Survivor STORY

Clara (Klara) was born in Boryslaw, Poland. She and her family were forced into the Boryslaw ghetto, which eventually became a labor camp. She survived the aktionen, in which her community was decimated through mass murder. Clara escaped from Boryslaw into the forest with her baby, Irene. She was caught three times: the first time she was thrown on a truck with other Jews, but she jumped down and ran with Irene; the second, the Gestapo found them hidden in a cave and took her back to their headquarters, where they interrogated and tortured her for 24 hours only to let her go briefly back to the ghetto to get the gold and jewelry she promised to give them; the third time, she was hiding in a haystack with her baby and five other people, and local people called the German police. Clara escaped with Irene, but four others were shot. Towards the end of the war, Clara and Irene were hidden by an old woman in a nearby village in a hole that was dug next to her house. Clara was the only member of her entire family to survive the war.

Clara's husband, Leon, also survived, and after living in a DP camp, the family moved to Atlanta in September 1949. Tragically, Irene was never able to recover her health and she passed away while still a young woman. Clara and Leon's daughter, Pola is a psychologist, their son, Aaron, is a rabbi living with his family in Jerusalem, and his twin, Harry, is an attorney.

Day of Liberation

Yes, 'til the last second I was in hiding. And the old woman who was hiding us in that hole, she opened the floor, the wood you know covering, and she said, "Get out, the Germans ran away." You could see everything was burning, fire, and they were really galloping and you could see them. And my feeling at that moment was horrible. Not joy at all. I can still feel the weight of the war. I knew already I lost everybody, I lost very early everybody. The first aktion I lost everybody, except one sister and they killed her later. Didn't feel no joy. It was, not even, the heaviness did not leave me at all. I couldn't smile. I cried, not from joy. It was very, very devastating for me. It's like waking up from a horrible dream and I couldn't shake it off at all. I still can feel it; I still can feel myself there.

Well, so what did we do when the war is over? I was about, we were about seven kilometers away from my hometown. Didn't have no shoes, completely barefoot, the little baby completely barefoot. Making seven kilometers barefoot to go to our hometown. We were not afraid, even though there were masses of soldiers. Russians liberated us. Somehow there was no fear. We were just walking and walking. And poor baby was so sick. Her whole body was covered with holes, which never were healing on her. But we made it. And that way we found my husband. He also was going home.

Atlanta

All we knew about Atlanta, that there was a translation of Gone with the Wind to every language, and we read. So what we remembered, that they had lots of cotton fields. We went on a boat, was another disaster boat. On General Black, which meant for the Army, for the Army machines, horses. They put 200 poor Jews on that boat. And the boat was like a nut flowing up and down. The weather was horrible; that was in September. And it was, everybody was deadly ill on that boat because too big, it was big boat and just few poor Jews on that boat. So it took eight days to come on the boat. And the boat came to New Orleans. The same feeling I had when the ship docked in New Orleans, the orchestra was playing American hymn, you know, and we went out. Not a bit of joy. Such a, absolutely nothing meant. Not a bit of joy, here I am free, never had that feeling for a long, long time. And then they put us on a train. And the train took a day and a half to come to Atlanta. And I was, we were looking for the fields, cotton fields. Where are they? Not one cotton.

Racism and Race Relations

And the same thing happened when we moved to that little house. The antisemitism. The people around started to scream, "We don't want Jews on this... it was a strictly a neighborhood for white, antisemitic people. But it happened there was a family living there. She was Seven Adventist and her husband was partially Jewish. And she started to go to all the neighbors persuading them that we are nice people and we went through a hell. And they changed completely. They started to come to knock at the door to bring us cakes and candies. But at the beginning it was disaster. Back in Germany.

Importance of Family

Aaron and Harry, twins. That was the biggest blessing. I think they put me on my feet. Because I told myself, "Well, Clara, now is the time you can go down or you can go up." And I started to fight to go up, not down.

Clara Eisenstein