Jewish survivors of the Holocaust
Findling, Osias (1 of 2) Holocaust Survivors Centre Interviews
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Holocaust Survivors Centre Interviews
Findling, Osias, 1922- (speaker, male)
van Gelder, Gillian (speaker, female)
Part 1: Osias was usual Polish translation of Hebrew name Yeroshuah. Born on 8.10.22 in Leipzig, Germany. Parents came from Poland but mother came to Germany in 1912 as a very young girl. Came with her sisters and lived in Kottbus in Eastern Germany. father came to Leipzig from Holland where he had fled with friends to escape enlistment in WWI. Stayed in Holland from 1916-1919. Meanwhile grandparents had moved to Leipzig and in 1920 father joined them. Didn't have residence permit for Leipzig as Jews couldn't get this in Saxony even after WWI, but part of Saxony belonged to Prussia and he got permit for there. Parents married in Marienbad in Czechoslovakia to avoid trouble and then came back to Leipzig. Has wedding photo. Father's name was Berl but he called himself Berlot in Germany. Mother was Shifra but called herself Sophie. Father born 15/2/1898 in very small village in Poland-Rzepiennik in S. Eastern Kadice near Tarnow. It was habit of Jews to avoid army service so at age 18 he went to Holland until war was over. mother was Shifra Flug-Lerner. Born in Wisnica (?) another small village near Father's in S.E Kadice then part of Austro-Hungarian Empire. Osias knows villages as when Barmitzvah in 1935 got quite a lot of money and in 1936 wanted to spend it and go to Olympic Games in Berlin. Father adamant in not letting him go for fear he might be beaten up as he was obviously Jewish. To pacify him gave him extra money and suggested he go to Poland where father's aunt and sister still lived and find out about life there. He went alone first to Katowicz on border where relatives of mother lived, and stayed a few days with family who were quite wealthy so he had a good time except for toilets! From there went to Tarnow where he stayed with father's sister and got to know his cousins and other family. They had grocery shop in big square but were not v. well off. At that time Tarnow was a nice town-about 50,000 inhabitants - about 30,000 were Jews. From there went to father's birthplace, train from Tarnow to? Gromnyk and then local train to another station and from there husband of grandmother's sister came to collect him with horse and cart. Stayed there 6 weeks and except when post lorry came never saw a car. Beautiful countryside at foot of mountains and father's cousins took him on walking excursions. Father's uncle used the horse and cart for business and went out all day to outlying farms. All villages in Galicia were similar main street with all shops, and only Jews lived in actual village except for policeman, postman and fireman. poles lived in the outlying farms. All houses were very small only big building was church up on the hill. Polish farmers were very poor indeed and when they came to church on Sundays they had bench outside the house where they sat to put their shoes on, and afterwards sat to remove them as they had to last 20 years. Conditions very primitive. People in village very religious and youngsters who did not conform had to leave. All men wore beards, sidelocks and dressed in black. Wore kipot, black hats for shul and streimels on shabbat. Synagogue focal point of village where men met 3 times a day. Women busy at home cooking and looking after children. Wore kerchiefs and saved sheitels for shabbat or holidays. Most Polish farmers hated the Jews who had more money than they did. Lived in appalling poverty sharing homes with goats. Returned home as he had come but got on international train coming from Romania in Tarnow and this took him back to Leipzig where his parents met him at station. This adventure saved his life as when time came to emigrate from Germany and father pushed him to go to Tarnow he was determined not to go. 28.10.38 Germans deported all Polish Jews altho' for first few days Poles would not let them in. Grandparents were deported and they and father were let in as they had family in Tarnow. Father wrote telling mother to sell up and come to Tarnow where he intended to find flat and find out what he could do for business. Osias determined not to go. Mother spoke to his teacher and said she was torn between going to Poland - also with younger son born in 1928 and finding some other way out. Teacher said remember nowadays Jews only go West never East. Mother's cousin in Antwerp wrote offering Osias a place in yeshiva in Belgium. Went to Belgium consulate to get permit, but in March 1939 when Hitler marched into Czechoslovakia consul said frontier closed. Many Jews went to Cologne where smugglers could get them across border to Belgium or Holland where they were put in refugee camps. After Crystal Night 2 British MP's set up scheme to allow 10,000 Jewish children in. Not easy to get on list but son of neighbour helped him to get on list altho' over 16. Went for month on Youth Aliyah in Hamburg and got form to say that although coming on kinder transport he was actually in transit and would go to Palestine. Came to England on 22/7/39 on the but one kindertransport. First put up in London Jewish Shelter in East End and after few days sent by Jewish Relief Committee to tented camp in Ashford in Kent for boys and girls over 15. there until night before outbreak of war when police came and said they would have to move as very near the coast. Asked about brother - said could have got him on to the list but mother said too young and wouldn't let him go. Later in letter from ghetto in 1941 she wished she had sent him. All mother's family very religious - she was one of 10 and he had about 50 cousins but only 6 survived. 2 were already in Israel, 1 hid in Russia and 2 survived the camps. Favourite cousin now lives in New York and they visit each other quite often. Family in Leipzig were modern religious but he was bought up quite religious because of grandfather who was v. religious, spent days studying, while grandmother ran a little shop. Went to Jewish kindergarten, primary school and High School. Lived in building with 8 flats, but only 2 Jewish families and he used to play with non-Jewish neighbours children until it became uncomfortable for them to associate with Jews and they then avoided him. Despite boycott of Jewish shops etc. he himself was not aware of anti-semitism until 1936. Lived in non-Jewish part of Leipzig (in West End) but were not molested by neighbours. Mother had several non-Jewish friends, and the local policeman was very friendly and respectful. October 1938 when father had been taken to station for deportation though later allowed to come home police came to tell them and to suggest they took father suitcase and clothes, and a stranger got off his bike and helped carry the things. Never said goodbye to father. Said goodnight on 27th October and never saw him again. Last time he saw mother was when she took him to station and said at this time might never see him again. Father went to station to find out what was happening because he heard that his parents were being deported. Thinks that father then decided to go with them. Went ith nothing except what he was wearing. When Osias came to UK he came with big wooden case with all his belongings. Mother sent her furniture to Poland by rail. Left Leipzig with younger boy the week after Osias left. All belongings held up in Kracow in customs, and then Germans bombed railway stations, and mother wrote and told him that everything lost and they had nothing. Felt quite emotional leaving mother to whom he was close. Loved both parents but never saw much of father except on Shabbat. Sundays father used to visit his parents and meet friends in Jewish cafes. But at 16 was also looking forward to adventure. Too young to be aware and concerned about what might happen to parents. Wrote card to father on arrival telling him about journey. Also wrote to him telling him News Chronicle head line was "War Imminent". Father wrote back - 'don't be so silly I've been on business to Kracow and Polish Chief of Staff had said "we're not afraid of the Germans. We're waiting for them." and so there won't be war. Advised father to get away from big towns but Jews were lulled into false sense of security both by Polish government and by the rabbis. Understood quite a lot of English before arriving here and could read and write it. At home spoke German, parents spoke Polish when they didn't want the children to understand and he spoke Yiddish only with grandparents. In early teens remembers adults talking about political matters, but father took optimistic view and thought nothing serious would happen. Business remained quite good in fact better than it had been. Ho sold household linen and non-Jews still bought from him. Small shopkeepers left alone for a long time. Father was called to Gestapo in 1938 when he was asked what preparation he had made to emigrate. The interview only lasted about 20 minutes and father said everything in Germany and he had nowhere else to go. Mother's sister, a widow, went to Palestine in 1937 for her son's wedding. Thought it was not from enough and returned to Germany, but took visa valid for 2 years. After Crystal Night went back to Palestine and remained there until she died in the 1960's.