Select Page

Hana Pinkus

Hana Pinkus
Nationality: Polish
Location: Auschwitz Concentration Camp • Austria • Danzig • Feldafing • Germany • Lodz • Missouri • Petrikev • Poland • St. Louis • Steyr • Stutthof Concentration Camp • United States of America • Wielun
Experience During Holocaust: Family Resisted the Nazi Party • Forced on a Death March • Hometown was Bombed • Liberated • Lived in a Displaced Persons camp • Lived in Multiple Concentration Camps • Sent to Concentration Camp • Sent to Ghetto • Suffered from Disease

Mapping Hana's Life

Click on the location markers to learn more about Hana. Use the timeline below the map or the left and right keys on your keyboard to explore chronologically. In some cases the dates below were estimated based on the oral histories.

“Everybody had to chip into work, to make a living because we were poor, but our life together was very rich – the love for each other and the devotion, so we managed, we struggled but we were very happy.” - Hana Pinkus

Read Hana's Oral History Transcripts

Read the transcripts by clicking the red plus signs below.

Tape 1 - Side 1

YOUNG: Okay, this is Evelyn Young interviewing Hana Pinkus June 3, 1986, for the Oral History Project. Okay, we can start now and…Just give maybe a little background of your family or, you know, where you grew up.
PINKUS: My name is Hana Pinkus. I’m born and raised in Poland, Wielun. We were five children, two brothers and two sisters. We were very happy. We had a pleasant life ’til my father died. I was eight years old and then everybody had to chip in to work, to make a living because we were poor, but our life together was very rich – the love for each other and the devotion, so we managed, we struggled but we were very happy and I got older. Everybody chipped in whatever we can and could. We later on – my town was a small town, wasn’t much work if we went early – do something for a living. We had to leave town, like Lodz.
YOUNG: Lodz was the next biggest town?
PINKUS: The next biggest. It was 100 kilometer from Wielun.
YOUNG: How much of the townspeople in Wielun were Jewish? Was it dominantly a Jewish town?
PINKUS: It was about 5000 people, I think, with a nice Jewish population in Wielun, and I was working and later on my mother died when I was 16½ years old. So the tragedy started again. (SAD SOUNDS)
YOUNG: That’s okay. I know it’s painful to, to go back.
PINKUS: And my sister took over.
YOUNG: You were the youngest in the family?
PINKUS: I was the youngest.
YOUNG: The youngest.
PINKUS: And two older sisters and two older brothers. My sister took over and I made a home by my sister.
YOUNG: In Lodz or in Wielun?
PINKUS: In Wielun. (SIGHS) And in the meantime, I met my first husband. Tzrilich Lipshitz was his name. Here would be like Saul or Israel, or whatever.
YOUNG: Did you lead a very Orthodox Jewish lifestyle?
PINKUS: This is what I forgot. It was a very Orthodox family. So, I didn’t know any better. When I was carrying a handkerchief or pick up a leaf, I thought, “I am dying, or God will punish me right away – I will get sick or what.” Very Orthodox ’til the war break out. So I was goin’ around with my husband eight years ’til we got married. I got married – was in 1939, May 7. And Lag B’Omer was the wedding. This was four months before the war.
YOUNG: Was there any hint that there might be war, or…?
PINKUS: Yes. People were talking always, like here. People are talking about war here is like in the Philipines, in Lebanon and here and there but still we didn’t believe this is goin’ to be war and this was. So we used to live very normal, prepared everything like nothing would happen. We didn’t realize, we didn’t expect – just talking. So (SIGHS) we were very happy. My husband loved me a lot, so do I, and all of a sudden four months later – this was September 1, 1939, five o’clock in the morning, the sirens start and my husband was a buyer-seller. He was in business. He was already out. This was a Friday morning, and I was still in bed, and I ran to the window to see what’s goin’ on, what the sirens are on. And right away I got injured, the glass hit everything…
YOUNG: Bombs were falling?
PINKUS: Bombs were falling as from the sirens to the bounce – took maybe a second. And right away I got injured – this eye. I was all over with blood. I didn’t know what happened, and the house start shaking. My husband came running back and this time my mother-in-law came to Wielun. She was ten kilometer away from our town. They were afraid. Their town was very close to the German border, very close – like from here to the “J.”
YOUNG: Yeah.
PINKUS: So, the mother and father-in-law, they came to live with us a few days ’til the whole hassle will change maybe to the better. So we all was running down – my husband came upstairs and he said, “Let’s go to the hiding place, to the bunkers.” In my house was there a bunker, where we used to live. We went downstairs and as soon we left, the whole house was demolished.
YOUNG: Hmm! You were in the bunker and the whole upstairs –
YOUNG: – and the whole upstairs was destroyed?
PINKUS: The whole upstairs – we used to live upstairs. The whole upstairs, the steps was broken, everything was demolished right away – it was done. So we got on out from the bunkers. We left town.
YOUNG: Was there like panic –
YOUNG: – where people didn’t know what had happened or what? You knew the Germans were bombing, but…
PINKUS: The Germans were bombing and right away they dropped the bombs on the churches. The church and the synagogue and hospitals. This was in one direction. Immediately everything was demolished, the churches, the synagogues, the people in the hospitals. The newborn babies were in the streets. The houses fell down and in the meantime people were running and the ruins this everything covered the people. So we left town for a week. We keep running ’til the Germans, the Gestapo stopped us to go back. We had a very hard time to go back because everything was torn, like bridges. Somehow we made it. My husband and I, we came back to Wielun the first, and my brothers and sisters they was – they still wasn’t there. We got lost. Our house was demolished. So, we went to my brother’s house to stay there. Finally they came – my brothers, my sisters, they came back. So we were in Wielun ’til 1942. How to describe this living was a horrible nightmare. Each day they came, taking out the people, men – especially men.
YOUNG: Was this the Gestapo?
PINKUS: Yes. And from this day on since the bombing next day in my town, I don’t know, or someplace else, the Polish people right away changed, turned to the Volksdeutsches. Looks like they were German. Right away they had uniforms. They were wearing the swastikas and even mine janitor didn’t understood Polish. He said that I should talk to him Deutsch.
YOUNG: Did you grow up learning German and Polish in the schools or…
PINKUS: No, no.
YOUNG: Did you speak mainly Yiddish at home?
PINKUS: Yiddish and Polish. The German is very similar to the Yiddish.
YOUNG: Yeah.
PINKUS: And then I was in Germany and I picked up the language.
YOUNG: But the Polish people of Wielun, were they of German stock or were they really Polish?
PINKUS: They were Polish, this I know. To my knowledge they were Polish. But right away the most of it turned – they were worse than the Germans because the newcomers, the Germans, the Gestapo, they didn’t knew where is are the Jewish people, who are the rich, who are the poor. They showed them everything, where and what. (PAUSE) It’s hard to remember. Stop for a second. (TAPE STOPS) So, this was summertime. I think was July, 1942. All of a sudden came trucks with Gestapos and knocked on the doors, “Alle Juden Raus,” all Jews down, out. So we went out. We left the house like this, whether was dressed, undressed, just – if somebody lived upstairs, we have to go down and as everybody go down, they right away warned, if somebody they found in the house, they is going to be killed. So, everybody went down and immediately was trucks outside. They put us in the trucks and they took us to a church. It was a big yard, let’s say could fit in about 200 people. They put there a few thousand of people. It was a horror, this beating, the little children had what are sanitary problems, was no place to go, nothing to eat. They kept us there several days. Several days I think was about two weeks already and then they selected the young men. Came Gestapo, they selected. Everybody had to stand up. They selected they picked all young men to take away, and through this young men was my husband whom they send away. We didn’t know where, how – they send away. I don’t know how this happened with me or I had a nervous breakdown or what. When I woke up, was around by me people. They were slapping me and screaming. I don’t know – they thought I’m dead or what, and later on so I woke up, I was okay. Later on, a few days later, they select women. No, first of all they select old people. They took old people and the children and between those old people was my husband’s grandma. She was this time maybe 80 years old, but very healthy. She was still – she could live another 15 years. And I had the courage to ask one German. I said, “What are you goin’ to do with those people?” And just in a joke he said to send them in a, to a relaxing home or what, something like this. They said in a pensionnat, a pensionnat is a very good place to relax or a good time to have service and food and everything. So I saw he is cynic; he is sarcastic.
YOUNG: At that time did anyone know of concentration camps or know…
PINKUS: How can people realize what’s goin’ to be?
YOUNG: Um-hum.
PINKUS: What did we do? Was wars. My mother always was telling us about the First World War. But, we were hungry, we don’t have any food. They are fighting about they won’t take those lands or what, but there’s goin’ to be a war for Jewish people or for gypsies or other nationalities. We didn’t realize this. Who would? (SIGHS, THEN PAUSE)
And when they took these old people and the children and they took also young strong men and they took them to the cemetery. These young strong men had to make the graves and the older people were standing next to the graves, like here is the grave and here they were standing. They had to take off the clothes – maybe they have something inside, expensive things. And from the back they killed them, they shot them and they fell right in the graves this was there. So, they took care of the old people and the kids, and later on what I said they picked the young men and send away. Later on they picked again women. So I was between those women. It was maybe about a hundred women and they send us, we were traveling with a train back and forth and back and forth, we didn’t know where we were going. But finally we end up in ghetto Lodz. When we stopped, we didn’t know where we are. They did this for purpose, to go back and forth the train. We shouldn’t know where we are. Finally they stopped in a schoolyard on the school place and we sit down on the ground and all of a sudden I open my eyes and my husband is there. They send those transports to Lodz before, those men what I told you before? They send them there too. And my husband, he was very involved with politics, was forbidden to have radios or some information. Jewish people shouldn’t have this. So he had hidden a radio in the oven, built in.
YOUNG: Was he part of an organized resistance group, or some political…
PINKUS: Not then, he was just a new…later on he was in a group in a political group, an underground group. He had a radio and I said, “How did you know this we are comin’?” He said, “I hear on the radio.” “You hear on the radio – what radio?” The radio told – he listen to the radio there’s a new transport is coming from Wielun, so he was there and he was already living with five men, his brother – relatives, all relatives were living there and he took me home. I said – first of all, I asked, “Where are we?” He said in ghetto. And in Lodz, my oldest sister used to live in Lodz. I asked him, “Did you saw Yetta?” He said, “No, she is not more here, they sent her away with her husband.” (QUIETLY) So, we were in ghetto ’til 1944. We moved. We found a place closer to work. My husband was working and everybody has to work if you want to live and exist, you have to work, because at work you got the soup.
YOUNG: Was this – what kind of work? Was this German factories?
PINKUS: Yes, I worked in a factory working at old clothes. We redo this and make new fabrics. Textile was the, the name of the factory was textile factory. I was working there and my husband was working at a wood factory, and we moved closer to these places where we worked. The life in the ghetto was not easy. Every day was something else – killing. Every day was another regulations. Each day brought a different rule. The horror was like nightmares, each day. But we lived. We had hope – maybe this will pass – we are still young, we are healthy – we will survive. My husband, I was sure that he will survive. He was the healthiest. But, it so happened after – this was 1944 – they start to liquidating the ghetto. They took people – they send them to Auschwitz, they send them to Majdanek, they send them wherever they could, they had the place to destroy, to make the ghetto…
YOUNG: Did you know at that time when people were being sent from the ghetto that they would be killed?
PINKUS: No, we couldn’t. We didn’t know.
YOUNG: You didn’t know.
PINKUS: Lately, yes this is what I start talking. My husband belonged to underground organization. We had a radio but lately they caught somebody and they hanged him, and I was terribly afraid that he will say who the members are. So we destroyed those radio. We still want to be alive, to survive. And from then on we didn’t hear nothing. My husband said, “It is in Auschwitz,” and he was making those pieces of wood, this size, blocks like this. And he said – he was a very intelligent person – he said, “Those pieces of wood is going to kill all of us.” I said, “You are nuts, you don’t know what you are talking,” I said. “But that’s the way I know it’s going to happen.” (SIGHS)…It’s a hard time to remember.
YOUNG: Take your time. Maybe we’ll stop…(TAPE STOPS)
PINKUS: So one time my husband was in the street. This time all the factories were closed. There was no work because the ghetto go to the end. Everything was closed up, and the kitchens, they – the people – everybody was hungry, how many people still was in the ghetto left. They opened the kitchens, they break the doors, they took out the food, and my husband was once in the street and he found somebody from Wielun, he was a big shot, SonderGestapo, we called them, and he asked him, “Morry, what should I do?” He said, “You see what’s goin’ on, you have to go, you have to leave here, we don’t have any choice.” So, he came, he said, “It’s so and so, I saw him and he said we don’t have any choice.” Until then,’til then we were in hiding places – from one hiding place to the other. So, one time we run out of hiding places because they discovered.
YOUNG: This was in the ghetto?
PINKUS: In the ghetto…
YOUNG: …To avoid deportation?
PINKUS: Yes, this was in the ghetto Lodz. So my husband met somebody. He had more the courage to go out. I was so afraid. I was afraid for the life. He said, “Where should we hide? I was here and there and they discovered this.” He said, here, here, there – there is on the top from the apartment, let’s say it’s the third, the fourth floor is their hiding place. We went there. We came over there was maybe a hundred people hiding and thing was this was a little baby. And in the moment as we are talking, everybody has to be quiet. We hear the dogs are barking. They were goin’ around searching for people with dogs. Dogs are barking and they go on the steps. They walk on the steps and we hear this everything, and in the meantime those little baby was found, an infant two or three weeks old start making and I start crying. Everybody start, “Make quiet the baby, don’t cry the baby, don’t let him cry,” and the mother gripped his mouth. The baby should be quiet and this took more than two hours that they was goin’ around all over and this was miracles – they didn’t find us. They left and in the meantime the mother discovered that the baby is dead, and this I witnessed, things like this. I skipped a lot of things what I – it’s hard to mention. (SIGHS) So, again, next day I got the diarrhea, my husband got the diarrhea. We don’t have anything to eat. We got sick of everything. So, we talked over and I said, “Let’s we go wherever – what happened to everybody will happen to us.” That’s a life – like a mouse, to sit in a – to hide everyday, every night, to sit in hiding places, and what is goin’ to be? So, we got discouraged. We went – we gave up everything and go to the place. We gave up like the prisoners and, “We are yours. What you want to do with us, do it.” They sent us to Auschwitz, they send us to Auschwitz, the same thing. We traveled to Auschwitz a few days. I don’t remember exactly but was about four, five days back and forth and back and forth in a wagon in a car like this, let’s say. Here ist gekommen much – hundred people. They put in about 1500. One was on another. They put them like trash and more than a half of those people died in those cars on the train and dirty, without air, without water, nothing. So finally we were so strong we survived on those train. The train arrived to Auschwitz. Was night, what time – who knows. Nobody knows. They took away everything from us. This was the first thing.

Tape 1 - Side 2

YOUNG: This is Evelyn Young, side two, interviewing Hana Pinkus for the Oral History Project, okay.
PINKUS: When we arrived to Auschwitz, it was at night, was a horrible feeling. From far away we could see people were chased. One was wearing a very long dress, the other one was – just the stomach was covered because women were separate and men were separate there. And when we arrived the train stopped and was very high from the – to jump out, like this high. There wasn’t any steps and we have to jump out. So my husband took me up. I weighed maybe about 85 pounds at this time. He took me up and behind him two Gestapo started hitting him so hard, and kicking and with those – they had special sticks, white rubber sticks – I don’t know the name of this here. They beat him as much as they could. I started screaming. They gave me a few, and they grabbed him away and on the way he said in Polish – in Polish they called me “Anja,” like Angie. “Anja, we meet each other in Wielun, and take care to survive.” And from then on I didn’t see him anymore. That’s it. This was the last thing.
They took us all – this was everything at night. It looks like was from beginning, the night because it was a long time. They took us away to a building and those building was a crematorium where the gas chamber was and we were sitting on the grass. It was, was a lots of people. How many people, I don’t know but was a lots of people, was night. We were sitting to wait until day. The day start. They ordered us to go in to take a shower. We were happy to take a shower. We were smelling and still they didn’t let us in – in that bathroom. We were still in this conditions we came out from the street. So they took us about 25 or 30 people in all to go in the shower. It was really a shower for the younger people. And when we came out, we saw in the meantime, they said, “Links – right.” People were staying in the line. Were still small children, older people and we were undressed, nude. And they looked at your skin, how your skin is. If you were young and pretty and fresh, you go to the right. If not, you go to the left. Those people who went to the left, they took them right to the gas chambers, to the crematorium, we called this the “crematorium,” to the gas office. And we, the whole clothes that we were wearing was left there. We don’t – we couldn’t touch it. They gave us – I was lucky, they gave me a brown long dress with short sleeves. I can see it now. Some was not so lucky. Some got a short dress, didn’t even cover it.
And – oh, when they took us from the train, I keep forgetting, when they took us from the train place to those place that they – to this building where the crematorium was, with me was walking – was a soldier probably because he seems to be nice. He was the same size what I was. I used to have beautiful hair. I had curls. He looked at me and he said – I ask him where we are goin’ now, so he said, “You are going to take a bath, a shower.” And I asked him where are those people goin’ where they went to the left. “Oh, the older people will take care of the children.” And before we left, they said we should take some silverware, everything with and he said this was the reason what we ordered to take silverware and everything because the older people will have a nice life, will take care of the children and they have to have those silverware and other thing and nice tablecloths. Okay. And then he looked at me and he said, “And the shone haare komm runter,” that my beautiful hair will come off. I said, “Why?” “That’s the rule.” And what I told you before, when we – (INTERRUPTED BY TELEPHONE RINGING) What I said before we passed by one barrack and we saw – I saw those people with the shaved off hair and they looked like unnormal people and I asked somebody who was there, “Who is this?” And they said, “This is mental sick people there.” First he said they were crazy, they are mental sick. They looked like…and after this – I keep talking this, it’s not in order. I just remind myself, I keep going back.
YOUNG: That’s okay.
PINKUS: I hope so. Later on they put this in order.
YOUNG: So what happened then?
PINKUS: Next day they gave us a barrack. I was in those in Auschwitz. They gave me a barrack, the number was number nine. (SIGHS) It was a little bit bigger than those table, the beds – bumper beds. It was three stories, those bumper beds. On each bed, a little bit wider was fit in six people. We were laying like this, and if you won’t turn over the other side, you lost your place.
PINKUS: The first night I was there, I don’t know how to describe. It’s a rash, it’s contagious. I don’t know how this called here in United States. It’s very contagious, it’s a rash.
YOUNG: A rash?
PINKUS: Yes. I got those rash in the very first night. The next day I start, my skin was itching.
YOUNG: Impetigo, maybe?
PINKUS: I don’t know how to – and I was suffering the whole time with it. And no work. In Auschwitz was no work. We go out, this was an appel, twice a day they count us. It’s called an appel. In the morning we go out, like the soldiers. We’re staying in the lines and they was counting us, took about an hour, two hours. Or at frost or in rain, we have to go out – no excuse, or you are sick or you can’t stay. If you cannot stay, if you cannot go out, you got killed, they shot. It’s no monkey business. So no matter how you felt, you had to go on this appel. This was going on twice a day. Four o’clock in the morning they gave us coffee. Everybody had to go off those beds and coffee, “Now is coffee time.” You have to take the coffee. In a way we took the coffee because with those coffee, we washed the hands, we washed your face and they don’t give us any water. We don’t have any. Like to the bathroom, we – they took us – was a special time to go to the bathroom. So in the bathroom, let’s say they fit in about 20 people. They took a few hundred people, you was in the line. If you could hold, you hold it. If not, was an accident. It was your bad luck and you was beaten why you did this. It’s, it’s hard to describe things how this was. The hunger, no food, no sleep, fear. I thought sometimes when I was out on the appel and I saw a bird flying, I thought, God, why I’m not a bird, if I could fly and be free like those birds or the mouse or a little animal. Why I couldn’t be this. Or give us death or give us a liberation or whatever. It’s impossible to stay alive like this.
I was in Auschwitz about six weeks. Later on came a rumor we are leaving – no. We are – came a rule, this came in a few Gestapos to leave to go outside on an appel and you went to an appel, you are just going in this what you had. And they took us to a different barrack – was a different barrack and the barrack was number three. It was better circumstances there. Were four people in those beds, was not so crowded but this doesn’t last for long. This maybe took about – oh, in this barrack, three, was Yom Kippur and they started with Rosh Hashanah. In this barrack we had Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. They gave us a special treat – not oatmeal – cream of wheat. Cream of wheat with milk in Auschwitz. This was something special. We were praying, we were crying. Maybe next year we should be liberated, or we should be dead.
YOUNG: At that time were you hearing rumors about the war…
PINKUS: No, no, this was in the war, in Auschwitz.
YOUNG: I know, but at that time the Allies had already landed in Normandy and…
YOUNG: You didn’t have any war news at all? Underground or…?
PINKUS: We were like animals. We didn’t know what day it is, we didn’t know what time it is. We looked at the sun if it was a nice sunny day, we could tell the time.
YOUNG: But you knew it was Yom Kippur and…
YOUNG: …and Rosh Hashanah, and the Germans…
PINKUS: Somebody told us. Those – the one, she took care of us, a German woman. Otherwise, we didn’t knew anything. It’s like animals. We were treated like animals and we lived like animals. And in a long time we got used to it and we didn’t knew any other life. That was our life, we got used to it. (PAUSE)
After those Yom Kippur, again we are going to the appel place and they are taking us to the train – where, what – who knows? We go to the wagons to this – this time wasn’t so packed – was loose. It looks like a day before the train was carrying some vegetables, potatoes because there was lots of dirt there, like from the fields and a little tiny potatoes, who was lucky, found a potato, was lucky. And I never knew that a potato raw tastes so good. So we don’t have any water. We wipe those little potatoes and we eat this. We have a picnic. (LAUGHTER)
And we end up in another concentration camp, Stutthof. We sit – again they put us on the grass. Was there maybe about a thousand women. We are sitting on the grass. At least in Auschwitz we don’t have any lice. And there we were sitting on the grass and we could see how the lice like the ants are going around and they crawling in the grass. It’s impossible, it’s impossible to believe this life, this can be this. (SIGHS) And I was sitting and I stand up and right away, “Sitzen bleiben,” right away. “Don’t stand up – sit.” I was afraid I will be crawled around with lice but I don’t have any choice. I still won’t be alive, and not to kill and not to get beaten, I sit down. And somebody was giving us coffee. We don’t have any, any nourishing, any water – nothing in our mouth a few days. No water, no food, just this what we found in the, on the train. So I am sitting and watching from far away. This woman, what she is giving those coffee looks to me so familiar – everybody was shaved up, it was hard to recognize. Like, I saw myself – we don’t have any mirrors, but in the window and in the glass I saw myself. I thought I saw my brother. When my brother left to the army, he got shaved and and I looked exactly like him. In the moment I thought, I looked from behind, I thought that’s him, that he is here. It was hard to recognize her. She came closer and I recognize this was my sister-in-law.
YOUNG: Your sister-in-law?
PINKUS: Yeah, my husband – her husband and my husband were brothers. She was much younger than I. And all of a sudden came out from me, I said, “Etta.” She raised – she was looking and I raised my hand, and she said, like this…so I knew what’s going on – just keep quiet. ’Til she came to me, ’til this was my next. She gave me coffee with sugar. She was lucky she came to work in the kitchen. This was a – no, who was so lucky? She had a way. So, she worked in the kitchen and this was my luck too. She gave me sweet coffee and she said, “Don’t say anything that we are related. We are total strangers. I will bring you some food at five o’clock.” She asked me where I am. I told her. She brought me some food. I had to hide this. If people would see, for a piece of bread or food, they killed each other. I had a few people what they were sitting next to me. The circumstances there in Stutthof was horrible. We don’t have any bed. We had to sit on the floors, to sit each other’s like in five people was sitting each other. Somebody was lucky if he can lay on the wall, and if not, you have to sit stiff.
YOUNG: You couldn’t lie down?
PINKUS: No, was no place, was no place to lie down. If somebody reached the wall, it was very lucky because they lay on the wall and so I couldn’t afford somebody should lay on me. I could hardly live. So, that was the life, the circumstances.
A few, as I was sitting with them, I told them, “I will receive some food and we will have to eat, not – when they gave us a soup, there was no spoons, nothing. It was just in a big pot. They gave us a soup for 10 people. We were eating from the pot, to count the sips…how many sips you are eating. This was in Stutthof. If you had nice people around, they get 10 sips, you get 10 sips around. If not, they grab the whole pot and they eat them up by themselves. (SIGHS) So, I told her, “Listen, Etta, what is going to be my future I will just sit here and wait ’til death. What should I do? She said, “Wait, maybe will be chances they are taking for work.” So one day they took us on those appel place. All over was those appels and counting twice a day, or somebody left or maybe someone run away, but where to run away? And she announced this day of sending away people to work. I raised my hand ‘cause I want to go to work. She came. Whoever raised the hand, she said, “Keep the hand up.” And she start checking the muscles. My muscles was maybe those two fingers was a bit like this, and as she felt my muscles, she start beating me. So all of a sudden, with those – stick with those rubber stick like this, a few teeth fell out and right away blood – my nose was bleeding, my eye. And on this appel, my sister-in-law was there too. She noticed from far away as I fell down and she kept beating me. She start screaming, “Stop, halt,” and she stopped. She said, “This is my sister, and just leave her alone.” Until now, ’til I came to St. Louis, I had an operation on this eye. So, as she, if it wouldn’t be for her, I wouldn’t be sended to – they send us to work, to – first they send us to a bower. A bower is a farmer. They send me to a farmer.
YOUNG: So you were actually in Germany?
PINKUS: This was – everything – all concentration camps were in Poland what I’m talking about. This was in Poland, those camps, not in Germany. When I came there, to this bower’s, those farmers to work, those farmers were German, very rich farmers. And we worked in the fields. We decked the potatoes, we worked with cows, we cleaned the barns, we digged the beets, onions, whatever work had to be done, we did. But we thought we are in heaven. Why? We had to eat. They gave us food. This took six weeks working.
YOUNG: So you stayed overnight at the farmer’s?
PINKUS: Yes. They gave us a room far away from those house, from those fancy house. They called us like a doghouse, or something like this, and they gave us straw and blankets they gave us from Stutthof, from this concentration camp. And we were in those room eight women. And we got acquainted very good but one thing was with me what I told you I developed those rash and I was still carrying around with me. I don’t have a chance to get rid of it. This needs some ointment to put on, baths to take to clean and was no chance to do that. And when we were on those farm, over there was three sisters and those five were single people. No sisters, just, and one she wants to sleep with me. Like, she had two blankets, I had two blankets, so we could have warmer and better, one blanket under the head to make a pillow and two blankets to cover us up – one underneath. And I was avoiding this because I didn’t want to give them those rash what I had. It is terribly contagious. And she forced in and this particular girl was a nurse in ghetto Lodz. She forced herself and she said, “Whether you want or not, we will sleep together. You are funny. In a way you are nice and in a way you are funny.” I was acting funny. I was afraid to take a bath when they were taking because I had on my body all over, and I didn’t want to see them and if they would notice something and they would send me back to the concentration camp and right to the gas chambers. So, I had to be very careful. A few days later she said, “You know, Anja, I feel something is scratching.” So I said, “If you will keep this a secret, this why I was acting funny and I am funny, because I have this, and I don’t know how to get rid of it.” And it so happen in a few weeks, maybe in a couple weeks, something happen on the farm there, some French workers ran away. Was there lots of people working, some French, from Yugoslavia, from Czechoslovakia. They had run away. Two people run away and they took us all together and sent us back to the concentration camp. And in the meantime, I saved up myself five kilo, about five kilo sugar. Sugar was more than diamonds here – and bread. We came to this concentration camp, back to Stutthof, and those girlfriend of mine what I told you she is a nurse, she went there to a clinic and she met a nurse. She was a friend of hers. She said, “I will give you sugar and you give me a glass of those ointment. We have this and this.” And the deal was made. She gave us those ointment and she put on me, on the whole body. I put on her and we got rid of it. And in the meantime, this was everything in Stutthof what I told you was no place to lay down. We had to sit. The next people they saw what we are doing. They were afraid and they moved away, and we could – we had place to lay down, was a luxury. (SIGHS)
Yes, when we came to this Stutthof back, again starts a hunger. Whatever we had we gave away for those to heal us. We ran out of bread, we ran out of sugar, so we go out – maybe we will find something. So we found like was there trash and lots of people died was a disease-type fever.
YOUNG: Typhoid?
PINKUS: Typhoid. And thousands of people died and each one saved themselves up a few pieces of bread. Later on they took those people, they piled up to burn them because was no place to make graves, and I went out and I found a whole pile with bread, with – how you call those bread with those greens?
YOUNG: Moldy?
PINKUS: Moldy. The whole bread was moldy, but I didn’t care. I was wearing a dress and I took a lot of bread in. Well, it’s better to eat this than nothing. And I was giving around those bread, and somehow we didn’t die from this bread we eat. And I told to myself, what is goin’ to be – maybe is better that I should pretend that I’m sick than healthy. So, I was with a girl. She got sick of this disease, of this typhoid fever, and they took her to the clinic.

Tape 2 - Side 1

YOUNG: June 17, 1986.
PINKUS: I have to go back. I forgot lots of things to talk about. As I am in my new comfortable apartment, came back to me, looking back, one night was very cold, a frost, a blizzard, a big snow, and the Gestapo was running from door to door, taking out men.
YOUNG: Was this in the ghetto?
PINKUS: This was still in my hometown of Wielun. This was 1940, before Purim. And they arrested 40 men and they kept them in jail for nothing. Later on, little by little, they let out 20. Took maybe ‘bout couple weeks. One day let out four, five, six – so they released 20 men. 20 they kept. They kept…and in Wielun was a place, was the business like a market. They start building a place to hang – what is called?
YOUNG: Gallows?
PINKUS: To hang people. Friends of mine came to mine home and they said, “They are building something there, and one from the Gestapo is showing them how to do. God knows, or it’s not going to be something they will hang the people, or what.” We couldn’t believe it. So, one day came an order, “Everybody has to go to this particularly place,” where they built those to hang those people. “And whoever will not show up there,” and they will search in homes, “will be killed.” And it was this way. Whoever was at home was killed. Everybody has to be, young and old and sick, everybody has to go and see how one Jew hangs the other. 10 men had to hang the other 10, and in the meantime when this session was those hanging plusses, they could see those hanging. And music was playing so loud because was wives, was children, was parents screaming, begging to release them. No way. They made a very loud music, this nobody should hear what’s going on, the music should kill the screaming and this crying. And this was a few days before Purim. This was right in the morning came this, yeah in the morning and they let them hang ’til five o’clock in the evening. And later on came a doctor to check them are they are really dead. They were all frozen and stiff. And 10 men, 10 men what they hanged those other 10, they took them on the cemetery to dig graves and at five o’clock came a truck put all those bodies on the truck to the cemetery and those all 10 people, those 10 men, had to the grave – what they made the grave – to bury them. And this was a horror, a nightmare. It’s undescribable, it’s, it’s, it’s – how can a person describe this? We were crying, we were sitting shiva – you know what shiva is?
YOUNG: I do.
PINKUS: And praying to God. Some of us thought maybe is no God exist, maybe is no God there, just in our minds. Was rabbis that seen this. One came, an old man, a rabbi, a very holy man – this was his son-in-law hanged. He said, “I am old, he is still young. Let me be the victim, release him.” So they took him too. They did not release the son.
PINKUS: And this came up so very often. They took out a few men – this was still in 1940. They took a few men just to have fun with them, and they said loud, “Arren,” and they shoot him. Came another one, they said, “Why you shoot him?” He said, “Don’t you see, he want to escape, he want to run away from me, so I have to do that.” Was one lie after another, but we don’t have any choice. We were sitting like mice. We couldn’t defend ourselves. We don’t expect anything like this. (SIGHS) So…(TAPE STOPS)
And again, I have to go back. I forgot. We were now – I am at Stutthof. This probably is the end of 1944. We are staying on the appel and they are taking people for to work. So I was between then and they sent us – it wasn’t so plain as I am talking about – the traveling took a few days. ’Til we came there we didn’t even know or they are sending us to work. We thought they are sending us for destroying. So we were traveling days and days ’til we came to a place named Sztoboj.
YOUNG: Sztoboj. Is that in Poland?
PINKUS: Everything in Poland. I was nowhere else, just in Poland in the concentration camp. And over there was no barracks. We lived in tents. Was 60 people – 60 women in one tent.
YOUNG: In the middle of winter?
PINKUS: This was wintertime. This was like February and January. We have to travel – not to travel, to walk 10 kilometer from those tents to the place to dig those foxholes and this was all on the fields we were. Was snow, was a big snow, was maybe about 60 below zero, terribly windy. I had wooden shoes and if you are wearing wooden shoes and you are walking on snow, the snow sticks to the wood and sticks – everytime this goes higher and higher and you don’t have any chance to clean up those snow. Some, they fell and broke their legs. Some were lucky and hold on each other, or in the meantime when you walked you had the chance to manage the snow from the soles to come off. But this was the life. We walked to this particular place where I was digging those foxholes, 10 kilometer, and working ’til the evening. Was Gestapo around. When I stop, when I straighten myself out – I was digging with those – I don’t know how it is called.
YOUNG: A hoe?
PINKUS: The hoes. I was digging. I had to stay in like this position to bend down and I want to straighten out myself. Right away next to me came an Obershaftsfuhrer and he say, “Willst du nicht arbeiten oder kannst du nicht arbeiten.” This means, “You didn’t want to work or you cannot work?” And you cannot say either way. If you say you cannot, you get killed. If you can, you didn’t want it. So I took my – those, those instrument what I was working with this and I start working again. And inside, in those foxholes where I was working, was ’til the knees water.
PINKUS: We came down with a ladder. With ladders we go down to those holes. And we were staying there about six, seven hours. It was still here, in the water and this was about 60 or 65 below zero. And later on came the order,”Out, Raus,” and we came out from those holes and we have to march home. Until we got home – to walk 10 kilometer – ’til we got home, everything was frozen, those whatever we were wearing – hands, those stockings, whatever- stockings – paper. We saved the paper to wrap around the legs because of the cold, to protect. Was everything frozen to the body. My feet here was as blue as this here around. How this came back to the normal, I don’t know – the normal color. I’m getting excited the way I’m talking.
YOUNG: Was there a lot – a lot of the women became sick from this and died?
PINKUS: Yes, we left. The women what I think we left about a thousand women there to work and when we came back, was not even a half of it. People died from hunger and cold and from this other thing I forgot to talk about the first time what I was interviewed. And when we were working on this foxholes, came 12 o’clock we was looking forward. We expected to – came a wagon with a horse with a big can of soup. And this we were looking forward the whole day. And when this arrived, those cans soup with this, they gave us signals and we ran and we got a little bit in a dish, those kind of soup. And we were frozen. The soup was hot but we needed 10 times as much. We were hungry and cold. What this little thing could mean anything, like a drop in the sea. And we survived there. We were there about six weeks in this foxholes work. And later on somebody escaped around there from the neighborhood. Was French people too there around, not in this group what I was working – different. As those two or three men escaped, came an order this take everybody and go back to Stutthof. They ordered us, so we go back to Stutthof. And then, when we came back to Stutthof, we – remember I told you – we found those bread, this molded bread?
YOUNG: Um-hmm.
PINKUS: This was when we came back, looking around those places was big piles piled up with molded bread. In the meantime, was an epidemic there in Stutthof – of typhus. And lots of people – thousands and thousands of people died. And everyone was saving a piece of bread. We were afraid to eat because later on we will not have. As we got this slice of bread as thick like this piece of paper.
YOUNG: Um-hmm.
PINKUS: (SIGHS) And when I saw those piles of bread, I was wearing a long dress – I was lucky I got a long dress. And I took in the dress a lots of bread, as much as this dress could hold and I was giving everybody, whoever was there in this barrack. And everybody start running and bringing those bread and we eat and we didn’t get poisoned or what. And here we are afraid if something is from yesterday or this, we will get sick. (SIGHS) And being around and looking around and I thought to myself, “What will I do, what shall I do. As I understand in my own mind, if I will be around like this, I will not live. Maybe I should just play around and be sick, pretend to be sick.” And one time was a nice Stubenfuhrer, a woman. And I told her, “I don’t feel good, maybe I can go to the –
YOUNG: Infirmary, you mean?
PINKUS: Krankenstube, to the krankenstube. This was for the sick people.
YOUNG: Um-hmm.
PINKUS: She said, “okay.” From then on a lots of people were there sick, frozen, the finger came off from the hand, from the feet, from the lice, in the body holes. And was really sick people. And I was going around – I start already to regret what did I do. I didn’t accomplish anything. I am in more danger than I was before. But, I did whatever I could. I washed them. A little bit water you have to steal. You can’t go wherever you want, to go to the washroom or to the bathroom. You have to go when the time was to go with everybody. And you have to steal a piece of soap and the soap was made from those people from the gas chambers, those fat what came off – from the people’s fat. From this they made the soap. And the soap they called “rief soap.”
YOUNG: Rief?
PINKUS: Rief. I don’t know why. Well, it was called like this. So we was using this soap. We don’t have any others. And I was there. With whatever I had, I feed them. They called us to go to work to the kitchen. I was the first time to enter the kitchen to peel potatoes and I was wearing a coat, a black long coat. I made up the…how you say…
YOUNG: The lining?
PINKUS: The lining, and put in some potatoes in the sleeves. I put some potatoes in the bottom. I made up the lining and I was wearing some pants and I tied up in the bottom the pants and I brought home some potatoes and we eat them. And the potatoes were so good. I don’t know even the best cake or the best chocolate is not so good as we felt a goodness in those raw potatoes. And everybody was eating. And this took – later on they separate – they came and ordered that all sick people will be transported. Where? We didn’t knew. So they transport us to a different place. I don’t even know how was the name, what was the name and we were prepared. We said the prayers. This day now is our end. Or they will send us to the gas chambers or they will find another way to kill us. ’Til…it’s hard to remember. It’s so long ago…(TAPE STOPS) We – it came a roskas – a roskas in German is a roskas, an order.
YOUNG: A roskas?
PINKUS: A roskas. It came an order this we should leave those barracks and when we were walking, was some people what they couldn’t walk. So they left in the barracks. What happened with them? God knows. They was killed for sure. Whoever could walk, we walked, but as we were walking we came to a little village and somebody was hollering from people were staying and looking at us. And somebody said in German language, “Over there the people are free.” Let’s say like downtown are the Russians already. The Russian were liberated. Like, “Some people are free. Why are you running away?” They find out, the Germans find out that the liberation is close to us – they took us and run away with us. This was – this time was mixed the healthy people and the sick people – we all marched, fast as we could – faster is better and if you got weak you couldn’t do so fast, they shoot you. They didn’t let you alive. So we knew that the liberation is close but we had to run, we had to run away. Like, let’s say the liberation came, the Russian were downtown and we are chasing northwest and this is east. This marching goes on and on and on without a stop. But finally the German, the Gestapo were with us too – they had to rest. They didn’t consider us, they considered themselves. They have to rest. So we stopped at a farmhouse. Was big barns there with cows. Was maybe about 50 cows. When we come to this barn, was so warm, oh God. We were – we didn’t even feel the – was a big snow. This was January, the end of January – no. Something like this – anyway it was winter, was very cold and we came to this farm and we were sitting next to a wall to rest. We didn’t feel the feet, was like not even like legs didn’t belong to us, was frozen, tired, hungry. So we sit down, we were sitting and then I saw a pail, a pail staying there and I thought to myself, “I will start milking a cow.” I know how to do that, and I did. The cow was cooperating with me. And people start screaming, “Give me a little bit, give me a little bit. Was just a few hundred people around sitting there, just one pail. (LAUGHTER) But I said, “Do it, come here, milk.” They said, “We can’t.” So I gave them milk as much as I can. Later on we got the diarrhea.
PINKUS: The stomach was not used to it. So everybody got the diarrhea. I missed again. Did I said before what I was on the farm?
YOUNG: Yeah, you were (OVERTALK) – you mentioned that.
PINKUS: I thought I forgot this. (SIGHS) And they gave us a rest a day, a day rest, this we can stay here a whole day. Was, was – well, we thought we are in heaven. We are in a warm barn, not outside, and I was always searching for something and I talked to – was sitting next to me a woman. I said – Regina was her name. I said, “What we see here is a little village. Maybe the people are not so cruel. Let we go into the house. Maybe we will get something to eat.” She said, “What can we lose?” I said, “We can lose our lives, but let’s try.” So she said, “We don’t have anything to lose. Anyway, our life is nothing worth it. We are in their hands.” So I said, “Okay, let’s go.”
We go in a room to one house and we told them in German and they said, “We are Polish. You can talk Polish?” I said, “Yes, we talk Polish. We are from Poland.” So she gave us a soup, potatoes. We eat but we couldn’t eat that much. Just a little bit because the stomach was shrinked already from so many years. But she gave us bread and she said, “I’m giving you this, the rest what I have, but in this house there she just baked the bread. Go over there, they will give you.” We went to their house. We collect a whole sack of bread. They gave us a bag, this other woman, she gave us both a big bag and gave us a lots of bread. So we gave them, you have to give them. If not, they took with force. They took away the bread or whatever people find out this you have, the food. And you are not giving, they took with force. So we gave the people as much as we could and the rest we kept for ourselves.
And later on we still were marching and marching. Was several hundred people ’til we come to a place left just a few. And then we have to crawl on hills and was a blizzard, was ice. How can you crawl on this, on this ice? Who couldn’t crawl got killed. I don’t know how I am alive. Just miracles happen to me. And this, I think this was – oh, and they, they send us, I think they send us back to Stutthof. No, they send us back to a concentration camp, was already liberated – no, was not liberated, was bombed – and they send us there. Because they, the Germans, they noticed, they knew this, they are in danger themselves. So, they brought us to a certain concentration camp, I think was Stutthof, because I got sick. I think was Stutthof, and they ran away, those what they were watching us. And, if I remember, after this whole deal, when I was in those krankenhaus, in this – with those sick people – one got sick of typhus and I was hiding her. I was afraid they will kill her. So, as much as I could, I hide her and this is very contagious. Those disease is very contagious. And ’til she got unconscious and I don’t have any choice and I have to report this, she is sick, to take her in those particular hospital – was a clinic. Oh, and also what I forgot to say, each morning…

Tape 2 - Side 2

YOUNG: June 16 – 17. Okay, we got stopped, so…
PINKUS: Each morning was men came to search in each barrack, but during night people died. Each day, each night, people were dead. Next to me – I was sleeping with one and I was talking with her. She didn’t answer and I – she was dead. So they were picking up each morning they picked up those, those bodies. And you can understand how this, how this was – like, people come each morning, if you are in a hotel, to clean up, to pick up the dirty laundry. They picked up the bodies from each barracks from the, in the – from the beds, wherever the body was laying on the floor, or on the bed, or wherever. And sometimes you were sitting on the bench and they died. So, I’m goin’ back to – when they left us and they run away, those Germans, the Gestapo, the Obershaftsfuhrers, the officers, the, this was people what they were watching us, they ran. I got sick. I remember I couldn’t function anymore. We were sitting outside – not – we don’t have anyplace. We are sitting like, like in the appel place – just, just outside, on the field we’re sitting. Was around barracks, but we wasn’t there. I felt I was very sick, was bombed this place, but I couldn’t function. I thought to myself – I was still conscious, but looks like I had high temperature. I closed my eyes and I thought to myself, “What’s the difference – or I will be killed from their hands or from the bombs.” I was sick. Where will I run? There’s no place to run. And I was sitting there and later on I woke up, dear God. This came to me back like I would be days or years ahead from the bombing. ’Til I woke up, I was sitting on a cement floor with a lots of people around, what they were sick too. They had those typhus. I open my eyes and I looked around and I remember a woman was walking, and I said, “What is this? Where are we?” She said, “We are going to a hospital. You all are sick.” And this was already a Russian rule. This time we were liberated, and I don’t even know because I was unconscious. How long this took, when I was sitting outside on this appel place ’til I woke up in the basement, I don’t know how long this took because I was sick.
YOUNG: Did you have typhus, or was…
PINKUS: Yes, yes. To the end of the liberation, I become this disease and she was saying in Russian, but if you talk Polish, it’s resembles, and I knew what she was talking. I didn’t know much, but this she said in Russian. “We are bulnya,” is sick. (SIGHS) So, they took us and again I passed out and I didn’t know anything. From this basement to being on the wagons, the way to the hospital, this was everything happen in Poland. I, again, opened my eyes and I saw Russian soldiers. One is driving this horse and one is sitting next to him and were four women in this wagon. Couldn’t fit in anymore. And again I ask, “Who are you, what are you doing with us?” And they said in Russian, “We are the Russian soldiers. We are taking you in a hospital. You are sick.” We arrived to this hospital and this hospital, this particular town called Koshjajina in Polish, Koshjajina. This only thing what I can remember. They took me to the bathroom, they gave me a bath and start shaving my hair, and I put the hand on my head. I said, “My God, I had already pretty nice hair grown back from this time what they shaved when I arrived to Auschwitz, ’til now. And again, she is shaving my hair.” We were full of lice and a mess. She said, like a baby, she said, “Baby, don’t cry. We have to do that.” So, I don’t have any choice. She said, “You have a lots of lice and we have to clean you up before we putting you in bed.” So, she sprayed some powder on me and I was in this hospital. They put, and later on was a Jewish, a Russian Jewish doctor. They put all the Jews in one room – men, women – all in one room.
YOUNG: Um-hmm.
PINKUS: And I was there for weeks – I don’t know. I didn’t know nothing. One time I woke up and I saw my sister in the dream, but to me this seems to be so natural that this happened to this particularly day. She was giving me eggs – two eggs. She gave me and pulled back – she giving me and pulled back her hand. I said, “Kayla, you won’t give me? It’s okay if not, just don’t tease me. I’m hungry. Give me this egg. Don’t tease me anymore.” The rest of the people, when I wake up, they was telling me what I was talking and I remembered what I was talking about. And this was a dream and I thought I woke up. Took maybe a half a day later, I woke up and I was looking around. I still thought I am with those Germans. The fear is still, it’s fresh and it’s unbelievable. And I asked the bed next to me, was a woman, and I said, “Can you tell me what’s goin’ on here. What is here?” She said, “You don’t even know what’s goin’ on here?” I said, “No.” “This is a hospital. We are all Jewish people here.” And those people are better already. They eat and they were alert. They even start walking around. And she told me all about this the doctor is a Jew. And then I saw men. And I said, “We are with the men here too? It’s not enough the Germans took away our pride and now we are here. God knows, maybe I was uncovered or what.” She said, “Child, it’s not the way as you say. He is taking good care of us and it’s a wartime. It’s not pride now here. We have to live. We have to survive. Never mind about the pride.” She was very smart. She was a little bit older than I was. Maybe she made more sense than I did.
And after this when little by little and after this typhus when you start getting better, you are very hungry. It’s no way that you can be full, you have enough something. And you are tired and hungry, tired and hungry. And this took, maybe about a couple of weeks and I start walking around to wash myself. And we helped each other. I washed the other one, the other one washed me. In a dish with water with soap. We don’t have any washrooms there or what. And one day the doctor came in and he said, “Listen girls, in a way it’s bad news, in a way it’s good news. You have to leave the hospital.” To us leave the hospital was like – what will we do? Where are we going now? In a way we are sick. We start all crying. He said, “I’m sorry, I don’t have any other choice. This hospital is a release. We have to give up the building.” This was – this hospital was not a hospital. Was for the military, is like up here in Missouri – the…
YOUNG: A barrack?
PINKUS: Yes – no was not a barrack, was a house, but was for military, this house. We have to move, he said, “You have to leave.” So we left – eight girls, we left. We asked instructions where to go to the train, so people showed us but farther until the train we couldn’t walk anymore and this was in March. In Poland March is very cold. Was a rainy day, foggy, cold. So we came to those particular train station, looking at this train with thousands and thousands of people around, on the roof, inside, people are holding from outside and inside is no way. So, we thought we will lay down. We couldn’t even – was coffee free. They was given us coffee free. Nobody could even reach the coffee, stay in the line and take some coffee. So we, all eight of us, we lay down on one pile this we should keep warmer and we are laying like this on the concrete. We were used already to it. We could sleep on the concrete. And each of us had a pot – was a good pillow to put under the head. And we are laying like this and came a man and say in Polish language, “Girls, what are you doin’ here?” I raised my hand. The other girls were not from Poland, they were from Czechoslovakia, from Yugoslavia, from all over but not from Poland. And it was very hard. They understood some words but was very hard to talk Polish. So I told him what’s the reason we are laying here. I said, “Can’t you see, we just left the hospital. We are after the typhus, disease. We are so hungry. We are cold. We are weak. We couldn’t – we want to go to Lodz and it’s impossible for us – how?” He said, “Just sit down. Don’t lay. Just sit down. Don’t lay on the concrete – you will get sick.” Just an angel from the sky, God just send him. ’Til this day, I couldn’t realize that this was a man. So we stand up as much as we could and this man go over there to this – and he said, “Girls, come with me.” We went with him and we were staying four and four. Was not much place, was lots of people around. And he had a big speech in Polish. He was a husky, tall man and he said, “People, ladies and gentlemen, I have an announcement to make and listen, listen…everybody…and listen good. You see here those eight girls? They are sick. They have typhus and if you want to rescue your life, just move. They are goin’ in the train and this is very contagious. Whoever will stay next to them will get sick.” And everybody moved away (CHUCKLES) and we had the place to go in the, in the train, inside. Isn’t that a miracle? He was goin’ with us to Lodz. We came on the station at Lodz. Was a beautiful station there, that train station. To us it was everything like we would come from the wilderness, from a different planet. We saw a clock. “Girls, we have a clock here.” A woman had lipstick. “She has a lipstick, she wears a purse. Oh, it’s a baby. She has a baby. There are some men around here.” We were wild. We didn’t know – like we were out of touch from the reality, like we would be living not in this world anymore.
PINKUS: And the man again. He said, “Sit down with benches, sit down.” He brought us a soup. The soup was sort of – I still can feel the taste of it. And he brought us white bread. A lots of slices of bread. And we could eat as much as we wanted. And he had a speech for us, “And now, girls, you have to be on your own.” He gave us, everyone, five zloty. I said, “No, you did so much for us, you rescued our life. We would be there dying on those concrete. We don’t have any choice to come in in the train and now money you are giving us? It’s too much.” He said, “Listen, here is a normal life already. You don’t have here anything for free. You will go with a streetcar…”
YOUNG: Trolley?
PINKUS: Yeah. “…you have to pay. Its not much here, five zloty,” he said. “Five zloty is not much.” So he gave us all. So I took an address, his. I said, “From where are you?” He said, “From Krakow,” and he gave me his address, and I lost this. I said, “When I will straighten out myself and I will have money, I will send you back.” And I lost those particular address, and this was so important to me. And he walked us to the streetcar. He talked to the driver, “Let them out, was there like, the city hall to register who you are and where you come.” It’s called a Gemeine. We came, and he said, “Over there is a Gemeine and let them out by this building.” “They come from there and here and there,” they explained to this driver everything. He was very cooperative, very nice and we came to this place. We registered, each one from where we are and the names and everything. And in the meantime they gave us a coupon. It’s called a talon – a coupon for food. We go with this coupon – we went to a store, we got some food – bread, jelly, some brown sugar – not much – just to keep alive. (LAUGHTER) And we are already in Lodz now. Those rest of the girls, they went there too and they decided they will try to go back to the train station and go to their home places from wherever they come.
YOUNG: Uh-hmm.
PINKUS: And I left there. So I decided I will go where we used to live in ghetto in Lodz. Everything was destroyed when I came over there, burned. When they took out all – when the ghetto was empty, no more people – they burned the whole ghetto. And there was in this particularly little house was so many memories, and I was looking in the yard. We took out those rocks and made a garden, plant some vegetables to eat, whatever we could – cabbage, carrots, broccoli, whatever we planted there – beans – to have something to eat. This was still, those garden was still in and I could see when my husband was digging those rocks and he was sweating and I was helping and here and there, and those steps what lead us in the house were still not burned because it was cement. I was sitting on this little steps and this for me was the third world war to go through. I was crying and I thought to myself, “Where should I go now, to whom I belong now?” I start screaming, screaming to God, “Why I’m alive?” I was in so many dangerous places, couldn’t I die with the rest of the people, not to go through now what I am goin’ through. And I walked and I walked and I came back to this particularly place like the city hall and I was looking around. Like here’s a window what you already think and here’s a wall. Everybody who came was signing their name. And I was looking around. I signed my name too. Maybe somebody from my relatives will come and will see my name from where I come.
YOUNG: So this was a place where all the refugees were gathering?
PINKUS: Yes, yes, yes. They are all survivors come to this place in Lodz. So I wrote down this name before in form, they call me Anja Lipshitz, maiden name is Pelta. I am from Wielun, whoever comes. And still, address unknown. I still live, I was on the steps. I live on the steps (LAUGHTER) and whoever comes, I looked at them, “Maybe it’s my brother, maybe it’s my cousin, and maybe it’s my husband.” Everybody I was looking in the faces and start questioning – no success – nothing. Finally, a few days later – everyday I was reading. Everyday was more signatures on this wall. I start searching, reading those. I found two sisters what I was with them in Stutthof, in this krankenstube.
YOUNG: Uh-huh.
PINKUS: This one sister was sick. She lost from her legs the toes. And they had an address, and I went there, and from then on I was living with them. And we start selling some – we had to make something, a dollar, to live on it and the younger sister was very business-like.
YOUNG: Uh-hmm.
PINKUS: I said, “What to do, we need some money.” She said, “We start selling some pastry – bread, rolls, sweet rolls.” So we were carrying those to the houses, second floor, third floor, what was very, very hard work to get out from bed about three – four o’clock in the morning, go to the bakery, buy some stuff and carry in the houses. But we did it and in the meantime, we did this for a long, long time, I bought myself a dress, a pair of shoes now to walk in. I was still walking in those concentration shoes and the coat I had with the cross, the Red Cross, on the back, a black coat and a red cross on the back. I bought myself from this used things. Was a lots of used things in those towns. And one time I’m walking in the street and I met four sisters. With one I worked in ghetto Lodz and with their mother I worked with them in this factory. And we were hugging, kissing and crying each other and I ask them, “Where are you, where do you live?” They had some place just temporarily and I told them where I lived. We had a big place. We had about five rooms. So, I told them to come up there. They could cook some meals and if not they can live there, but really the apartment belonged to those two sisters, not to me. But I intervene – maybe they will let them – but, they just cook their meals there. But, anyway, they – one sister, the oldest from those four sisters, she said, “I have a good man for you. Maybe you ought to marry.” I said, “You are out of your mind. I’m still searching for my husband.” And this time, when I came home, I told you I met my sister-in-law, my ex-sister-in-law, my first husband’s brother’s wife in the concentration camp. She was giving me coffee.
YOUNG: Yeah.
PINKUS: And this time she already worked in Lodz in a delicatessen place. And she didn’t told me this. She knew this, my husband is dead. At night I met both of them. My sister-in-law had a sister. They kept the secret from me and those, her sister, she said – the sister’s name was Etta and my sister-in-law’s name was – Lotta was the sister’s name, Etta was the sister-in-law’s name. And Lotta say to Etta, she said, “Etta, it’s enough, we have to tell her the truth. Why she has to sit there day and night and look and search for him. He is not alive anymore.” This was their brother and Etta’s husband and my husband. Those three went together to death. From then on I was hysterical. In a way…
YOUNG: Why did they keep it a secret so long?
PINKUS: This what I was angry at them. I said, “I was torturing myself, I was sitting there day and night and looking and looking for what, and you knew that. But it happened. I – we keep – and then I’m going out to those four sisters. They said, “We have a man and you would remarry, you are young.” I said, “How can you talk about this, how can I start from beginning.” I felt I am an old lady. I felt I am hundred years old. I said to them, “Marry now at my age?” They said, “What do you mean in your age? We are older than you are.” I was this time 29 years old. I considered myself I am very old. But, anyway she said, “Why don’t we go” – they were not exactly from Lodz, they were from Piotrokov, was 40 kilometer away from Lodz. And they said, two sisters, they said, “We are going for the weekend to Piotrokov, come with us.” I said, “Okay, why not, what do I have to lose?” And I, over there, I met my husband – I met my husband. I thought I have the picture of here. And my husband now, Wolf Pinkus. He also lost his wife and three children in the gas chambers. And the one from those sisters what she was with us, she was engaged to my brother-in-law.
YOUNG: Uh-hmm.
PINKUS: This is one from the four sisters. Now she is my sister-in-law.
YOUNG: Yes, uh-hmm.
PINKUS: This is my husband’s brother. This is my husband. They are brothers.
YOUNG: I see. So she introduced…

Tape 3 - Side 1

YOUNG: This is Evelyn Young recording for the Oral History Project, June 24, 1986, with Hana Pinkus.
Do you want to start from where we left off?
PINKUS: I’m liberated now, yes?
YOUNG: Yeah. We were finishing when you went back to Lodz and how you met your second husband.
PINKUS: Yes. I think we got when I already made with those to go to for a weekend to Piotrokov.
YOUNG: Um-hmm.
PINKUS: So we finished here?
YOUNG: Yeah. That’s where we finished.
PINKUS: (SIGHS) So, I went with those two sisters, they used to be my friends, to Piotrokov. This was 40 kilometer from Lodz. This was 1945. This was the end of October, I think. And there I met my husband, Wolf Pinkus. And he had a brother of his and with those two sisters what I went there, one was engaged to his brother and the wedding was set already. And I met my husband and we were talking. We were walking a little bit. And right away he said, “Maybe we should get married. You are alone. I don’t have nobody. Let’s get married.” So I said, “Okay.” To me was no different because being all alone like a dog in the street. So, okay, I accepted. This was the proposal. (LAUGHTER) And this was a week from meeting ’til we got married was one week.
YOUNG: One week, that’s a very short time.
PINKUS: Just one week. We got married together. Both weddings were on the same night. This was in September, a day after Yom Kippur. I don’t even remember the date but we made a date, September 15. (SIGHS) And worked out this, we were happy living very poorly, but under this conditions we didn’t knew any better. People were still coming and going. People came from Russia back. People came still from concentration camp. Was their organization made for those people, for the comers from the concentration camps and from Russia. Was organization there and we met. Almost everyday we’re going and my husband was well-known in this town and everybody came. We used to live in the front and it was a store, like a milk and butter products was sold there, dairy products. Was a concrete floor, the ceiling was still down from those bombing and everything and we were living in this with other families, not alone – with other families. And whoever came was welcome in our house. (LAUGHTER) Was like – no, nobody has no place to go, and my husband was this type. “You don’t have to know where to go, why don’t you stay here.” So where there was a little bit floor, a place on the floor, was taken ’til somebody found a place to stay a day or two. Was not so comfortable in my house. (SIGHS) And I think I left out something. I left out before I met my husband, but I think I will let this go.
YOUNG: No, that’s okay. Whatever you want to go back to, it’s all right.
PINKUS: I think I left out this when I came back to Lodz. I’m going back right after the liberation when I arrived to Lodz.
YOUNG: Uh-hmm.
PINKUS: And I go there where we used to live and I just found those burned houses, the broken pieces what this was there – bricks and so forth. I was sitting on those steps, those steps walked in in my apartment. And I closed my eyes and I talked to God and I said, “Why I’m still alive. I could die. Who am I? I don’t have now nobody. I don’t even know who I am, to whom I belong. I don’t know nobody even acquainted what I used to know. Everybody, whatever I see, everybody is strangers.” And this minute I just pray to God to die. I was sitting and crying and crying and later on I opened my eyes and I thought to myself – I looked around – still birds were flying around. Trees was not around and whatever left, those trees was burned from those fires. And I looked, I looked up to the sky and I said, “God, don’t punish me why I’m talking like this. Could be worse. I could survive and be helpless.” And I’m looking around – is still a nice world. Maybe I’ll survive. It’s like I went through a nightmare. And maybe still I will meet somebody and maybe I will still make a living and be alive and be not happy, but be alive more or less, exist on this world. And the most what I was worried about is I will not have any children. I want desperately to have a child, to have somebody I should know it belongs to me. Just to have a feeling. Nobody belongs to me, nobody is mine and I am nobody’s is a horrible feeling. And now I’m goin’ back to my husband what I met and when he said, “Let’s get married. Is going to be two weddings. You don’t have nobody. I don’t have nobody. Let’s get married.” I said, “Okay.” What do I have to lose? So, we got married. We lived in those Piotrokov. This was his hometown and we were there and so I got pregnant. With the first I had a miscarriage and with my son, Max, a few months later I got pregnant with Max. And in there, in Piotrokov was impossible to stay. It was even worse than at the Nazis. The Polish people, when they found out is a Jew, they killed.
YOUNG: So there were pogroms after the liberation…
PINKUS: Yes, yes, like pogroms. They attacked Jewish houses, wherever Jews were. They killed. They slaughtered like animals. I was terribly afraid. I was pregnant with my son. We were sitting locked up with a gun under the pillow. Summertime, was five o’clock is still daytime, the sun is shining and we were locked already in the house, we were afraid to – even to look at the outside where the sun is shining, this we shouldn’t be killed. Survive a concentration camp and still be alive and start from beginning and now to get slaughtered from those enemies, so we start talking to leave. We can’t stay here anymore. So we left and lots of my husband’s relatives, his sister came back from Russia and a brother and some cousins, an acquaintance, everything his. I don’t have nobody. No sign from my side. And still I don’t have nobody.
YOUNG: Did you try to search for relatives through the Red Cross or…?
PINKUS: I tried, I tried and no, was no answer. They went with us. We left that night. We go to the train station with fear. We were very afraid. As a matter of fact, one Pole, a friend of my husband’s, he took us to the train station. We walked. He helped us in case they will attack us. It was a group maybe from 20 people what they went with us.
YOUNG: Um-hmm.
PINKUS: And when we came in the train station, let’s say we came 12 o’clock midnight. The train should leave about two hours later. We were afraid. In the meantime we were sitting one here, one there. Shouldn’t be visible and covered up the faces.
YOUNG: Um-hmm.
PINKUS: ’Til the train came and we left. We left Piotrokov and we came to Klatz. Was still Poland but Klatz. This is a city close to the Czechoslovakian border. We were staying there a few days and ’til we got some people what they took us over the border. We paid for it. So we came and before was a whole speech made before us is, “We don’t understand German, we don’t understand Jewish, we are Greeks, we are nobody from the whole world. We are some people.” We had to give away whatever document we had. I had some documents from when they released me from hospital. They gave me the name and what disease I went through, what concentration I was and here and there. Would be good for me to show now or years ago for the German, what the Germans was paying. I still am not getting anything from Germany. A lots of people are getting pensions from Germany. We didn’t get anything. We have to give this – everything away. I shouldn’t, but I did make a mistake and we came – in a few days later we came to Czechoslovakia. From Czechoslovakia so we were happy. We got rid of Poland. Another Hitlerland was there for the Jewish people and from there we don’t have any choice. We have to go wherever was a way to let us off the train. So we end up in Austria. Was there a D.P. camp. This was from the United States army. And I was still pregnant. We came there to Austria and our place was Steyer.
YOUNG: Steyer?
PINKUS: Steyer. And we (SIGHS) we had some – they gave us a piece of to live. It was like a big building, like a factor building, a big factor building with windows. The whole walls were windows. Windows were big like those. Very small those piece, the windows, but…
YOUNG: Small panes?
PINKUS: The glasses, the glasses what divided very small with the glass but the whole walls all around were windows and was holes because was after those bombings. Was empty so they put us in there. Came over there lots of people. They don’t have any place. And in the meantime, so they gave us a room and in this room was nine people living, and in the meantime my – I was born – my son came and they took me away. My husband ran to the clinic. I had labor, I had pain and I didn’t even knew this I’m in pain. I thought maybe I eat something or what. So they came right away with an ambulance and they take me away all the way. I didn’t even knew where I am or what. They didn’t let go my husband with or my sister-in-law – my sister-in-law used to live with us. She had a little boy. He was nine months old. And I was there in this hospital. So, after – the delivery was very hard. I was in labor a day and a half – a night and a day and a half.
PINKUS: And all by myself in a room – a concrete floor. One bed was in the room. Nobody was with me. Once in a great while came in a nurse looking to me. I scream my head off but this passed. I had my son, this was October 24. Was cold this time. Was already snow and they put me in a room with – I think was six people. I was the seventh in the room. It was – they didn’t knew in the beginning that I am Jewish. They talked between themselves. They talked German. In Austria is a little bit different language than in German, but I understood them. And they talked about Jewish people and I didn’t like it the way they talked about us. And I was afraid to say that I’m Jewish. But, I didn’t made any big conversations with them. I was in pain. The care was very, very little, was not so much care taken of those people and I didn’t know how to ask and I was still afraid. I was – for everything I was afraid. I was still under this fear from the, from those Hitlers from this everything I was still under those fear. But one time I took courage and I asked the doctor that he should keep me in this hospital a week more because I don’t have where to go. In this place where we lived was impossible to be with the baby. Was cold. It’s winter; already there was winter. The windows are open, no heat. I told him whole – my situation, how I lived, so he gave me permission. He let me be in the hospital, so I am in the hospital over two weeks because I don’t have no place to go.
But sooner or later I had to go home. They couldn’t hold me forever. So my husband found us an iron oven. Maybe you see sometimes on television? A round one. He put this in the middle. The room was a huge big room and in the middle of the room he put those oven and pipes. He put them in a window. Those pipes was a little bit warmer but was a storm, was a wind and just where those pipe were came the wind and blow back those smoke and the whole smoke came right in the room thick, and I start choking and I was afraid the baby – this will kill the baby. I ran out to the hall. Next day I got very sick. Over there the temperature was 40. Here is like 104 fever, temperature. The baby got sick. They took us in the clinic there, in Steyer, not to send away but in Steyer was a clinic. They took us in the clinic. I was there for a day – no for two days I was there. And in the meantime my husband found in a barrack, a place. So this time was snowing. When was raining the whole water came in inside. Was just place for two beds and an oven like was there was there already, an oven like this. Was bad ducts and the mice was a lot there, but we don’t have any choice. We had to take this. And we were living under this conditions, back and forth and back and forth. We changed a few times the places to live ’til we got in touch with some people to join an organization from the Zionist. Here the Tzionist we call this the Tzionist here. They say the Zionist.
YOUNG: Um-hmm.
PINKUS: We joined this organization and through this organization we came to Germany. This was 1947, and my son was born 1946 – October 24, 1946. And we came to German in 1947. This was like the end of March, something like this. My son was nine months old when we came to Germany. In compare we used to live there, in German was like to being in heaven. First of all, we had the mark; we could buy something to eat. We arrived – this place was named Bad Reichenau and this was a very beautiful place.
YOUNG: Was it a D.P. camp or was…?
PINKUS: No, this, we had just arrived there. This was the border, the border from Austria.
YOUNG: Um-hmm.
PINKUS: We left Austria from Salzheim. Salzheim is Austria. From this town we left and we arrive to Bad Reichenau. Bad Reichenau is already German, a beautiful city, a beauty. In the morning – this we arrived at night. Was still cold, was snow but very pleasant. They put us in nice places in barracks too but was nice, neat. We had those bedrooms there and we could take a shower, not a bath, just a shower we could take. Was heaven, was heaven. First of all, we all took showers. We didn’t know how to act. And in the morning my husband go out from bed very early. He saw a new world. He came back and he said, and my sister-in-law, my husband’s brother – my husband’s sister was with us. And she had a little boy too. He was a year and a half already. And he came back in the house and he said, “You – get dressed fast and come out and you will see – it’s beautiful outside. It’s a market. And you can buy everything. You can buy clothes and you can buy food.” Right away when, before he came in, he bought a big herring and a huge big bread, a round bread like in Poland was.
YOUNG: Um-hmm.
PINKUS: We looked at him and we didn’t saw this for years, and we got dressed and we go out. First of all, we bought some shoes for the kids, for my baby and she bought for her, and the kids couldn’t start walking because we don’t have any shoes. In Austria there, we couldn’t buy anything. Everything was on cart, on carton. They say, “Haben zie carton.” Like if you had a coupon.
YOUNG: Ration – it was all rationed?
PINKUS: No, no. Was, this was Austria’s German. Is Austria but they talk German. But was still after the war wasn’t still a normal life. Was whoever had the coupons, the German people. The Austrian, they had coupons and like here they had like here, let’s say, food stamps.
YOUNG: Um-hmm.
PINKUS: Something like this you can buy if you had the food stamps. Or like coupons – we call this talons, they had talons. “Haben zie talons?” “No,” we don’t have this. We wasn’t any citizens there. And here in German we can buy whatever. Just, if we had the money we could buy everything what we want. So, we bought some clothes for the kids and clothes for us. We don’t have anything. And we came to Felderfink.
YOUNG: Felderfink?
PINKUS: Felderfink. From Bad Reichenau they took us on a train and they took us to Felderfink. My husband had a cousin in Felderfink and right away he brought us some food. He brought us a salami, a big salami. God, we didn’t saw for years a salami like this big. He was involved with some butcher – meats. He already was in business there. And we found a place to live. In the first room we used to live in the second room. Each room was occupied. You couldn’t have an apartment. Each room was occupied. They walked through our room. So we were there ’til 1949, ’til we could come here to the United States. We registered – my husband was going almost everyday to Munich, goin’ there with the train and start bothering them and so finally our next came and we became, we got a visa and this was 1949. We arrived to St. Louis. Wasn’t so quick as I said. As I am saying was a lot of difficulties but I didn’t want to in those details again. So, we arrived here to St. Louis.
YOUNG: Did you have relatives here or you were…?
PINKUS: Nobody. Through the Jewish Family Service. And from the Jewish Family Service somebody waited in the Union Station was Esther Wolf. She was the social worker, ours. We arrived to New York, as they call Ellis Island.
YOUNG: Um-hmm.
PINKUS: We arrived to New York and from New York they took care of us. They gave us to eat. Was very hard to understand. If somebody was talking Yiddish, it was very broken. We could hardly understand what I’m talking. In the meantime, my son got sick, he got the diarrhea and we had to wait more than a day ’til and we were still on the train station waiting for a train what comes, what goes to St. Louis. And the train arrived. They gave us 20 dollars to buy food ’til we come to St. Louis, to the place where we belong. So, I spent on the train two dollars for my son. I bought some milk and some… And for us, we didn’t bought anything because we don’t have any money. And those 20 dollars was so much money, we still were counting how much in German we could get. A mark was – a dollar was like 10 or a hundred marks in German. So, in compared the German mark took a long time ’til we…

Tape 3 - Side 2

PINKUS: When we arrived in the Union Station was waiting for us on the Jewish Family Service those Esther Wolf. And in this time we arrived 1949, October 5, 1949. And this time was very hard to get an apartment. I don’t know what happened but was very hard. So she told us that she will place us with another family in North St. Louis there. We didn’t know any better. For us was the best, the best place. She gave us this – was there a lady with a daughter living and she gave us two rooms. We had a separate room and for my son. My son never had a separate room. He always was sleeping with us. We don’t have any place and this was. And I couldn’t – Max has a room for himself – this couldn’t appeal to my mind. How can he have a room for himself? (LAUGHTER) We are living already in luxury. So and she said, “Tomorrow come to the Jewish Family Service.” The Jewish Family Service was this time located on Easton, someplace there, in the city.
YOUNG: Uh-hmm.
PINKUS: So my husband went there and those lady from the house what we lived with them, she talked very good Yiddish and we talked with her and immediately we felt – I, like she belongs to me, like she is my mother, like she is my everything. And my son start calling her “Aunt.” Aunt Goodman. The last name was Goodman. She said he called her Aunt Goodman. He was talking German this time. And he told her that we have to go, he had others, here and there, and she went with him to show what kind busses, he had to take three busses to come over there. And we were living with them a few months and then my husband was going and coming. This was before – in the middle Sukkos. And he ask where is the shul where we can go and pray a little bit or what. We were very hungry for it. We don’t have there. So somebody took my husband and this was some place around there – oh, well I forgot this where this was there. Was a shul and he met some people and asked he for a place to live. Where we were there and North St. Louis was not a Jewish neighborhood. Was Pole there, was German people, was Gentile people. We couldn’t talk. Well, if I met somebody, a Polish one, okay I talked; or a German one, we talked, but we were anxious to live with Jewish people. So, he met somebody there and he was – he knew he was a butcher and he knew some people what they are looking for somebody. They were newcomers too. They came six months before us. They are looking for somebody to live with them because it’s hard for them to pay the rent. So, we moved in. We moved in with this family. We got very acquainted; we became very close friends with them.
And we were living with them maybe almost a year, ’til we found an apartment on Page and Euclid and there we had those apartment and we fix it up and made a palace. The Queen of England wasn’t in a better place, in a nicer place than I had. (LAUGHTER) I had a whole apartment for myself, the whole house for myself, the kitchen for myself and the bathroom. Everything was mine. The furniture was mine. I had an icebox. The icebox was not big, but was mine, new! Immediately I start writing letters whoever I had somebody. As soon as I came to this country, I’m rich. I have an apartment, I have beautiful furnitures. Everything was old and with bugs, but we cleaned this up, we made this nice and to me was this a treasure. This was the most expensive, the most beautiful things what I ever had in my life. Can you imagine this? No. If somebody came in, was really nice. I bought some drapes and flowers and this and some carpets in a cheap way, but looked good. To me was the most, most beautiful place what I ever had in my life.
YOUNG: Because it was yours.
PINKUS: Because it’s mine after this whole deal. And life became very precious for me. So my son was already three years old when we came over here and I was desperate to have another child. So, in 1951 my daughter was born. On August 21, 1951, my daughter was born. And we struggled to make a dollar, without a language, without a profession. The Jewish Family Service locate my husband downtown in a shoe factory. He made 75 cents an hour and he – they didn’t give him a whole 40 hours to work, just 20 hours, 15 hours, whatever they – was a lots of people there. So they could choose. But my husband, he was looking around. He did everything. If somebody wants to clean up a basement too – whoever, whatever somebody asked him to do, he said he can do, or paint. Then he asked how to paint, how to do because we were anxious to make a dollar. And in the meantime, whatever I could, I was watching some people, sick people, I took care. I took care of the mental cases and make a few dollars. My daughter she was still a baby. I took her with. I don’t have, I couldn’t afford to give her in the school, in the nursery school or what.
YOUNG: Um-hmm.
PINKUS: And, as much as we could, we made a living in the poor way but nice. We were happy, looking forward. The whole world is in front of us and we can live. The country’s special. We are in a country. We felt free. This gave us so much hope, (PAUSE) that we can live in a free country and I am not afraid to go in a restaurant. Like, I was sitting in a restaurant in Austria. Two men came and they said, “Du verfluchte Jude bist du noch alive.” “Are you still alive?” Jude is a Jew.
YOUNG: Uh-hmm.
PINKUS: “You Jew, are you still alive?” So, we got scared, we ran away from them. And here, where we used to live there on Page, on Kingshighway was an ice cream parlor. We go to there and sit down. I was not afraid to sit and eat an ice cream or to laugh or look everybody in the face. And not there – I bent down my head, I was afraid somebody can see me. You know, they read from our faces we are Jewish. And we were 10 years in this country and one day my husband came home. We already moved from Page. With a partner we bought a six family house on Limit, in Delmar Loop.
YOUNG: Uh-hmm.
PINKUS: It’s University City. We bought a six family house with those partners. We lived there and my husband, he met some people, a real estate man and he gave him some work, some carpenter jobs he made, painting, whatever he could, he did. And then he went off his own. I put an ad in paper and people are calling for jobs. I took the calls. He was working, I took the calls and then he – one was to paint an apartment, one was to decorate, and the real estate sometimes give him jobs after a fire, a house to fix up. And he had workers and we made a nice living this time already. And in the meantime, one day he came home from work. I looked through the window and I saw he is parking. Usually when he came from work, I made that he should come through the back because he was always so dirty when he came home and I didn’t want him to come through the front. I had put new carpets and this and this. And when he came in in the kitchen, he looked like drunk. From the car was a one way street on Limit and I was looking. He parked – should be parked – no, straight and perfect. He was looking around the car, everything. From the car, walking to the house and this time he got a slight stroke.
PINKUS: And this time I didn’t knew this was a stroke. And I made a special supper. I don’t know. I had some leftovers meat and this and this and I made some kreplach, a special supper I made. He walked in in the house. He could hardly talk. He mumbled. I thought he is drunk, but was not his nature to go to get drunk. I didn’t knew him this way. I said, “Wolf, what happened? What happened to you?” He couldn’t talk, he mumbled. I didn’t understood. So I took him and I helped him to sit down to the table and I gave him to eat. He eat like this. He didn’t even knew whether he is eating or not. He was very dirty. I was by myself at home. The children were still in school. They used to go to the Hebrew Academy. Here on Warson is a Hebrew school. They went here. I start screaming. A neighbor walked in, my neighbor, my partner. She walked in. She helped me to take him in in the living room, to put him on the couch and he would start talking nonsense and this scared me to death. And from this day on, he was unable to work. From this particularly day, his whole personality was changed. He had high blood pressure. He got this from the concentration camps. Before we left German, they checked him up and they found he has high blood pressure. High blood pressure is not a disease what hurts. They gave him pills here and he was not this kind to take medications. He said, “I feel good, I am healthy. Why should I stuff myself with pills?” He took pills and gave away somebody else what they needed. And from then on, he stopped working. I didn’t know what to do. Is still the kids are young. We need to make a living, to educate the children. What to do? (SIGHS) Maybe after a year’s struggling, I bought a grocery store on Goodfellow and Rich. I had those store. Somehow I made a living, very hard work, but those holdups, those stealings and those fear again was impossible to take. How many times you can take their coming in like customers and all of a sudden they are taking out guns and pointing to you. I saw again those concentration camps, the Gestapo. As they showed the guns, immediately I didn’t saw them, I saw the concentration camps for my eyes. But, I was still a few years with those store. I don’t have any choice. But one day I was talking to somebody and I said, “I would sell this store because it’s too hard.” And about this time my son starts the first year college. He used to go to school of, College of Pharmacy off Euclid…
YOUNG: Uh-hmm.
PINKUS: Next to Barnes Hospital there. Whenever he had come one hour, let’s say every two hours he came from there to help me out. I had somebody to help but I need somebody, you know, a close one to watch by the cashiers, here and there. So I rested a little bit. But, I would fight and work but those holdups. So, I had to quit. So I sold to this particularly man what I was talking, “I would like to sell the store.” He said, “How much do you want?” I told him the price and he start bargaining with me and I gave away the store. I gave away the store. This was 1965. I gave away the store. What to do now? So, in this time I didn’t knew this disability. The doctor told me that we can collect disability for my husband and I thought this disability is like welfare. I said, “No.” Those years what I was from the war ’til I came to the United States and even in the States, I had to have help from the Jewish Family Service and I am not going back to welfare again for help. I’m not goin’ to do it. So I understand this, this is welfare, what did I said before?
YOUNG: Disability?
PINKUS: Disability is like welfare. But later on, maybe a year or more, I start talking with people and they said – some got sick and this and this, and they said, “He collects.” I said, “How you live?” “He collects disability.” I said, “Isn’t that like welfare?” They said, “No, it’s like Social Security.” So I start talking to my doctor, to my husband’s doctor. He said, “I told you. You don’t want to listen.” And I start collecting for him and the children were still young and whatever I could I made some money. I went to people and whatever I could. I babysit, I was by sick people. Somebody was in an accident, I was there – whatever I could I made a few dollars too. And my husband was sick 20 years, struggling 20 bitter years, but still was better than being alone. In the meantime my son finished college. He’s a pharmacist and one year my daughter got married, my son got married. My daughter got married – she was 18 years old. My son just finished college. He wasn’t even 23 years old – he got married. And we left ourselves – later on we sold those buildings on Limit and we bought a two family house on Tulane, University City. Friend told me this now lives there some people downstairs live there three women. It’s three bedrooms there. You know what I’m talking about?
PINKUS: It’s answer to be in a nursing home.
YOUNG: Oh, the shared living, the ParkPlace? Oh.
PINKUS: Yes. This day maid, she is going there to somebody. Well, accidentally I found this out from her. So downstairs is those women living, share – people – how this called?
YOUNG: Shared living.
PINKUS: Shared living. And upstairs lives the owner. So we bought those house and upstairs was a tenant. We lived. We were – we managed. We didn’t turn – nobody gave us anything. And we lived, we were glad the way it works out. Nobody takes care, nobody help us, nobody is giving us and we can help ourselves and the kids got married and they have children. We had a little naches, and my husband was sick, in and out from hospitals and in and out from hospitals. In the meantime I had some operations too. And next month, in July 7, is going to be five years that my husband died. He died in 1981. And (SIGHS) it is a struggle again to be alone and to live a lonely life. Nobody can understand before he is in these shoes. It’s hard to describe. People can say, “You can do this, you can do this.” Okay, you can do everything, but still you open the door. Nobody waits for you. You are not needed. It’s very unpleasant, very hard. If you are not needed, it’s the hardest thing in your life. And you never know how good it is to be needed. If somebody’s waiting for you, you have an obligation to go home. “Oh, I have to make supper. My husband, my children are waiting. They are coming from school or they are coming from work.” And now is no obligation, nobody waits for you. You go, you do, but this inside is something missing. You don’t have the satisfaction. I was really living with a man – he was sick – very little use of it, his personality was changed everything. He was not the same person what I married, but still I had somebody to share.
YOUNG: Yeah.
PINKUS: And I think this is my life’s story. (LAUGHTER)
YOUNG: Well, you’ve told a lot and I think that’s…
PINKUS: I don’t know if it makes sense or not, but I did the best what I can.
YOUNG: Well, I think you’ve done very well. Let me stop the tape.

Listen to Hana's Story