Albert Jacob Ullman, born in New York in 1923, discusses his family background. His father, Samuel Ullman, emigrated from Russia around 1912 and worked for a time in New York, before following landsmen, men from the same town in Europe, to Savannah, Georgia, where he met and married Freda Wolson in 1922. He brought his bride to New York, but they returned to Savannah about seven years later. Samuel soon took over a cousin’s Bluffton, South Carolina, business, Planter’s Mercantile Company, known locally as the Jew Store. Albert describes the store and growing up in Bluffton, where, in 1932, his father was elected mayor. The family moved to Ridgeland, South Carolina, in 1938, after Freda opened a second, more successful store in that town. In 1941 Albert attended The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. He recalls the local families who hosted Jewish cadets on Shabbat, and the appeal of the St. Philip Street neighborhood’s Yiddishkeit. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in December 1941, Albert volunteered for the army and served as a paratrooper and medic in the Pacific theater. When he returned from three years of active duty, he joined his parents in the Ridgeland store, and he met Harriet Birnbaum of Savannah, Georgia. Harriet had emigrated from Kobrin, Poland, in 1937, at the age of ten. Her mother, Chamke Birnbaum, widowed when Harriet was nine months old, agreed to marry Samuel Tenenbaum, who came from her hometown of Kolonie, Poland. Sam, himself a widower, had immigrated to Savannah with his family and established a scrap metal business. When he received word from a visiting landsman that Chamke had lost her husband, he returned to Poland, married her, and brought her and her two children to the United States. Harriet describes growing up in Kobrin and Savannah. The Tenenbaums were members of Agudath Achim, the Conservative synagogue in Savannah, co-founded by Samuel. Albert and Harriet married in 1947 and ran Ullman’s Department Store in Ridgeland, where they raised four boys, started a private kindergarten, and Albert served as mayor. Fifteen years later they moved to Savannah and, soon after, Harriet gave birth to a daughter. Among other topics discussed are Agudath Achim Congregation’s controversial vote to increase women’s direct involvement in the synagogue, and Albert’s experiences with the Ku Klux Klan and his work for the Anti-Defamation League.
Irving “Itchy” Sonenshine (Zonenschein), son of Polish immigrants, talks about growing up in the St. Philip Street neighborhood of Charleston, South Carolina, and recalls many of the Jewish families that operated stores on King Street. He discusses the two Orthodox synagogues, Beth Israel and Brith Sholom, his experiences in Hebrew school and at AZA (Aleph Zadik Aleph) functions, his service as a navigator on bombers in the Pacific theatre during World War II, his partnership with Arthur Kahn in the electronics business, and his wife, Mildred “Mickey” Breibart Sonenshine, also a native of Charleston. Sonenshine also mentions the synagogue his son Stanley attends, B’nai Torah, a “Conservadox” congregation in Atlanta. Note: a videotape of this interview is available for viewing in Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.
Irving “Itchy” Sonenshine (Zonenschein), in this follow-up to his September 30, 1997 interview, describes growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1920s and ’30s, including stories about childhood playmates, his participation in AZA (Aleph Zadik Aleph), and local Jewish merchants, including those who closed their businesses on the Sabbath. He recalls the religious leaders and the merger of the two Orthodox synagogues, Brith Sholom and Beth Israel, and the split that occurred when Emanu-El, the Conservative congregation, was established. Among the topics discussed: Friendship Lodge; the Kalushiner Society; Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform practices; and the status of Charleston’s Orthodox community at the time of the interview.
Joseph Schafer, raised in Little Rock, South Carolina, was the grandson of Abraham Schafer, who emigrated from Germany around 1870. Abraham married Rebecca Iseman of Darlington, South Carolina, and established a dry goods store in Little Rock. Joseph describes his family history, race relations in Dillon County, and how his father, Sam, got started in the beer distribution business in the 1930s. He also discusses his children and his siblings, particularly his brother Alan, who was the founder of South of the Border, the all-inclusive rest stop for travelers on I-95 in Dillon.
Bernard Warshaw discusses growing up in Walterboro, South Carolina, and the periods he spent in Charleston, first, from age nine to thirteen, when he was studying for his bar mitzvah and, later, while attending The Citadel. His parents, Murray and Dotty Bebergal Warshaw, emigrated as children from Poland in the early 1900s. They met in Charleston, where each had family, and moved to Walterboro after they married. Bernard talks about his family’s business, Warshaw’s, and Walterboro’s other Jewish merchants. He served in the army during World War II, and saved the photographs he took of the concentration camp in Dachau, which he visited the day after it was liberated. He married Ann Wagner of Boston and they raised three daughters in Walterboro. Among the topics discussed: intermarriage; the importance of religion and involvement in civic and political matters; the reason his children and grandchildren are more observant than he was as a child; and relations between Jews and African Americans. Note: See also Bernard Warshaw Holocaust atrocity photographs, Mss. 1065-027, Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.
Frances Solomon Garfinkle, daughter of Morris and Rina Chachevski Solomon, relates her mother’s stories of life in Zabludow, Poland, before she immigrated to the United States. Frances, a native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, recalls visiting relatives in Charleston, South Carolina, as a child. She married Nathan Garfinkle, son of Sam and Annie Garfinkel, emigrants from, respectively, Divin and Grozny, Russia. Nathan, who remembers living in Charleston’s East Side before moving to the St. Philip Street neighborhood, attended Beth Israel, one of two Orthodox synagogues, with his father. Frances and Nathan discuss Charleston’s Jewish merchants, particularly wholesaler Sam Solomon, whose Sullivan’s Island summer home was a gathering place for Jewish families on Sundays. They describe Charleston and Jewish food traditions, including African-American street vendors and Jewish-owned markets, and the prevalence of Yiddish speakers among members of the Jewish community in the first half of the twentieth century. Even some African Americans who worked for Jewish store owners spoke Yiddish. Louisa Simmons kept house for Sam and Annie Garfinkel, and later for Nathan and Frances, for a total of than more than fifty years. “She was one of the family . . . we loved her.” Note: Other family members spell the name Garfinkel. The interviewee has spelled his name Garfinkle since his military service during World War II, when a typographic error was made and never corrected.
Ben Stern, audio interview by Dale Rosengarten and Michael Samuel Grossman, 4 March 1997, Mss 1035-137, Special Collections, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC, USA.;Ben Stern, the youngest of Chaim and Hadassah Stern’s four children, was born in Kielce, Poland, in 1924. For a decade beginning in 1930, the family lived in Lodz where, Ben recalls, antisemitism was rampant. The Sterns returned to Kielce in 1940, hoping conditions created in the wake of the German occupation of Poland the year before, would not be felt as harshly in a smaller community. For a time, that was true. Ben comments on Hitler’s strategy and the Germans’ willingness to take part in his plan. His sister Faye and their parents were transported to Treblinka in 1942; he never saw them again. Ben was put to work by the Germans in a number of jobs that required intense physical labor, before being sent to Auschwitz in 1944. He describes how he got to the concentration camp, what happened when he arrived, and the effects the dehumanizing conditions had on the behavior of the inmates. He was transferred to a number of different camps before being liberated by Americans. He was reunited with his sister Sophie after the war. She had been sent to the same camp in Pionki as their brother, Joel, who died in a death march the day before they were liberated. After the war Ben lived in an apartment in Munich, Germany, where he met and married his wife, Jadzia Szklarz, also a survivor. The couple, with their daughter Lilly, immigrated to Columbia, South Carolina, in 1949, sponsored by Ben’s uncle Gabriel Stern, who had left Lodz many years before to escape antisemitism. Ben talks about his first jobs in Columbia, his four children, and how his belief in God changed.
Abraham Stern, audio interview by Robert Buxton, 11 April 1999, Mss 1035-211, Special Collections, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC, USA.;Abraham “Abe” Stern was ten years old in 1939 when the Germans invaded Poland. At the time his father owned a textile factory in Lodz and the family was well-off, but antisemitism, promoted by the government and the Catholic Church, was commonplace. Shortly after the German occupation, the Stern family was forced to move to the ghetto in Lodz, where they lived until 1944, when they were transported to Auschwitz. Abe describes the systematic approach to genocide practiced by the Germans, which began in the ghetto, included forced labor, and ended in death for many who never believed it would come to that. He recalls the degrading conditions in Auschwitz and the high death rate in the labor camp in Ahlem, Germany, where he was housed while working in Hannover. After liberation by the Americans, Abe and some buddies made their way to Bergen-Belsen in search of surviving family members. He recounts what they saw when they arrived. Abe caught up with his three sisters in Poland, and they returned with him to Marburg, Germany, where he worked in a kitchen for the American army while waiting to obtain permission to come to the United States. Abe lived in New York for a year before traveling to California, where a man associated with the Workman’s Circle introduced him to someone who gave him a job. A year or so later, in 1948, he joined the United States Air Force, which ultimately brought him to Sumter, South Carolina, where he met and married his wife, Rhea, and where they raised their three children. Abe discusses how he copes with his memories of the Holocaust, how he is bewildered by those who deny that it occurred, and his feelings about providing reparations for the victims.
Larry Freudenberg relates the history of both sides of his family. His mothers forebears, the Triests, immigrated to Charleston, South Carolina, from Bavaria in the 1850s, opened a clothing store on King Street, and joined the Reform congregation, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim. Larry's father, Henry Freudenberg, was a young boy when he escaped Nazi Germany in 1939 with his parents and grandparents. They eventually settled in Charleston. Larry discusses his experiences growing up in the 1960s and 70s, and feeling trapped between two cultures. Gentile children teased him for being Jewish, while Orthodox Jewish children accused him of being not Jewish enough. Larry runs the family's insurance business established in 1903 by his great-grandfather, Montague Triest.
Joe Engel, who was twelve years old when the Nazis occupied Poland in 1939, describes life in his home town of Zakroczym, Poland, before and after the invasion. His family fled to Warsaw and then Plonsk, the ghetto from which they were transported to concentration camps. Joe was imprisoned at Birkenau, Buna, and, Auschwitz. He made a daring escape from a train after surviving a death march. After the war ended, he immigrated to Charleston, South Carolina, where decades later his vision led to the construction of the Holocaust Memorial.