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Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14

My Mother's Journey
Through the Fire


We made friends with a lot of the Americans living on our street. From one of then I took English lessons. I also worked for him as an interpreter. We traveled around buying antique furniture from the Germans. He paid very little for the furniture as the Germans needed the money. The antiques he sent to America, and he paid me for helping him.

One thing the Americans had a lot of and the Germans had very little of was cigarettes. With our connections with the Americans we were able to get a lot of cigarettes. They practically gave them to us. We would trade the cigarettes to the Germans for money and other valuables, which we in turn would sell to the Americans. We made enough money that Simon and I were able to buy a house. The houses were cheap at the time because of the poverty of the Germans.

1946 brought a number of marriages and some children in our community of survivors. Fay and Simon had their first child, a boy, born on the 24th of April.

At Channuka, in December, I went with Fay and Simon to the synagogue for a party. It was so crowded by the time we got there that there was no place for us to sit. We stood in the back of the synagogue. Standing next to us were two men and a woman. One of the men and Simon went outside and brought back some crates and boards and made a bench and table out of them. We all sat down and got to know each other.

The man who went outside with Simon was Maier Brandsdorfer. The other man was his brother, Joseph. The woman was Joseph's wife, Paula. They were all from Chrzanow, near Krakow, in southern Poland. At the start of the war they were able to escape to Russia. The Russians sent them to labor in Siberia during the war. When the war ended they came to the American zone rather than return home because of the troubles the Jews were having in Poland, and because they did not want to stay under the Russians any longer.

In February, Maier and I were engaged to be married. Itzhak Moshe got engaged at this time too. Fay, Simon and their young son left for America. In March, during Purim, I got married. An American chaplain performed the ceremony. By May the next year, our first child was born. We named him after his two grandfathers, Mordechai Joshua.

After Fay and Simon were settled in America they made arrangements for us to come over.

Our trip to America started with a stay in a camp in Frankfurt for a few weeks. Then a stay in a camp in Bremen, for another few weeks. Then in another camp, in Hamburg. In each camp we waited until our name was called to move to the next place closer to the ship and to America.

We boarded the ship, named the "Marina Fletcher", during the last week of March 1949. The ship was an American troop transport. There were 1100 passengers. The men and women were separated into large dormitories during the trip. Maier got into some trouble with the ship's American officers because he kept sneaking in to see me and the baby. During the trip I was sea sick the whole time, so they finally let Maier come and spend some time with us and help me out.

Twelve days after leaving Hamburg we landed in Boston. It was April 5, 1949. The ship was greeted by the mayor of Boston. There was a large crowd and a marching band. The mayor made a speech that left everyone crying. He spoke about us, the people on the boat: how we were all immigrants and displaced persons: about our struggle and what we had survived. I don't remember much of the mayor's speech, but I remember the marching band. It was the first time I had seen a band led by girls twirling sticks. I was very impressed by this -- my first sight of America.

The Joint Committee gave everyone on the ship 10 dollars so we would have some money in our pockets until we got settled. Some of the people were met by family or friends at the ship. Others had arrangements made for them to travel to their destinations. Simon had made all of the arrangements for us, and we took the train to New York. Fay, Simon and their son met us at the train station when we arrived in New York.

Fay and Simon were living in Brooklyn, and we settled there too. Many in our neighborhood were Jews, newly arrived from Europe, with shared experiences and starting new lives in a new land.

This story is published here with the permission of Mr. Louis Bransdorfer.


© Copyright Judy Cohen, 2001.
All rights reserved.