Bella Eisenman

“It was very crowded in Lodz Ghetto. We were four families in one house. So many Jews died of tuberculosis, typhoid and hunger. There are images in my mind I do not want to recall… when I tell my holocaust stories I can’t sleep at night, sometimes two nights in a row. It’s a lifetime of haunting memories. In the ghetto, we had to work for food slips, but they were never enough to satiate our terrible hunger. Mom and I worked as knitters, but mom couldn’t really knit so I would take the yarn home and knit her part as well at night.

In July 1944 we were transferred to Auschwitz, where mom and I were immediately separated. I didn’t know back then, at the ”selection” process, that I would never see her again. That day, after the selection, I remember the Nazis let us hang out in the yard for an hour, and I went looking for my mom. A man in striped clothing passed by and I asked him, “They took away my mother, do you know where she could be at?” He grabbed me by the shoulders, turned me around, and said, “It’s very simple. Do you see the smoke? That’s where she’s at now.” And this is how I learned what happened to my mother.

From Auschwitz, I was transferred to Bergen Belsen. I was sick with typhoid and ran a very high fever. I owe my survival to the women who carried me by foot all the way from Hannover to Bergen Belsen, and to my friend Oshka Gazler who took care of me daily until I recovered. From Bergen Belsen, I was transferred to a labor camp where I worked at an aircraft parts factory. When the allied bombings got closer to camp, the Nazis decided to take us all out on a Death March. We met a group of Polish workers on the way, and the women told us the allied forces were on their way and there was no reason for us to keep marching to Germany, where we would surely die. We somehow managed to flee the death march and reach a Displaced Persons Camp at Pilzno, There we met the US Army Rabbi, who gathered up all the Jews and passed us into the hands of the Jewish Brigade. I remember seeing a blue Star of David on the soldiers’ sleeves – which made me feel really proud, after the long years of degradation embodied in the yellow badges Jews had to wear throughout the war. I felt the Jewish people were back to life.

In that state of mind, I tried to reach Israel by ship, but the British arrested me and I was sent to Cyprus, where I spent four months. Finally, I was allowed to make “Aliya” and settle in Israel. The family I have raised here is my pride and joy: two sons, eight grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren, so far. This is our true victory over Hitler. They had tried to exterminate us, but we came back to life.

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