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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:             KALMAN HELD

INTERVIEWER:         POLA GRIS

DATE:                         SEPTEMBER 12, 2000

LOCATION:                ATLANTA, GEORGIA

Transcript (PDF)

BIOGRAPHY 

Kalman Held was born in Czernovitz, Romania on September 23, 1935. He was an only child. Before the war, Kalman’s father and uncle ran a dry goods store. The family spoke German and lived a very comfortable life. Some of Kalman’s relatives immigrated to Palestine in 1938, but Kalman’s father thought his former position as an officer in the Austria-Hungarian army would protect them. When the Soviets occupied the border territories around Czernovitz in 1940, Kalman’s father was arrested, and deported to Siberia, where he eventually died.

After the Germans invaded the Soviet Union and Romania reoccupied the border regions in 1941, Kalman, his mother, and grandmother went to Braila, Romania, where his mother was originally from. They stayed with relatives for almost 6 months. From there, they moved to Bucharest, Romania, where they also had relatives. Kalman’s mother suffered from severe anxiety and a bout of scarlet fever. In Bucharest, she lived with a Romanian officer, who could provide protection from persecution. Kalman lived with his grandmother. When she became ill, they moved in with his mother’s sister, his uncle, and their two children. His grandmother soon died.

In 1944, Kalman travelled to Palestine via ship and train with his mother, uncle, and a cousin. After a temporary internment in the Atlit detention camp, his mother went to work as a maid in Tel Aviv and he was sent to a kibbutz. In 1948, his mother remarried and had a daughter. Kalman lived in a series of kibbutz until around 1951. After living briefly with his family and attending high school in Tel Aviv, he was sent to live with his aunt and uncle in Austria. In Austria, he studied hotel administration.

Around 1953, Kalman immigrated to Canada and began a career in hotel administration. He later helped his mother, stepfather, and half-sister immigrate to Canada. In 1962, Kalman married a family friend from Miami, Florida. The couple lived in Montreal and then Toronto, before a position with Marriott International, Inc. brought them to the United States. The couple lived in New Jersey, Arlington, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Another position with Marriott finally brought Kalman, his wife, Lois, and their children, Gary, Deborah, and David to Atlanta in 1970.

Scope of Interview:

Kalman describes his family and early life in Czernovitz, Romania. He talks about how life changed for his family after the Soviets occupied Czernovitz. Kalman recounts his father’s arrest and deportation to the Siberia, where he eventually died. After Romania reoccupied the border areas and allied with the Germans, Kalman recalls moving from Czernovitz to Braila and then Bucharest. Kalman describes leaving Bucharest for Palestine in 1944 with his mother, uncle, and a cousin. He discusses life in the detention camp at Atlit, his life in Tel Aviv with his mother and stepfather, and his life on three kibbutzim. Kalman recalls traveling to Austria as a teenager, where he studied hotel administration. He describes immigrating to Canada at 18, beginning his career, meeting his wife, the birth of his children, and moving to America. Kalman reflects on his time in Israel and a longing to return. Kalman discusses his faith and his strong attachment to his family. He recalls some of the events in his childhood when the Russians occupied Romania and then when Romania was allied with the Germans. Finally, Kalman discusses his plans for retirement.

 

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