Monday, September 9, 2013

Sonia Bajcz Diamond: Displaced Persons' Camps (Part 8: 1945-1947)

This is the eighth in a series that summarize an interview of my grandmother, Sonia Bajcz/Beitch Diamond (then Sara Bajcz), from about 20 years ago.  This continues her story of after the war had ended, living in DP camps.  Previous posts in this series are here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

We eventually passed the border and stayed outside of Prague with the help of a group from Palestine.  My husband showed me the city, since he knew it from his time in the army.  Our honeymoon was going through swamps and water in bad weather.

Finally we came into Munich.  They had a special building where they sprayed us and our belongings with a special powder.  They sorted everyone into Deported Persons (DP) camps; we ended up in Leipheim.  It was a Zionist camp; at night they would fill up trucks and take people to Marseille on a ship and then onto Israel.  We were trying to send my mother to Palestine legally, and we younger ones were going to sneak in illegally.

Leipheim was long blocks of barracks.  It used to be a military post.  Ours was across from #14.  There, they gave us food packages.  Others exchanged for things from the Germans and got non-kosher food.  Some came into the United States with dishes and jewelery.  My husband was caught right away and was put in jail because he had smuggled a few coins in his collar.
The survivors put on shows.  They acted and sang.  They said life goes on.  We had a big room for everyone.  People made partitions with wood.  There was a fancy funny lady with us (me, my husband, and my mother).  Sometimes they snuck in a cow.  There was a shochet there.  They had little boys who quietly went to the people who kept kosher and told us when to come to buy the kosher meat.  We wrapped the meat in big pumpkin leaves to try to keep it.  We sometimes found fish.

People bought salami and all sorts of things.  We didn't because it wasn't kosher.
Sonia & Paul Diamond in the DP Camp, 1945
My sister-in-law Devora was in a nearby DP Camp in Neu Freimann, a former military camp for German officers.  One day she was talking to another lady from Wolyn.  She had received a letter from a cousin who said that their cousins were asking if any of Yechiel Topiler's family died.  My sister-in-law said that was her grandfather!  (Yechiel Topiler was Yechiel Zutelman/Suttleman; he had lived in Topila for a time before going to the United States.)  The lady sent a letter back to her cousins who sent a letter to their cousins, and we soon got a letter from our cousins asking how many survived, because they wanted to send papers to allow us to come to the United States.  Meanwhile, my husband and sister-in-law remembered their uncle in Brazil's address (the aunt had died when she heard what had happened to the family in Europe), and he wanted to do something for his wife's nieces and nephews.  We got papers from the United States and Brazil.  We decided that wherever we got the visa from first, there we would go.  We first got the visa from the United States.

We had to sneak out from our Leipheim camp to Neu Freimann because we didn't want to show the Zionists that we were going to the United States.  I had back problems in Neu Freimann as well, and I was in the hospital there.  In Neu Freimann we had one little room with another husband and wife.

Finally, they called us to the American Consulate, and we were on our way to the United States.
Sonia Bajcz Diment's temporary papers issued by the US Consulate in Munich, Germany, 1947

Next: Coming to America

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