Rose's Story

My mother, Rose Silberberg Skier, tells the miraculous story of how she survived the Holocaust

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Part XIX

Rose Silberberg-Skier: From there, we took a train, and we kept going for about a whole day until we reached a place called Frankfurt am Main. There was a displaced persons camp there, which we were told at that time to go there. And it was called Zeilsheim.

Debbi Portnoy: When did you arrive there?

RS: We arrived there maybe November 1945.

DP: Was there any type of registration when you got there?

RS: Yes. There already you had Jews in charge. It was a displaced persons camp, run partly by the Americans, and the Joint. And they gave us food, they gave us places to sleep…It was like a barracks at that time.

DP: Who was in your barracks?

RS: Maybe 100 people. I didn’t know these people, but they were Jews. That was the main thing. They were all fellow Jews.

DP: Was it divided, men and women?

RS: No, because we slept in our clothes. It wasn’t a hotel. But they said, “Don’t worry, you’re going to get regular homes, regular rooms. But this is just temporary.” And it was.

And General Eisenhower I think was in charge at that time. Still, he was there. Because as soon as another general came, they threw all the Jews out. But when Eisenhower was there, they gave us housing, regular housing.

DP: Did you ever see Eisenhower?

RS: No. I saw Mrs. Roosevelt. She came to see the Displaced Persons camps.

DP: Describe that to me.

RS: A lovely lady. Not pretty, but lovely as a human being. There was a young boy there in that camp, little boy. He was maybe nine. He had beautiful blond hair and blue eyes. He was gorgeous and he had a beautiful singing voice. And when she came, he stood there and he was singing the American National Anthem (they taught him). She was so impressed, and she went over, she hugged him. And she asked us all questions. Do we have food, where do we want to go, and what happened—well, she didn’t want to go into details about what happened. She knew what happened. But just generally. Do you have parents? No. Do you have parents? No.

DP: Did you make any friends in the camp?

RS: Absolutely. I had a lot of friends, and I started school. The Jewish way. Right away there came some Shlichim, people from Israel, teachers, and immediately started a school. And all of us kids went to school, at different levels, because some kids were like 18, and some were like me, 10-11, some were 15. Didn’t matter. We were all bunched up because we had no education throughout the war.

So we all were together, and they used to really have terrific intensified courses. They used to give us everything. We even studied German and Latin. We studied Hebrew, math, reading, geography, you name it. History. Everything.

DP: And when you weren’t in school, what were you doing?

RS: When I wasn’t in school, then finally they gave us housing. My Aunt Sara married and had a baby, and I used to take care of him. Otherwise I used to have a lot of friends.

Now my friends, all were from the school or from the camp. We used to go walk to each other. I remember they all had parents, at least one parent. Most had mothers. And I had never been jealous of anybody in my life. But I was jealous of anybody who had a mother. The first thing that I would ask a kid when I met one was, “Do you have a mother?” “Yes.” I though, Oh, you’re so lucky. You have a Mother! And this was my first question. It was pathetic. But this was how I felt. And do you want to know something? I still feel like that, till today. Till today.

Because even when I was married, and I had children, my children never had anybody. My children didn’t have a grandparent to hug them or love them or something. They were alone. And I took care of them. It wasn’t a matter of getting aid, such as physical aid. But it was just a matter psychologically there was nobody to love them. I said, “If God forbid, something happens to me, these kids would go to an orphanage. There’s nobody to take over and nobody to take them. Or they’ll split them up.” And I used to worry about this. I’d say “I can’t wait for them to grow up.”

Even when my son was Bar-Mitzvah, I sat there in the Shul and I thought “If my father were here to see how well he’s doing, my son, how he would be proud of him.” But all things like that, you know. You visualize. So I have always missed my parents, and especially my mother. But I did have a lot of friends.

DP: When did you get to the United States?

RS: First we tried to get to Palestine, but you know the English—first you had to have certificates, they had closed borders, the white paper, and they wouldn’t let the Jews in. So we decided to register for the United States. And I came here August 24, 1951.

DP: How did you get to the United States?

RS: On a troopship, General Blanchford, all by myself. Because I did have family. My uncle, Sam Klapholz was there, but he was a “K” in the alphabet. My aunt was Wachsman (“W”). I was “S” for Silberberg. Now they went according to the alphabet. You either went, or you forfeit your right to go. So there was nothing to talk about. I was 17, and I picked myself up, I had nothing to wear, no clothes and no money, and I got on the ship and I came here.

It happens, that I had an aunt here, who also was a refugee. And she said, “Come on over to me and stay for a while.”

DP: Describe your journey here on the ship.

RS: It was terrible. Even though I was grateful to go. The people were nice. There were American troops there. They were being shipped back to the States. And the refugees. They gave us to eat. And we had terrible quarters. We were so many women together, bunched up. And we were very very hot. There was no airconditioning. They gave us the worst little cabins. I couldn’t wash anything. I had no clothes. I wanted to wash my clothes. Overnight, no facilities.

I remember that finally I volunteered to work at the dispensary. They had a lot of women who had babies. So these babies used to come there, and so on. And I used to help a nurse. She was a Navy nurse, and her name was Jeanie Johnson. She spoke with a Southern accent. I couldn’t understand one word.

And I want you to know that when I was going to school there I learned English, but Shakespearian English. They taught us Shakespeare. Like this was going to help us. So when she talked, not only did I not understand the English, the colloquialism, I didn’t understand the Southern [accent]. So when she spoke to me, it was like a blank. And she used to tell me, “Rosie? ROSIE?” She thought I was deaf. But I wasn’t deaf. I just didn’t understand. When you don’t understand, people think that you’re deaf, so they talk louder to you.



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