leave their places until the storm subsided. In the meantime, my father's arm was touched by a man he knew from his business who said to him, " Mr. Goldenberg, the killers are not around." These words, giving him courage, sent him running over the hills and through waters and with God in his heart, came back safely to the house answering our prayers again. On this horrible day though, we lost uncles and cousins who were the pride of our family.
After that day, a quiet big mass grave lay still on the top of a hill and no Jew had the courage to ask why. Everybody was ready to go through the same thing sooner or later. Personally, my family and I had a great trust and belief in God that somehow we might succeed in living though it, but it seemed foolish at that time. Why? How can you survive if you do not know what the next moment will bring?
People from our town went crazy. They formed a special organization to help out the Germans, hoping that their lives would be saved. They were Jews who we had known for all our lives, but at that time they turned their heads ignoring their old friends. The Germans tried to get from them whatever they needed and if it was not delivered in time or in full, the next morning they would send down a few trucks to take as many Jewish people as they could find to kill them. Luck was with us since my husband had many friends from his profession. Dentistry for all the men and women in the country was still required. For a set of teeth, they used to smuggle in a bit of food to our house so we were fortunate enough not to starve like many other people.
One morning, my child was born, but I did not have the joy of having my first child born and welcomed into the world. Everyone just shook their heads as if to say, " What was he born for? To die? " But as I mentioned before, God was in my heart and I believed in miracles. A week after my child was born we prepared for the circumcision. The man who was to perform the rite, being a Jew with a beard, had to come early in the morning under the cover of darkness or face certain death if he was seen. The ceremony was performed and we had a newborn Jewish son in our family. We hoped with all our might that maybe because of the innocent baby, our lives just might be spared. Six months went by without mishap. One evening there was a mass killing in town. We were in the house not knowing that the city was surrounded, making it impossible for a Jewish soul to go out to the country seeking refuge to save his life. As soon as we heard what was going on we took the baby and willing to risk our lives in trying to escape, we left the house rather than stay there and be killed. Dressed like a country girl, I left with my husband and baby with a prayer on our lips. It was so quiet that night like just before a big storm. We walked hoping that no one would stop and question us. Finally, we arrived outside the city. We thanked God for that and started to walk through the fields to a place where we thought that one Ukrainian woman might let us stay in her barn over that awful night, but it did not come as easy as we thought. While walking peacefully in the dark, we suddenly found ourselves under search lights some distance away. The murderers had spotted us and were ready to shoot. A cold chill ran through us and we thought that this was to be the end, but once again a miracle saved us. At the same moment the lights came on in the middle of the field, we fell into a ditch and the searchers lost sight of us as if we had never been there. The ditch was right in front of us and our falling into it saved our lives. The next day we came home to find that another day of killing had passed and many more innocent people had died.
A few months later the Germans were still trying to seize more Russian territory. Meanwhile, we poor Jews, sitting by our radios which we had secretly concealed, listened and hoped that we would get news of freedom. Unfortunately, the end did not come so soon. We had to go through a lot more suffering.
The relentless Germans were not pleased that there were still so many Jews left, so off they went on another mass killing. The method of killing was different. They were running short of bullets for fighting so they started to use gas chambers for the death weapon. A few hundred people pressed like sardines in a room were suffocated by gas. Electrocution was another method used. That day, I was nearly destroyed with my baby.
In the morning, while still in bed, we heard strange voices outside. Always afraid of death we were suspicious of another bad day. We were not mistaken at all. A quick look out the window and we thought that surely this was the end. My father and brother went into the hiding place we had built in the house and insisted that we should go in with the baby, but how could you risk the lives of a whole family if the baby did not behave? My husband and I thought that we must take a chance and leave the house immediately, by trying to run out to the backyard and into the house of a gentile neighbour. The Germans did not search a Christian house as much as they did when they went into a Jewish home. I took the baby into my arms and sent my husband first to seek permission. The neighbour, not knowing what was going on, let my husband into the house. We would not have blamed him if he had not let us in. Who would do such a thing for a Jew in a time like this? While the door was open my husband came to take us across the yard to that open door that meant safety. The few steps from my house across the yard seemed like miles because to be out in the open that moment could have meant certain death. I was in the house with my neighbours who became hysterical when they looked out the window and saw what was going on. Being long time friends, they were willing to risk their lives rather than turn us over. As soon as the door closed behind me, the murderers were in our backyard where I had been just a few short seconds ago and they made their way up the steps to search the house. The people they found excluding my father and brother were taken away that day. In the meantime we were expecting at any minute they would come and search the neighbour's house. What could we do? The lady of the house put me and the baby behind a lady's dresser in a corner and my husband in a closet. Our lives were in the hands of God again. There was a knock on the door and before anyone moved, they were in. My only concern was to keep the baby quiet. Shaking and trembling, I made sweet faces at my baby and he just looked at me and smiled. He was so good and it depended on him whether we would live or die. We lived that horrifying day through safely and were grateful to God for giving us the courage to take that chance. Our neighbour was greatly rewarded that day.
We went on again living day after day frightened, punished, unhappy and not knowing what the future had in store for us. The baby was almost a year old when the Germans decided on gathering all the Jews left and placed them in one section of the city surrounded by barbed wire. It is easier to finish the poor people this way whenever they had the desire to do so. We also had working camps where the Jewish people worked like slaves to please the enemy. Having some friends in the country, my husband started to look for one that would take us out to their place and keep us hidden there, for a good reward, until the war was over. We did not think of going into the ghetto and waiting to be killed. It was not much trouble to find one woman that wanted to risk her father's life and put us in his home. She transferred all our possessions into her house for herself. Finally one evening, we left our home and we were brought into a little hut where an old man was living alone with his dog. The daughter did not risk too much, she thought, because she was waiting for her father's death to inherit some of the land that he possessed. What could she lose? First of all she took away whatever she could from us and the rest did not bother her too much. So we arrived there one evening. It was very far from other people and it seemed to be a good place for hiding and we were sure that finally we would be able to have some peace, but how can you have peace if you know that your father and brother are still in danger? The woman did not want to take the whole family. Only me, my husband and the baby. We could not rest. We had to do something about it. The old man seemed quite friendly and started even to like us a little. He believed in God and prayers and we began to tell him that the rest of our family was in danger. If he could save another two people he surely would be greatly rewarded. It seemed to us that he feared his daughter, and he did not want her to discover what he planned to do, but he gave in and then we brought my father and brother and put them in a separate room which we decided to keep from his daughter and we were together sharing the same roof, waiting for an unknown future. It was so peaceful there that we really considered ourselves fortunate to find such a retreat, but again we were very much mistaken.
One morning, after a few weeks, we noticed people working and cutting out trees from the forest, not very far from us. That was really the first time that we saw people around that place besides our benefactors. We knew only little that day except that something was going to be done, but the next morning we knew a lot more. A heavy knock at the door woke us up and the poor old man on opening the door came face to face with two German soldiers. Imagine how he felt and our anxiety at that moment. Fortunately they did not enter, but just informed him that there was to be some shooting and it would not be safe for him and the dog to remain in the house. There went the peaceful place and the hope of surviving.
In the corner of the barn we had dug a subterranean hideaway large enough for five people to fit in very cramped, in case of an emergency we would have a place to hide. Well the time came for the emergency. The old man took his dog and his coat, his only possessions and he left the house. We sat in our grave-like shelter, nearly suffocating, and tried to hear anything from outside. There was a lull like before a big storm. My husband could not stand it any longer. He crawled out from the hiding place into the barn and through a little crack in the boards he saw all the tragedy of a human race. What he saw then he will never forget. Even now, so many years later when we talk about it, he cannot get over the shock of the gruesome sight.
It was only half a mile away from the hut we were hiding in and there still is the mass grave of the poor innocent men, women and children from the ghetto of our town. This was the end of the existence of our Jewish community. They closed them up in one place in the city to be able in an easy way to finish their lives when the time came. We were shocked to see the way those barbarians arranged the killing. The dug out a big grave, brought people on big trucks, told them to get off, undress completely and put the clothes on the empty truck. Then, they lined them up beside the grave and one by one got a bullet in the back of the head, falling on the top of each other, some dead, some half-dead, mothers with their children in their arms suffering doubly. When we saw what was happening, although we were used to seeing death on every step we made during the German occupation, we could not believe our eyes that this could happen to human beings and that human beings could do that kind of thing to others.
This was going on for quite a few days. We did not have peace day or night. Although we had closed the blinds on all the windows that horrible scene followed us while sitting, standing or lying. We prayed and hoped that maybe we would be lucky enough not to be among those outside suffering, but little did we know what was planned by the good friends that gave us a helping hand. The daughter of the old man had her plan all prepared. She thought that it was enough time for us to stay hidden. It was about time to finish us the way others did. They had the best opportunity those days. Just point a finger at us in the empty house and we would be lost forever! The idea was to take our lives for the possessions they took away, although we would not ask for anything back anyways, but they were not sure of that. They seemed to have enough just feeding and looking after us.
So one morning they gave us away, but the good Lord was with us all the time and He did not forget us at this moment. The murderers were after us. They had the name of the old man and they were ready to come for our lives. Walking through the village they stopped to ask a little farm boy which way it was to Mr. Gtowachi's home. The boy did not hesitate long and told them that he would walk them over to the place they asked for. Lucky, lucky us. There was another farmer in the village by the same name. So off they go to the place where there was no sign of a Jew although they turned the place upside down. That was another miracle. It could have been our end if they had come to the right place.
We did not know all day what was going on in the village. At night the old man came over to tell us the good news and insisted we should leave his place immediately. The way he was thinking he was perfectly right. The next day they might have come to look for us in the right place. We did not beg him to let us stay, but in the middle of the night left to go nowhere.
Walking through the forest we got tired and sat down for a while. We did not know at first that were sitting right beside the grave of the mass killing, but when the moon came out we noticed where we were. There we decided to go back to our house in town and try to work out something with the people that were living there at that time. It was a chance in a hundred. With a year-old baby in my arms I could hardly walk. Weak from lack of food and air I really did not know how I was going to make it. The night was so dark that we could not find the right way to the city. Standing there we prayed for help because we felt lost again if we could not make it before morning. While standing at the beginning of two roads and not knowing which one to take we started to cry like little children that were lost and looking for their mother.
All of a sudden the moon started to shine on the road from our right side. Not having any other choice we decided to risk walking along the road that was lit up by the moon. We walked and walked. The way we felt it seemed a lifetime, but finally we came to town. With a prayer on our lips we arrived at our home. A light knock on the window that used to belong to us and the man that lived there woke up and looking at us through the window, thought that he was dreaming when he saw us standing like ghosts begging to be let in overnight at least. He happened to be nice and opened the door from the cellar to let us in. Safe again, but for how long? We did not know at this moment. We waited till the morning to see what was going to happen next.
Early in the morning the lady came down to ask us what we came for and from where. We told her the story in brief of how we had survived up until then, but could she understand our situation? I would not have blamed her if she did not. She was afraid for her life and the life of her family. Standing there looking at us and my little child, how scared and lost we looked, she seemed to feel sorry for us. We were surprised at that look and thought that after all they still had a little pity left in their hearts and we waited for her decision.
She could not decide herself until her husband gave her advice on what to do. I can say just that he was our saviour sent from God. When he came back from the market, not being able to sell his own coat in exchange for bread and saw us begging for help, he completely forgot how dangerous it would be to keep us. When we saw their situation we thought that money would be the only answer for it. We did not hesitate to show some of our possessions which we still had left and promised them an easier life if only they let us be with them for a while. The people gave in and we started a new life sitting hidden in a special
hide-out place and waiting for freedom. It seemed so close. Any day we all thought, but little did we know that it was going to go on for another twenty-two months.
Summer, fall and winter and again the same length of time we suffered cold, heat and lack of food. It is really hard to believe if you did not experience it, that a person can stand such agony, but we did and waited. A few incidents happened while we were there that showed us that God was with us and finally one day we heard the Russians bombing and shooting and with all our might we prayed that we would live through the last few days and survive.
All the people from the city were supposed to leave to go to the country because it was very dangerous to stay. The poor people that kept us for such a long time thought they would fail to bring us back to normal life. They left us alone against their will in the house with some bread and water and went away because they were told to do so. Alone in one dark corner of the cellar we sat there listening. What we heard did not please us very much. The Germans formed a hospital upstairs in our house and brought in wounded soldiers to be treated. Lucky we were that the Germans were afraid of the dark and they never came down to the cellar. They stayed upstairs.
We tried to keep the baby quiet so they would not notice us. A few days more and we would be free! What a thought at that time, what hope! The bombing and shooting was terrific, but it seemed that the more they were trying to destroy our house on account of the hospital, the less they succeeded. It was going on for a week. Five people, that is my father, brother, my husband and myself with the baby on one piece of bread and a little water (what a diet) not knowing when it was day or night, we lived to see the Russians come into our city. Again, finally, after three years without fresh air and sunshine we could walk out and thank God for the miracles he showed us through all those miserable, shocking experiences we had.
Just a few people in our town were that fortunate. There was not one complete family like us. There were only men without their wives or vice-versa. There were children without parents and from the community of fifteen thousand Jews, only one hundred were left. The town looked like a big cemetery. All the people, including us, had to start to learn how to walk. My child was whispering for a long period of time because he was never used to any loud talking. It was heartbreaking to watch this child come into a normal life.
After one year with another baby, a girl, we started to try to get away from it all and live far away from those horrible memories. We picked Canada, having a few relatives there, and we were not disappointed at all. On July 28, 1948, we arrived in our new country. We hope and pray that our children will never have to suffer as their parents did.