Holocaust Survivor Esther Clifford Testimony

Uploaded by USCShoahFoundation on 30.01.2009

November 3, 1996.
Survivor is Esther Clifford Ebe.
Interviewer Irene Dansky in Cranbury, New Jersey, the United States.
The interview will be in English.
Today is November 3, 1996.
I’m Irene Dansky, and we are going to interview Esther Clifford
in Cranbury, New Jersey, in the United States
and this interview is going to be in English.
Can you tell us your name, please?
Yes, my name is Esther Clifford.
- Would you spell it for us? - Yes.
and C-L-I-double F-O-R-D.
What was your name when you were born?
My name was Ebe.
E-B-E. Last name was Ebe.
And the date of your birth?
December 5, 1920.
- And the place? - In Munich.
Would you spell it for us?
- And the country? - Germany.
Could you tell us your parents’ names, please?
Yes. My father’s name was Abraham Ebe,
and my mother’s name, Selda.
In Germany, she was called Sophie.
Could you spell her first name and her maiden name for us?
Yes, the Selda was spelled S-E-L-D-A.
Her maiden name was Eiba.
And she was born where?
She was born in Poland, in Warsaw, Poland.
And your father?
- He was also born in Warsaw, Poland. - Okay.
Would you next tell us the names, one at a time,
of your sisters and brother and spell them?
All right. My oldest sister’s name is Regina,
which is spelled R-E-G-I-N-A Rosenthal,
The next sister is Mary, M-A-R-Y
Halberstad, H-A-L-B-E-R-S-T-A-D.
I had a middle sister whose name was Rosa,
R-O-S-A, last name Ebe.
My brother’s name was Leo,
My name I told you about.
Were you raised in Munich?
No, I was raised in Frankfurt.
My parents went to Frankfurt
to live there, to live in Frankfurt.
When did they leave Poland to go to Germany?
It was about–
They came to Germany before World War I started.
It must have been between 1913 and ’14.
I don’t know the exact date.
Do you know why they left Poland to go to Germany?
Well, we were told that they went to Germany
to seek a better life for their children.
Germany was known as a country for good education.
They had two children at the time, and they lived in Poland,
and they wanted to provide a good education for the two children
and the ones that were yet to come.
And also, Poland was not–
There were always pogroms
going on against the Jews.
And they just wanted to seek a better life.
Did they settle in–
They didn’t settle in Frankfurt right away.
Did they settle in Munich?
Yes, as a matter of fact, they settled in Munich.
They had to leave Munich.
It had something to do, as far as I remember,
with the Hitler putsch that took place in the early–
I believe it was around 1920.
And they always told us that they had settled in Munich,
but they had to leave Munich.
Then they went to various cities.
They went to Hannover.
They lived in Offenbach for a while.
Then they finally settled in Frankfurt.
I was born in 1920,
and they went to Frankfurt in about ’21.
I wasn’t a year old yet when they moved to Frankfurt am Main.
What was your family life like as a child?
I remember my father owned a small leather goods store,
and he made a fair living, not very–
Not a great living, but a fair living.
I always remember– being the youngest, I remember–
we were five children, and it was always a little bit of a struggle.
But I remember very good times.
We were a happy family, always singing and dancing.
And I especially remember the holidays.
We would sit around the table and celebrate holidays,
and we would all talk about the future.
My oldest sister, who married already in 1929,
she would come with her married family to our house,
and she would talk about her new husband.
Then the next sister, Mary, would–
She talked about– She was very artistically inclined,
and she would show us all the wonderful things that she had made.
My middle sister would talk about her future.
She wanted to– She was also artistically inclined,
and she wanted to join my sister Mary with whatever they were doing.
They were going to go into some kind of business.
My brother had a wonderful voice.
He was a soloist at the Börneplatz synagogue in Frankfurt,
and he wanted to become a cantor.
I always wanted to be a movie star in Hollywood.
I was thinking of going to Hollywood one day and become a movie star.
At this time, I’m talking now about–
I’m now talking about 1938.
So we would– All in all, we were very happy.
We had a record player.
We would play music.
My parents were always busy working away,
providing for their children.
We were a very close family.
Did you live in a house or an apartment?
No, it was a very small apartment.
We lived right behind the store,
behind that leather store that my father had.
I remember there was a kitchen.
Two bedrooms where all of us children slept.
It was a small house,
but it was behind the leather store, on the ground floor.
Did anybody else live with you besides your parents and siblings?
No, but we had a lot of company.
Cousins from Munich would come and visit many times.
We were always looking forward to that.
Otherwise, not in our apartment.
Nobody else lived but our family.
How about Leopold?
How about– I’m sorry.
Did you have a cousin that stayed with you for a while?
Oh, yes, yes.
There was a cousin in Munich
who came to Frankfurt quite frequently to attend the yeshiva.
He wanted to become a cantor.
It so happens that we all seemed to have good voices in our family,
and he wanted to become a cantor.
He came to visit at the yeshiva,
and many times he stayed in our house.
He lives now in California and is a cantor,
has been a cantor most of his life.
- His name is? - Leopold Szneer.
We called him Poldy.
- Szneer, right. - Will you spell that for us?
- Poldy? - No, his last name.
Szneer. S-Z-N-E-E-R.
He lives now in Beverly Hills and sings in a synagogue.
Did you attend synagogue?
Yes. In Frankfurt, we–
My parents attended what they used to call a shul.
Sometimes it’s called <i>stiebel.</i>
It’s a small synagogue where mostly people prayed
that came from Poland.
They spoke amongst themselves. They always spoke Yiddish.
And we also went along with them to that synagogue,
but as we got older, we would go to the more modern synagogues.
Frankfurt had many modern synagogues, and there was especially one
that was called the Börneplatz synagogue that I mentioned before already.
So the children, we many times went to–
most of the time we went to– these modern synagogues.
Mostly this Börneplatz synagogue.
There was also another synagogue called Breuer,
That was a more Orthodox synagogue.
We were Orthodox, but not Hasidic Orthodox,
what we would call today Hasidic.
So we children would kind of went back and forth.
We would go to the big synagogue, go back to the shul,
that my parents used to call the shul, visited our parents,
tell them where we are, then walk out again
and go to the other synagogue.
So that was our way of life on Saturdays
and holidays, Jewish holidays.
Would you spell Börneplatz for us?
Yes, it’s B-Ö-R-N-E-P-L-A-T-Z synagogue.
What basically was the difference between the two?
The Börneplatz synagogue was visited mostly by Germans,
not the ones who originated in Poland.
They would speak German in that synagogue.
While the shul, people would speak Yiddish.
As we grew up in Germany,
we children would be more–
liked better to be amongst people that were Germans
because that was where we were, where we grew up.
While my parents enjoyed rather being amongst people
that they knew from Poland or that spoke their language.
We understood Yiddish when they spoke to us,
but we children, growing up in Germany, spoke German.
We would call it <i>Hochdeutsch</i> in German.
<i>Hochdeutsch</i> means well-spoken German.
What was the name of the synagogue that your parents attended?
I know the street.
The name of the street was called Schwanenstrasse,
so the synagogue was called Schwanenstrasse synagogue.
- Can you spell that, please? - Yes.
It’s spelled S-C-H-W-A-N-E-strasse,
How often did your father attend synagogue?
Oh, he attended quite often.
Every Friday night and Saturday,
and also many times early in the morning.
Every day, early in the morning.
And what were your favorite holidays as a child?
Oh, of course Hanukkah, I guess.
All the holidays actually were favorite.
We liked holidays because we were,
as I mentioned before, we were a close family.
We enjoyed holidays.
We were all together.
Usually my, as I said, my oldest sister was married.
She would be with her married family.
We all went our different ways to all kinds of schools,
but holidays we were all together,
and there was much talking going on.
Were there any other family members?
Extended family, grandparents or aunts and uncles?
Sometimes we had–
Sometimes we had cousins visiting us.
Yes, I remember, yes.
We had an uncle, my mother’s brother,
who lived in Hannover.
He would come many times over holiday, and he would sing
and sing all those Yiddish songs that he knew from Poland.
We were just so fascinated by him singing these songs.
We would sing along, and we would laugh.
We looked so forward to him coming
because he always came with new songs,
and as I mentioned before,
we just loved singing and loved hearing him sing.
Many times we had various people come to visit, yes.
Sometimes we were amongst ourselves.
I always remember a fairly full house.
My sisters and brother would bring friends.
Again, as I mentioned before, there were very happy times.
Thinking back, we really lived very happy times.
As I said before, we were not well-to-do, but we were very happy.
Sometimes there was one bar of chocolate
in the middle of the table, and everybody had a piece of chocolate.
That meant an awful lot.
We were all happy with a small piece of chocolate.
Was there anything special about Passover?
Passover was a big holiday.
Yes, I remember my mother would make
a certain wine from raisins.
A raisin wine.
She would call it <i>Rosinenwein</i> in Germany.
We all drank from that.
We enjoyed Passover, just like all the other holidays.
But it was something special because–
Even today it’s very special because we eat matzo instead of bread.
What was it like going to school?
Well, now we are talking about–
Hitler came in power in 1933.
I started school in 1926.
School was– I used to go to a school called Philantropin.
All of us five children
used to visit that school, Philantropin.
The Philantropin was a Jewish school,
not a yeshiva, a Jewish school
that was very well known all over Germany.
Jewish students came from everywhere,
and all of us visited that school.
Actually, we all liked going to school.
My oldest sister especially. She was kind of a genius.
She was very bright, and she jumped classes many times.
The teachers were very–
Whenever they heard an Ebe would come to the Philantropin,
they were thrilled because they thought
we were all going to be as smart as my oldest sister,
but none of us were as smart.
She was very special.
I liked going to school
until Hitler came in power.
Then it was hard.
- In what way? - It was hard in the way that–
The minute Hitler came in power, it was hard.
Everything got much harder.
You would go– not talking about school–
Even if you went to any public place,
like the post office or the– anyplace,
you would see these banners that said–
<i>“Die Juden sind unser Unglück.“</i>
“The Jews are our misfortune.”
We had never seen that before.
Let me talk a little bit about the time before Hitler came in power.
- Certainly. - It was just a year–
In 1932, I remember that my parents
started getting quite worried because of his campaigning.
He was campaigning.
It was depression time, and he was campaigning,
saying to the people that all we have to do to have a better life
is to get rid of the Jews.
That, of course, and I remember myself, that was very depressing.
My parents were worried, but not really that concerned.
They always used to say– My father used to call him “clown.”
In German, he used to call him the <i>Clown,</i> which is a clown.
They were concerned, but not terribly worried because he–
Nobody would think with the Germans,
who had the best scientists, the best doctors,
the greatest authors in the world,
that they would allow for Hitler to get in power.
However, in 1933, it was like waking up one morning,
and he was the leader.
He became the leader, like overnight.
From then on, they got a little bit more concerned.
Not terribly concerned, but a little bit more concerned.
They just thought that somehow he would not last.
In some way he couldn’t last.
However, he lasted, and so after 1933,
as soon as he came in power,
things had gotten bad because there was–
I used to have friends, Christian friends.
We used to play. We never knew a difference between–
We knew a difference insofar that we were Jewish,
they were Christians but–
I remember very well that came Christmas,
they would invite me–
My friend would invite me to come to her house,
and she would show me the Christmas tree.
And came Hanukkah, she would come to our house,
and we would show her the Hanukkah lamp,
and we would exchange little presents.
And as soon as Hitler came in power, you could feel that–
I could feel that they didn’t want to play with me anymore.
That was very hard for a child.
I remember I took that very serious.
I couldn’t even understand in the beginning
why my friends avoided me until my parents told me,
“Hitler is in power, and they probably don’t want–
Their parents probably don’t want their children
to play with Jewish children.”
So, one thing after the other happened.
My parents had friends, non-Jewish friends, in the building,
and you could see that they avoided them.
This is how it started.
Then I remember, even back in 1933,
the first thing that I really experienced
what the Nazis were up to
was when I went with my mother shopping.
It was getting a little dark,
and right in the middle of a shopping area,
there was a bonfire, a fire right in the middle of the street,
and people came and held books written by Jewish authors,
and they were throwing them in that fire.
They had the children with them, and they handed books to the children,
and the children threw the books into that bonfire
in the middle of the street.
I remember getting– I was very depressed about that
because not so much the grown-ups threw the books in the fire,
but the children.
I even recognized some of them from playing.
Not so much school, because I went to a Jewish school,
but you recognize people.
You recognize children especially.
That was the first thing that depressed me.
Then, of course, these banners when you walk into the public places
that I mentioned before was hard to take.
Then in time, people– You heard about things.
People were intimidated.
A cousin was thrown into some water,
and he had to get out of the water.
He had a hard time. He just about made it.
That was already back in 1933.
And then, as the years went by, like in 1934,
there was a terrible paper being published.
It was called <i>Der Stürmer Zietung,</i> Storm Trooper newspaper.
Everything seemed to be Storm Troopers.
That was a horrible paper.
That affected me terribly because it was–
It had all kinds–
It was plastered on all these stores that sold newspapers,
and in the morning, going to school, I would see <i>Der Stürmer Zietung,</i>
and people standing and reading them.
And what did they list in <i>Der Stürmer Zietung?</i>
They had people’s faces with long noses
and saliva running from their mouth
and looking at–
Typically, they meant Jewish people because they always wrote
about Jewish people with their long noses.
They were looking at little Gentile children,
greedily looking at the money that the children had in their hands,
like they wanted to steal the money from these children.
They had terrible stories in there.
Jewish doctors trying to inject Gentiles
with poisonous medication.
They had bankers that would swindle Jews out of their money.
Here I was walking to school, and people were actually reading this.
Young people, old people, of all ages,
and by the time I got to school, I couldn’t learn.
It was hard. I wasn’t thinking.
I wasn’t listening to the teacher.
I was thinking about that <i>Der Stürmer Zietung</i>
and what they had read in there because–
Not that I stopped to read it, but somehow, once in a while,
we had gotten ahold of it, and my brothers would bring it home,
and we would read it out of interest, what they had to write.
So going to school was getting harder and harder.
That was about ’33.
Then they had in 1934,
I remember talking about the highlights that come to my mind.
Then they had the infamous <i>Hitler-Jugend,</i> Hitler Youth.
It was a group that Hitler had
somehow came up with, this <i>Hitler-Jugend.</i>
They were given–
This was depression time. There wasn’t much to wear.
And this <i>Hitler-Jugend,</i> these young boys,
were given a beautiful uniform
so that they would feel good,
similar to how a Boy Scout feels when he gets a new uniform.
These were young people, and they could actually do
whatever they wanted with the children.
They usually didn’t stop adult people,
but children had a hard time
because usually when you saw them come–
I remember when I walked to school,
and I saw them come around the corner, I would turn around
or go on the other side or try to avoid.
Many times I came to school very late
just trying to avoid these <i>Hitler-Jugend.</i>
In time, these children would get to know the Jewish children,
and they would wait for them.
Many times I had to pass another school, a non-Jewish school,
and they would stand there waiting for me
and they would throw stones.
Not just at me, at many of the Jewish children.
I would have to find all kinds of ways to get to school
in order to avoid either these <i>Hitler-Jugend</i>
or the other children in school.
I remember, I think it was 1935,
when my brother used to take violin lessons.
One day, he wasn’t home on time.
When somebody wasn’t home on time, we always worried
because we always wondered–
But nobody wanted to show the other person–
We didn’t want our parents to worry.
Nobody wanted anybody else to worry.
And I remember–
I remembered everybody looking at the clock.
Nobody saying much.
Then I started– I put on my coat and I went out and I thought,
let me see what happened to him.
Let me look for him.
He was on the floor
with his violin broken in pieces,
and the <i>Hitler-Jugend</i> were beating him up.
It was terrible.
And– Excuse me.
So, he made it home,
and he had to recover from this incident.
It was very hard to take.
That particular year, I remember being in a bus coming home from–
In time I took the– It wasn’t a bus.
It was a trolley, what looked like today like a trolley car.
They were also pushing me around in that bus.
When I got off the bus at the next stop, I remember thinking–
I didn’t, I could under– not understand, but–
These were children or young people.
They weren’t such children anymore.
But there were grown-up adult people on that bus,
and I always wondered how can–
That bothered me more than being pushed around by children.
Why didn’t the adult people tell them anything?
Why didn’t they do something about it?
Why didn’t they come to my help?
So that is what I remember in those years.
This is tape two of the interview with Esther Clifford.
We were talking about some of the things
that happened to young people as Hitler came into power.
I’d like to take you back for a couple of questions to clarify some of that.
The incident where there was a bonfire, a book burning.
Do you remember when that took place?
That took place very early after Hitler came in power.
It must have– It was in 1933.
Was there a particular time of year?
I think it was shortly before Christmas,
because I seem to remember
Christmas trees and such.
Children with toys.
I think so, but I know it was–
It seemed like the first year that Hitler was in power.
And the other incident, where you had a relative that was tossed into water?
Yes, as a matter of fact, he was not a cousin.
He was an uncle.
I remember calling him Uncle Yakov, which would be a Jacob in English.
His name was Yakov, and he lived across from Frankfurt in Sachsenhausen.
That was like across from the Main River.
And we had heard about it and my–
He was an uncle on my father’s side.
My parents were very upset and visited him.
He was all right later, but it was very–
It was not a very nice incident.
Something that was very depressing.
When did the Storm Trooper paper start to come about?
I believe–
I don’t know exactly the year, but it was in–
I don’t think it was in ’33.
I think it may have been 1934.
I couldn’t say for sure the date, but I seem to remember–
It must have been about 1934.
’26, ’36– I must have been about–
In 1934, I was
about 12, 13 years old.
And that’s about the time
when the newspaper came out.
How was it distributed?
I don’t remember that.
I do remember seeing it,
and people bought it in newspaper stores, and it was–
Sometimes it was just lying around in one of these public places.
Post office.
I don’t remember exactly how it was distributed, but I remember–
You know, whenever I saw it, it was–
I was ashamed, almost, to walk on the street.
I was always ashamed. I was ashamed to be Jewish.
Had you experienced any acts of anti-Semitism
before Hitler came into power?
There was anti-Semitism, but not in such a way.
I really never experienced that.
It wasn’t really that serious.
We kind of took it for granted, but really not much.
I don’t remember that much anti-Semitism
before Hitler came in power.
Maybe I felt it a little more because my parents spoke Yiddish,
and I was always a little bit ashamed of the fact that they spoke Yiddish.
They were looked down a little bit because of that, but I don’t know
whether it was because they were Jewish
or because of their Yiddish language.
I have to say that they also learned
to speak German later on,
but it was that Yiddish language that made me feel a little bit ashamed.
I feel terribly sorry about that now, because in America the Yiddish language
is a very respected language,
but it wasn’t so respected in Germany.
What happened with school?
Well, as I mentioned before,
it wasn’t so easy to go to school.
In 1935, my parents decided that–
There was only my brother and myself at that time visiting school.
My brother had left–
I don’t remember, maybe in 1933–
already school because he needed to take a job.
Times were getting bad, and he had to bring in a little money.
I know that I left school in 1935,
mostly because walking to school and coming home was so bad.
My parents were very scared that something would happen to me.
They decided to– Not just myself–
Many children would just not continue their education.
They would just leave.
We attended, as I mentioned before, this Philantropin,
and many times, as coming out of the Philantropin,
you would have children waiting there for you
just to bother you or hit you or throw stones.
And that’s when my parents decided
that I would discontinue my education,
which was a very hard thing, not only for educational purposes,
but I had my friends in school.
At that time, quite a few children–
Quite a few students would leave school already.
What I did then,
I started to learn some kind of a–
Something that you do with your hands, either dressmaking–
I used to be– A trade– That’s what I was thinking of.
I used to be good in sewing, and I would sit home
and sew dresses for my mother.
Sometimes for friends, for myself.
At that time, in 1935, the situation became already serious.
It was the time when I remember my parents taking everything
a little bit more serious and saying, “Wait a minute.
Hitler is not going to go away that soon.
He’s been now in power for two years,
and it doesn’t look that he’s–
On the contrary, he seems to be getting more popular
as he goes on.”
Some people already started leaving Germany–
Jews started leaving Germany–
and I think it was around 1935
that my parents realized that the situation was bad.
I would also like to mention that in 1933, when Hitler came in power,
my older sister, who was married–
Her father-in-law had decided, before Hitler came in power,
that he will not stay in Germany if he becomes the leader,
the <i>Führer,</i> as they said in Germany.
And he took his family,
including my sister, of course, to France.
They went to France on a visit.
He thought at that time–
Again, in ’33, many people thought he wouldn’t last very long.
So he left everything. He went to France with his wife.
He had another son, the son that my sister was married to.
Supposedly for six months, but he stayed longer.
My sister still lives in France.
I just want to mention so– In 1935, my other sister,
the second one, got married to someone in Munich,
to a man in Munich, and she moved to Munich in 1935.
So that left my middle sister, my brother and myself in the house.
To get back now to the schooling, I left school in 1935.
Many other Jewish children did, too, but some others stayed.
The school, the Philantropin, did not close yet at that time,
but many Jewish children did not visit school anymore.
Just to clarify.
- Your oldest sister, Regina– - Regina.
- And the second sister– - Mary.
- lived in Munich. - Right, went to Munich.
Now, you were home from– About what grade were you at that time?
I don’t remember that because the grades
seemed so different than what it is in America.
I seem to remember–
I don’t think we started with first grade.
I would have to think about that.
I don’t know what grade that was, but I could probably figure out.
It would be similar to–
In 1935, I was about 14 years old.
When you stayed at home,
you were sewing and doing things of that nature.
Was anything happening with your father’s business?
Was the business–
Yes, that was–
I think it was in 1936.
My father, as far as I remember–
I learned it that very day– came home one day
and said that he had been going for a new permit.
Somehow, they needed, each year he needed,
some kind of a permit to continue his business.
I don’t know if this was just for Jews, or if everybody had to do that.
But he needed some kind of a permit.
He came home– I’ll never forget that day–
and he was very pale.
He locked the door of the business.
You know, I told you that we had–
Our apartment was right behind the business.
We saw him come, and he locked the door,
and he said he can’t continue working anymore.
My mother said, “Why?”
He said he did not get his permission.
He was told that they are not going to continue
any more permits for Polish Jews.
In other words, he was not allowed to work anymore.
So what he did was,
he had a little closet in that store.
You couldn’t really walk in, but you could–
He kept his tools in there,
and he hid the closet by wallpapering the store.
I remember it was very full of flowery wallpaper.
He wallpapered the closet door so that it wouldn’t be noticeable,
and what he did was, he locked the door.
He would draw the blinds or whatever that they had at that time,
and he would work, and we children
would sit by the window in the next room to watch,
and when we saw the Nazis come–
You know, they were easy to hear because they wore these high boots.
When we heard the sound of those boots, we would warn him,
and he would take his tools, you know, he was working.
He would take his tools and everything and throw it into that little closet.
We would sit and sew or do anything.
He would have a newspaper on his lap, so that when they did come in,
which happened every once in a while, he would–
You know, he didn’t work. They checked up on him.
We were always afraid that they would check
because if they would have seen him working,
they would take him away right away.
What he did in order to make a living–
he still had to make a living–
he would, in the evening, when it got dark,
he would put on a big overcoat and hide the bags, the leather bags,
under his overcoat and visit his customers
and sell some of these bags.
What we call under the table, so to say.
This is how he made his living.
Meanwhile, my sister brought in some money.
She was repairing rugs– this sister, my middle sister– and I was sewing.
I made alterations for people.
My brother also had a job in Frankfurt, in an office.
Were the Polish Jews treated any differently
from the German Jews?
By the Nazis?
I really have to think about that.
I think so.
Yes, I think so because they were not just Jews.
They were Jews that came to Germany and–
Yes, I would say that they were treated worse than the German Jews.
Around that time.
Later on, everybody was treated the same as a Jew.
But I’m talking now about 19–
Starting with 1933, and all the way up to maybe 1937.
Then everybody was treated alike.
When your parents started taking
the situation more seriously, what did they do about it?
How did they deal with it?
I remember that they started taking the situation seriously
when my father couldn’t continue working
because then times got very bad.
They had a very hard time.
They just didn’t have enough money to pay their rent, to pay for food.
We all pitched in, but it wasn’t enough.
That’s when they said that we have to go someplace.
They were always wonder– You know, where can we go?
They started going to the American consulate
to take out number, a quota number.
That was the first thing because they did want to go to America.
That was their country.
They were thinking of going to Palestine.
I don’t know why they didn’t in those times.
It seemed very hard.
But they were hoping to go to the United States.
As a matter of fact, there’s a little something happy
that I just remember.
As I said before, our maiden name was Ebe.
My brother was always kind of trying
to change the situation, to make us laugh,
so he always used to say to my mother,
“You know, Ma, when we go to America,
you’ll be Mississippi. Mrs. Ebe.”
And he used to say Mississippi.
I remember this right now.
That’s when we, you know– And she laughed when he said that.
But, yes, at the time, it was getting serious.
They were seriously thinking of emigrating.
Then they tried, and as a matter of fact,
what we did then–
My brother once brought home a telephone book from New York.
I don’t remember. He found it someplace.
He came home with this heavy book.
We have never seen a telephone book like that in our life and what we did,
we were all sitting around that book and looking for Jewish names.
Levy, Horowitz, all the Jewish names, Israel.
We spent most of the little money that we had,
writing letters to Americans, begging them to give us an affidavit.
You needed an affidavit in order to emigrate to America.
You needed a quota number.
You needed to know someone who would give you an affidavit,
which meant putting away a certain amount of money.
I think for one or two years.
As far as I remember, that’s how it was.
So we always said that we all have professions,
and we told them we can sew,
and we can do all kinds of things.
We begged, and we even enclosed a reply stamp,
something like that, so it wouldn’t cost them any money.
We had a few responses but no affidavits.
So we were really–
This went on into ‘37.
But in ’37, the situation of getting into–
You could get out of Germany,
but it seems that one country after the other closed their doors.
Meanwhile, the Jewish people, many of the Jewish people
had gone to other countries,
and I guess many of the countries realized
that they’re getting a lot of Jewish people.
I remember it was very hard to go anyplace.
I remember my mother saying, “I’ll go to the jungle
if I could just go anyplace and just live on bread and water.”
We just couldn’t go anyplace.
We had no place to go to.
I remember, especially in 1937,
we tried very hard to go away to anyplace,
whoever would want to take us.
We could not get in.
We could get out, but we couldn’t get in.
Were there any changes in the laws that affected you,
or further changes in the laws,
or anything else that affected the way you were living?
Oh, well, in the laws about– For Jews?
There were always changes.
There was always something new coming in.
The worst change was the fact that he wasn’t allowed to work openly.
But, yes, they had a hard time getting kosher meats.
They didn’t allow the meat to be koshered.
That reminds me of something else also.
I remember being in some kind of a market
where my mother bought the chicken.
They had a live chicken stand, and there was–
This is what they call <i>shohet,</i> the person who would kill the chicken.
I remember being there in the market, and somebody came in.
A non-Jewish man, big non-Jewish man.
And he said, “Your heads will roll like the heads of these chickens roll.”
I’ll never forget that.
I remember I couldn’t sleep for a long time
after I heard him say that.
It just came to me as you asked me that.
But there were laws. At this point, I don’t remember.
I remember the not being able to work.
We couldn’t get the kosher meat,
and times were just getting very bad.
Then, meanwhile, relatives and friends would leave.
We already heard people leave, and we were–
As happy as we were for them, it was like going to the street,
and you met another Jewish person and you would say,
“Where are you going? So do you have anything?”
We were always so interested in finding out.
Sometimes people said, “I don’t know what we are going to do.
We tried this country. We tried that country.”
Or sometimes people would say,
“Yes, we are leaving tomorrow for such-and-such a place.”
And as happy as we were for these people,
we always wished that we would be in their places.
That’s how we wanted to leave
because by now, by 1937,
there were so many bad incidents.
The neighbor was picked up.
They said that he was–
He was giving out Communist–
He made Communist propaganda.
He was giving out leaflets to be Communist, and they picked him up.
Whether it was true or not, I don’t know, but he disappeared.
People disappeared.
And you didn’t know where to.
We were afraid that they would come for us also.
What kind of preparations did you make
in case you were able to leave the country?
Mainly, we were all making sure
that we had learned a trade.
My parents said, “You have to be– You can’t be just a dressmaker.
You’ve got to be a good dressmaker.”
They said the same thing to the others, my brother,
“You can’t be just an office person.
You’ve got to do something what that you can do in another country.
You’ve got to learn something
that will enable you to make money in another country.”
So, at that time, there were only three of us in the house,
as I mentioned before.
That was the main thing.
These were actually the preparations that they made.
They were always concerned with just trying to get out
and making sure that–
They weren’t so concerned about–
My father was able to do most anything, being in the leather bag business.
He also said that he’ll go as a shoemaker.
He’ll sole shoes.
He was able to do that. He was able to do many things.
He said he can be a painter.
He can, you know, be a wallpaper hanger.
That was the biggest concern– not just in our house– with everybody.
Everybody was trying to–
There were doctors and dentists who suddenly became shoe solers.
It was a trade you had to learn
in anticipation of getting into another country
because nobody spoke the language.
Very few people spoke the language
of whatever country you intended to go to.
That was on our mind.
Just go, getting out.
And I’m talking now about 1937.
By that time, everybody wanted to get out.
Were you still able to attend synagogue at that point?
- To attend? - Synagogue.
Yes. Yes, synagogue we always attended.
Yes, we always attended synagogue. Yes.
We would go to the synagogue.
Even if it was a little hard sometimes going out.
They would call us Jew. You know, this dirty Jew.
We got so used to it that we hardly heard it.
“Hey, dirty Jew.”
You went to the synagogue. You know, we heard that.
But, yes, we always attended synagogue.
That became more important, you know?
You were hoping that God will help you.
What happened next to your family?
Well, actually, next came in 1938.
It was–
Times were bad, and we had heard of many incidents.
People being arrested for no reason,
and Jews getting hurt in one way or another.
But in 1938, we had the experience
on October 28.
There were five of us in the house– my parents and, as I mentioned before,
and the three– my sister, brother and myself.
That day, on October 28, at 5:00 in the morning,
five SS men knocked on the door very heavily,
pushed open the door, and came in and shouted,
“Get dressed. You are being deported.
Just get out.”
They didn’t even say you’re being deported.
“Get dressed and get out of here.”
I remember my parents. “What is? What for?”
Then they said, “You’re going to be deported.”
And said, “Just get dressed.
We give you five minutes.”
And we all got dressed.
My mother tried to make some tea, something warm.
It was cold and a rainy day.
We were ready in a few minutes, and they said “Nothing.”
My mother, “Can we take something with us?”
“No, not a thing.”
We couldn’t take anything with us.
And we walked out.
It was a rainy day, and there was a big truck outside
with men, women and children.
We got into that truck, and they took us–
They picked up more people, more Jewish people.
I remember my mother couldn’t get the steps up quick enough,
and he pushed her up, and she hurt her leg.
They took us to a prison,
and they pushed us into a prison cell,
and we stayed there all day.
They kept on pushing more and more and more people into that cell
until we hardly could breathe anymore.
That was early in the morning.
Then in the evening, they let us get out,
and we had to get into a truck, that infamous truck.
I remember high truck.
You had to climb up these high steps to the truck.
They took us to the railway station in Frankfurt <i>am Bahnhof.</i>
There were many other people there.
We had to get in– There was a train.
We had to get into the train.
Only then did we find out– I don’t remember–
I seem to remember that only then did we find out
that we are going to be deported to Poland.
That’s what I remember.
I don’t know. Maybe the rest of my family knew.
But I remember it was at that railway station
that I learned we are going to be deported to Poland.
How did you find out?
Maybe from other Jews.
You know, from– I don’t remember.
I know that I thought, “Where are they deporting us?
Where are we going?”
All these people, were these all Jews? All Polish people?
These were only Polish Jews.
This was a Polish-Jewish deportation.
It was one of– I believe it was one of the first deportations that took place.
I don’t remember the Jews were deported
in such masses until that time.
Maybe they were, but not that I know of.
This was a–
The first deportation was only Jews.
We had to get into the train,
and then there was a train ride that seemed like forever.
We had nothing to eat or drink.
We had eat the last time on Thursday evening,
the night before we were picked up.
Then we had been all day long in that prison, in that cell.
Then we were in that train.
There was no food and no water,
and we all took turns
fainting– fainting.
We all fainted at one time or another.
Then I remember, it seemed to take forever.
I remember one thing.
On that train, I thought by myself,
“Are there people out there
that were happy and singing and dancing,
and we are on a train being deported?”
I remember that, sitting in that train
thinking if there are people that are really happy today
because we are in such a terrible situation.
And we were deported.
It took quite a while.
The train stopped many times, but at one stop they said–
They ordered out, everybody out.
Then there came all kinds of orders.
The SS men with the rifle, they would–
Then they ordered us to sit in one row.
They put like six or seven people,
five to seven people in one row, one behind the other.
I would think there were about 1,500 people.
I seem to remember about 1,500.
Not remember, but it seems to me now, looking back,
that there were about 1,500 people.
So we were all six abreast, one behind the other,
holding hands very tightly.
No one wanted to get lost from the family.
Then they ordered, “March. March.”
And we marched.
And the SS men were walking next to us with their goose steps
and with the rifles pointing at us at all times.
Everybody was marching.
We were marching and marching for quite a while.
Then there came a time
when they ordered us–
To do what?
When they ordered us, when they shouted
that there will be a– the last German–
What do you call that? German–
- I need a little time to think now. - We’re going to stop now.
- Can I do that? - Yes.
Thank you.
This is tape three of our interview with Esther Clifford.
Ms. Clifford, you were telling us
about the train ride that seemed to go on forever.
You finally got off the train.
How did you find out where you were?
It probably said Beuthen.
This was a town named Beuthen, B-E-U-T-H-E-N.
It was by the Polish border.
Had you come on–
What kind of trains had you come on?
It was not the type of train
that later people were deported later on.
It was a regular train. Yes.
You were saying that they had you marching when you got to Beuthen.
And began to give orders. What kind of orders were they giving?
They were ordering turn left, turn right.
March slow, quick. Stop.
There were all kinds of order.
Hold up your hands.
Show your identification paper.
There always seems to be some kind of an order
that we were watching what they are going to say next.
Did there seem to be any purpose to the orders?
Not to me really.
When we had to walk to the right or to the left
maybe they were letting us know which way to go, but they were–
They were marching that way anyway.
I don’t know. I really don’t know if there was any purpose to it.
We were marching towards the Polish border.
Then there was that time when they ordered us to stop
at the last German control.
<i>Die Deutsch, die Kontrolleur.</i>
At that time, they ordered us to stop and hold up our hands
with a certain paper, a certain identification
that we were supposed to have.
Was this an identification paper
that everyone had or only Jews?
In this case, only Polish Jews.
Every Jew had to have some kind of an identification paper.
Not just one, many.
But the Polish Jews had– Some of them had passports.
Some of them just had papers. No passport, just identification papers.
These identification papers, by the way,
listed not only the first name and the last name,
but the men had to use the name Israel
and the women had to use Sarah.
That was the middle name given by the Nazis
for every Jewish person by that time.
So I remember my mother had–
On my mother’s paper, she had Selda Sarah Ebe,
and my father had Abraham Israel Ebe.
That was his name.
Every Jew had to have that middle name.
We were now stopping,
and I was on my father’s identification paper
because I was not yet 18 or the certain age that you had to be.
And I was tired.
I was hungry.
I was thirsty, and I think I–
I’m trying to remember why I did not hold up my hands
when I was ordered to do so.
Either because I did not have the paper,
or because I was–
For some reason I did not.
The next thing I remember is that there was a Storm Trooper.
The Storm Troopers were helping the SS with certain things,
and he pointed the rifle at us and said, “Get out.”
My parents said, “Why?”
And just to me. I have to get out of line.
My parents said, “Why?” And he said, “Because you didn’t hold up your hands.
You didn’t hold up your arms.”
They tried to explain that I was on my father’s identification paper,
but he just wouldn’t listen.
Then he lifted his rifle again,
and it looked like he was going to hit us all
because my parents, my family, was holding on to my hand,
being the youngest, especially, holding my hands very tightly.
As he lifted his rifle, I didn’t want to get anybody hurt,
so I pulled myself loose with all my might.
I remember my mother crying, said, “No, stay here.”
She begged with this very young Storm Trooper
to let me stay with them, and I remember my mother said,
“I’ll show you the paper. I’ll show you.
She’s on my husband’s identification paper.”
She was tired. She was trying to–
Nothing. Then he ordered me to run to the wall.
To go to the wall and face the wall.
There was a wall about a few feet away
from that line of deported Jews.
I was not the only one.
There were many others who were pulled out of line
for some reason or another at that wall, facing the wall.
As I looked further, I saw young mothers
with tiny newborn babies.
They probably couldn’t raise their hands.
They had maybe, in one hand, a baby,
and, in the other hand, they had diapers and bottles or whatever.
So there were about maybe 50 other people
pulled out of that line, facing the wall.
I do remember thinking, “Oh, my goodness.
If they do anything to me, if they shoot me, or anything–”
That was on my mind.
My family was going to have to watch them shoot me.
I was almost relieved when I heard them order, “March. March on.”
And I heard the footsteps.
I couldn’t look back. I had to face the wall.
Then I heard them march on.
They were marching on.
Just for a moment, just to clarify.
Which members of your family now were marched away?
That was my mother, my father,
my brother, Leo and my sister, Rosa.
They were, the four of them, ordered to continue marching.
You were still facing the wall?
I was still facing the wall. Right.
That took quite a while.
I heard the steps behind me, getting further away and further away.
After a while, they–
I could hear them march, and you could hear
that they were getting not so noisy anymore.
Then they ordered us to turn around,
and they put us on one of these infamous trucks again.
When I say “us,” those, about 50 people,
that had to face the wall, and we had to get up on the truck.
As I was standing high up on the truck, I could see from very far
the last people of these deported people marching away.
I was looking to see if I recognize my family.
Of course they were– I couldn’t.
The trucks brought us to a place, to a synagogue
that was converted into a prison,
in anticipation of all the deportations that were yet to come.
This was only 1938.
This was just the deportation of Polish Jews.
We were in that synagogue, and they–
We were let out onto this yard outside the synagogue,
and the Jewish people from Beuthen
came over and gave us food.
These were German-Jewish people who were not deported.
Only Polish people were deported.
We were young, and young people would bring us food and so on.
It was– I don’t know when, whether it was, how many days.
Was it Monday? Was it four days?
I don’t remember that.
But I do remember when some of the young people–
Meanwhile, you make friends with other girls your age.
I made some friends, and then they said,
“The gate is open.
Get out, and we have two cars waiting.
We’ll take you to the train.”
And we did. He was right.
The gate was open, and the five of us raced out.
They pushed us into the car.
They took us to the railway station.
But I learned later that the other people that were in that synagogue
were also released only a few hours later.
What I learned was that the other people,
so many other Polish-Jewish people,
were supposed to be taken over to Poland,
but they were sent back because Poland, at that time, decided
that they’re not going to let any more Jews in.
They only let in the first group of Jews.
My parents– We were amongst the very first.
I think after our deportation,
the people that were on that first train
got through to the Polish border.
After that, they closed the border.
Many Polish Jews that were also deported were just sent back.
They were just let go
because they didn’t know what to do with them.
They were let go, but my parents, my sister and brother,
somehow went through the border to go through.
We had no idea where they went to, and now I went.
I got on that train. I went back to Frankfurt.
These young men– the young Jewish men from Beuthen
that helped you to escape– did you ever know who they were really?
No. I never really learned.
In my heart, I blessed them.
But as I said, if I had waited a little bit longer
I would have gotten out anyway
because all the others were sent home.
As they sent back the other Polish Jews that they deported,
they opened up the synagogue and let everybody else also.
They just let them go.
They could do whatever they want.
Most of them went back where they were deported from.
What did you do when you got back to Frankfurt?
When I got back to Frankfurt, I–
The first thing I did is–
I had forgotten to mention that I had–
Before I was deported, I worked in a store.
I learned to make hats.
To become a milliner.
To make hats.
I was there about a year maybe.
Not quite a year.
And I liked it very much.
I figured this way, I will be able to do dressmaking,
and I’ll be able to make hats when I emigrate.
That was the only thing we had on our mind.
There was nothing else on our mind, you know.
To get out of Germany
and then make a life for yourself and to work.
When I returned, the boss that I worked for–
Her name was Mrs. Friedman.
I remember that.
She had a millinery store, a hat store,
on the main street of Frankfurt called Zeil, Z-E-I-L.
I went to the store, and I–
She embraced me. She didn’t know what to do with me
because she couldn’t understand why I didn’t come to work
until she learned that the Polish Jews were deported.
Then she figured out that I must have been there also.
So she was the first person I went to see.
And how did she help you?
She gave me shelter.
She let me stay in her house for a few days.
I didn’t go to work because I–
At that time, I was too exhausted and too–
Also, I was afraid
because I was supposed to be–
I was supposed to be over in Poland or someplace.
I wasn’t supposed to be home. I didn’t know whether–
I didn’t know at the time
that other Polish Jews were coming back, were sent back.
You didn’t know what was going on.
Wasn’t that there was television or anything like that.
So I was very much afraid, and I was hiding, first in her house.
Then, the next thing, I went back to my–
to where we lived.
I went– I think it was before I even went to see her.
I have to concentrate.
Who did I see first? I don’t really quite–
I think first I went to the house
before I went to this Mrs. Friedman.
When I went to the house, the apartment was sealed.
And as I waited, thinking what I should do next,
a neighbor came down the stairs,
and I was just standing at the door hiding,
trying to turn my head the other way
so that he wouldn’t recognize me.
But he came over and he said in a very nice way, “Can I be of help to you?”
He was a non-Jewish neighbor, Christian neighbor, that had known us,
and before Hitler we were friendly with him.
I said to him, “I just came back,
and I would like to get into this apartment, but it is sealed.”
And he said he’ll help me. He has the key.
He must have heard me come or something and try the door.
He broke the seal, and he gave me a key,
and he said I should go in but be very quiet
so that the other neighbors wouldn’t hear me in there
and try not to turn on any lights.
I said I have no money.
I have nothing on me, not even one penny.
I have no bag, no nothing.
He said that if I wanted to sell him something, he’ll give me some money.
I sold him some items that I saw.
I let him look around, asked him what he wanted.
He saw a few things, a couple of silver things,
and he gave me some money, and he left.
Then I remember looking around, and I saw these–
My mother was trying, before we were deported,
to make some hot tea for us,
and there the cups were standing on the table with this–
Of course they didn’t let her, so I remember seeing these cups,
and I did nothing but cry.
So from then on– Then I visited this, my Mrs. Friedman–
Then I went to her, and after that I stayed with some other people
because I was very much afraid to be in the house.
But I went back. I did sleep. I did stay in the house in the evenings.
I would go back to the house
because everybody was involved with their own–
Especially after this Polish deportation,
the other Jews became very much concerned
that this will happen to them, and they were also afraid
to take somebody in who was already deported.
I kind of fell asleep, like in a coma, in the house.
And after that,
I remember I woke up one night,
and there was a lot of noise, like the breaking of glass.
I looked out. I looked through the blinds,
and I saw that there were people
throwing stones through the windows
that we knew– that I knew Jewish people lived there.
They were throwing stones through all the windows,
bricks and all kinds of things through those windows.
I realized that they’re breaking all the windows of the Jews.
That is what became the infamous <i>Kristallnacht,</i> Crystal Night.
The first thing, I was hiding under the bed,
and I realized I have to make my own decisions now.
I have nobody anymore to tell me what to do next.
It was always my parents who told us what to do.
I looked again through the window, and I decided
that they’re going to come through this window also.
So I put on– I dressed myself warm, and I run out of the house.
I was always afraid to stay in the house since I was deported.
I run out of the house, and I run down to the next block,
and there was the– someplace nearby was this synagogue,
Breuer synagogue, spelled B-R-E-U-E-R,
and that synagogue was in flames.
There were young people standing there,
throwing stones through these beautiful windows.
It was a gorgeous synagogue.
It was well-known, beautiful, and it was up in flames,
and I was standing there at the corner in awe.
The synagogue was some thing–
We went to the synagogue even the recent Friday, the recent Sabbath.
And now the synagogue is in flames.
I couldn’t get over that, but I realized very quickly
that I can’t push my luck, and I kept on running.
I thought this was just taking place in our street,
and I just kept on running and running.
Anyplace, just to get away from this chaos.
Then I realized that they were still throwing bricks in many other windows.
I went to this main street where we have the store,
and all the windows were broken,
and they had <i>Jude</i> written in big letters. <i>Jude.</i>
And I went– I run back again.
I didn’t know where to run.
I always thought there must be a place where they didn’t throw these–
But wherever I run, they were throwing bricks,
and at the same time they had these infamous trucks
standing and bringing out men from houses, pulling them out,
you know, like by their neck.
One in each hand, these SS men.
They were young boys too.
They looked young. But it was only men.
I didn’t see any women or children at that time.
As I was running and running, I was out of breath.
There was in front, where they have a street,
where they have on one side trees and benches,
and on the other side they have these houses.
It was well-to-do people living there.
I was so out of breath, I sat down on a bench,
thinking, “What should I do?
Where am I going to go now?”
I wasn’t going to go back to the house.
I figured I couldn’t go back to the house, and I was–
I thought, “What am I going to do now?
Where am I going to go?”
And I was in a specifically bad situation
because I didn’t even know whether I was supposed to be back here.
Wasn’t I supposed to be in that synagogue or over in Poland?
I sat on the bench, and I remember looking at these nice houses,
and above the sky was red from all the fires,
from all the synagogues that were burning.
I saw opposite in the house windows were broken.
There was a woman walking back and forth with a little child on her shoulder.
And it was dark, but you could see her
trying to kind of put that child, that baby, to sleep.
Then I was looking down on the bench where I was sitting.
In big letter it said <i>“Juden verboten.”</i>
Jews are not permitted to sit here.
I thought, “I can’t push my luck, and I have to get up.
Somebody’s going to find me on that bench.” I kept on running.
But while sitting on the bench I decided to–
I had a little money from the things.
I decided to run to the railway station
because my sister, my second sister Mary,
was still in Munich.
I thought, “I’ll go to Munich
because this way, I’ll go away from here.”
And that’s what I did.
While running, I saw so many men
being pulled out of the houses.
And children crying,
<i>“Schenken sie mein Vater zurück.”</i>
“Send my– Give me my father back.”
And women crying at the windows.
Then I run all along the street, Kaiserstrasse,
that leads to the German railway station.
Even there, Jews still had offices there,
and some of them were trying to hide in their offices,
but that didn’t help.
I saw them just running along.
By that time, it was getting a little bit light already.
I saw them pulling out Jews from these office buildings and putting–
and I saw the trucks.
There were trucks standing all along the Kaiserstrasse.
I got to the railway station, and I got to a train, and I went–
The train took me to Munich, and I thought,
“I’m glad I’m getting away from that chaos.”
But when I got to Munich, the same thing was happening there.
As a matter of fact, I was running to where my sister lives.
She didn’t know I was coming.
I didn’t even know if she was there.
I didn’t know if she was in the house.
I could even see the glass on the floor.
They made the Jews clean up the glass.
There was one poor Jew who was– They were teasing him.
“There’s a little bit of glass left and there’s a little–”
They were standing around, teasing him.
“Hey, you Jew, pick up– There’s a little bit of glass left.”
Just remembering these things.
I stayed in my sister’s house for a week
because they were ready to go to Shanghai.
They had some kind of a ticket
that would take them to Shanghai,
and they were packing and getting ready.
I realized that I didn’t know Munich.
I didn’t know how to hide there.
I didn’t know. So I decided after a week–
I couldn’t stay much longer there anyway.
They only had two tickets for her and her husband.
I went back to Frankfurt.
What was your sister and brother-in-law’s name?
This was my sister Mary, and her husband’s name was Arthur.
- And the last name? - Arthur Halberstad.
What happened when you went back to Frankfurt?
When I went back to Frankfurt,
I went back to the apartment
and decided to pack some things.
I didn’t know what for,
but I had so many things on my mind.
I was thinking maybe I’ll pack and go to Poland
and find my parents.
We had a crate in the house.
We always had a crate because we were always ready to leave.
I packed as much as I could into that crate,
and I had it picked up by some kind of a company
that was very close.
I said, “Leave it there until I tell you what to do with it.”
But there wasn’t much I packed.
Just a few things.
And from then on, then you heard people
being picked up and taken into prison
and being deported.
There was all kinds of things.
I was just hiding. Hiding wherever I could.
I remembered my mother had a friend.
I would go to her house one night.
Sometimes I would hide.
I would sit up on the attic, on the last floor.
I was always afraid.
I could go to the house just a little while longer
because one day, a policeman came to the house.
I was just in there, and I thought this is the end.
He said that I have to come to the police.
He didn’t take me with him.
He said I have to come to the police.
I thought– I didn’t think that, you know, that–
I really thought this is it.
But when I came to police, he said,
“You have to sign your apartment.
You have to sign that you’re giving away your apartment
to the <i>Sozialdemokraten,</i> to the party.”
Social Democ– to the– Not <i>Sozialdemokraten.</i>
What were they called? To the Nazis.
Whatever they were called.
And I remember that he said–
And he got up and he said, softly to me, he said,
“You know, you don’t have to if you don’t want to.”
And he walked out.
I was sitting there, wondering if I could trust him.
Then I thought, “What am I going to do with this apartment?
I have to go away.
I have to go someplace. Where am I going?”
So I was afraid,
and I signed the apartment away, so to say.
From then on, I stayed with a friend that I had.
I had a very good friend.
Her name was Hertha Hahn.
She had a smaller brother, and her parents.
He had been deported to Buchenwald
on Kristallnacht.
And he came back somehow.
He came back because he was anticipating a visa to go to England.
He said I could stay with them, and I stayed with them.
About when is this? About what month was this?
This was now,
I would say January of ‘39.
This was the beginning of 1939.
Would you spell the family’s name for us?
Yes. The last name was Hahn. H-A-H-N.
And my friend’s name was Hertha. H-E-R-T-H-A.
And they were still in Frankfurt?
They were still in Frankfurt. Right.
They had their apartment, which was also–
They also broke the glass on <i>Kristallnacht.</i>
But he was able to–
He put wood shutters there or something.
They were in that apartment.
- Waiting for an exit visa– - They were waiting–
- to England? - Exactly.
They were waiting for some kind of a family visa
that was promised to them
by some relatives that they had in London.
And meanwhile, you know, I tried to get out.
Were there any agencies or anybody that could help at that point?
There was a Jewish agency
called <i>Kultusgemeinde.</i>
Many of the people in the <i>Gemeinde,</i> the Jewish people, had left already,
and there were few people left
who would help others if they needed help.
What did <i>Kultusgemeinde</i> mean?
Cultural organization.
In earlier years, they were something similar
to a Jewish Y in America.
They had performances, and they had exhibitions.
But then, in time, they couldn’t have that anymore,
so they just were there to help others,
to help them in every way they could.
To help them get out, and find them a country to go to.
Okay, when we do the next tape, we’ll find out
if they were able to help you with anything.
All right.
This is tape four of our interview with Esther Clifford.
We were talking about your trying to get help
to get out of Germany, and the agency you went to.
Yes, I went to the agency,
this <i>Kultusgemeinde,</i> in Frankfurt.
They were able to get me a visa
that would allow me to get into England.
It was a domestic visa.
England needed a lot of domestic helpers at the time,
and that was the only way to get to England.
I was too old for the children’s group.
There were children being sent to England,
but I was not young enough anymore.
So I was able to get a visa from them.
I had lived now with this Hahn family that I had talked about earlier,
and the daughter, my friend, had a visa–
also a domestic visa– to go to England.
The parents were very reluctant
to send their daughter to England on their own
because they were awaiting that family visa,
and they wanted to go together.
Also, this family thought that the visa I had,
I would never get into England.
I don’t remember now what it was, but there was something missing.
They claimed that this visa would not bring me to England,
and it was also dangerous to go to England with this visa
because my name was on it,
and I was supposed to be deported to Poland.
In order for her daughter not to go–
The daughter wanted very much to go to England,
but as I mentioned before, the parents didn’t want to.
I believe it was in order for her,
to hold her back, what the mother did.
She changed the name of that visa to my name,
and some kind of other dates that she changed
because she said that I would never make it with my visa,
and she was afraid that they’re going to keep me on the border
and send me someplace.
So she said I should take her daughter’s visa,
and then if that doesn’t help, I can always go
and show them my visa that was given to me.
But she said it was a more proper visa to go to England.
They wanted me to promise that I would–
Once I get there, I would go to their relatives
and urge them and tell them what was going on in Germany
and to hurry up with the family visa
that they were waiting for.
I took this visa
and I made it to England.
In England, I was waiting for someone to pick me up.
I had no one, but I was told that in England there are people that–
It’s called Woburn House. W-O-B-U-R-N.
They were waiting for refugees to come over,
and they were waiting there at the railway station.
But I waited day and night in the railway station.
I couldn’t see anyone. I really had no one.
Then the next day, somebody did pick me up,
and she took me to a shelter.
It was a shelter. It had about 50 to 100 cots in there.
In this shelter, people came to look over the young girls
that had come over to do domestic help.
Because I was always thin and small,
nobody really wanted me as a domestic help,
so I was the only one left.
But then an English lady came,
and she took anyone who she could get ahold of.
But it was not London. It was Brighton.
At the time, I didn’t know where that was.
It was about an hour away, and I worked for these people.
I was waiting about nine months
before I was able to get to the people,
to these relatives of my friend Hertha Hahn,
in order to talk to them
about the situation in Germany.
I urged them to do whatever they can to get them out,
and they said they would.
Meanwhile, war had broken out,
and that place where I worked in Brighton
did not allow any foreigners to be there
because it was by the ocean, it was by the ocean,
and the German airplanes came,
started coming over, bombing,
and the people didn’t want to have a German in their house.
So that was my experience in England.
I worked as a domestic.
What happened to the Hahn family?
The Hahn family perished.
None of them have ever gotten out.
That was very hard for me to take, but there were–
After the war, I found out that they had been taken.
They were deported.
Were you in contact with anybody in your family during this time?
I was in contact with mostly my sister in France.
Before France was overrun by Hitler,
we were able to correspond,
but once it was overrun, they fled from one place to another,
and they ended up near Vichy, near the Vichy government.
Until then, I was able– We were in touch,
not often, but a few times.
It was my sister in France who had received
a couple of cards from Warsaw,
from my parents, and she sent me those cards
where they said that they’re starving.
They have nothing to eat, and that we have to help them.
My sister said that she sent them a couple of packages.
She doesn’t know whether they ever received them.
By that time, they were in a ghetto,
in the Warsaw ghetto.
From then on,
I was always very concerned, but I worried myself sick.
I was always thinking about them.
While in England, we heard so many things–
that people had been deported.
We heard about concentration camps
and that people were starving.
I was always very, very concerned.
So concerned that I was ill many times
just because of my concern for my parents.
What was the date of the cards that you got from Warsaw?
There was one card sent, I remember, in–
There were only two cards,
and one was sent in the end of 1940.
Another card I received in 1941.
After that, we didn’t hear anything more from them.
But they did say that they were in the ghetto.
They were starving. They had nothing to eat.
They mentioned at one time that my brother lived with a family,
and they gave an address.
The second card said if you want to write to Leo,
his address is such-and-such.
I don’t know what that meant.
We did write.
We never heard anything from him.
When you were in England, after you left Brighton,
where did you go?
Then I went to London.
I went gladly to London
because in Brighton I had no one to talk to.
In Brighton, there was no one, no refugee.
We were considered refugees at the time.
What I did in Brighton is learn my English.
As a matter of fact, I worked very hard.
These people made me work very hard, and I would wear a little apron,
and I always kept a little book in my pocket of my apron
because I wanted to learn English.
Whenever I heard a word I didn’t know, I would write it down.
Then at night, in bed, I had a flashlight.
Under the blankets, I would study my English,
because I wasn’t allowed to have any light.
These people were not the very nicest people.
That’s how I learned my English.
Then I went to London, and in London I was able to meet other people
in the same situation, all worried about their loved ones.
They didn’t know whether they were deported
or what happened to them.
Many just said they didn’t get any mail from them,
from Germany.
In England, we heard many times that people were deported and they were–
We always heard that they’re letting them starve.
They’re starving.
That drove me out of my mind, thinking that they were starving.
I didn’t know how to help them.
I had no money myself, and I didn’t know how to help them.
Since we didn’t hear anything more from them,
we didn’t know where to reach them.
How did you meet your husband?
In 1942, my husband had gone to England
on some kind of a visa.
He was not allowed to work, but when war broke out,
he was given a choice of joining the army or being interned.
He, right away, didn’t have to think.
He joined the army because he wanted to fight against the Germans.
He was in the army, and I met him as a soldier, a British soldier.
My husband comes from Germany, from Berlin.
He’s German also.
He had a brother who died only a few years ago.
Both his parents were also deported to Riga.
I met him there. We got married.
We had nothing. No money.
No nothing, but we had a license,
and we went to a synagogue that was completely bombed out,
and we were there for 10 minutes.
All I had was a little black dress.
We had no party or anything, but we got married
in the synagogue and by a rabbi.
What was your husband’s name?
- His birth name. - Right.
My husband’s name is Rudi,
and his name when we got married was Kleczewski.
His parents had come from Lodz.
There were also Polish Jews living in Berlin.
They had come from Lodz, and his father was a tailor.
His mother’s name was Hedwig, née–
Her maiden name was Fleischmann.
He was a tailor.
He had a tailor place in Berlin.
My husband emigrated, came to London in 1939.
His brother had emigrated to Montevideo in 1938.
About 10 years ago or so, he came to Israel,
and he died just about four years ago in Israel.
Did your husband have a trade when he came to England?
He learned to be a trotter in Germany.
He loved horses.
He became a trotter. He learned that profession.
His father thought that maybe–
He always heard about racing in America.
Everybody was thinking of America.
Not everybody was able to get into America,
but that was the wish for everybody, to get to America.
That was the country everybody wanted to go to.
So his father thought–
He had heard so much about horse racing,
and he thought it would be a good profession for him.
He did learn it, and he became a trotter.
But he couldn’t do anything with it here in America.
What did he work as here?
He worked mostly as a cook
because in the army, he cooked, he was a cook.
He became a cook.
He took up that profession.
He was mostly a cook.
How did you find out, after the war,
about your family, how everybody had fared?
When the war was over in–
As soon as the war was over, we had contact again.
We contacted my sister in France and my sister in Shanghai.
We started a correspondence.
My sister in France wanted first for me to come over to her.
My sister in France, and her husband and son,
and also her husband’s parents, were all hiding.
They were hiding in–
A priest was hiding them in his house.
A priest that they had befriended.
He saved their life because they had–
For many times they were almost deported,
and somehow he was able to save their life.
He was hiding them in the forest, and he–
My nephew, their son,
who was then a small child,
he was hidden on various farms that the priest took care of.
He was previously, not too long ago,
honored by Yad Vashem.
- What’s his name? - He’s a very fine priest.
I don’t know at this point his name.
But he lives in–
I forgot the name of the city now– in the south of France.
Clermont-Ferrand. It’s called Clermont-Ferrand.
He lives there, and he’s close to 100 years old.
He and his parents, who, of course, died a long time ago,
were all given some kind of a medal for saving various families.
So this is why my sister in France is alive.
My sister in Shanghai also went through a lot
because Shanghai had a terrible climate,
and they both, she and her husband, became quite ill.
They came to the United States in 1947.
I now visited my sister in France.
She wanted very much to get together, and while I was in their–
I was always terribly worried about my family,
but I never thought for one moment that they would not be here anymore.
For some reason, I did not believe that is possible.
I was always so concerned about their suffering,
that they didn’t have enough food, that they didn’t have–
they weren’t warm enough,
but it never came to my mind that they wouldn’t be around,
that anything really serious could happen.
But when I came to my sister in France,
she had her family, her parents-in-law,
I realized by the way they talked
that they had perished.
And that gave me–
That’s undescribable. I became so ill.
I had a nervous breakdown.
I came back, and I was quite ill for a long time
because I did not believe that they had actually perished.
Then I learned that– somehow they have learned–
I really don’t know if it was obvious or what–
This was now a year after the war was over,
and we were all looking for our parents like everybody else did.
With newspapers– There was this <i>Aufbau</i>
that had all the people that were looking for each other.
Some people found their family members,
but I never read anything about my parents.
We all, the three of us, contacted many agencies
who had names of those
who had been to concentration camps, who were deported.
But my parents and my sister and brother’s name never came up,
so somehow my sister, she knew that they were no more.
I didn’t.
That was very, very hard to take.
Have you ever had any verification at all?
No. Really not.
We don’t have no idea what happened to them after the Warsaw ghetto.
We don’t know.
Now, you stayed in England at this point?
You remained in England?
We remained in England until 1948.
We decided then and there that–
Both our parents, my husband’s parents and mine,
always wanted to come to the United States.
My husband was released from the army,
and there was really not that much future in England.
Times were very hard.
There was very little food in England.
Very hard to find jobs.
We decided to go to America,
and we came to America in 1948.
My sister, as I mentioned before, came from Shanghai to America in 1947,
and my sister in France is still in France,
still lives in France.
Where did you settle in America?
When we came here, the first thing, we went to–
My sister landed in San Francisco, from China.
We couldn’t wait to get together, so the very first thing,
three weeks after we came to New York, we went to San Francisco by train.
Three nights and three days.
We stayed in San Francisco for a year, but we couldn’t make a living.
The next thing when we came to America was we must make a living.
We have to make a decent living
so that we can get some kind of a place to stay.
So after a year, we came back to New York
because we realized in the first three weeks we were here
that New York is the place where you can make a living.
We came back to New York,
and my husband and I went to a hotel in the Catskills.
I cleaned 26 rooms every day and six bathrooms.
We got a little money together,
and then we were able to get an apartment.
All five of us– my sister, meanwhile, had a little baby–
and all five of us moved into this apartment.
How did you make a living,
after going through the domestic end of it?
How did you make a living for most of your life?
Yes, after the domestic, in time– Then I took–
I didn’t go to college, but I did take–
I attended many seminars, and I decided that I–
I always loved to read.
I decided what I would like to be is a librarian.
I attended many seminars.
I read a lot of books,
and I was able to land a job.
First I worked in a library, not in New York.
Meanwhile, we moved to Rockland County, to Spring Valley.
In New York, yes, I’m sorry.
In New York, my son went to school.
We have a son.
His name is Allen Clifford. A-L-L-E-N Clifford.
When he started school, I worked as a volunteer in that school library.
This is what made me–
become that interest to become a librarian.
I took a lot of seminars, and then we moved to Rockland County.
In Rockland County, I became a librarian
in a large company for which I worked 21 years.
I created a library at that company.
When was Allen born?
Allen was born in 1957.
And he is now married.
His wife’s name is Ellen,
and her maiden name is–
They have two children. Of course, darling children.
My granddaughter, her name is Lauren.
L-A-U-R-E-N. She’s now nine years old.
My grandson is Justin, and he’s seven.
What are the things that you have done that you are most proud of?
Besides Allen and the grandchildren.
Well, I am proud of the fact
that we were able to–
that I was able to pull out
of the tragic situation of losing a family.
I’m not going to say that I pulled out completely.
No way that I pulled out completely.
There is no way that I can ever forget anything like that.
It’s very hard when holidays come,
when Passover comes and the High Holy Days.
There isn’t a holiday that I don’t miss my family.
My father used to give such a wonderful seder.
My brother helped him.
They would sing, and it was–
There is just no holiday that I don’t–
There isn’t a day that I don’t think of them.
But I am proud of the fact that I was able to pull through.
I have helped a lot of people along the way.
I’ve helped my sister who lives here.
The sister Mary, who used to live in Shanghai.
My sister who is in France is now quite elderly,
and we have helped her
come over here many times.
I’ve helped a lot of people along the way,
and I think I’m proud of that.
I belong to organizations, such as other Holocaust centers,
and I helped other survivors
survive like I did.
We do a lot for other people.
We belong to the Meals on Wheels.
We belong to various organizations.
Every once in a while we bring meals
to people who can’t get out.
I am very active with other Holocaust centers.
Is there some message or some closing statement
you would like to make for people to remember?
Well, I think the closing statement
that I would like to make is that I learned in life
that there is nothing more important,
no money, nothing will replace a family.
A family member is everything,
is the happiest thing that you can have.
If I can be given anything at all–
If somebody would ask me, “What is it that you want?”
Anything that would make me happy–
and I would only say family.
I would always urge those people that have family to appreciate it,
to appreciate one another and not hate.
This is one thing that I want everybody to know.
This hatred that goes on amongst people,
amongst religions, amongst–
I don’t understand why people hate.
If you have family, you have children, you have parents, you have grandparents–
It’s such a wonderful thing to have family.
Nothing can replace a family.
I kind of hope and pray that nothing like this will ever happen
because this was all out of hatred.
The question I always ask, “Why did you hate me?”
To kill my family, most of my family.
And I haven’t gotten the answer to that yet.
- Thank you. - Thank you.
This is my grandmother, my mother’s mother,
whom I’m named after.
Her name was Esther Peyre,
and her maiden name was Iba.
This picture was taken in Poland in the late 1800s.
This is my parents’ wedding invitation
which was taken in the beginning of 1900,
in Warsaw, Poland.
This is a picture of my parents. The store that my father owned.
It was taken in Frankfurt around 1923 or ’24.
To the very right is my father, my mother,
and I am holding my mother’s hand.
To the left is, in front, is my sister, Mary.
Behind her, my sister Regina.
Next to Regina is a cousin.
Her name was Rosa, who had visited us at that time.
In front of her is my brother Leo and my sister Rosie.
This is the bar mitzvah invitation for my brother Leo.
His bar mitzvah was on Saturday,
March 14, 1931, in Frankfurt.
These are the people who perished in my immediate family.
These are my husband’s parents.
Max and Hedwig Luchefsky.
The picture was taken in Berlin about 1939.
These are my parents, Abraham and Selda Ebe.
This picture was taken in Frankfurt,
shortly before they were deported in 1938.
This is my brother Leo and my sister Rosa,
and the picture was taken about 1935
on an outing.
Where was it taken?
I think–
I think that they went to the town–
This was taken in Frankfurt, near Frankfurt.
This is my husband Rudi.
The picture was taken during about 1944,
while he was in the British Army.
This is tape five of the interview with Esther Clifford.
Who is in this picture, Esther?
Yes, this picture was taken in 1960 in Paris
at my nephew’s wedding.
In the front row, to the very right,
the person in the black dress is my sister Mary Halberstad.
In the middle is her daughter Rosie.
To the left is myself.
Second row, to the very right,
is my cousin Laney Gidal,
who lives now in Israel.
Next to her is my sister Regina, whose son was married at that time.
Next to her
is Sophie Seidelbach,
who at the time lived in Strasburg.
Next to her is her sister, Regina Barry,
who lives in Strasburg now.
The person to the very left is–
Her first name is Nisha,
and she’s the daughter of my mother’s brother.
The other people are all daughters of my mother’s sisters.
This is my son Allen, at his marriage
to Ellen Menachem in 1981, in New York.
Since Allen and his family couldn’t be with us today, he called,
and I’m going to read some of what he had to say.
“It was difficult growing up as the child of survivors
because all the other children had grandparents to visit
and share holidays with.
I hadn’t known my grandparents,
and I missed having a great deal of family.
I’m very proud that after all the <i>Sturm</i> <i>und Drang</i> and all the struggling,
that my parents had made a life for themselves in a new country,
that they came to a country where they did not know people
and did not know the language,
and succeeded so well in making a good life.
We’re now teaching our children about the Holocaust
so that they can know and be proud of their grandparents as well.
I think that my mother does a wonderful job
keeping the Holocaust memory alive
and with all the causes that she works on.
I’m very proud of my parents, and, again, I think the most difficult part
was not knowing more of my family and not having more family to share.”
This is my granddaughter, Lauren,
who was born in February of 1987,
in New Jersey.
When was this picture taken?
The picture was taken in 1993.
This is our grandson, Justin.
He was born in March 1989, in New Jersey.
The picture was taken in 1994.
This is my husband Rudi and myself.
The picture was taken in 1993.