Rose's Story

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

Monday, March 14, 2005


Rose Silberberg-Skier: Suddenly, my aunt came to get me.

Debbi Portnoy: How did you spend your time during those few weeks?

RS: Nothing. I was just lying there like that and I was so miserable and I used to say, “get me out of here, at least into the corridor, let me be with the other kids,” because there were other kids there. “No, no, you’re contagious.” So why did you put me there? “Be quiet.” They had no time. They were very overcrowded. It was a terrible place. When my aunt finally showed up, it must have been October, I was so glad to see her.

She said: “I came to get you. We’re going to Palestine.” And at that time, there was no iron curtain yet. It was ‘45. So you could get out of Poland, but you had to maneuver a little bit. But there was no transportation.

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So my uncle, Sam Klapholz, had come…what happened to my uncle Sam, is that the same man who had the false papers for us, gave papers to my uncle. But what I didn’t mention to you before is that the man who gave us the papers, who sent us to the Convent to work [Nedza], he had to have an operation. He was very sick. And when he was on the operating table, there was a Polish doctor who was going to operate, and he told this doctor, “I have a list of Jews that I sent on fake papers and I’m sorry about it, but that’s what it is.” So this Polish doctor called the SS, and they came, and they said, “Where’s the list?” And he told them. They got the list, and systematically, they came to round up all these Jews. That’s why they came [to our Convent], because we didn’t know how they found out in the Convent that we are Jewish. That’s why the SS man came and said, “Come to headquarters, we’re going to question you,” because we were on the list. He gave us the work, so we were on the list.

So what happened was that my uncle Sam also had false papers, but they came and they got him, and they took him to Auschwitz. And he has the number from Auschwitz. But he survived Auschwitz, and he came to our hometown, and when my aunt came to get me that time in the orphanage, she said, “Your uncle is there, and he’s waiting for you. We’re all going to go together to Palestine.”

And that’s how we started to go from Poland, to the Russian part of Germany. Because there was at that time four parts: Russian, American, British, and French. We went to the Russian part. To the Russian part of Germany, you didn’t need a passport, because Poland was under Russian control too. And we had to wait 2 weeks on the tracks to get a train. There was no transportation. We were just like Gypsies.

The Russian soldiers used to come, and take everybody’s watches away. So they had watches here, here, here, here, here…(points up arms). They open their jackets, here, here, here…they said they’re taking the watches to Moscow. They robbed you. Whoever was stronger robbed you. That’s how it was.

DP: Did you have to do anything to protect yourself from the Russian men?

RS: Not me, but my aunt did, because they used to rape the women something vicious there. Very bad.

DP: Did you ever see or hear about any?

RS: Yes, I heard, I did. I didn’t see it, but I heard. Somebody told us. We were told that this is what’s going on, we should be very careful, because they’re coming, and they’re taking the women away, and they’re raping them. This is what they did. But we took the chance anyway. And there were a lot of people on the tracks. Mainly they were interested in robbing you. Because they were going to go back to Russia and bring stuff. So if you had anything of value, you were doomed. You had to give it up.

And finally when the train came, I remember, we were sitting like Gypsies on the floor, waiting for the train. Then we sat inside the train on the floors. And it used to stop and go, stop and go. It took us weeks to get to the Russian part of Germany. Once we were there, we had with us whiskey, which we knew, this was the only way to bribe the Russians to go to the American part.

DP: How did you get the whiskey?

RS: My aunt got it, I don’t know how. But whiskey was not hard to get. In Poland you could get whiskey, vodka, anytime. Must have been vodka. You could get it anytime, because it’s cheap. Because they all drank.

DP: At this time, how were you getting money, how were you getting food?

RS: My aunt got it. She didn’t tell me how, but she got it. My uncle told me that he had, at one time when we were still in the Polish woman’s house, he was hiding there jewelry and things like that. And when we were discovered, this stayed there. Because nobody knew where it was. He went back there, and he got some stuff out. So he must have sold some of the jewelry. Because they had a little money, not much. But just enough to get on a train and things like that.

So from there we went to the Russian part, and then he bribed the guards. Oh, it was a terrible ordeal to the American part. Because I remember there was a tremendous ravine; it was as if there was a river on the bottom. And it was dark. And my uncle said, “We have to go there, and then go up, and there will be the American part.”

So we said, “How can we go down there? We’re going to drown?” And he said, “I’ll be the first.” He was the first one. And he slid down right into what looked like a river. But he screamed, “IT’S NOT A RIVER! IT’S OK!” So we started to go. We all slid down and fell in. And then finally we started to go up again, and we stayed. He said, “Wait, and let me see if we are on the American side. Maybe we are still with the Russians.”

He went. He came back. He said, “I just saw the most gorgeous soldier. He’s an American, and he has a cap like that. Gorgeous people, and they gave me white bread. White! Not Challah, white bread!”

We said, “Ach! Go away, you’re lying. I never heard of white bread!” He said, “Yes, yes! White bread!” We were hysterical. We ran with him. Sure enough, the Americans came out and gave us bread. We were like refugees.



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