Gisela Solomon

"Work hard, but number one, believe in G-d.     People born here have a beautiful country, you have freedom, you have everything going for you, work hard to keep it this way.  I wish I would have been born here, we have freedom.     You don’t have to worry about someone coming around the corner.  It’s very special what we have.     If only I would have the opportunities, I would have become a professor.  That’s the main thing, getting an education."

Name at birth
Gisela Kaufmann
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Cologne on Rhine, Germany
Name of father, occupation
Abraham Kaufmann, Furniture business
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Selma Wagen, Homemaker
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Parents, Carola (born 12/4/1920), and me
How many in entire extended family?
I don’t know, I didn’t know my family
Who survived the Holocaust?
My sister and I
I went to Hebrew school, but they closed up the Jewish schools.  I tried going to different schools, my mother wanted me to go to school.  It started 1933, I was 13 years old.  They found out that I was Jewish.  I wasn’t a regular kid, I couldn’t play outside or ride a bike, it was very dangerous.  Kids who used to play among us now called us dirty names, we were afraid to go play outside.  We had to be careful; we stayed with other Jewish children and families.  
My father was gone when I was young, I didn’t see my father anymore, my mother started to cry every time I talked about my father.  I think they caught him.  She didn’t know how to answer.  He was taken away after Kristallnacht. 
My sister was two years older than me; she’s sensitive but in a different way, she doesn’t talk about it much.  She lives now in London, England. 
What I remember about the Nazis is that they burned the Shuls (Synagogues) down.  We didn’t bother anybody.  The Nazis went into schools.  One day, I went to a movie house with my mother and the Nazis came in.  My mother said we have to try to get out of here, we tried to get out of Cologne, but no other country would take us.  My mother spoke beautiful French, we went to the border, she thought maybe France would take us but they sent us back.  My mother, sister, and I came back to Cologne.
My mother found a little job, they made me grow up fast, and mother cleaned the houses.  But we lived in dignity because we had a little income.  I asked my mother if I can help, she said come help me clean up the houses.  
I wanted to have an education but I couldn’t have one.  I liked going to school.  
Cologne was being bombed terribly by English and American bombers.  We were always running.  I was young.  I didn’t understand what was happening, this on top of how they were treating the Jews.
I still don’t understand how people can hate the Jews.
My mother worked. I tried to help her, I kept the house clean so when she came home she wouldn’t have to work also. 
One day I got caught by the Nazis.  There was an air raid by English bombers, my mother said to me in French that we should run across the street, there’s an underground bunker there, we can hide there.  When I ran across the street, I ran right into a Nazi.  He said, “Oh!  Yeah, you’re the Kaufman’s girl.  I didn’t answer, my mother was behind me.  I said to my mother go back, I didn’t want her to get caught.  
They took me to Nazi headquarters.  I was nineteen years old, I was a young woman.  I was questioned, where’s my father, where’s my mother, sister, I said I do not know, I lied.  They kept me at the headquarters.  I had to peel the potatoes, three days and three nights straight.  
Every morning we stood in line.  There were all kinds of people, they were not all Jewish.  It was a prison.  It was terrible.  But you know, I survived.  
When I was in the Nazi prison, if I ever stopped peeling potatoes, I was hit with the gun in my back.  I thought as long as the gun didn’t go off, I was still all right.  
From there I went into camp.   At that time, all the camps were filled with Jewish people.  
They took me on a wagon with other people from the jail, they stopped at different camps asking how much room they had, and dropped people off.  They came to the one where I was to go.  The name of the camp was Hunswinkel in the Eifel, it was a big camp.
Everyone was afraid to say anything.  Every morning we had to stand outside with no clothes on, they called everyone’s name.  They made jokes. 
I was there at least eight or nine months.  The Americans were getting closer, American airplanes used to drop papers and cigarettes.  
I became sick at that camp with Typhoid, they put me in a different barrack.  They were all dying around me, there was no doctor, no food, no medicine; no one could last too long.
I was liberated by American soldiers from this camp in 1945.  One American soldier liberated me.  The door was locked; an American soldier opened the door.  He asked me, “Can you walk, don’t be afraid, if you can’t come to me, I’ll come to you.  He said he was a captain from the American army.  He said, “Trust me, I want to help you.”  I said, “Why?”  He said, “Because I am Jewish.”  
He said that I should come with him that I had to get well; that he’ll take care of me.  So I went with my new friend!  
We went to a farmhouse.  He said that I should wait for him in his jeep.  I was at his side in the front seat.  He came back with the lady from the farmhouse.  He said you have nothing to worry about.  I’m stationed right in the farmhouse and we’re taking the farmhouse over.
We spoke Yiddish, he came everyday to check up on me.  He took care of me.  He was a good man.
After a while, one day I said to him that I wanted to talk to him about something.  He said, “Yeah, shoot, go ahead.”  I said that the lady has been so nice to me.  I wanted to show her my appreciation.  I told the captain that I was sure that she had nothing to do with the Nazis.  That was my main concern.  He said let me check it out first.  He said later, that I was right.   I wanted to do something for her, I couldn’t stay, I wanted to look for my mother and my sister.  
I asked her what I could do for her.  She said that her husband was gone.  She asked me to help her make preservatives, canned goods; so I helped her for a while.  
I wanted to go back to Cologne and look for my mother and sister and so I did.  The captain said that he couldn’t go with me, I told him that I understood of course.    
I went to Cologne.  I walked from the east to the west.  I was young, I was strong, I was a skinny kid.  I caught rides with the jeeps.  The Americans didn’t touch me, they were very respectful.
I thought my mother might be in the last place that we lived, but it was all bombed out.  I thought that’s only place where I could find her.  
I went there.  I opened the door and there she was.  She said, “It’s about time that you come back, I’m making chicken soup!”  She gave me a bed that was clean.  I slept in the bed, it was wonderful!  My whole inside, it was a wonderful feeling.  I asked, where’s Carol, my sister?  She said, don’t worry, she’ll be home tomorrow.  Carol came home and said you beat me to it didn’t you.  Now that I’m back, I’m going to straighten you out!  She’s got a good sense of humor too.  She said but don’t ask me where I was, I won’t ask you, you don’t’ ask me.  She was two years older than me.  
After a while, I got restless.  I see a woman down the hall, she’s with a man who tried to hide from me, he had a Nazi uniform on. I came to my mother, I said this is the woman who must have reported us to the Nazis.  These are good neighbors.  I said what do you mean, this was the woman who put me in prison.  
There were always people there that you couldn’t trust.  She tried to be overly friendly.  People do strange things during war.   But we what did we Jewish people want, to be have a normal family, to love and be loved.  It’s a very odd thing.
Why did they do this, I don’t understand Antisemitism.  
My mother wouldn’t talk about how she survived.
I had papers to go to Israel.  In the meantime, in Germany, I found myself a job.  A Polish Jewish man who survived had a ladies clothing factory in Cologne.  I was in line at his store, he spotted me.  He said you don’t have to stand in line, come with me.  I said, you don’t know me.  He said my name is Jacob.  We talked a little bit.  He said that I should come tomorrow to see him in his factory and he hired me.  My mother didn’t have to go the black market anymore, I had money, I could buy anything I wanted, I worked for Jacob.  Jacob wanted me to marry him. I didn’t marry him, my husband to be, came along.
I went on vacation to Heidelberg to visit a female friend of Jacob’s.  She introduced me to my future husband there.
We were married by an American rabbi in Heidelberg, May 1947. 
My husband, Ludwig Moser, wanted to go to Detroit, he had family here.  He was in Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald.  After we were married, he got very sick.  He developed leukemia.  He passed away after eighteen years of marriage.
He had a few cousins here in Detroit so we came here in 1948.  
My husband was a hard working man in the building business.  He went to college, he was a little older than me.  He was that special person to face life together with; he was honest, respectful, and intelligent.  Unfortunately, he passed away in 1966.   
I married again, Norman Solomon.  Unfortunately, after only four months, he had a heart attack and died
Name of Concentration / Labor Camp(s)
Where did you go after being liberated?
Back home to Cologne, Germany
When did you come to the United States?
Where did you settle?
Detroit, Michigan
How is it that you came to Michigan?
My husband had cousins here
Occupation after the war
I had no education, with Jacob in Cologne, I made women’s clothing; in Detroit I worked for a foot doctor, Dr. Lindy for fifteen years; and later, I was a caregiver
When and where were you married?
May, 1947; Heidelberg, Germany
Ludwig Moser; Norman Solomon, Ludwig: building business
Alan Moser, lawyer
What do you think helped you to survive?
I have faith in G-d, I talk to G-d everyday. I feel that he protects me. I think that G-d protected me during the war. When I pray, I feel better; it helps me to hang in there. I think he protects me.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
Work hard, but number one, believe in G-d.  
People born here have a beautiful country, you have freedom, you have everything going for you, work hard to keep it this way.  I wish I would have been born here, we have freedom.  
You don’t have to worry about someone coming around the corner.  It’s very special what we have.  
If only I would have the opportunities, I would have become a professor.  That’s the main thing, getting an education.
Charles Silow
Interview date:

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