Sidonia L. Singer and Abraham Singer
DescriptionSidonia L. Singer talks with grandson, Abraham Singer, about her experience growing up in Czechoslovakia, during the time of Hitler’s extermination of the Jews.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Sidonia L. Singer
- Abraham Singer
Recording LocationGrand Central Terminal
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00:06 My name is cedonia singer. Everybody calls me Sid for short.
00:12 I am 2016 86 years old. I was born November 6th 1921.
00:22 We are in a parked in location Grand Central on Central and I am my partner's grandma.
00:34 My name is Abraham singer people call me Abe. I am turning I'm 22 turning 23 in a month. Today is March 22nd, 2008 hour and Grand Central Terminal and I am going to be speaking to my grandmother.
00:53 I always say it's funny. It's it's funny being in service vari-form almost foremost evening atmosphere and I just want to ask you just personal questions things that I just don't know but
01:07 Ask if I know I'll answer. I just I want to hear about life when you grew up, which I don't know much about.
01:17 I was born in Czechoslovakia, which is now Slovakia town on the Smoky Mountains. Very very beautiful. My father was at the town I had.
01:32 Siblings were 11 children.
01:36 Photo of us survived
01:39 The Holocaust I came to the United States of America in 1946 after having been liberated in the heart from the Concentration Camp given New York Regents my two sisters and you know, your great-uncle Alex my brother near Beaver 4th that survived Unfortunately they were passed away and I'm the only one remaining in the whole family.
02:08 Our household was a very very busy one type of people coming and going all the time. My father was a very very well educated Hebrew scholar and questions were asked of him by people into town and outside of town or the time. My mother was the sweetest dentist woman. I ever knew very beautiful.
02:45 What was it like to be most likely the rabbi's daughter things that we couldn't do without the children. Could you do but
02:57 Somehow we managed I love to dance and so we had to do all these things without my parents knowing which always felt, you know, rather funny that you have kind of coming the back way, and you had to be a white liar budget Brooks Alto right Beaver Educators and purple School. Bus went to parochial first few days. Then I venture to high school had few and graduated from The Academy of International Education and came to this country and went back to school.
03:40 I got some credit for the first course. I have finished and in Europe and I enrolled in the new school for many many years to courses and then I took courses at that the Columbia in both English writing.
04:03 History is interested in.
04:06 And then of course, I was here only ate once in this country and I and I met and married your grandfather.
04:14 And I lived in Yonkers. He was a physician and as you know, I have two children one of which is your father.
04:23 Who is an attorney? And your Aunt Debbie who is a sensation?
04:29 And we have had a long before marriage for 50. Some odd years can fathers, you know died 5 years ago, and I now live in Valhalla and you know, you're independent.
04:44 Kind of facility and I have a lot of friends there two, very very Advanced and socially minded place with a lot of people doing all sorts of wonderful things become the go-to concert to go to the stage of the I walk everyday I take yoga kind of go through all kinds of sports are used to play tennis after 3 years ago and I broke my knee unfortunately and have her drink whiskey. We walked with to do so the word.
05:20 I can't complain. My life was a very good run.
05:26 Unfortunately, are you now cuz I miss I miss my family always will tell me more about them, but they're just not know tell me about your your father. Looks like my father just add a beard and and mustache and a black hat.
05:47 And super to your great-grandfather. He was a very respected man very very respected man, my mother with blue eyes and blond none of the children nine heads up head in exactly like your uncle Alex had kind of like to hear than any one of us. I am very much like my father and your Aunt Olga great Aunt Olga. She had also great green eyes and blondish hair mom like my mother my mother's eyes were blue sky
06:26 I spoke Hungarian to my mother because she was born in Hungary. I spoke Yiddish and German to my father. I was educated in Slovak spoke Slovak to my brothers and sisters and all my friends and
06:42 I came to this country and had to learn how to speak English. So it was kind of tough because when I came I do not not more than I need to say thank you or so, but I learned and it's all stuff to come to a new country new language do people from our cousins brought Prime brother and me out here. I've never seen them I heard of them but I never seen them never spoke to them. Fortunately these folks. I'm Jewish so that we could Converse cuz I didn't speak any English then but didn't take long when I after 8 months and married your father your grandfather and by that time I was holding the fluid Florent I could Converse but it wasn't anything that I was accustomed before but I learned
07:41 What else you anything that you wanted to know? Just ask me how I know it's it's it's so hard to have trouble thinking of things to ask him. So please I know if I would describe you respect back in my childhood. We had a fairly big house, but it was nothing like American power source Bieber what you would call her makeup class if I ain't rich, but I never knew want I had everything I needed a very loving loving millier my sisters and brothers. They were so many years older than 9:00. So got married by the time I was four and a half years old. I was in and four times over my brother was married my sister Margaret's you know, who she was married had the little girl was only five years younger than I
08:36 And and they had a big big beautiful garden that you had roots and trees and and and vegetables in Europe. It wasn't terribly uncommon to have household help sleeping. So, you know, this would be considered theater luxury. It wasn't in Europe. So we had a very very very good woman who stayed with us from the time I was born until until we had to leave remember my mother telling me some story about I can't I can't remember it was a long time ago when you told it to her in a long time ago and she told it to me but a story where you had you your brother had been away for awhile and a half years old or maybe even my brother got married.
09:33 And he would leave and by the way, and then he lived in Europe and he came back.
09:40 My sister's wedding. So I didn't know any new rope. It was customary in our milieu. Anyway, we kissed our our uncle's hands and so when when he came I did what I did to all my other articles and he wept because I am your brother, you know, for sure cuz I didn't know so these are things that you remember remind did you have any nicknames or was there any like any kind of choppy? So that was my name and anybody who comes from my hometown to this day would not know who who Sidonia lover was but don't see our yes. That's how my sister spell.
10:34 No luggage was Margot and my brother Alex for Shawnee because Alex's is A-Rod the Russian named Alexander and it's a Slavic name. But in Hungarian translation. So he called him Sonia. That's how we're dressed each other and
10:56 And leave a very good friends my Alex. I was the youngest in your family. So I had five brothers and Five Sisters to whom I was a baby. And so it was always somebody somebody to turn to my mother was busy. It was always a sister always a brother always somebody to care to make sure that whatever you need taking care of an Alex and I were only two years apart and be very close. He was my my protector whenever we went to school and someone was it off with me or I have to turn my phone. My brother will take care of you. Everything's doing fine. So, you know and then fever here for many many years, of course, he married and lived in Albuquerque once or twice a year. That's what about it.
11:51 And and then he
11:56 That's the way your talking before about him about how you have to hide things from your father cuz he was very religious. What were some of those are some things that you can do that Austria occurred between Germany and Austria. I was only 17 years old and then it was none of us noticed. You were kicked out of school. You have to wear style you couldn't walk on stage of a they wanted you to life is a very restricted to very very frightening. You don't people talk about all kinds of emotions. But one thing that very few people address is the constant Piedra to live it it is so devastating to be afraid or the time. It's just the stress. That's very very hard to cope with.
12:56 And then that was that was it. But in the meantime, we're Sophie for young people children. We had boyfriends but you could you couldn't go out and then and sit around and do what people do here is all it will have to be a secret even meeting someone and walking down the street on the Promenade which record the core so you went up and down the street, but God forbid somebody would see you with the boy. You were free to go and tell your father, you know, everybody else could do but not flowers daughters do that. My mother was much more understanding of that in that particular area. So, you know when we wanted to go to a late
13:44 The movie or late play which cities in Europe have a very different way of operation. No, no matter how small the town they have a theater. They have park with metal music military music and people come out and people walking people kind of socialize and some of these things were just not right for us from a very very religious background to do so we had to do it without parents without my father knowing that my mother was come out and they hate on Tony Verdun bring us home, which was fine. She was always a feeling she kept the room so that that was wonderful or holders work.
14:33 Now you see yesterday was pouring now, you know, what food AM stand for and you know what people do important people sing songs and he likes Halloween people go and knock on the door and and say Trick or Treat we couldn't do that. We had to prepare a song a little pony little something and then you went to the neighbors and add and and performed then they gave you not money most of the time chocolate and orange which was in Central Europe quieter delicacy things of that sort. So that was that was pouring In The House Always smelled your beautiful freshly-baked marvelous goodies. Your great-grandmother was a Fabulous Baker and so the house was just hooked up and everything smelled good Passover, which is coming in neck. That was the most wonderful.
15:33 Holiday that I remember because all my brothers that were married. My sister said remarried came back home if they are spouses and their children and beaver beaver. Oh, maybe 24, maybe twenty-eight sitting around the table according to age my father and mother sat on top. It was customary to have it in the bedroom in my parents bedroom where there was a sofa. So you're not pass over the thing is that you have to lean and I meant my father is willing to wait for the sofa and my mother and father sit there and then talking in my father's side or the children according to age that around so I was the youngest I sit next to my mother.
16:22 In the middle of the services, you know, there was a time when you have drank already one or two glasses of wine and you go to wash you hands but everybody went to work their hands and I was dipping into everybody's glass on the way by the time they came back I was drunk. So I never remember but it was very important to have the kind of memories that you have of the brush painting in the kitchen the change of the day of the birthday of stove-top between kosher for Passover to the night and the day before carrying the regular dishes down to the basement bringing the Passover runs from from the attic down everything freshly washed the whole house smelled of all kinds of of beautiful.
17:20 Cleaning fluid smells and then the preparation for food, you know the horses and and the eggs and the salt water and the matzo balls and it was just unbelievable. It was just beautiful. You always had brand new clothes from underwear to your socks and shoes and the thing to do was next day go and meet all your friends and show off and brag about how long to say the last it when you went to sleep. It was just beautiful beautiful. So that. And then or the holidays that came they were very very totally observed. You know, when you need it to have decorations with branches of greenery in the house that was done, but the most important always remember special smells that kind of
18:20 Indigenous to that particular holiday, it was unbelievable. For instance, There was the smell of the posterior as a rogue, which is kind of a lemon and the power they are a bundle of branches and the and the Evergreen State for covering the sukkah and the importance of having it it decorated so that it wasn't beautiful because you have to spend a day with the family slept inside but my father insisted to sleep in the sukkah and and we went from house to house to see who's was better. And before that we would go out into the Promenade in and The Gather Chestnut the tree than colored with silver and gold paint and and made
19:20 Get out of paper and packaging and hungry all over the place and colored paintings and did all sorts of things to make adjust festive. Now, you know that that was silly because when they went when Suka, but it meant was when Israelites were leaving Egypt they went out into the desert is surely didn't have to cut meat with decorations and paintings and pictures and what have you. That was the customer thing to do. So that was that particular other day and then and then you know, I mean Not only was my father preparing for the big thing in Temple, but also preparing the cords for singing and be head over his 20-30 people in the house that came to practice it was it was just an unbelievable way to grow up.
20:23 The more you have the more you lose the more it hurts. So, you know, it's tough.
20:31 Then of course Monroe Monroe hurricane
20:36 I remember it March March.
20:42 19420 Friday afternoon, my father went to
20:49 Before the temperature usually events before me, and all of the sudden I see him come back about five minutes later. And he said to me my child you have to go and hide in your sisters. My sister was married and lived in town but on the other end of town and at that time the story was that they are coming to get the girls and a horrible story was it the girls are being taken to service military man?
21:17 My father said to me go and save your life, whatever whatever you know, how
21:27 And so I did and a group of us left about three days later. It legally be left at night across the border into hungry which was at that time or Pacific Place and I lived Liga live it strange name fortunately. I know the language. So it was easier for me to get around there. I worked as a German king of a kind of a nanny and that's how I earn my living and then
22:03 Then a year later I was caught.
22:07 And deported to Camp concentration camp. So I went through the whole process walking from Hungary to Austrian and they were put into the train wagons and taken to camp.
22:24 Delete. Hello Operator for a little different from all the other camps Auschwitz and others at least in the car had many many divisions hours with number 11. I couldn't describe I couldn't tell you the relationship between that in the main one, but all I know that there was no they were they were no no crap crematoria need was they didn't they didn't put names on our bodies? We just had it on an hour striped clothes with a star and and the name of a Zen. The number they didn't have any names. So when you were stopped when you have to report all you have to say is I am number so and so and so they never cut our hair.
23:15 They left out here alone.
23:18 But they slept on wooden planks.
23:22 2012 12 piece of board covered under paper on top of our
23:32 Food versus minimal we had slices of bread soup that was made out of all kinds of potato peel and that kind and I'm leaving. I'll take him to work everyday now, I remember only if he's working in a factory has produced some kind of shell covering results of such such thing.
24:04 Have for many many months. Revolve taken through the villages with with dogs.
24:12 And and the the gods with weapons, they can to work and brought back from The Rock and if you had for any reason or another Miss State Patrol music down you will be on the spot. They have seen horrible things happen to people sometimes people stole the potato and beef that wasn't a very very very very very cold the vacant up at 4 in the morning to go to stand and be counted pictures quotes a lapel and many many people this winter by the by the fences with a potato in their mouth frozen solid.
25:01 And this is what you have to contend with. This is what you had seen.
25:07 Daily and all I know is I want it so badly to come back and see my parents once again in my life that I learned talk to how to preserve my strength by not talking unnecessarily not doing anything any exertion Beyond. I had to do a walk-through come back from that. I kept my Surface cleaners on you how you were given a shower surrounds every week but you could always you could always kind of bag for the little bit of War robots have you which one did
25:46 And that was that was the only way that you could really preserve yourself from becoming Hill they had some kind of a hospital section. Did you go till you were taking there until?
26:03 I'm through yard work out better for you died.
26:07 Grindavik what war was coming to an end? I was liberated on May 5th 1945 by American.
26:27 Viva Chicken North Dakota told us much do I have to kind of walk from place to place because they were afraid to be caught my life. I can sync an old German guide who was at that time. You could have been probably my grandfather. He was practically carrying me because I reminded him of his own daughter. So in in some way he he really saved my life.
27:00 From hunger and thirst and then finally one day that the things the place was empty. The Germans have Hayden Run Away, and then the Americans came in and liberate us.
27:19 And then we were taking I was thinking back to check with lock you through to a Gathering Place. I didn't know at that time, but it will not I had any place to come home to a new however, they can hungry and many many more people were saved. And so I knew that if I go back I can find my second cousin's over so very good to me before and so instead of because most of the lochia the trains were dangerous. They've have broken you had you had to find a way of walking from place to place until you found a train to get home to anyway. I went back to Budapest
28:04 I was repatriated there. I found my cousins and then one nice day. I found some people that came from my hometown.
28:14 And I saw that they were avoiding me they were some help moving to the other side of the street and I just couldn't understand why I finally I I kind of stopped some you know, every day you went to a pay open Plaza in which they had had big list of people that have been liberated than that have prepared to get dressed and come back. So that's where you went to meet. That's where you went to find out if there was anybody anybody but you name that you could possibly be so I met somebody and I said, why is everybody because we are afraid you're going to ask questions if you don't want to answer.
29:01 But then I found out that my parents were killed just about not more than maybe six weeks before Devore and it favored in the mountains hiding in the mountains and the remote.
29:16 My mother my father and my parents took care of my sister's son. And he was with them. My brother. Alex was not nothing new military but in the labor force of military and he found my parents and he buried them.
29:38 And then I found out that I have two sisters that have come back in a town called Jelena in Slovakia. So I haven't I came there and I was told where they live I came.
29:52 Their door was closed and the lender said to me that they went to the movies and he's going to go and tell him.
30:02 And I was sleeping beside them by the stairs for dock. My sisters came back. I haven't seen them many many many years.
30:14 We found each other. So I stayed with them until until Alex and I broke out to America My Sister Margaret remarried. She lost her husband in her only child and no more and I'll treat my sister gives you lost her husband in an outfit. She got three married to Victor her second husband and Alex and I were brought out by all cousins here to America.
30:43 And that was that was the end of my journey to displace not when you are brother was in 2nd to 3rd grade public school and he had to interview me and he asked me grandma. What was the best minute? What was the best time in your life?
31:03 And I said well first when your father was born and then when you were born and the second-best thing worse than your brother was born you for that time only watch the four years younger than Sam. So he was h u f o r
31:21 And this is no question about it the birth of my children the birth of my grandchildren. It's the most fabulous fabulous thing in my life.
31:33 Nothing that can duplicate it is absolutely nothing.
31:38 One thing that I am forever grateful for and I'm sure in some way I have to I have to
31:45 Credit my parents for the fact that I have never lost my ability to like to love.
31:52 Pitch was
31:54 Sustainable, I sustained Bill and process in my existence. I loved your grandfather. My husband. I love my children. I love my friends to this day just is what makes me be.
32:10 And that time life goes know you'll get in one way and you get elevators in the other.
32:19 You didn't you learn to live it compensations all your life and it's a very very important skill to have cuz I devised life can be very rough.
32:33 This how we do that now I live in as you as you know, I live in Molalla. I have my best friend of some 59 years staying in the same place. I have made a core score wonderful wonderful new friends, and they have a very very good life there.
32:54 We will have our own apartments with all our things that we love having and a and b are the big big big family.
33:08 That's how it goes every day break something new something fresh something. Wonderful. So when you told me about having this
33:19 Particular interview made for me. I thought it was it was wonderful. Maybe there is another chance for me to tell you things that are not easy to talk about still not even after 660 some odd years. It's still not easy, but it's a catharsis and I know it is so when you asked and I answer.
33:44 It kind of like in something inside me. It was never any time. You can ask anytime and you better ask mom still alive because you know, I used to ask my sister. You are not get my sister. She was 17 years my senior and she knew but I didn't know she knew everybody in the family that I didn't until whenever I was there was something I needed to know. What I have to do is call up Albuquerque and speak to my sister's they would feel me in.
34:22 And when they died, I mean that that was gone finished so many times now, I feel wonderful it would be to be able to just tell if I find out the Nintendo 2DS to that or the other thing so you better ask while I'm still here because once I'm gone too bad
34:46 Is there
34:48 Is is there anybody in a me or Sam or David or Julie or your children or grandchildren that remind you of your family Auto V made who do makeup you are less?
35:06 You know you what your physiognomy is less lower than then on your mother's side, but none the less you have characteristics my God, they are so much like my father my brothers.
35:22 And your father is is a spitting image look wise and also in his make up his very much in temperament like me.
35:32 Are you mad you don't know you don't know your grandfather Fred? There's enough to know he was brilliant and loving wonderful wonderful person, but he was he was maybe because he was a physician has so little time to kind of a little more.
35:54 How should I put it?
35:57 I can't even say that he was more or less less accepting but he was more demanding. I think that that's probably the better way of describing him. So the lower side of the family are stubborn people also.
36:17 More understanding and giving in that respect.
36:22 Your your great grandpa and you are.
36:29 I'm your father side Grandpa Morris after whom Your Brother Sam is named my you are named after my orders brother and he was like underneath football. He was handsome the father-of-three. He lived in Holland.
36:49 And I never knew what happened to him except that. He isn't that he isn't around anymore. But that's kind of the part of my family and in in characteristics and makeup. Maybe not patient cuz you look very much more like your grandpa.
37:13 Turn family on the other side now and there's nothing wrong to be like Grandpa's family cuz he was a wonderful wonderful man.you musical a commence probably but my father bought of your grandfather's who had it done on both sides you come from good stock activity.
37:35 Anything else you want to know what your figures other things? Is there anything that you'd want to?
37:43 What I want you to know that I love you. Very proud of you. You have accomplished wonderful things to know. I know did you have a good future ahead of you? And I know you are going to accomplish order to undertake because that's the kind of person you are and so I'm very proud grandmother.