Thursday, January 12, 2012

Gerda's Story: Family Krebs

Hello David and thank you very much for your kind note.
Yes, Pesach Krebs was my grandfather, though I never knew him. My father took over the store on  Franciszkanska No: 8 after my grandfather died. My other grandfather David Goliger (my mother's father) owned a large lumber yard and wood processing plant right on the river San.  We lived on ulica Pilsudskiego 27 in a house owned by my mother, which faced the lumber yard.

In October 1939 Russians occupied eastern Poland & our river San became the border between Germany & Russia at that point. The communists took all our personal  possessions since they considered my father an enemy of the State.

In the spring of 1940 we moved to Lwow, trying to avoid being sent to Siberia. (In retrospect, we may all have survived if we had gone to Russia)

We spent the rest of the war in Lwow, but unfortunately I was the only survivor. Out of 40 close relatives only one other cousin & I survived the Holocaust. His name was Zygmund  Schwarzer & he lived in Jaroslaw before the war. His mother Zofia was my mother's older sister & his father Wilhelm, was a physician.

When the war began, they joined us in Premysl  & later entered the Ghetto.  The parents were both shot, while hiding in the cemetery, while Zygmund was sent  to Auschwitz. During one of the worst & longest Actions (round-ups) in the Lwow Ghetto, I was sent into hiding, outside the ghetto and spent 6 weeks in a cellar of a Polish woman who was willing to hide me for a price.  My young cousin Richard about 11 years old, lived with us. His mother  Helena (my mother's youngest sister) was taken out of a bread line several months earlier & never returned. Her husband Henryk Leibel (they lived in Bielsko   & he practiced law) was sent to Russia with his aged parents where he survived. Richard lived with us & my father sent him into hiding as he did me. Unfortunately, Richard was afraid to stay in his hiding place & returned to the  Ghetto.

My mother could hide alone, but since he'd be left alone, she opted to stay with him. My father worked in a textile factory & was considered  a useful Jew with a good Ausweiss so he was "safe".  My dearest mother and Richard were taken to Janowska Street camp & from there they were sent to Belzec. My father desperately tried to save me & found a Polish woman, who was willing  to take me in as her illegitimate daughter( who in fact died in infancy, but had she lived, she'd have been my age)

I spent the rest of the war living with her as her daughter & her slave. Though my father paid her generously, I performed all the house work, cooking, took care of her baby son, (also illegitimate). Actually, she needed me as much as I needed her, but despite the fact that she was very mean & treated me badly, she did save my life.

My father planned to go to Germany on false papers, since he spoke fluid German & did not look Semitic.  I hoped to see him when the war ended, but fate took a different turn. My father was recognized on the street in Lwow by some Polish anti-Semite & pointed him to the police. I don't know how or where he died, but he died because he was trying to help other Jews. THAT MUCH I KNOW.

When finally I was able to tear myself from her clutches in January of 1946, I went to Katowice to stay with a friend of my parents, who wanted to adopt me. I was too old for adoption but I was grateful for her rescuing me from the Polish woman.  Soon after I was able to go to England  with a transport ow Jewish war orphans, led by Rabbi Solomon Schonfeld.

We arrived on a Swedish ship in March 1946 and I began a new life. After learning enough English, I entered Nurses Training at St. James' Hospital and graduated in 1950 as an RN. By then, my cousin Zygmund lived in the US in Brooklyn & was able to obtain a visa for me. I arrived on August 11-th 1951 to New York & started my third stage of my life in America, a country I dreamed about since my early childhood and never believed, that I would ever be able to live here.

Each move and each change  presented many problems & difficulties, but nothing was impossible. I was young, full of hope & energy and I was always full optimism. I met my future husband Harold Seifer at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York and we've been married 56 years. We have resided in Long Beach since 1956, have 3 children and 4 grandchildren. We are a very close knit family and our children all  live in the Los Angeles area.

Well David, this is quite a long story, though I did not mean it to be so long.