Rose's Story

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

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Part XV

Rose Silberberg-Skier: We stayed in that Convent, and other than these incidences, we were comfortable. Because they didn’t torture us, they didn’t beat us. They thought we were Christians.

In April 1945, there was a lot of bombing going on. The Russians were bombing the Convent, and most of the nuns started to go with the soldiers to Berlin. They left. And I remember that one Sister, Andrea, was leaving her room, and the room was open. And I said, “Sister Andrea, you forgot your picture in your room.”

And she said, “I don’t want it. You want my picture as a souvenir? Take it.” So I went in, and I took Sister Andrea’s picture.

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One thing I forgot to say: When we came back from Gestapo headquarters, after we had been interrogated, when I say my aunt was lucky that she told me to take the pictures from the cellar, there was a work crew there. They were making an air-raid shelter from that cellar. And taking everything out. All the stones, all the rocks. My aunt said, “Can you imagine? They would have found those pictures!” And that morning she said, “bring me the pictures” out of the blue, for no reason. And sure enough, they made the air-raid shelter and everything was gone.

So, we went to the air-raid shelter, and in April 1945, the Russians finally entered that town. But I remember that before they came, that last day, there was such terrible bombing going on, that we realized that they’re bombing the Convent. All around, the grounds were bombed. One nun was killed.

So I said, “Oh my God, I lived through all this, and now I will be killed by my allies!” And I started to pray. And this is what I prayed, because I remember:

“Oh please, God, let me live through this day. Please let me live through this one day. Because if you let me live, I vow to you I will rebuild the Holy Temple! I will rebuild the Holy Temple!”

This was my background, evidently. I mean where did it come from? I must have heard it somewhere. That this is the greatest thing to do. And I lived through it.

Debbi Portnoy: What language did you pray in?

RS: Polish. And sure enough, the bombing stopped. The doors opened. The Russians were there. I can tell you, when we came out from that shelter, and when I saw maybe 500 Russian tanks lined up there…it was so quiet. Suddenly it was so quiet. I looked, and I thought the Messiah had come! Oh my God, the Messiah had come! The Russians are here! We are FREE!

And we were free. For a while.

My aunt thought, this is the end of all persecution. But she was wrong. She went out, she approached one of the Russian officers, and she said, “I’m a Jew!” As if to say, are you happy? Look, I survived.

And he said, “You’re a Jew? Come here. Bourgeois?” He was a communist, but he also was a Ukrainian. Hated Jews just as much as the Germans! So she said she was joking. And she said to me, “Uh-uh. Don’t tell anybody you’re Jewish. I see we’re back to the same thing.”

We wanted to leave in order to go back to Poland. We wanted to see if anybody survived from the family. So, my aunt approached an officer, who was known to be Jewish, and she went over and she said to him, “Look, I’m Jewish, and I’m afraid to be here. Because they hate the Jews.” He was an officer in the Russian army, he wasn’t afraid. “Do me a favor. Give me a horse and buggy, and I’ll go back to Poland, because I want to see where my family is.”

And he said, “YOU are JEWISH?? You don’t look Jewish to me!” And he didn’t believe her! Frankly, she didn’t look Jewish one bit.

She said, “How can I prove it to you that I’m Jewish? I’m going to talk to you in Hebrew.”

He looked at her like, what? Hebrew to him was like from the moon. He was brought up in Communist Russia. He didn’t know Hebrew. He didn’t know Yiddish. He only knew, that on his passport, he had the stamp that said “Jew.” But he had a feeling…when she kept saying “Please, please, you want to hear the prayers? You want to hear Shma?” And he was like, what?

Finally, he said, “Alright. If you say it so many times, you’re Jewish.” And he did give us a horse and buggy, and a few other workers came, and we went all back to Poland.

DP: Did you have any contact with the Russians? Did you say anything to them? Did they say anything to you personally?

RS: No, the only thing is that they liberated us, but we saw that we have to be very careful because they were very anti-Semitic. Maybe that was a detachment of Ukrainians there. But they hated Jews. And the others were from…Mongols. So we didn’t know what they were like. Except that they used to run horses. If you saw them ride, you’d be scared to death. Just over our heads. This was their sport. So, we were scared, we said let’s get out of here.



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