Skip to main content

tv   Holocaust Survivor Julius Menn  CSPAN  August 16, 2016 4:15pm-5:22pm EDT

4:15 pm
palestine in the 1930s and '40s. next on american history tv, holocaust survivor julius menn describes his experiences growing up in poland and palestine during the 1930s and 1940s. 10-year-old julius menn and his family were on an extended stay in poland from tel aviv when the german army invaded in september 1939. he describes how his family narrowly escaped east to lithuania by traveling through forests and fields, dodging hunger and german dive bombers. after a year in lithuania, the family returned to palestine in october 1940. this event was part of the united states holocaust memorial museum's first person series. it's a little over an hour. good morning and welcome to the united states holocaust memorial museum. my name is bill benson, the host of the museum's public program first person.
4:16 pm
thank you for joining us today. we are in our 17th year of the first person program. and our first person today is mr. julius menn, who we shall meet shortly. this 2016 season of first person is made possible by the generosity of the lewis franklin smith foundation with additional funding from the arlene and daniel fisher foundation. we are grateful for their sponsorship. first person is a series of conversations with survivors of the holocaust who share with us their firsthand accounts of their experience during the holocaust. each of our first person guests serves as volunteers here at this museum. our program will continue twice weekly through mid-august. the museum's website listed on the back of your program provides information about each of our upcoming first person guests. the website address is anyone interested in keeping in touch with the museum and its
4:17 pm
programs can complete the stay connected card that you'll find in your program or speak with a museum representative at the back of the theater. in doing so, you will receive an electronic copy of julius menn's biography so you can remember and share his testimony after you leave here today. julius will share with us his first person account of his experience during the holocaust and as a survivor for about 45 minutes. if we have time at the end of our program for you to ask some questions, we will do so. the life stories of holocaust survivors transcend the decades. what you are about to hear from julius is one individual's account of a holocaust. we have prepared a brief slide presentation to help with his introduction, and we begin with this photo of julius menn as a young boy, he was born in 1929, in the free city of danzig, now gdansk, poland. in 1935, julius and his parents
4:18 pm
and his younger sister bela illegal illegally travel to palestine. they go to poland to visit relatives at the summer holiday. at the end of the summer, the family did not return to palestine. pictured here are julius, his sister bella and their german governess in warsaw, poland in 1938. germany invaded poland on september 1st, 1939, shortly after the invasion the menn family fled eastward on this map of poland the arrow shows the route the menn family took. beginning in bialystok, they traveled with other refugees for two weeks in the forests and fields of eastern poland, eventually making it to molodeczno, a major railroad junction. the arrow ends at the approximate location of molodeczno. from there, a young soviet officer helped the menn family to get a train to vilnius where they lived in the ghetto for a year. in the fall of 1940, david managed to get four of a total of 300 transit visas issued by
4:19 pm
the soviet union. the menn family traveled to odessa and from there took a ship to turkey and eventually to palestine, arriving in tel aviv in october 1940. the menn family is pictured here in tel aviv in 1945, and julius is on the right. julius served in the haganah, the jewish against force in poland -- excuse me, in palestine, sorry, as a teenager and later as a junior officer. in 1947, julius moved to the united states to attend university, but returned to israel in 1948 to serve in the army in the war of independence. here we see julius as an officer in the israeli army. we close with this photo of the dedication of julius' father's cement factory. at the table speaking is julius' uncle, standing next to the table on your right and on the screen is julius' father david.
4:20 pm
seated at the table is goldia meir. julius emigrated to the united states and continued his education. julius and his wife diane sanger live in hadley, massachusetts, having moved there from maryland in 2011. he hearned his ph.d. from the university of california at eare university of california at berkeley and had a long career as a toxicologist specializing in a number of areas including crop protection and the biochemistry of pesticides. we had an interesting conversation earlier today about the zika virus. after spending 27 years in private industry, he became a associate director of the plant sciences institute of the united states department of agriculture's research service in beltsville, maryland. he published over 125 scientific papers throughout his career, and traveled internationally, extensively, including making 30 trips to the soviet union as a member of the usa, ussr research team on pesticides and the environment.
4:21 pm
julius won numerous research awards during his research career. while julius retired from the usda in the mid1990s, he continued work in his field for ten years as an international consultant, including with usda's foreign agricultural service and this capacity he spent considerable time in hanoi, vietnam, and turkmenistan. together, julius and diane have four children and nine grandchildren. julius volunteers with the museum's archives, where he has been actively translating documents for researchers for the past ten years. he has translated from hebrew, handwritten newspaper where the british imprisoned jewish freedom fighters and he helped to compile the now completed massive encyclopedia of the holocaust. julius translated and edited memorial books which remember and honor jewish residents of towns and cities who are martyred during the holocaust. he did this for over 120 towns
4:22 pm
and villages. most of his translation is from hebrew, but he also translates polish and yiddish. julius also speaks frequently about his holocaust experience in various locations such as schools and synagogues. now that he's in massachusetts, he's part of the speakers bureau of the boston branch of this museum. he has lectured at the university of massachusetts. in the pioneer valley area where he now lives, he is leading seminars in philosophy. he has also audited courses at amherst college. julius published his memoir titled waves, a memoir when chronicles his first 21 years, from 1929 to 1950. after today's program, julius will be available to sign copies of his book, which is also available in the museum's bookstore and through amazon and other book outlets. with that, i'd like to ask you to join me in welcoming our first person, mr. julius menn. [ applause ]
4:23 pm
>> julius, thank you so much for joining us and your willingness to spend this hour with us, which is not nearly enough time, but we'll make the most of it. i know you're ready to start. so we'll do that. you described too me your very early years as a, quote, wonderful life. tell us about your family and about you in the years before your family moved to palestine. >> first of all, thank you, bill, for the introduction, which was very good. and i would like to welcome you all, especially i like to talk to high school students. so i see most of you are in high school. so welcome. and also i want to thank the sponsors of this program. this program is very valuable and i'm really happy to participate in it. i just want to say one thing before i start.
4:24 pm
my story is the story of an accidental survivor of the holocaust. and you'll see why. and also you must project yourself when you were about 10 years old, because most of those events happened to me when i was, like, 10 going on 11. starting at age 9. so anyhow, you ask me about -- >> your early years before you moved to palestine. >> yes. as bill mentioned, i was born in danzig. the reason that my father was a soldier in the sars army in world war i. he fought on the austrian front. during the upheaval of the communist revolution, danzig was declared by the league of
4:25 pm
nations, which was sort of the forerunner of the united nations, as a very -- as a free city, with a very liberal constitution. so i'm jewish, and my parents were jewish. and it was a very good constitution. in fact, it was very similar to the american constitution. it gave -- it emancipated the jewish people. so many of them went to danzig. i lived until i was 6 years old and i was born in danzig itself, but we moved to a small town called -- danzig was a city that had also several villages around it. and it was on the baltic sea.
4:26 pm
it is opposite sweden. and it was wonderful. i learned to ice skate. and i was pretty good at it when i was a kid. at age 6, my father, who believed in establishing a jewish state in israel, he wanted to us to move there and we finally moved in 1935. i was 6 years old. >> before you tell us about the move to palestine, your father was a successful businessman. tell us a little bit about him. >> my father only had a 6th grade education, but he was a very intelligent man. when we lived in danzig, he started to trade in lumber. and a lot of the lumber was
4:27 pm
imported from sweden for paper. and this is how he met my grandfather who had a large forest northeastern poland and a match factory in bialystok. and he had several daughters. and my father fell in love with my mother and they got married in the great synagogue. it was in warsaw before the holocaust. and they settled in danzig until 1935. >> that's when they immigrated to palestine. >> that's when they immigrated to palestine. and -- >> tell us about -- >> what is interesting about it, i had a german governess, you saw the picture.
4:28 pm
she was catholic. and she loved my sister and she loved me. and i loved her very much. she really was like a mother to us. >> and a governess, in today's language, would be like a nanny, right? >> yes. >> okay. >> today you don't find this kind of devotion of a governess going with us to palestine. and unfortunately, later on she was -- she returned to germany, she was from berlin, and she was killed in the allied bombings in berlin. and i learned about this after the war, and naturally i was very, very sad and very upset. >> she was there with you in palestine. >> she lived with us in palestine. >> what did your father -- what was his business once he got to palestine? >> well, my father was a zionist, and in the positive
4:29 pm
sense. he and his brother now established a cement factory in the foothills of jerusalem. and so he was an industrialist. and -- >> not quite yet. so here you are, 6 years old and now going to school. what is school like? >> this is very important now. i was going to first grade. i didn't know any hebrew. the school was -- all the teaching was in hebrew. and it is very interesting. the teacher was reading to the class robinson crusoe, which i'm sure most of you have read. and of course it was in hebrew. and i only spoke german. so at the recess i would come to the teacher and i say, i would tell her, mrs. so and so, please tell me the story in german, because she knew german.
4:30 pm
and she would. it is a really remarkable story. and i must say that life in tel aviv, which was on the mediterranean sea, was wonderful for children. for one thing, you -- after class, in the first and second grade, third grade, i just would go to the beach by myself and take -- and swim. you didn't need any -- anybody to protect you. it was -- people didn't lock their houses. there was no crime. i must say it was a wonderful life. >> so you lived there for
4:31 pm
several years and in 1938, your family went to -- >> my mother wanted to visit her mother in poland, who had a house in bialystok and vilnius. my grandfather was already dead. but my mother had three sisters, one of them drowned, but two sisters who lived there and two brothers. and my father had still had property and near danzig that he wanted to sell to the government. and so reluctantly we were going to go only for the summer. and believe me, i was in third grade, i finished third grade, the prospect of leaving my friends, my culture, my new culture, my hebrew culture, imagine yourself as americans going, let's say, to mexico, where you have to go and learn a new language, most of the people are catholic, and the same thing
4:32 pm
happened to me in the sense i went to poland as a 9-year-old, and i had to learn polish because hebrew, of course, was unknown. and that was also the place for the first time where i experienced indirect discrimination. the poles were about 95% catholic. and there was no separation of religion from the state as we have in the united states.
4:33 pm
and so the first hour in the school was devoted to catholic catechism. >> a public school? >> a public school. and there were a few of us who were jewish students, we had to leave the class and go to the -- stand in the hall since we were not part of the -- we were not co-religionists and i thought this was very strange. >> and julius, you went there, your family went there expecting to be there for the summer, so you had originally expected you would be back in tel aviv for the school year, but instead you're continuing in poland. why was that? >> through fourth grade, yeah. for some -- for many reasons we didn't go back and i was enrolled in a polish school, as
4:34 pm
i was telling you about the catechism class. so i studied for a year polish and actually i am pretty good speller in polish. after so many years. excuse me. the year went by and, again, another summer. now, it is '39. my grandmother had a summer cottage near the town of vilnius. you saw before the map of
4:35 pm
poland. maybe we can get the map back. >> we can't, unfortunately. >> and i remember i went with my grandmother to the summer cottage, and she taught me how to pick mushrooms in the forest, and berries. and how to separate the mushrooms from the poisonous to the edible. and this was wonderful. also, i would prance around in the forest, in a bathing suit and a little knife and i carved -- they had a pine tree that had very nice bark and i would carve the bark. and i played tarzan. tarzan was very popular those days. >> so while you're doing that, the year stretches out, you remain in poland through the summer of 1939. you're still in poland and war
4:36 pm
is becoming imminent. do you think your parents at that time, by extending their stay there, do you think they were aware of the threat of naziism by that time? >> as i mentioned before, my governess went back to germany and she would write letters to my father. she would say, i'm writing this letter with great danger to myself because of the sensors, the nazi censors open it, i will be sent to concentration camp. but she said, mr. menn, go back because a war is coming. and the whole world knew the war is coming. and yet we stayed. so in the summer of '39, school was finished, we went, my father went to danzig to sell his business, and my mother and my sister and i went to the resort that was close to east prussia.
4:37 pm
on the map maybe you saw there was a piece of germany that was very close to poland. and at the end of the summer, september 1st, the germans invaded poland. we were very close to east prussia. and fortunately we came with friends who had a car, back to bialystok. actually was not terribly far. i think i would estimate about maybe 60 to 100 miles. as soon as we came, my father was in danzig. as soon as we came to bialystok, the german dive bombers were bombing the population.
4:38 pm
>> you remember that, don't you? >> yes, i do. >> and i was mobilized to help dig ditches so that -- because as a dive bomber would come down, they would machine gun the civilians. and also the windows were taped because we were afraid of gas warfare. my mother went back to warsaw. the germans were surrounding warsaw. but the poles actually fought very valiantly. and warsaw was one of the last cities to fall. so she found my father, and they came back to bialystok. how they -- how she managed to find my father it is a miracle to me. and my father immediately said,
4:39 pm
we have to leave this town because the germans will invade any day. so he found my late grandfather's old coachman, and the coachman agreed to take us to vilnius, to the forest. and this was very unusual because he didn't want any money. people were very -- in those days were very devoted it each other. because of his devotion to my grandfather, he wanted to do something nice for us. so for two weeks we piled into the cart that was driven by a horse covered with straw with a tent over it. it was just like the pioneers 150 years ago, going from the east -- >> like a conestoga wagon kind of. >> yes. >> a wagon.
4:40 pm
and this is for two weeks we wandered in the forests of poland. this is my experience about holocaust. the germans would dive bomb the refugees. and we would jump into the wheat fields. why the wheat fields, it was september -- late september, middle september, it was time to harvest the wheat, but there was nobody to harvest it because the polish farmers were in the army. and so we would jump into the field while the german bombers would dive bomb. also made this terrible noise to
4:41 pm
scare the people and they would machine gun everybody. how we survived this, i don't know. but these events lasted several times during the day. and they would last maybe 20 minutes or so and the planes would go away. maybe they would re-emerge, the road was strewn with pieces of humans, of bloodshed, animals, cows, dead cows, cars that were burning. it was horrible. i still remember this. war is a terrible thing. i know for americans it is very difficult to visualize war because the only people who really experienced war in this country were the gis who fought in wars. but imagine that you lived in the south, where you saw on television the terrible tornadoes.
4:42 pm
you go into morning to school, you come home and there is no home. because a tornado destroyed it. this is what war is. war destroys your life. and the war and the nazis destroyed the holocaust -- destroyed the jewish people of europe. when i give many talks in massachusetts, and when i talk to seventh graders, i always tell them, i say, it is hard to visualize what -- how terrible the holocaust was. but 6 million people -- 6 million jews were killed by the nazis in concentration camps. the population of massachusetts is about 6 million. so i said, suppose you wake up in the morning, and the whole state -- the people are dead. this is what the holocaust is.
4:43 pm
because everybody was gone. and it wiped out, in poland there were over 3 million jews out of a population of 30 million. and they were invited -- they lived there for a thousand years, the polish king invited them to come from germany and settle there. and so one thing that is very important is what did we eat in these two weeks wandering in the forest? well, the first week we ate apples. and it is pretty difficult to eat apples for a week. the consequences are you get terrible diarrhea. and the second week we came to a chicken farmer, and my father
4:44 pm
got lots of eggs. so for about a week we ate raw eggs. raw eggs are rather terrible. dogs like them, but people don't like them. >> after two weeks of doing all of that, eating the way you described, you made it to molodeczno. what happened once you got there? >> okay. as bill described molodeczno, a railroad junction town in eastern poland, and the driver left us on the railroad tracks or on the platform, he said i have to go home. and we just stood there. and then i remembered we heard this rumble and became louder and louder. and those were tanks coming.
4:45 pm
we were convinced that they were german, but they were russian, the red army. because hitler signed a secret treaty with stalin in 1939. just end of '38, maybe, that they will divide poland. and eastern poland will go to russia, western poland to germany. so then the tanks were followed by this huge army. and this young russian officer as bill described came on the platform and he gave my little sister a chocolate bar. and he started talking to my father and he said, are you jews? he said, yes. and he said, well, i'm russian jewish and he was -- he said where do you want to go?
4:46 pm
he said, well, we want to go to vilnius. and so he said, i'll put you on a military train. and he put us on the military train, we came to vilnius, we came to my grandmother's house, which was locked because she was in bialystok. and it is very interesting, she wouldn't leave bialystok because she lived through the first world war in bialystok. and she told my father, she said, well, the russians were worse to us in world war i than the germans. germans were civilized. maybe they will be civilized this time. so she stayed. well, other things happened to her. but anyhow, so we couldn't stay in vilnius, we went to the country side where my grandmother had a large farm,
4:47 pm
and we spent about two weeks, and what is two weeks? i remember i learned one thing, how to ride a cow without a saddle. that's very difficult i must say. i don't know many of you have tried to ride a cow. but almost impossible. and after two weeks, we returned to vilnius, the politics were very complicated, it became lithuania, so i had to go to school and learn lithuanian and lithuanian history. i will tell you one thing, lithuanian is very different than polish, it is unlike any other language. and also poland and lithuania at one time were united. but lithuania was once a very great country, and basically
4:48 pm
captured parts of russia to the black sea. also, in poland, because of so many jewish people, there was a -- they had the jews had a -- their own constitution from the polish government, which allowed them to keep their own public schools. and the public schools were called to translate to english, it said culture. so in these schools, the most subjects were taught in hebrew, but you had to study the history of the country and the language. i just remember very few words. >> and that's what you were doing in vilnius, and so our audience understands, so you are in the russian occupied part of
4:49 pm
the country. >> also, a must say, we got to vilnius, vilnius is a very old city. it has a great history. but we had no money. so we ended up living in one room in the jewish ghetto. the ghettos were established in italy, in the middle ages, and they -- jews lived with great density and such places. it was terrible living in the room because at night the rats and mice would emerge from the floors, from the space of the floors, and it was -- also, i had to walk to school about half an hour and vilnius in the winter is very, very cold. and i didn't have any warm clothes.
4:50 pm
my mother had to rub my legs with animal fat because otherwise my legs would freeze off. would freeze off. so i -- i finished the year, and i must tell you the jews of vilnius revolted against the nazis, and they were -- i would say 99% killed by the nazis. years later when i was in the army officers training, there was a girl who was a survivor from my class, and when i saw her, this was one of the most moving times in my life. we hugged. it was amazing. when i still think about it now,
4:51 pm
i shudder sometimes. >> she was in vilnius with you and survived? >> yes. she was only survivor. >> so you're in the vilnius. you're living in very, very difficult circumstances, and was your father trying hard to figure out how to get you back to palestine at that point? >> yeah. if we had money, we could have flown to sweden and from sweden was so-called neutral. we could have flown from sweden to any place. we still had a british certificate which is like a visa that we could go back to palestine, but how? well, as i said, people were very devoted to each other. my father met in lithuania a friend of his from years before who became very wealthy, and he
4:52 pm
gave my father the equivalent of $5,000 which was a lot of money in those days, and with this my father was able to buy a transit visa to the soviet union in 1940. it was extremely difficult. as bill mentioned, there were only 300 jewish families who were able to go through russia, back to palestine. i remember being in moscow two days, and that was rather interesting because we stayed in this hotel that was called astoria that before the revoluti revolution, the communist revolution, was a very fancy hotel, but it fell on bad times.
4:53 pm
the chandeliers were beautiful at one time and covered with cobwebs. the beautiful curtains were in tatters, and -- and we were the only guests in the dining room. they gave us a menu that was a very thick menu, but the waiter said we only had one dish, stew. >> but he gave you this big menu anyway? >> yeah. >> then my father befriended this waiter and told him we are going to odessa which is the russian city on the black sea and the waiter said, well, it will take about three days and there won't be any food on the train, so my father traded some silk ties for a baked goose. the goose was pretty good. by the way, europeans don't eat
4:54 pm
so much turkey. they eat goose, especially for christmas. >> that was the food you would take on the train with you? >> yes, yeah. >> mm-hmm. >> and i remember it was wintertime. we got on the train and went to russia and moscow and came to odessa, and in odessa the soviet customs took everything away. my mother, the fur coat, they took the fur coat away. i had some samps that -- my grandfather collected stamps. they took them away. they gave us receipts which were meaningless really, and -- and through turkey we managed to come back to palestine covered with bed bugs that we picked up on the train and turkey, and
4:55 pm
palestine was a british colony. it was -- remember, this was world war ii, and we went to tel aviv. >> and this was october 1940 when you got back to tel aviv? >> this was october 1940. >> okay. >> and german and italian bombers were bomb haifa which was a city where they had oil refineries because it was a concentration place for british troops. and many of the planes, because it was so far for them to fly, they couldn't unload the bombs on haifa so they would unload them on tel aviv. i remember house we lived
4:56 pm
inningin inin, every night we had to go down to the shelter because of the air raids. after a while i didn't go down anymore because i felt i rather sleep so my parents, they couldn't take me down. you sort of lose fear. and once school -- and this was a very good question. one of the seventh grader asked me were you afraid when they were bombing the refugees? i thought about this is a very good question. children, the high school students could only be afraid i felt for the instance when the
4:57 pm
fear happens, bombing. when you are bombed, you are afraid that you'll be killed, but once the planes left, you forget about it because the fear stays with adults as anxieties, but children don't have such anxieties by and large if they are well off children. >> as you mentioned, okay, the war is going on, and palestine itself was a major staging area for the allies, so there were tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of allied troops coming into palestine, right? >> yes. >> and the german army at that time under rommel was advancing into egypt, and we were actually
4:58 pm
prepared that the germans would occupy palestine. so we were going to run away into the -- into the mountains. well, this never happened because there was a big battle and the germans were defeated, and the british forces, all the allies, they were also aided by american supplies and american troops. >> and for the jews living there, you began preparing to fight against the germans should they come? >> oh, yeah, by escaping into the mountains. >> and plus some resistance groups were forming, right? >> yes. i joined that resistance when i was 15, and one advantage, especially i can tell this to you since most of you are schoolchildren, is we used to have meetings at night how to --
4:59 pm
in secret places to learn how to handle various weapons, and i was 15, and i would come to class and it was a big exam that day so i would tell the teacher i did my national duty. i cannot take things. so that was one advantage. you got out of taking many exams. >> and what was your father doing during that time? >> well, my father -- the cement factory didn't work. he managed to buy with a partner a certainamics factory from a sn sheikh. the syrian sheikh bought this machinery in germany before the
5:00 pm
war for his son and his son eloped and then consequently he -- he sole the machinery to my father at a fire sail, so my father was producing cheap china and irrigation pipes, but when the war ended, the british imported a lot of -- much better china so it liquidated. >> our time is getting a little short. tell us what you did with them and what that meant for you to be part of the resistance. >> well, since i was only 15 the jobs that i had was i was underground, we would put -- at night we would cover, blasters
5:01 pm
the walls with slogans and placards that said the british would get out. we want our own country, and if you were arrested the british criminal police would beat you up and they had a technique of beat i beating you. they had these short sticks made out of steel covered with rubber, and they would hit you on the kidneys because it would not show any marks, but it would ruin your kidneys. fortunately i was never caught. the older kids who were seniors in school actually handled weapons, yeah, but as bill mentioned when i was 18 i came by myself to the university of california and enrolled there
5:02 pm
and then in the summer of '48 i volunteered to go back to fight in the war of independent so i'm a veteran of the war of independence in '48. i'm quite old. i'm 87. >> julius, when you -- after the war was over and you eventually made your way to go to college in california as you just told us. >> yeah. >> when you decided to return to -- to join the army in the war of independence newsreel you stopped off in new york and a party was thrown for you. >> oh, it was very interesting. >> tell us about that. >> i was invited to this party in the bronx, and the hosts invited a lot of gis from the war, and they wanted me to take all these armaments back with me. well, i could only take one
5:03 pm
pistol. >> all these veterans came. >> guns, revolvers, all kinds of weapons and -- and i could only take a pistol. >> you write about this in your memoir a lot. when you made that decision to leave the first time and come to california and return, that was a very difficult choice for you to make. >> it was, because at that time i didn't particularly like my parents, and this was very common i think. so i -- i wanted to escape from my mother, and -- and in california there were a lot of graduates, other generations, who went to the university of california, either in davis or in berkeley, and they told me california, the sunshine state,
5:04 pm
it's like palestine, and you can always get a job and it's very xheep to go to school. i know the crisis now. school is so expensive. i must tell you when i went to berkeley as a resident of the state, you only paid $60 a semester, and there were two semesters a year, and also you could take as many units as you want. now, university of california, which is almost broke, it costs over $13,000 for tuition a year. >> julius, i'm going to ask you. tell us what writing your memoir has meant to you. you've written "waves" which hopefully you'll be able to sign some copies after it. >> i wrote it three, four years
5:05 pm
ago. it was my granddaughter in lives in tucson, arizona, she wanted me to write some memoir for -- for her brother, and as i sat down to do this, i thought, well, i could write a book, and i -- i stopped, so i wrote about the first 20 years of my life. >> okay, and i just never continued. >> have you thought about continuing writeing? >> yeah. i thought about it. i'm too old. i'm too old. >> so now you just share it with us on stage. >> yes. >> one last question before we turn to our audience. two questions actually. how did your -- how did the rest of your family fare once the war was over and independence was won in israel?
5:06 pm
>> my mother lost her -- her two sisters and her husband in the war on my mother's side. one brother died. i had -- one brother survived. they were exiled by the russians. he was sent to one place in the gulag. his wife and one son was sent to another one. she was a schoolteacher in poland before the war, and it's very interesting. she was sent to what is now kazakhstan. it's a gulag. one of those cities that's terribly cold in the winter and sheep herders, tribes of sheep,
5:07 pm
and the sheep had the disease called scabies which is very -- it's a very common itching disease in sheep, and my aunt, she remembered something that sulfur cures the sheep, so she told the farmers bring me your mattress and the mattress had sulfur and bring me animal fat and she made an ointment. she with a scrape off the sulfur from the mattress and make an ointment and it worked, so all during the war the farmers would bring her all kinds of foods so she had plenty of food, and the russian commisare wanted to send her to medical school.
5:08 pm
so she ended up, my father when he did better in palestine, he brought her back with her husband and two sons, and she became an art teacher in israel. >> julius, i think we have some time for some questions from our audience. shall we turn to our audience. >> i'll just finish -- >> we'll come back to your last word in a little bit. >> oh, okay. >> it's our tradition in first person that our first person has the last word so i will turn back to julius in a little bit to close the program. when he does that, i'm going to ask you -- well, i'm going to ask you to stay seated through our q & a period so you can hear julius close our program. when julius finishes, joel our photographer is going to come up on stage. i'm going to ask you all to stand because we're going to get a picture of julius with you as the background and then once that is done julius will head up the stairs so we want to make
5:09 pm
sure he gets up there because he's going to signed copies of his memoir "wave" so we're able to make sure he has time to get up there for anyone who also wants to chat with him during that time as well. before we turn to julius for the last word, let's see if we have questions from our audience. we have microphones in the aisle. we would ask you to go to the microphone, if you will, ask your question and hopefully we've got some brave souls willing to do that. try to make your question as brief as you can, and i'll repeat it just to make sure we all hear it once you've asked it, and we have a brave starter here. >> all right. okay. so in the introduction it was said that in massachusetts you've given different seminars on subjects of philosophy. i was just curious how you got into philosophy. >> oh, the question is noting that you are now teaching philosophy in massachusetts.
5:10 pm
the question is how did you get into philosophy? >> well, i never took a philosophy course in college because i'm a scientist, but i was also interested in it because really what philosophy is the heart of intelligent discussion, so i -- i was teaching about or running seminars on 18th and 19th century western philosophers, and i learned a lot. unfortunately, the difficulties, i cannot remember the names of all the philosophers. >> thank you. thank you for the question, and we have somebody i think lined up right behind you it looks like. there we go. maybe you can put that on one step down. yeah. there you go. >> there we go.
5:11 pm
when you were still young in poland, did you know people from -- going to the concentration camps, or did you know there was going to be concentration camps? i know that the germans were trying to persecute you because you ran obviously, but i just wanted to know if you knew there were going to be concentration camps >>the question i think is did you know people who went into concentration camps, and did you know that there were concentration camps, and extermination camps? >> oh, yes. actually already in 1940, survivors escaped from poland to tell the british prime minister churchill at the time about the concentration camps. the germans -- the nazis decided to establish the extermination
5:12 pm
camps. the conference in berlin was held in early 1940 to eliminate the jews as an ethnic group. >> okay. thank you very much. do we have somebody else that has a question? here we go. we've got another intrepid person coming down the aisle. okay. >> so being as young as you were, did you really like know what was going to happen next, like in terms of what was going on with the war? like did you know that there was like what he just said, the concentration camps, or did you know that they were going to come in, being as young as you were? did you know what to expect? i know you did get notes from
5:13 pm
your governes but still were you just overall like confused or like what was your view on all of it? >> during that -- let me make sure i got this right. during that time being 10 years old, a little boy, did you know what to expect? did you have a sense of what was coming, even though your governes had written to your dad saying you should leave and get back to palestine? >> no. because when you're 10 years old you can only face danger that's momentary, that happens at that instant. you cannot anticipate abstract dangers. >> mm-hmm. okay. thank you. well, i think we've got time for another one if we have one and i'm going ask you something that you told me about. at the end of the war the war was over and you were working on a kibbutz and -- >> in the summer. >> in the summer, and in the
5:14 pm
summer of 1945 you were out out in a field as i recall when somebody heard on the news that we had dropped the atomic bomb attish map. tell us about that recollection. >> it was about 10:00 in the morning. i was in the northern part of israel, palestine, and in a field where we were clearing volcanic rock so that for the first time they could plant tomatoes, and, indeed, the tomatoes were wonderful. and sop came and said the americans dropped an atomic bomb on hiroshima and over 100,000 people were killed. it was -- i couldn't comprehend it at age a 10, that there was such a weapon, and even today it is hard to comprehend, but you must remember that during
5:15 pm
president eisenhower which was over 50, 60 years ago when he was president, kids had to learn, each school had to have a shelter, and children had to learn that when there was an air attack, they had to loy under the table and, fortunately, this never came to pass. >> and we have one more question here and then we'll wrap up the program. sir? >> you certainly experienced many challenges as a young person. what was your attitude when you were a senior in high school or kind of transitioning, because i'm sure that many of us have experienced certain difficulties, but maybe not to the extent that you have. what can you say that your attitude was, even as a young person? >> so as a high school senior say having been through all that you've been through.
5:16 pm
what was your attitude in transitioning from life to being a child to a young adult given all that you've experienced? >> very a very good question. unfortunately, i'm 87 now, and it's hard to remember what it was like to be 19 or 20, but as i said before when you are very young, very elastic and plastic so you can adapt to -- you forget bad things and you just concentrate on the good. >> thank you. all right. thank you very much. i think we're going to close our program now, and so, again, after julius finishes, joe will come up on the stage and i'll ask you to stand at that point and we'll get julius heading upstairs to sign copies of his book. so julius. >> yes. i was asked to make some
5:17 pm
concluding comments. i will tell you something that i said before. in massachusetts there are over 6 million people, and when kids ask me what was the holocaust like i would say imagine you get up in the morning and all the people in the state are dead, but what i -- in addition, so this is very important. what is also important is we should not forget, that people can do bestial things this each other and the holocaust was one and darfur and sudan and there was another holocaust and in african there are many hole costs going on. they are not as well publicized as the holocaust that's happened
5:18 pm
to the jews, but this was the first time in history that a whole people of ethnic origin were exterminated, and they were exterminated in terrible ways, also human life was not considered as human. they were -- the nazis considered jews as less than han males, and so i just want you to remember something to make sure that we never have a hole cost again. >> thank you. [ applause ]
5:19 pm
american history tv airs on c-span 3 every weekend telling the american story through events, interviews and visits to historic locations. this month american history tv is in primetime to introduce you to programs you could see every weekend on c-span3. our features include lectures in history, visits to college classrooms across the country, to hear lectures by top history professors, "american artifacts" takes a look at treasures at u.s. historic sites, museums and archives. "real america" revealing the 20th century through archival films and news reels. the civil war where you hear about the people who shape the civil war and reconstruction and the presidency focuses on u.s. presidents and first ladies to learn about their politics, policies and legacies. all this month in primetime and every weekend on american history tv on c-span3. tonight on american history
5:20 pm
tv primetime, the holocaust. three conversations from the u.s. holocaust memorial museums "first person" series. it begins at 8:00 eastern with survivor anna grosz recalling her family's experiences in romania. at 9:05 p.m. eastern louise lawrence israels talks about surviving the holocaust experience in the netherlands and at 10:00 eastern hole cast survivor julius menn talks about growing up in poland and palestine in the 1930s and '40s. next on american history tv, holocaust survivor anna grosz recalls her family's experiences after hungary annexed a portion of romania that included their hometown and then imposed anti-semitic laws. the family was confined along with other jews to a ghetto when nazi germany occupied hungary. they were transported to the auschwitz concentration camp in poland and later forced to
5:21 pm
perform hard labor. this event was part of the united states holocaust memorial museum's first person series. it's a little over an hour. >> the life story of holocaust survivors transcend the decades. what you are about to hear from anna is one individual's account of the holocaust. we have prepared a brief slide presentation to help with her introduction. anna grosz was born into a jewish family on april 20th, 1926, in rockshaw, transylvania, a part of romania as anna zilfreund. anna celebrated her 90th birthday yesterday. [ applause ] the arrow on this map points to rockshaw. these photos taken in 1919 show anna's parents samuel and


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on