My grandfather and father were in a work camp together. I met my father for the first time when I was two years or three years old. We were lucky, Romania wasn’t, as far as I know, like Hungary where they sent Jews to the gas chambers. It was mainly to work camps or they killed them. What I’ve been told, they would take Jews to the river, have them dig their own graves and then shoot them all.
I remember when I was two, three years old; I wore a yellow piece of cloth that had the Jewish star on it. I was told when I used to go out, people would say Jew, you don’t belong here, go to Palestine. I also remember, being told, that when I was born, the midwife said, another dirty Jew is born.
My mother, grandmother, aunt, and I lived together; later my father came back from the labor camp.
I remember my mother was wounded as the Russians were attacking the Germans. My mother was in the market when she was wounded by a bomb, she lost her foot.
When the Russians came in, we left to go to Israel. I remember that we always ran away. We always ran from one place to another. We took a train and that was a big deal to me, we went to Bucharest and other places.
My parents wanted me to learn everything there was about my heritage. They didn’t speak to me in Romanian, they spoke to me in Yiddish because that’s the language of the Jewish people.
When we left Romania, we hired people to cross us from the border of Romania to Hungary. Those people took all of our money then they turned us over to the Hungarian police. While the police took us, a truck came I think from the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). They paid off the police.
From there, we lived in a synagogue in Budapest. Some gracious Jews used to come and take the children out. From there, we went to Vienna. When we crossed the border between Hungary and Austria, we were supposed to be quiet. I had a baby brother at that time that was a year old or so at the time. He started crying, my father almost suffocated him. The Russians were shooting at us because we were running toward the American zone. We ended up in Vienna where we were in the hands of the Joint until we got to Israel. This was probably 1946 or 1947.
From Vienna, we went to another part of Austria that used to be a concentration camp that had a gas chamber in it. I remember that my brother got lost in that camp and we couldn’t find him. We find him in a hole. In that hole, we found soap that was there made out of pure Jewish fat, my parents told me.
I started learning Hebrew for about two years before we got to Israel in a JDC school. I remember Jewish American soldiers giving us chocolates.
We were given choices once we were in the hands of the Americans, to go to Canada, the United States, or Israel. The history of my family started in Russia. Then they had problems in Russia and so they moved to Romania. After the war, part of the family actually moved back to Russia. We didn’t see an aunt and uncle until twenty years after the war, we didn’t know they existed.
My family chose to go to Israel because we were Jews, that was the Jewish country, this was the place where nobody’s going to hurt us again.
In May, , Israel was declared a State. In August, 1948, we arrived from Venice to Israel by way of a ship that used to transport animals. I was seven and one half years old at the time.
I was the only one in my family who spoke Hebrew, so I was the “big muscle.” But when we arrived in Israel, they put us in tents. There was still fighting going on and there was no work and little food. But we felt safe.
I didn’t have to identify myself as a Jew, everybody was a Jew. We were not afraid for my neighbors that were going get drunk and take it out on the Jews.
There was no Hitler anymore.
We felt that we are on our way to prosperity. We celebrated our freedom, we had a parade, Jewish flags, it was like a holiday. We planted trees. It was freedom. We didn’t have to worry that the Nazis were going to come, we were Jews.
But it was very hard for my father. He didn’t have any work but I never ever heard of him say I wish were living in Romania. This never came up. It came up maybe we should have gone to America but never ever did we want to go back to that Romania. As a matter of fact, my parents never went back there.
I think they felt betrayed by the Romanians. They let the Germans take advantage; they took advantage because the labor camps were in Romania. Romanians worked building trains, train tracks, things like that.
I grew up fast in Israel, trying to survive. When I was 17 ½, I went into the army. I was in the 1967 war.
Some American people think that all Arabs are bad. It’s not true.
When we went to Gaza those people ran away to the fields. Later, they came out of the fields; a girl came and gave me some cucumbers. So, why would you give your enemy cucumbers? We got out of there fast; the whole war took like a week. After a week and a half, we came home, no more war.