Joseph Findling

"Never give up.  Never say die.  Never again."

Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Cologne, Germany until 10 ½ years old
Name of father, occupation
Wolf David, Difficulty keeping jobs, was a “talker”
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Etla Gotesdiener, Homemaker
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Parents and five children: Me, Fred, Martin, Fanny and Regina
How many in entire extended family?
Difficult to estimate, my family was spread all over
Who survived the Holocaust?
Me and my siblings; Fred, Martin, Fanny and Regina. Also, our uncle Chaskiel (Charles Gordon) and a cousin Joseph Kirchenstein
Our uncle Chaskiel (Charles) lived with us and helped pay the rent.  The Nazis took away uncle Chaskiel’s thrift store in 1938 and made his employee the manager.   On October 20, 1938, we were at our Jewish school and were told we were wanted at home.  My father and uncle were packing; they were told they had to report to the police station because we were being kicked out of the country because they were Polish nationals.  I went with my father to the police station.  I begged him to take me with him.  He said no, you have to be “me” now, I said but I’m only 10 years old.  He said you’ll learn, you’re in charge.  They put him on a bus.  We received one postcard from Frystach, Poland where he stayed with his parents and brothers.  

I heard a rumor that if you could get to The Hague, the Netherlands, you could be saved.  I went with my uncle Herman to buy a ticket to The Hague.  He told me to walk around till you find other Jews, and you hear the Yiddish language spoken.  My uncle gave me money to buy a round trip ticket, “so they think you’re coming back”.  I walked onto the train, I sat down, and there were three ladies, speaking in Dutch.  The woman I was sitting next to asked me where I was going; I said “I’m going to The Hague.  I’m running away from the Nazis. I’ll send a postcard to my family for them to follow me.”  I told her about my father.  She said “you’re coming home with me.”  When we got to the Dutch border, she said to the guard, “he belongs to me.”  The guard demanded that I leave the train.  The woman pleaded with him to let me go with her.  I was taken to a separate cabin, fed and asked why I was leaving Germany I couldn’t explain it to them, so they put me on a train to return home.  At 9:00 pm, I walked back into my own house.  The next day I went to school, but was stopped on the way and told it was too dangerous. 

On November 9, 1938, I saw smashed stores and smoke in the distance. I walked toward the smoke and saw that it was the Romerstrasse Synagogue, our synagogue, on fire.  There was a crowd all around.  That was Kristallnacht.  There was a bonfire in the street; Jewish holy books were on the fire.  I went back home and told my mother what was happening. We heard trucks filled with Brown Shirts coming to the homes and pounding on doors.  Our family hid very quietly in a place my father built under the floor.  Since apparently no one was there, the Nazis left.

After this incident, my mother and I discussed leaving Germany for Belgium.  We had relatives in Belgium.  The four older children left by train to meet our cousins.  Mother and Regina (Reggie) stayed on and were smuggled out of Germany later.  We stopped near the French border and stayed there for about two weeks with other children in our situation.

My brother and sisters and I were separated into different children’s homes in Brussels, Belgium.  Our mother was elsewhere working.  She sent me a card from Antwerp.  She came to visit me, and I took her to visit Fanny in St. Giles. Fred, Martin and I were in different homes for a while, but were reunited in 1940.  We were about to start school when the Germans invaded.

Germans invaded, we didn’t know if we should stay or leave.  My mother and sister tried to walk to the coast of France but was stopped and told to return to Brussels.  After she left, I found out that we may be able to get out with the help of the Elka and Alex Frank.  They ran the children’s homes and received permission with the help of a Quaker organization to send some children to the United States.  They were able to secure three freight cars at the station to move the children to the Port of Le Havre.  First we needed to receive permission.

Mr. Frank wrote to our parents in Belgium and Poland.  We would be able to leave for the United States without visas if we were able to secure the permission of our parents.   After receiving permission, my brothers Fred, Joseph and I were among 56 children that were able to go on the “Save the Children” program.  We arrived in New York on September 24, 1941.

Our sisters Fanny and Regina survived the war were reunited with us in the United States. 
Where were you in hiding?
France, by Pyrenees Mountains in castle Chateaux de La Hille
When did you come to the United States?
September 24, 1941
Where did you settle?
Detroit Michigan
How is it that you came to Michigan?
A Jewish family agreed to take us in
Occupation after the war
I went to Wayne State University and became an attorney. At first I went to Wayne State University for Social Work, but I didn’t like it. I couldn’t raise a family as a Social Worker.
When and where were you married?
Scott, Keith, Timothy, and Andrew
Two and one great-grandchild
What do you think helped you to survive?
A lot of mazal (luck). When I tried to flee to Holland, it made me feel I was worth something, I had value. I figured out how to get people to help me.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
Never give up.  Never say die.  Never again.
Charles Silow
Interview date:
To learn more about this survivor, please visit:


Survivor's map

Contact us

Subscribe to our newsletter

Subscribe to our email newsletter to receive updates on the latest news

thank you!

Your application is successfuly submited. We will contact you as soon as possible

thank you!

Your application is successfuly submited. Check your inbox for future updates.