// William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum
Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

DATE:                       DECEMBER 1, 1995

Transcript (PDF)


Clara (Klara) Tilleman Eisenstein was the fifth child born to a Jewish family in Boryslaw, Poland. After graduating from gymnasium, she attended law school in Krakow. After a year, she returned to Boryslaw and married Leon Eisenstein. In 1938, a daughter named Irene was born. A year later, World War II began. The Germans briefly occupied Boryslaw before it was turned over to the Russians.

The Germans re-occupied Borylsaw in July 1941 after they invaded the Soviet Union. A pogrom immediately broke out and approximately 350 Jews were killed. A ghetto was soon established and the Germans began executing Jews. In a massive Aktion in August 1942 at least 5,000 Jews were sent to the Belzec death camp and murdered. Clara and Irene were put on trucks bound for Belzec but managed to escape and hid in a creek until they could return to the ghetto. Clara and Leon lost their entire family in that Aktion.

In August 1942, the Germans set up two ghettos and pushed the Jews into them. Leon worked in the oil industry, so was a valued worker and was spared from deportation. But Clara and Irene were at risk. Leon got Clara and Irene false papers and, for a while, Clara and Irene hid outside the ghetto with a Polish woman. Unfortunately, when the woman was threatened with death she turned them in. Clara and Irene were taken to the police station, but escaped once again. This time they fled to the countryside with a Ukrainian Leon had found, who agreed to shelter them. Clara and Irene had to hide in a haystack and the Ukrainian man repeatedly abused her every time he brought her food. Finally, Clara and Irene fled into the forest and lived with other Jews who had dug caves in the ground and stole food at night. Leon soon escaped and joined them in the forest.

Eventually the family found refuge with a Polish woman who hid them under the floor of her house. Clara and Irene were very sick by this time. When the Polish woman announced the Russians had arrived in August 1944, Clara could not muster up much joy. The Eisensteins stayed in Boryslaw for a few months and then went west into Poland. They were smuggled into the American Zone in Germany and lived in Heidenheim. In September 1949, they came to the United States. The Eisensteins settled in Atlanta, Georgia.

Scope of Interview:
Clara briefly outlines her life prior to World War II. She recalls the immediate persecution inflicted on Jews by the Germans and the local Poles and Ukrainians. Clara details how she escaped with her baby from a roundup. She describes the horrible living conditions in the ghetto and the constant arrests and executions. She explains how she and the baby were found hiding with a Polish family, were arrested, and escaped again. She recalls the brutality she endured when she and the baby went into hiding with a Ukrainian farmer. Clara remembers how she and the baby then survived in the forest until her husband joined them and they hid in a hole dug underneath a Ukrainian woman’s home. Clara recounts living in Russian-occupied Poland after liberation and being smuggled across the border to the American occupied zone of Germany. Clare shares the deep sadness she felt even after immigrating to the United States.

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