Bernice Prayzer Rubin relates the stories of her parents, Esther Fromovitz and Mayer "Mike" Prayzer, who survived the Holocaust. Esther, originally from Romania, was held in Auschwitz for eleven months. Mike, who was from Poland, lived in ten different concentration camps over five years, and was freed from Dachau by the United States Army on April 1945. Esther and Mike met and married in Germany where they lived for two years after the war. In 1949, they and their firstborn, Morris, immigrated to the United States, settling first in Asbury Park, New Jersey, with the help of Esther's brother Al Fromovitz, who had arrived before World War II. They moved to Lorain, Ohio, following, Esther's sisters, who wanted to live near an uncle who had helped sponsor the surviving family members' immigration. Bernice, Morris, and younger brother Kenneth grew up surrounded by a large extended family. Bernice describes her parents' outlook on life and how they made a point of helping others. "The thing that just amazes me about my father and my mother is the fact that going through such a horrendous experience, they came out of this as people who were the kindest people . . . ." Mike spoke publicly to church groups and schoolchildren about his wartime experiences "because he always felt it was an important story and never to forget what had happened." Esther, who needed prodding, would not share her stories with Bernice and her brothers until they were older, Bernice reports, because she didn't want to "poison our minds against anything or to make it a traumatic experience for us." And there were some things her mom would never reveal. The transcript includes additional written information provided by the interviewee that expounds upon interview topics and discusses her parents' lives growing up in their respective villages, how her mother's family was rounded up, and what happened when they arrived at Auschwitz. For a related collection, see the Mike Prayzer papers, Mss. 1065-043, Special Collections, College of Charleston.
Blanche Weintraub Wine and her daughter Dana Wine Johnson discuss how the experiences of Blanche's parents as Holocaust survivors have shaped their lives. Blanche, the oldest of six children, explains how Guta Blas and Leon Weintraub met in Wierzbnik, Poland, where they were incarcerated during World War II, and how they reconnected after liberation and ended up in Charleston, South Carolina. Central to Guta and Leon's story is sixteen-year-old Guta's brazen attack on a German officer just as she and other Jews, including her mother, were about to be shot. The force of Guta's personality is a recurring theme throughout the interview. Blanche recalls her mother telling her she was a replacement for her grandmothers, which she says didn't feel like that much of a burden, "but certainly, I knew there were certain things expected of me." She adds, "I was obligated to be the best I could be because . . . I was the product of two special people." Blanche describes how her parents introduced their memories to her as a young girl in an "age-appropriate" manner, providing greater detail as she got older. She became more emotional about her parents' experiences as an adult, when she was old enough to understand the "depth of suffering." Blanche acknowledges she had difficulty fitting in with Charleston's Jewish community and was lonely at times. She was aware that the other Jewish children were surrounded by extended family, something the Weintraubs were lacking. Dana says her experience is similar to her mother's in that she heard about the Holocaust from a young age and her sensitivity to it increased as she got older. She tells her grandmother's story whenever she is given the opportunity. She believes it's important to keep sharing stories so that the lessons of the Holocaust are not forgotten as the number of survivors diminishes. Blanche considers her negative feelings toward Poland and the Polish people, while Dana eagerly outlines her plan to visit Poland and retrace her grandparents' steps. This is one of a number of interviews conducted by Ph.D. candidate Lucas Wilson for his dissertation, "The Structures of Postmemory: Portraits of Survivor-Family Homes in Second-Generation Holocaust Literature." Wilson was awarded two Charleston Research Fellowships (May 2017, February 2019) by the Pearlstine/Lipov Center for Southern Jewish Culture at the College of Charleston.
Sandra Brett outlines her parents’ experiences during World War II. She responds to questions about her awareness of and reaction to her parents’ wartime stories, and how they have impacted her life. Raised in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, she describes home life for herself and an older brother and sister, saying they had a “pretty normal upbringing.” She notes that she was never interested in the Holocaust until she visited Theresienstadt, in the Czech Republic, about fifteen years ago, and was captivated by the children’s artwork she saw there. An artist herself, Sandra has worked with the Charleston Jewish Community Center and Jewish Federation of Charleston to teach Holocaust history through art, but not out of a sense of honoring her parents or the need to fulfill a mission of remembrance. She gives no more importance to her parents’ stories than to any other survivor, pointing to the large number of atrocities, past and present, worldwide. “I have trouble dissociating that horror from all the other horrors.” She adds, “I think my parents’ story is more important than any reaction that I have to it.” This is one of a number of interviews conducted by Ph.D. candidate Lucas Wilson for his dissertation, “The Structures of Postmemory: Portraits of Survivor-Family Homes in Second-Generation Holocaust Literature.” Wilson was awarded two Charleston Research Fellowships (May 2017, February 2019) by the Pearlstine/Lipov Center for Southern Jewish Culture at the College of Charleston.
Henry Miller, accompanied by his wife, Minda Miller, describes growing up in Columbia, South Carolina, in the 1950s and 1960s. His parents, Cela Tyczgarten and David Miller were survivors of the Holocaust; their move to Columbia in 1949 was sponsored by the city and Beth Shalom Synagogue. The Millers summarize David and Cela’s experiences during World War II, in particular, David’s participation in the ghetto uprising in his native city of Warsaw, Poland. David and Cela met and married in Landsberg, Germany, where they were living in a displaced persons camp. Henry observes how his parents’ status as Holocaust survivors and refugees affected their outlook on life, as well as how it affected him and his sister as children. He discusses his parents’ liquor store business, the neighborhoods where they lived, and his memories of downtown Columbia on Saturdays. He also reflects on school desegregation, antisemitism, and the effects of prejudice on blacks and Jews. Henry met Minda in Memphis, Tennessee, where he attended optometry school; they married in 1978. They have a daughter, Dawn, and a son, Bret. Henry practiced optometry for thirty-seven years in Columbia.
Evaline Kalisky Delson relays her mother’s experiences as a Holocaust survivor. Dientje Krant, born in Bussum, Holland, in 1938, spent part of her early childhood in hiding during World War II. After the war, she rejoined her parents, who themselves were hidden by Dutch families. Dientje, anxious to escape her parents’ strict rules, left home right after graduating from high school and was hired to work on an ocean liner docked in Germany. There she met Evaline’s father, Leonard Kalisky, a Kingstree, South Carolina, native, who was stationed at a U.S. military base. They raised their three children in Isle of Palms, South Carolina, and then Holland, before returning to South Carolina. Evaline describes her childhood and the difficulties that arose from Dientje’s struggles with mental illness and memories of wartime traumas. She talks about how she copes with the residual effects of the challenges she faced growing up and expresses concern for the lack of progress made by mankind. “I don’t think we really learned from these tragedies. . . . I did not think in my lifetime that I would have to stand up like we do for gay rights, for women’s rights, for Jews, for Muslims, to have to have a march because a mosque is being bombed. . . . I thought we would grow. So to hear these stories and to see what’s going on right now in the world, it’s hard because a lot of my family died in vain.” Evaline feels that “it is our obligation, as this direct link to this atrocity, to stand up for these atrocities that are occurring now.” This is one of a number of interviews conducted by Ph.D. candidate Lucas Wilson for his dissertation, “The Structures of Postmemory: Portraits of Survivor-Family Homes in Second-Generation Holocaust Literature.” Wilson was awarded two Charleston Research Fellowships (May 2017, February 2019) by the Pearlstine/Lipov Center for Southern Jewish Culture at the College of Charleston. Note: Dientje Krant Kalisky Adkins’ oral history, Mss. 1035-145, is online at the Lowcountry Digital Library.
Lara DeVille LeRoy talks about her grandparents Rosa and Felix Dziewienski, who “survived the Holocaust by sheer luck.” From the Warsaw ghetto in Poland, where a soldier killed their infant son, they were sent to Plaszow concentration camp. Near the end of the war, they escaped to the forest where they were separated. Felix joined the resistance and Rosa was forced to work for a Russian colonel keeping house and caring for children. After the war Rosa and Felix were reunited in a German DP camp. With two of Felix’s brothers and their wives, they settled in Wurmannsquick, Germany. One brother and his wife, Herman and Maria, immigrated to Atlanta, Georgia, as soon as possible. Felix and Rosa and Felix’s remaining brother and his wife, Carl and Sasha, stayed and made a life. Lara’s father, Roman, was born in 1946. The antisemitism in the German schools was hard on Roman and his cousin, so they were sent to boarding schools in England and Australia, respectively. When Roman was about fifteen years old, he and his parents visited Herman and Maria in Atlanta. Roman announced he would not leave, so they enrolled him in Georgia Military Academy. His parents immigrated to Atlanta about a year later, followed by Carl and Sasha. Lara describes Rosa’s attitudes about food—it was a “cure-all”—plus “there was a lot of focus on the ability to use the bathroom.” In her habits Rosa was very neat and clean, but also a hoarder. “She, for sure, communicated that you had to be strong and put your best face and foot forward. And so, if an emotion could be satiated by a macaroon or salami stick, a larger emotion was not to be displayed in public.” Rosa also demonstrated a strong work ethic, believing you should always do your best. While this concept was conveyed to Lara, it was not imparted to Lara’s father. Lara notes that her grandparents weren’t “equipped to be parents” due to the trauma they endured and the lack of family support. Rosa, in particular, overindulged Roman, setting no boundaries. “I think that I would directly attribute my dad’s drug addiction and his insecurities and his need to self-medicate and his lack of discipline and his, sort of, largess to the Holocaust. I think the way he relates to people is, to some extent, largely influenced by the Holocaust.” Lara found herself driven to learn about the Holocaust; “it drove me professionally because I founded an organization that did Holocaust and diversity education.” She discusses her group visits to Poland, one with her father, one with local Holocaust survivors Pincus Kolender and Joe Engel, and one that she organized while working for Charleston Jewish Federation. “Mankind has not, as a whole, changed because these atrocities still continue. So that’s why I went.” [Note: Roman changed the family name from Dziewienski to DeVille when Lara was three years old.] This is one of a number of interviews conducted by Ph.D. candidate Lucas Wilson, for his dissertation, “The Structures of Postmemory: Portraits of Survivor-Family Homes in Second-Generation Holocaust Literature.” Wilson was awarded two Charleston Research Fellowships (May 2017, February 2019) by the Pearlstine/Lipov Center for Southern Jewish Culture at the College of Charleston.
Harlan Greene, one of four children of Regina and Sam Greene, talks about growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, with a focus on the effects his parents’ experiences as Holocaust survivors had on him and his siblings. Regina and Sam married in their native Poland in June 1939 and, sometime after the Nazis invaded Poland, were picked up by Russian invaders and taken to Siberian work camps. In 1943 the Greenes joined thousands of Jewish refugees in Uzbekistan to wait out the war. They immigrated in 1948 to Charleston, where Regina had relatives. Harlan recalls that his parents’ wartime accounts were “very contradictory,” and he speculates as to the reasons. At his prompting, his mother began telling him stories in bits and pieces when he was a young teen. Regina was not for memorializing just one holocaust or telling her story publicly, whereas, later in life, Sam became involved in Holocaust organizations and recorded his life story. Harlan describes his parents’ marriage, their home life while he was growing up, and his childhood, which he calls “claustrophobic.” He believes that his parents’ stories are part of his and his siblings’ stories—"their trajectory is my trajectory”—and that certain familial traits have filtered down to his nieces in the next generation. Harlan notes that he has a “run-away work ethic. I can see it in many of my siblings. If we’re enjoying ourselves, we kind of feel guilty.” He comments briefly on Charleston society’s social strictures and how he has embraced living outside its confines, being gay and Jewish. “Growing up in Charleston, you weren’t supposed to be Jewish. You weren’t supposed to be gay. Those were social strikes against you. . . I like whatever makes me different.” This is one of a number of interviews conducted by Ph.D. candidate Lucas Wilson for his dissertation, “The Structures of Postmemory: Portraits of Survivor-Family Homes in Second-Generation Holocaust Literature.” Wilson was awarded two Charleston Research Fellowships (May 2017, February 2019) by the Pearlstine/Lipov Center for Southern Jewish Culture at the College of Charleston.
Richard Weintraub was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the fourth of six children, to Guta Blas and Leon Weintraub, both Holocaust survivors. He relates some details of his parents’ story, in particular Guta’s daring attack on a German officer after being told she and a group of people that included her mother were about to be shot. Richard doesn’t recall his father ever talking about his wartime experiences. Guta, however, “could talk about it anytime, anywhere, to anybody.” Richard believes it was cathartic for her, but says “I’m convinced she never really got it out of her system.” He considers his response, as a child, to hearing his mother’s stories, noting he “never felt any residual effect of their experiences.” Richard describes his childhood as normal and thinks Guta was overprotective of him, more so than his siblings. He explains why he think it’s important to contribute to Holocaust awareness and to speak out against injustice. This is one of a number of interviews conducted by Ph.D. candidate Lucas Wilson for his dissertation, “The Structures of Postmemory: Portraits of Survivor-Family Homes in Second-Generation Holocaust Literature.” Wilson was awarded two Charleston Research Fellowships (May 2017, February 2019) by the Pearlstine/Lipov Center for Southern Jewish Culture at the College of Charleston.