SPECIAL EDITION: AFTER THE HOLOCAUST “WHERE LIFE LEADS YOU”

The Staten Island Advance’s Emmy Award-winning film “Where Life Leads You” tells the story of the borough’s Holocaust survivors through firsthand accounts of atrocities they will never forget. But as they remember and reflect, they also celebrate the gift of life.

Aired on June 13 & November 18, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

> TONIGHT ON 'METROFOCUS.'

THE AWARD WINNING FILM WHERE LIFE LEADS YOU.

STATEN ISLAND HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS SHARE FIRST HAS NOT ACCOUNTS OF THE ATROCITIES OF WAR THEY CAN NEVER FORGET.

AS THEY REMEMBER AND REFLECT, THEY ALSO CELEBRATE THE GIFT OF LIFE.

JOIN US AS SURVIVORS TELL THEIR STORIES ON THIS SPECIAL EDITION OF 'METROFOCUS' STARTING RIGHT NOW.

THIS IS 'METROFOCUS' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD, AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY JAMES AND MERRYL TISCH, SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTT ANTI-SEMITISM.

BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ, ROSALIND P. WALTER, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, AND BY --

> GOOD EVENING.

I'M JACKFORD.

WHERE LIFE LEADS YOU.

A VERY APT TITLE FOR A FILM WE'RE ABOUT TO PRESENT.

FOR SURVIVORS OF HITLER'S HOLOCAUST, EUROPEAN JEWS LOOK AT THE HORRORS OF HISTORY AND THEY FOUND IT RIGHT HERE IN AMERICA.

BETWEEN 1945 AND 1952, THE U.S.

ADMITTED FOUR HUNDRED,000 OF THESE MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN TO OUR SHORES.

AND NOW, AS THEIR NUMBERS DWINDLE DUE TO OLD AGE, A SURPRISING STATISTIC.

45% OF ALL LIVING SURVIVORS, ROUGHLY 45,000 OF THEM, CALL THE NEW YORK AREA HOME.

EACH YEAR IN STATEN ISLAND, DOZENS OF THEM MEET TO CELEBRATE THE GIFT OF LIFE.

FOR THESE MEN AND WOMEN, THE ULTIMATE REVENGE AGAINST HITLER WASN'T JUST SURVIVING THE WAR.

IT LIES IN THE EMBODYMENT AND SUCCESS OF THEIR CHILDREN, THEIR GRANDCHILDREN AND GREAT GRANDCHILDREN.

LET'S LOOK AT THESE SURVIVORS AND WHERE LIFE LED THEM.

IT'S SOMETHING THAT DOES NOT GO AWAY EVEN AFTER MORE THAN 60 YEARS.

UNFORTUNATELY, A LIFE LASTING NIGHTMARE.

LET'S PUT IT THAT WAY.

THEY WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED.

SO THEY TOLD ME TO TELL THEM.

NOT JUST TALKING.

I SEE IT.

I HAVE A DREAM.

THAT I GOT OLD.

I CANNOT MAKE IT.

AND NEXT WHEN THE DOOR OPENS UP, I AM NEXT TO GO INTO THE CREMATORIUM.

THESE STORIES OF OUR NEIGHBORS WHO ARE HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS ARE DIFFERENT THAN OTHER HOLOCAUST STORIES.

BECAUSE THEY'RE IN OUR COMMUNITY.

BEFORE THE WAR, I HAD A VERY NICE LIFE.

I USED TO GO TO CAMP VERY OFTEN AND IT WAS A VERY NICE CAMP.

AND THEY USED TO COME TO VISIT US.

WE WERE HAPPY.

WE WERE HAPPY.

I HAD A VERY GOOD MOTHER OF SHE WAS 17 WHEN I WAS BORN.

SHE HAD TO SUPPORT US.

THREE CHILDREN.

WE LIVED IN A SMALL TOWN.

MY MOTHER WAS A SEAMSTRESS AND MY FATHER WAS FARMING.

WE USED TO GO TO MOVIES.

LIFE WAS BEAUTIFUL.

FIRST TIME WE WERE THERE, IN THE SYNAGOGUE, IN THE ROOM.

SOMEBODY BANGED ON THE DOOR.

GET OUT, GET OUT.

I DON'T KNOW WHO IT WAS TO THIS DAY.

BUT HE SAVED OUR LIVES.

WE RAN OUT LIKE CRAZY.

SHOTS WERE FIRED.

AND ON THE WAY, WE TURNED AROUND, THE SYNAGOGUE WAS SET ON FIRE.

HEIL!

HEIL!

WE HAD TO WEAR YELLOW STARS.

LIKE 4:00 IN THE AFTERNOON.

WE COULDN'T GET OUT FROM THE HOUSE.

FIRST WE STRUGGLED WITH ARMBANDS.

THEN THEY CONFISCATED YOUR STUFF.

THEY GRADUALLY, IN 1940, THEY STARTED MOVING THE PEOPLE TO MAKE KRAKOW JEWS-FREE.

WE WERE IN THIS APARTMENT HOUSE.

THEY CAME OUT OF THE BUILDING.

WE HAD TO RAISE OUR HANDS AND GET INTO THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET.

AND THEY WERE YELLING, DIRTY JEWS.

AND THEY WANT TO HIT YOU, THEY HIT YOU.

IF THEY WANTED TO PULL YOU, THEY PULLED, YOU DO IT OR YOU JUST -- GET OUT OF THE WAY OR WHATEVER.

WE WERE CONSTANTLY BEATEN.

IT WASN'T PLEASANT.

JUST TAKE AS MUCH AS YOU COULD CARRY AND THEY TOOK US TO THE GHETTO.

WHEN WE LEFT THAT TOWN, NOT A BIG HILL BUT YOU COULD SEE THE TOWN.

SO I WAS THINKING TO MYSELF, WILL I EVER SEE IT AGAIN?

OR THAT'S IT?

IN THE GHETTO, IN BUDAPEST, WE WERE ALL IN ONE ROOM.

ONE BEDROOM APARTMENT WITH ONE KITCHEN, ONE BATHROOM, 14 OR 15 PEOPLE.

I WAS IN THE GHETTO.

IT DIDN'T TAKE LONG AFTER I WAS BAR MITZVAHED.

MY GRANDPARENTS LIVED TOGETHER WITH US IN THE SAME APARTMENT IN THE GHETTO.

AND THEY TOOK THEM TO THE DEATH CAMP.

AND IN 1942, THEY HUNG MY TWO COUSINS.

WE GOT ACROSS THE BORDER TO SLOVAKIA, TO HUNGARY.

WHERE WE WOUND UP IN AN ORPHANAGE.

IN A HUNGARIAN JEWISH ORPHANAGE.

WE CLAIM WE WERE NOT JEWS.

WE GOT CHRISTIAN PAPERS, I DON'T KNOW HOW.

ME, MY MOTHER, MY SISTER.

WE WERE IN THE ATTIC, LIVING IN THE ATTIC FOR THREE MONTHS.

IF THEY EVER FIND WITH US THE FAMILY, THEY WOULD HAVE KILLED THEM ALSO.

SO I WENT OUT WHEN THE GHETTO WAS CLOSED.

PEOPLE USED TO COME FOR WORK.

AND I WAS WAITING FOR MY MOTHER.

MY MOTHER DIDN'T COME.

SO I TOLD A LADY WITH THE SAME COAT.

MOMMY, MOMMY!

MY MOMMY!

THE SAME COAT MY MOTHER HAS.

I CALLED MOMMY, MOMMY.

SHE DIDN'T TURN AROUND.

IT WAS THE SAME MOVEMENT, THE SAME CLOTHES.

THEY WENT DOWN.

DID YOU FIND YOUR MOTHER?

NO.

THEY KILL HER.

VERY BAD.

VERY BAD.

ONE TIME THEY CATCH ME.

THEY CATCH ME.

THEY SEND ME AWAY.

THEY WERE WAITING.

THEY SHOVED US IN.

WE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT'S GOING ON.

WHERE ARE WE GOING, WE HAVE NOBODY TO ASK.

THERE WAS NO FOOD.

I MEAN, FOOD, FORGET ABOUT IT.

AND THE TRAIN WAS GOING TWO DAYS AND TWO NIGHTS.

NO WATER.

NO FACILITIES.

SO IT WAS AWFUL.

THERE WAS A BABY BORN.

AND I WAS THERE.

I HAD TO HELP.

ON THE TRAIN.

I MEAN, IT WAS STILLBORN, LUCKY FOR THE BABY.

THEY WANTED TO TAKE AWAY YOUR HUMANITY FROM YOU.

TAKE AWAY YOUR --

WHERE WE WERE GOING.

THEN THEY OPENED UP THE CARS AND EVERYTHING WAS, SNELL.

GO FAST.

YOU DIDN'T KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON.

THERE WAS A GUIDE.

IT IS ENGRAVED IN MY MIND.

MENGELA, THEY CALLED HIM.

IT WAS TO GO.

MY MOTHER, MY FATHER, THEY SHOULD GO HIDE.

AND HE TOOK MY YOUNGER SISTER.

AND FOR ME, FOR MY TWO OLDER SISTERS, HE TOOK US GO LEFT.

AND I NEVER SAW MY MOTHER AND MY SISTER, NEVER AGAIN.

AND THEN THEY TOOK US TO THE, IT WAS A BATH HOUSE.

THOSE YOUNG SS BOYS.

18, 19, YOU KNOW.

WE GO THERE.

WE HAVE TO UNDRESS.

TAKE OFF EVERYTHING.

YOU'RE A TEENAGE GIRL.

YOU'RE A LITTLE SHY FROM THIS YOUNG KILLER.

THEY CUT OUR HAIR.

THEY TOOK ALL OUR CLOTHES.

WE ALL CAME OUT.

WE DIDN'T RECOGNIZE EACH OTHER.

AND WE GET A DRESS.

GRAY DRESS.

ONE FIT ALL.

THAT'S ALL.

I WANT MY MOTHER.

I WANT MY MOTHER.

I WAS NOT EVEN 14.

WE HAD TO SLEEP IN BUNKERS.

PICK STUFF UP.

THEY PUT US -- IT WAS COLD.

WITH THE BODY.

THE NIGHT BEFORE THEY TOOK US.

MY MOTHER HIDE US ON A BLANKET.

MY MOTHER WAS HIDING US, I WOULD SAY, THREE TO FOUR MONTHS.

THE GERMANS CAME IN AND COUNTED US EVERY DAY.

AND THEY GAVE US THE TATTOO.

THIS NUMBER WAS THE TATTOO OF AUSCHWITZ.

AND THAT MEANS THAT I AM A JEW.

THEY CALLED ME -- I LEARNED MY NUMBER BY HEART.

858.

THEY PUT YOUR NUMBER.

7564.

THIS ONE, WE GOT THE NUMBER.

WE HAD TO STAY ALIVE.

THE DEAD DIDN'T GET A NUMBER.

THEY FINISHED, THEY TOOK US TO TO SORT OUT SHOES.

I FOUND MY MOTHER'S SHOE THAT SHE WORE.

YOU ONE DOOR, YOU WENT IN.

LIKE THIS.

THE FIRE WAS BURNING.

THEY WERE BURNING IT DAY AND NIGHT.

THEY SAID THAT OUR PARENTS ARE THERE.

YOU SEE THEM?

THERE YOUR PARENTS GOING TO GO.

YOU'RE GOING TO GO OUT THERE.

HE SHOWED US THE CHIMNEY OF THE CREMATORIA.

UNFORTUNATELY, IT WAS WHERE ALL THE DEAD PEOPLE WERE BURNED.

THERE WERE PITS.

THEY JUST DUMPED IN THE SICK PEOPLE, ALIVE.

PROBABLY MY GRANDMA WIND UP THE SAME DAY.

WE WERE FULL OF LICE.

WE DIDN'T BATHE.

THE LICE WAS IN THE HAIR, ON THE WALLS, NO FOOD.

IMAGINE.

WE GOT SOUP IN THE EVENING.

6:00.

WE WERE SO HUNGRY.

NOBODY WANTS IT.

IT WAS MUD POTATOES.

YOU HAD ONE BOWL AND YOU HAD TO SHARE WITH THE WHOLE FIVE PEOPLE.

IF SOMEBODY TOOK A BIG FIFTH, THERE WAS CHAOS.

THERE WAS A COUPLE OF JEWISH PEOPLE.

NORMAL HUMAN BEINGS.

I WOULD SAY WE GET A SMALL PIECE OF BREAD.

IT WAS LIKE YOUR LIFE SAVER.

EVERY TIME, I REMEMBER.

I CAN'T TALK NO MORE.

I WAS TOGETHER TWO YEARS.

VERY HARD.

I HAVE A DREAM THAT MY SISTER, MY BROTHER ARE UP AND THEY SAY, WHY ARE YOU SUFFERING?

HUNGRY?

COME TO US.

IT IS WARM, FOOD.

I WAS DREAMING.

THE FOLLOWING NIGHT, THEY CAME AGAIN.

WHY DIDN'T YOU KILL YOURSELF?

AND I WANTED TO GO TO KILL MYSELF.

TO THE TO THE ELECTRIC WIRE.

ONE NIGHT IT WAS SNOWING.

I WENT.

BUT WHEN YOU COME TOO CLOSE TO THE WIRE, THE SOLDIERS, THEY WALK THE CAMP.

THEY SHOT.

THE FIRE WENT NEXT TO MY EAR.

SO I GOT SCARED.

SO I CAME.

WHY DIDN'T I?

IT WAS A FEW DAYS.

THEY TOLD US JUST TO GO THAT MUCH.

JUST TOO MUCH.

WE HARDLY HAD ANY CLOTHES.

WE JUST HAD ONE LITTLE DRESS OR SOMETHING.

I WAS FOR TEN DAYS.

TEN DAYS.

NO FOOD.

WE HAD TO WALK.

IF YOU COULDN'T WALK, THEY SHOT YOU.

ALL OF US HAD OUR HAIR CHOPPED.

THE SCREAMING.

RUN AWAY!

I TURN THE AHEAD.

THE SOLDIERS CAME TO ME.

THEN I TURNED MY HEAD.

BUT THE EYES STAYED LIKE THIS.

TO SHOCK ME.

THEY WERE GOING TO KILL ME.

AND HE DIDN'T DO IT.

HE WANTED TO CAN I ME.

WE WENT TO ANOTHER CAMP.

I WAS THERE MAYBE TWO WEEKS.

THREE WEEKS.

YOU ARE LIBERATED.

THE ENGLISH LIBERATION.

YOU ARE LIBERATED.

I AM TRYING TO TELL YOU.

ENGLAND.

TO TELL BUT THE RUSSIAN LIBERATORS.

NICE TO US.

THEY ONLY WANTED SEX.

I WAS ONLY 15.

THAT'S WHAT I DON'T UNDERSTAND.

WE WERE LIBERATED APRIL 15th.

AND MY MOTHER DIED APRIL 27th.

AND WE WERE STILL WITH THE LICE INFECTED PLACE.

WE WERE SAYING, WAIT, MANY DON'T GO BACK.

ESPECIALLY THE ORPHANAGE.

NOBODY WENT BACK.

WE WERE THE ONLY PARENTS THAT CAME BACK.

THE NEWSPAPERS ALL OVER BECAUSE NOT TOO MANY PEOPLE CAME BACK FROM THE CONCENTRATION CAMP.

EVERYBODY FROM THE HOLOCAUST WHO IS HERE, WE ARE HERE BY A MIRACLE.

IT IS A GATHERING OF HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS REJOICING, THAT THEY SURVIVED THE HOLOCAUST.

THEY OPENED IT UP.

IT WAS OPENED UP TO US LIKE A NEW LIFE.

I CAME IN.

THE NUMBER.

EVERYBODY WITH THE NUMBER.

I GAVE THEM THE NUMBER FROM HERE.

7564.

EVERYTHING THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE SHOULD HAVE DONE YEARS AGO.

THIS GENERATION ONE TIME WILL GO AWAY.

THIS SHOULDN'T BE FORGOTTEN.

SO MANY BAD THINGS.

AND THEY DON'T CARRY ANY HATE.

THEY TAKE IT MORE AS SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED AND THEY'RE HERE AND THEY SURVIVED.

MY FAMILIAR.

I MADE A FAMILY.

I HAVE THREE CHILDREN.

SEVEN GRANDCHILDREN.

GREAT GRANDCHILDREN.

SO I CAN'T COMPLAIN.

I HAVE GREAT CHILDREN.

OH, I DID NOT KNOW YOU WERE HERE.

MY GRANDDAUGHTER.

ALL MY GRANDCHILDREN.

AND THIS LITTLE ONE.

WE HAVE GRANDSONS AND ONE GRANDDAUGHTER.

FOUR GREAT GRANDSONS.

YOU KNOW WHAT THEY SAY.

GIVE YOU A BLESSING.

LIVE.

LIVE.

AND BE HAPPY.

THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN LIFE.

LIFE LEADS YOU.

YOU ARE PUT PLACES THAT YOU HAVE A CHANCE TO SURVIVE.

IS IT GOOD OR BAD?

GOD KNOWS.

YOU THINK A NEW GENERATION --

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY JAMES AND MERRYL TISCH, SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ, ROSALIND P. WALTER, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, AND BY --

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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