Concordia University MIGS

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Part 6

Sam’s narrative resumes


It was almost daylight when Heddy finished her story, but nobody left the place till she was finished. This was one of the greatest miracles that happened to our sisters, they survived the greatest hell ever known to mankind.

The next day we all had breakfast, at lunch time; we all slept in and felt real good. Being together with the family and some of Rouzsi's friends, we had a wonderful time. We started to plan the next move, how to locate brother Polda.

Heddy, Ritta and I set out for the journey. We had big problems with our train connections. Trains were not running on schedule and most of the tracks to Slovakia were destroyed, therefore making it very difficult to travel. But we finally got a train going to Kosice. We got on the train and we had to get off on two occasions in order to by-pass the broken-up tracks. After two days, we finally arrived in Kosice. We proceeded to the military headquarters to get information about our brother Leo. The information we got from the authorities that a Leo Smilovic was stationed in Banska Bistrica in Slovakia. The distance was not that great, the difficulty was to get proper train connections for that part of Slovakia. We decided to walk, and after walking for about two hours, a stranger gave us a lift to the next town, where we made connections to Banska Bistrica. We got on to the train and we traveled for about 4 hours when we arrived at Banska Bistrica.

Since we were on the road for a few days, we didn't have the opportunity to wash up properly. We finally found a place while walking from the railroad station, we all washed and changed clothes. After all, we were going to meet our hero, Leo Smilovic our brother, the greatest soldier and partizan in Czechoslovakia. We walked and were looking for a tall building on the main street where the military was occupying some storage space. As we were walking, we noticed two military guards at this building. We had just started to cross the road, when one of the guards screamed, "Leo! Leo!" and ran up the steps into the building. Within seconds, we saw brother Leo, reaching his hands to heaven and screaming, "Welcome! Welcome!" He was dressed in his officer's uniform, medals covered most of his chest. We all embraced and cried. The people were gathering on the street witnessing this spectacle. An officer, his sisters and a brother embracing for the first time after being liberated from the Buchenwald, Auschwitz and hell.

We were being photographed by the news media, and we appeared in the newspaper headlines. Leo took the day off. We lunched in one of the nicest restaurants in town with wine and Gypsy music. It was a day to remember. We were placed at a very good friend's place, a private house with all the necessities for a lovely stay.

The next day Polda, my brother (we call him Leo now, short for Leopold) took us to a shoemaker and we had shoes made for us by hand, a specialty in Europe. We also went shopping for dresses for the girls. We were on a spending spree, and we enjoyed every minute of it. At night we spent together and talked about life back home.

Since Leo was 14 years older than me, he remembered things that we never knew or heard of before, like father and mother's birth dates. Father was born in Paczkonyov in 1885 and mother was born in Paczkonyov in 1886. Father was the mayor of the village until his enrollment in the army in the First World War and mother took over the mayor's function during the war. We had a brother, Jona Wolf, who died when he was four years old from the typhus that plagued Europe during the early 1920s. The house they bought when they first moved to Munkacs from Paczkonov was purchased from our uncle Hersh Meilech who later moved to Swalyeve. Leo told us about his days in the war since he left Munkacz in 1941, when he witnessed the arrest of father on Shabes Tshuva (the Shabat before Yom Kipur) as he came home from Shul, and being taken away by the Secret Police.

As he returned back to his post in the Hungarian forced labour camp in Aknaslatina, deep in Hungary, they were all shipped out to the Eastern front, since Hungary had joined Germany in the war effort. They were assigned to dig trenches in the front lines all along the battlefields. It was winter, early in 1942 and the weather was bitter cold. The Russians had just retaken Stalingrad and captured 200,000 prisoners. The Germans were retreating by the thousands, things were out of control.



Brother Leo’s Story

The winds were howling and you could hardly see in front of you. In all this mess, I saw a Hungarian soldier in Prochorovka Russia, he was a friend of mine from Munkacz, Cedor Geza was his name. He was enlisted in the army and now they were told to retreat, the Russians were only 20 km away, he said. I asked him to give regards to the family if he managed to return to Munkacz.

We decided that this was the time to escape instead of retreating, we fought the blowing snow and were going forward. At the end of the day, we arrived in a small village. Four boys from Munkacz were looking for someone to help us. The village was deserted, except one little house had the chimney smoking. We approached the house and an old man answered the door, I greeted him in Russian, since I learned Russian in school. The old man looked scared and asked: Who are you? We told him that we were Jewish boys from Mukachevo, and that we had just escaped from the Hungarian forced labour camp. He looked baffled and confused, "You sure you are not Germans?" "No sir, we hate the Germans." In that case, come in and sit down and I will give you some hot soup I just cooked. We had it made, we ate and drank some home made whisky, and we retired for the night on the floor with some straw and blankets. We fell asleep like logs, we slept for about four hours when we were awakened by Russian soldiers pointing the guns at us. We all jumped up, and held our hands above our heads as ordered. We were all taken as prisoners to a camp in Luhy.

When we arrived, some two thousand of our boys were already in this camp. But, after a few weeks in the camp, typhus broke out. Lots of boys were dying every day. After a week I felt that I was getting sick. I risked my life and escaped from camp heading for a hospital. As I was walking along the road a man with a horse and buggy passed me on the road. I immediately greeted him with a big hello in Russian. What are you up to young man? I explained to him that I wanted to go to a hospital because I felt I was getting sick. Like an angel from heaven, "Hop on," he said, "I am going to pass the hospital anyway." My Russian language helped me immensely. A Russian female doctor seemed to like my face. Without any questions, she pointed to me and said, "You come with me." She led me into a room where she examined me and prescribed medicine; she ordered the nurses to look after me at once.

After a week in the hospital, I felt much better and I was released. While walking away from the hospital I noticed three Czech soldiers sitting in a jeep. I ran over and asked them if they could help me. This time I spoke to the soldiers in perfect Czech, my mother language. What in hell are you doing here? I explained to them about being in the Hungarian forced labour, that I had managed to escape from the front lines, but I was arrested as a prisoner of war. "Did you have any military training before?" they asked. "Yes, Sir! I had two years training in the city of Olmouc in Czechoslovakia, from 1935 to 1937." "Do you want to join the Czech Brigade?" "Yes, Sir!" "Get into the jeep and we will take you to Krasnohorse where you can join up with the brigade."

I joined the brigade and was immediately given the rank of corporal. We were training as paratroopers for invading the Germans from the rear. After two months of training, we were transferred to Tula not far from Moscow. We were trained to jump into the Carphatian mountains not far from our hometown of Munkacz. We were happy that we would be able to liberate our families. Little did we know about the massacre that followed that year. It was May 1944 when I was assigned plane number 18 with 40 men aboard. We were awaiting our orders for departure when plans were changed from Moscow: no drops in the Carphatian mountains. We were to change our plans and prepare for jumping in the Tatra mountains in Slovakia. Most of the boys in the Brigade were Jewish boys from the Carphatians. When the change of order came, we were all disappointed. Politics, strictly politics, was the reason of the plan change. The Russians wanted the credit of liberating the Carphatians, since it was in the plan to annex the whole region after the war, which they did. We could have saved 200,000 Jewish lives in the Carphatians if our plans had been executed as they were originally planned.

In the meantime, we joined the fighting forces of General Swoboda, and we were driving the Germans from Proskurof, Kiev, Volin, Tarnopol, Premisel to Krosnov, and Kroschenkof. The casualties were heavy, but we accomplished our task of defeating the German forces. Our paratrooper brigade was regrouped. On Sept. 19, 1944 the Slovak revolution called for help. The orders for the drop finally came and we all prepared for it, when a captain ordered my plane to be replaced with number 20 since my plane was larger and they had a larger company of paratroopers. Plane 20 took off first and returned shortly after, the weather was very bad. The next day, they took off again, and this time the plane crashed and there were no survivors. It seems that the change of command for plane number 18 was never changed, giving my name as a casualty. Most of the brigade thought that I went down with plane number 18. They didn't know about my change to number 20. We finally made our jump and were successful in establishing a well-secured base in the hills of Slovakia.

On November 3, 1944, the Germans attacked our base, and it was an all-out battle, fighting in the hills, on the roads, and in the streets. The losses were very heavy, but we fought for every inch, and we did not capitulate. We remained in the hills and resisted every attack. One day we needed a report for the General Osmanof, in charge of the paratroopers, to find the German lookout points and their strength. Captain Krajcik and I were in charge of this mission. As we entered the first village, we noticed a lookout tower and a machine-gun nest. Krajczik and I managed to neutralize the machine gun position, and the lookout tower within minutes. We continued to make our report about the enemy forces when I suddenly heard someone talking in Hungarian. Since I also speak Hungarian, I knew right away that these soldiers were deployed with the artillery. We hid, and as they came closer I jumped out from my hiding place and, in Hungarian, I ordered them to raise their hands. We frisked them and removed all their guns, plus a beautiful blade knife that I still have as a memento. We were pretty serious when we interrogated them, and they knew it. We managed to get all the artillery positions and troop concentrations from them. We headed back to present our report. When we reached Headquarters, it was the first time I met General Osmanof, Chairman Slanski, General Sherman, and Fininger. They all served later in the Czech government. They were delighted with our report. The next day we attacked and managed to break through the line, joining up with the other units in the area and defeating the Germans all over Slovakia. After capturing Lubice, we had a rest for a few days.



March 1945

President Benes was in Poprad to review the fighting paratroopers. Benes was decorating the soldiers with medals. At the end, ten names were called and President Benes handed out the Medal of Honour and the Medal of Valour and I was one of the ten decorated. We returned to the front lines and things were going very good. The Germans were running faster than we could catch up with them. May 9, 1945, the war was finally over, we marched to Prague and there was a big parade and some more medals. We finally were placed in Banska Bistrica and I was in charge of the food supply for the Second Brigade.

In order to detail all the battles, the losses and the victories, in the past two years of fighting, one would need to write another book, and many more books, to be able to understand the enormity of this terrible long war. It is interesting to note that not too many people are aware of this great heroic fighting force, mostly boys in their early thirties and late twenties, boys who had just left the Yeshivot and were taken into the military force, only later to be put in forced labour camps and then joined the Czech army in the early 1940s. They are our pride and joy. They can't say that Jews did not resist. These boys emerged as heroes from the war, they were the best fighting force in the war. They gave their lives with burning guns in their hands, and with their last breath they said the "Shma Israel" (Hear O Israel!).



Sam’s Story resumes

Although I was only 15 when we were thrown out of our homes and taken to the slaughter, I blame our elders for not trying to implant in us a resisting force, to enable us to resist these sadistic killers in every town, and in every village, on the trains, on the highways, and in the streets. What an immense force to deal with! Instead, we were given a strict diet of Chasidim that made zombies out of us. The attention that was paid to all the six hundred and thirteen Mitzvot (Commandments) in detail was an example of your character for generations to come.

To touch a candlestick holder was forbidden on Shabat. It was Moktze, a sin that you probably would get your hands chopped off for touching it. Of course this was not true, but we, in our minds, felt that chopping off your hand would be the proper punishment. Just an example of our upbringing back in the Carphatian cities and villages.

How does one understand why Jews did not resist: this question was often asked by misinformed people sitting in their plush studios who put the reason of our great human losses on the shoulders of the degraded, hungry, confused, bewildered, lifeless, frozen individuals. Understanding the mentality of these people can only be judged by the people who were there, in person, and who witnessed these tragic occurrences day in, and day out. As a survivor, I wish that someone would have given us instructions to resist.

Simple instructions: Do not board the cattle cars! They are taking you to be killed! This could have started the ball rolling. It was no secret any more! The news of the burning and the gassing in Auschwitz was revealed to the world in March 1944 when four Jewish boys escaped Auschwitz camp and brought the sad news to Rabbi Weissmandel in Slovakia. He, in turn, notified the Swiss delegation in Slovakia. They informed London and Washington with solid evidence in their possession. The sad news was also transmitted to Tel Aviv, to the Jewish leaders. The whole world just stood by, and did not answer the urgent call for help. Bomb the railroad tracks leading to Auschwitz! Bomb the crematoriums and gas chambers! We were left at the mercy of the Nazi butchering machine. The final score is well known to the world.

We spent a wonderful week talking, reminiscing about our past, and also talking about the possibilities for the future.



August 1, 1945

We returned to Prague to visit sister Rose, Mano, and the children.

The family moved back to Prague from Budapest to the place they lived prior to the war. They were great hosts, there was lots of food and lots to drink, and a beautiful apartment to spend a few days with the family. I found my friend Jack Reisz, whom I left behind when we went looking for Brother Leo.

We were gone for about two weeks. In that time, Jack told me he took sick and went to the hospital. They diagnosed him as having a touch of pneumonia. But he felt much better and was very happy to see me back. We both stayed at sister Rose’s place, and we planned our trip home to Munkacz.

We were both anxious to return home, to see if someone of Jack's family had returned and also to recover the things we both had buried before they took us to Auschwitz. The trains were unbelievably crowded, people were hanging on the side of the train, on the roof, sitting on the window sills, their feet dangling outside the train. We got to the train, we were lucky to get on into a special car for Russian soldiers. Jack and I were wearing the green uniforms we received in Buchenwald made from military cloth. We asked the officer in charge if we could join them on the train. He looked at us for a split second and asked us: "Where are you guys going?" "Mukachevo," we said. "That's Russia now," he said. "Of course," we said. "Let's go."

He waved at us to get on. We were on that train before you could say boo. We traveled for about 6 hours. We reached the city of Chopp, which is on the border of Slovakia and Russia. From Chopp, we took another train that took us to Munkacz in about 2 hours. We got off the train in Munkacz or Mukachevo, as it is called now. We were heading to the exit gate when two militia men approached us and demanded identification. They led us into a dark interrogating room, no windows, no furniture, just a small light burning, with a few chairs in the middle of the room. We explained to them that we had no official identification card, but we had a duplicate of our Buchenwald registration slip. They frisked us for guns. All of our baggage was spilled onto the floor. They were looking mainly for propaganda newsletters that were floating around. The area had been annexed by the Russians very recently and the Czechs were trying to get it back. This part belonged to Czechoslovakia prior to 1938. Then it was practically stolen by the Hungarians after the famous Hitler and Chamberlain Munich agreement in 1938. And now it was stolen by the Russians. The Czech Republic was pretty upset, but it remains Russian to this day. After a long talk, the militia let us go. Jack and I looked at each other, like to say, what in hell are we in for now? We were going to hire a buggy and head for our sister's place. It took us a while to get a buggy, but after a while we got one, and we headed to town.

On the way home we passed the building which was the Hebrew high school, and a lot of memories passed through my mind. Thousands of students were walking this same road for years. Laughing and walking with big excitement. Boys and girls holding hands and walking towards the school building with so much love and dedication, you could read it on their faces. They were the envy of the youth in town.

How many of them survived? Every house and store that belonged to someone we knew, we just stared and looked; maybe some face would reveal itself in the shadows. No one had yet appeared. We felt like stopping at each house we knew and reciting the Kaddish, but this is impossible. There were too many stops to make. The man driving the buggy would not understand the hundreds of stops we would have to make. We finally arrive at Shari's house. We all embraced, including Jack, he was part of the family now. Again, we started with our stories. How Jack and I met in Buchenwald after the liberation, we had been together since. Our experiences in Auschwitz and Birkenau, Buchenwald, and Zeitz and how much trouble I went through to get from Zeitz to Buchenwald after I found out from Spitz that father was alive and well in Buchenwald. The stories lasted till early in the morning, and we all fell asleep like little sheep, on the floor, on the mattresses that served as beds for a while. In the morning, after we ate a good healthy breakfast, Jack and I decided to go and try our luck at finding the valuables that we buried in the days of the ghettoes. It was late August, and I remembered that our peaches would be just ripe for the picking.

We walked to our house by the Korzo, the street that had the best coffee house in town. The Hamdi Czukrazda and the best custard cake (Krejmes) in the world and the street that hundreds of young Jewish boys met Friday nights after the holy Shabes meal. Hand in hand, boys and girls filled these streets weekly, with so much love and happiness. They all belonged to a Zionist organization, Mizrachi, Bnei Akiva, Betar, or Dror. All organizations had their houses in the close vicinity of the Korzo. Where are they? What happened to them?

The trees, and the sidewalks, the only witnesses left to these beautiful places, where thousands of young boys and girls met for the first time and lived in peace and happiness. Jack and I walked along this street, nobody we knew, or recognized walked this historic road.

Everyone was gone. The life of so many bustling Jewish communities was destroyed. Everybody just stood by and watched without moving a muscle. Suddenly we passed the famous coffee shop. "Look Jack, Hamdi's!" I screamed. This place was off limits for us religious boys. We wouldn't think of even going close to a place like that: Treife Vi Chazer (not Kosher). That was before the camps, when life in this city was peaceful and Jewish families observed all the laws of the Torah (Bible). But now, who was there to stop us?

We both walked in and ordered a custard cake for each of us. We were disappointed when they told us that they were all out of custard, and that they had been out of custard for a long time. We walked out from the coffee shop thinking that it wasn't meant for us to eat custard, before or now. Actually, we were not even hungry.

We kept walking toward our house on the Yidishe Gass, and we met a few of our neighbors who had also just returned from camp: boys our age. We invited them to come along for the dig, and also to pick some delicious peaches. When we arrived at our house, to our surprise, a lady stopped us, "where do you think you are going?" I said, "to pick some peaches from our tree." "Who are you?" "I am the son of Marcus Smilovic who is the owner of this house." "Well, she says this is my house now." I wasn't going to discuss this matter any more. I told her to stay off this land as long as I was in town. We climbed the tree and we made sure that not one peach was left on the tree. I proceeded to the place I buried the silverware, from the late Rebeczin of Zedichov just before we were driven out of the ghetto. I dug for a while when I suddenly I felt I hit something solid. Slowly, I continued, careful not to damage the silver items below. I finally removed every piece that I buried, and all the boys were amazed at the dig. I credited my survival to the good deed I did for the dear old Rebetzin, the wife of the late Gaon (Sage) of Zedichov. Harav (Rabbi) Mnashe Eichenstein. Sister Rose later handed the silverware to their grandson, Avraham Eichenstein in New York after she immigrated to the U.S.A. in 1946.

Jack and I proceeded to look for his hiding place; at first we didn't succeed. The people living there would not allow us to go looking for it, but later we managed to find all the stuff. We returned home, and the whole family was amazed that we managed to find all these things.


August 15, 1945

Heddy and Arthur announced their engagement and the wedding date was set. Arthur Spitz, the groom, was very well known to us. Heddy worked for his father since she was 16 years old as a wig maker. And they were going steady before the war. The invitations were mailed immediately; there was no time to waste. The response was amazing, everybody was coming to the wedding. The wedding plans were in full swing. We hired Feri Bacsis, a Gypsy Band. The Feri Bacsis Band was playing steady in our ballroom for 20 years in the good old days. Brother Leo was coming home for the wedding and we were all excited about it: the first wedding in the family after the Holocaust. All our family and friends were baking cakes, you can smell it, all over town.



The day before the wedding: August 26, 1945

Beri Spitz, Arthur's younger brother appeared at our window at 5 a.m. in his underwear.

Please open the door! We quickly let him in. And he told us that the Russian N.K.V.D. broke the doors at 2 a.m. and confiscated everything inside. They even took all the wedding cakes that were there prepared for the wedding. They also arrested all the occupants of the house, including the groom. I was lucky to escape through the rear entrance door. The next morning brother Leo had arrived, and was called upon to try and get Arthur Spitz, the groom, released from jail for the wedding. Luckily Leo knew most of the leaders in town from the army or from the schools they attended together. He got dressed in his officer’s uniform, with all the medals on his chest. He proceeded to City Hall to see his friends to try and release Arthur for the wedding that day. By noon, Leo had Arthur released for the duration of the wedding, but he would have to report back by midnight. We were all very happy that the wedding would go on as planned. There was a little hitch with the groom's attire, since all his suits were confiscated. He borrowed a suit from his friend, who was six inches taller than him, and it showed, since Arthur was only 5'3" tall. But the wedding was a great success and nobody even noticed if Arthur's jacket fit. After the wedding, bride and groom took off for their honeymoon and Arthur didn't bother to report back to jail. They were headed for Prague for good, brother Leo included.

Jack and I continued to wander around the city. One day we ended up on the market place. To our amazement we saw that most of the militia consisted of the Nazis who were in charge before the war, we remembered the beatings and insults they used to dish out.

And now they were in Russian uniforms. We immediately proceeded to city hall, where we met with Chief of Police Schwartz Shimi, a friend of Leo's, and we told him about the militia we just saw on the market place. He immediately took action and brought them to jail. After a few weeks Jack and I decided that this place was not for us. Living with the Russians under a Communist regime was not our piece of cake.

We spent about 2 months in Munkacs, we met most of the kids that returned. We renewed our friendships and we made some new ones. Especially Schneider Ritta that lived with us in the same house with her family and her old mother. Jack and I had real warm feelings toward the Schneider family. The old lady treated us like her own, and the sisters were the liveliest bunch we ever met. Especially Ritta, she was our age. In the garden, we had some fruit trees. Goldie, one of the sisters, used to climb up the tree and act like a monkey, jumping from branch to branch. The super's wife of the court used to come out screaming. Get off that tree! And Goldie used to laugh at her and say, "Come and get me, you Nazi." The lady took off like a wind, she must have had a guilty conscience. Feigi, the third sister, she was very close with sister Shari. Before the war they were sewing at the same dressmaker for a few years. And when Shari opened her own dress shop, Feigi started to work for her for a number of years. Feigi was a conservative individual; she loved to hear Jack and I sing, she taught us ballroom dancing and loved to discuss world politics. The time had come to say goodbye to all the family and new friends. It wasn't easy, but we were only 17 years old, and we had a whole life in front of us. The sooner we started, the sooner we would get there. Soon after the High Holidays, Jack and I headed for Prague.

The trip became complicated due to the strict regulations put in place by the Russian authorities which forbid crossing the border without a special permit. There was no permit available for us. We had to try to get across the border, rain or shine. When we reached the border town of Chopp, we planned to try and avoid the border police. We studied their system of inspections on the individual cars.

We noticed that if we can get on after they inspected a car without being noticed, we had it made. We tried it once, but it was too obvious; they threw us out of the train. We waited till the train was ready to go. By now it was already dark, and as the train started to move we crawled on our stomachs quickly, and, like in the movies, we were on the train without any problem. We were finally on the train heading for Prague, what a relief.

I am writing all these details just to let the world know how two orphans at the age of 17 had to cope with these important decisions.

We were on our own in a world where nobody cared about you. Gone were the days when father was the greatest of them all, directing what was good and what was bad.

Dear old mother, how she worried. Did you eat breakfast? Are you dressed warmly? It's so cold outside. For us, all that was just a dream. Our fate was sealed, not so long ago, back in Auschwitz. But it still hurts fifty years later, as I am writing this book, that I started eleven years ago, after attending the Holocaust survivors gathering in Washington.

Elie Wiesel pleaded with us. Let the soul heal. Write down your past experiences! Let your children know! And let the world know. Write it down on paper. Let the Holocaust deniers have one more story to deny. Eleven years is a long time to write a story. But this is a Special Story. Every page is filled with rivers of tears. After writing one page, there are no more tears left in my system, and I am forced to stop. Even now as I am typing these lines, I hope and pray that none of my children walk in for a visit because I am all wet and I can't control my tears which are flowing freely all over me. The wounds are still open, and I hope that they stay open. Until the time when I meet the Lord. And ask: "WHY? WHY? WHY?"

The next morning, we arrived in Prague, and we headed for sister Rose's place. As always, she was very happy to see us, and a healthy breakfast was served. We told her all about our trip to Munkacs, and gave her the silverware I dug up, that I hid for the Zedichov Rebitzin during the time in the ghetto. She admired the silver Kidush cups, and the candlesticks. She promised to take them with her, on the way to the U.S.A. Rose told us about the ad she saw in the newspaper. England was ready to adopt 200 orphans. Registration was starting the next day. After breakfast, Jack and I headed downtown and registered without any problems. We were told to get a medical check-up and report back in a week. We were all excited. Most of the kids registering for England were from our part of the country and quite a few of them were from our hometown. We were planning our future, would we go back to school? Maybe learn a trade? When we reported back in a week, we found out that Jack had not passed the medical and was rejected from going to England. I decided that if Jack could not go I would also skip the chance of going to London.



October 1945

Jack and I parted company. I ended up in Liberec, where sister Heddy and Arthur lived. They operated a grocery chain store and occupied a beautiful apartment. I settled down and joined the trade school as an electrician apprentice. The workshop was very close to our apartment; it only took me 5 minutes walking time. The crew in the shop were very friendly; they would sit and listen to my horror stories for hours. You could see their anger on their faces, about the brutal German treatment of the Jews. They heard about the camps and the brutal beatings. But nobody knew about the Final Solution of the Jews by the Germans in the occupied territories of Europe.

Twice a week I attended trade school, and the rest of the week I was working as an electrician's helper. I liked my job. For the first time in my life, I experience working for a living. It was a lot different than attending the Yeshivot or school. I liked it. I was learning a trade.

Perhaps, some day, I might even have my own electrical business. It also gave me an opportunity to exercise the Czech language. After a few months, I mastered the language, and my tests in school were much easier to do, with much better results. Jack Reiss ended up with some relatives in Teplice Shanov and also started school and learned a trade. We were in constant touch with each other, and we were contemplating our next move.

I was very disappointed one night, while attending a movie in town. The whole family was there, Polda and Rose, Heddy and Arthur. I happened to be the first one out since my seat was in the rear, close to the exit doors. As I waited for the rest of the family across the road, leaning against a light pole observing the crowd exiting the movies. All of a sudden an individual showed me a badge. "I am from the secret Police. You are under arrest!" I pleaded with him and said, "What are the charges?" "You are a Shmelinash! (Black marketeer)" With tears in my eyes, I told him I just returned from Buchenwald and I never did anything wrong. I worked as an electrician and also attended trade school. The man insisted I go with him. Wait, here comes my brother; he would vouch for me. I waved to Polda, and he noticed that I had a problem. He quickly approached in full officer’s uniform with all his medals.

"What's the problem?" he said. The man showed him his badge, and said that I was pointed out to him as a black marketeer. Polda tried to use his rank, to let me go. Nothing helped; the man insisted that he wanted to search the place I lived in. Now!

In the mean time, Arthur saw what was happening. He quickly ran home and removed a suitcase full of cigarettes from my room and hid it on the next floor storage room. By the time we arrived, the house was cleared of all the non- kosher items. Since the police couldn't find any illegal items, he picked on a tripod standing in the room. To whom does this tripod belong? I said this tripod was given to me as a Christmas gift from my employer! He didn't like my tone of speech. "Aren't you a Jew?" He said in a derogative way. "Yes," I said, "And I paid for it plenty." He started to say, "Why are you lying to me?"

Brother Polda entered the picture now: in a military-style order, he told the man to get lost and told him, "You are acting like a stinking Nazi!" They got into a hot argument. Polda pulled his revolver out, ready to shoot. The man said you better show me your identification. Polda said, "First you show me yours." They exchanged identification papers; by now the gun was back in the holster. The man issued a summons to Polda to appear in court the next morning. He took off, and was yelling, "See you in court tomorrow!"

I was sick about the whole deal, I telegraphed Jack that we will meet in Prague, in a couple of days, at sister Rose’s place.



January 1946

The next day I packed my suitcase, and without telling anybody, I took off to Prague. Sister Rose was surprised to see me. I told her the whole story, and she agreed with me, that it was the right thing to do. Jack arrived a couple of days later and we both stayed at Rose's place. In the meantime brother Polda appeared in court the next day because of the skirmish he had with the secret policeman the night before. He appeared in front of the chief of the police department. "For goodness sake, what are you doing here, Polda?" said the chief of police. They embraced, like veterans from the paratroopers in Slovakia. "Take your seats gentlemen." The Chief read the report and said, "You are mistaken, young man. This soldier is the highest decorated man in our land. President Benes, in person decorated this partizan fighter twice. He was greatest fighter against the German Nazis and their collaborators in the hills of Slovakia, and he later fought in Moravia, and almost took Prague single-handedly if the Russians would have let him. They insisted to take the credit for the liberation of Prague themselves." "Young man," the chief continued, "you better apologize to Captain Smilovic or else." "I am sorry, I apologize Captain, I had nothing against you. It was your brother Pavel. He was pointed out to me as a black marketeer. Sorry Sir."

Case dismissed.

As we looked around Prague, seeing all the beautiful sites, and rowing on the river Valdou (Vltava), we felt that we were rewarded a bit for our suffering. We came to recognize the fact, that our place was Israel. Only in Israel would we feel secure as Jews. We completely lost trust in the world. Let our children be secure in a land where a Jew can live with pride, and joy.

We were informed that as orphans, the Mizrachi organization would do all the arrangements to get us to Germany and then the arrangements to be made in Germany for the trip to Israel. The next day Jack and I visited the Mizrachi organization. They provided us with documents as delegates to the Zionist Congress in Munich, Germany. After a few days, we were on the train, heading for Munich. We traveled for about 6 hours and we arrived in Munich, Grand Central station. At the station, we met with the UNRA representatives and they directed us to the Funk Kasernen. The Funk Kasernen was run by the UNRA organization for homeless people. It was an international camp and the place looked shabby. It used to be a German military base. The rooms were gigantic, and were full of people from all over Europe: Ukrainians, Poles, Hungarians, mostly people that collaborated with the Germans.

They escaped justice. And now they declared themselves anti-communists, giving them the right to ask for asylum. We were all considered D.P.s. We ate together, slept together, partitioned off with blankets. At night, you could hear and see what was happening in your neighbors' beds. Anti-Semitism was out in the open, at the food lines, at the main offices, waiting in line for registration. There were also quite a few Polish Jews who had just arrived from Russia or Poland. The Jews were in the minority. All office and kitchen staff were mostly non- Jews. The situation was very uncomfortable.

Jack and I decided to go to the Mizrachi head office in Munich to seek a solution for our future. We met with the leader of the organization and he suggested the Kibbutz BNEI AKIVA in Fohrenwald as the ideal spot for us. The next day, we took the train to Fohrenwald, and we were there within two hours, fifty km from Munich. We were shown the Bnai Akiva Kibbutz on DiArci street. As we reached the Kibbutz, we had a very friendly welcome by the madrich (leader) of the kibbutz. His first name was Shmulek, a short 5"2 young man, with a most friendly smile. We introduced ourselves and we were quite surprised to find some of our friends among the group in the Kibbutz.

Most of the people in the Kibbutz were from the Carphatian part of Czechoslovakia, among them boys that we studied with in the Yeshiva and public schools. While meeting with the boys, we received a wonderful welcome. Some of the boys remembered us from Munkacz as singers in the GROJSE SHUL choir. This was a big plus in this Kibbutz. While talking to the boys, a fellow classmate of mine from Munkacz, Joseph Klein, gave me a big hug and said, "Smilovicz! I was looking for you all over. Remember in Mauthausen after the liberation, when we went looking for chickens in the villages next to the camp, and we were very successful. Then all of a sudden you disappeared, and I looked all over for you without any results. And now, here you are. How lucky that we meet again." "Sorry, Joseph," I said, "you are mistaking me for my brother Bery. I was nowhere near Mauthausen. I was liberated in Buchenwald in April 1945 and we never heard a word from brother Bery till now." Joseph stared at me for a few seconds, and said, "Now, I remember. You both looked alike, like twins. The same suits, same hats, the same everything; nobody could tell you apart. That's the reason I mistook you for your brother Bery. He was actually two years older than us. Joseph and I became good friends, we talked a lot about the school that we attended together back in Munkacz. To date, we never heard from Berry. We tried all possible avenues, including the Red Cross and the Russian External Offices. No sign of life.

A new life had begun for me! For the last few months since the liberation, I was floating like a bird seeking a place to nest without any thoughts of the real world ahead of me. Finally, there I was in a Kibbutz where we received daily lectures of Zionism, what Zionism stood for, and who were its creators. Israel, the land of our fathers and grandfathers, where, for 2,000 years, they dreamed of returning to our homeland one day.

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