A Letter to My Mother

By Sheindel Sussman

Mama, I have so very much to write to you.  First, I want to start in Auschwitz when we were separated.  They took us to a bath house, Mama, we had to get undressed naked, and they shaved our hair and took away our clothing.  Even my shoes they took away and they gave me a pair of those Dutch wooden shoes.  I was hardly able to walk in them and they were hurting my feet.  They gave us some shmattes to wear.  We all looked horrible.  We girls were laughing and crying; we couldn’t recognize each other.  Then they took us to barrack no. 13.  There were those wooden bridges.  We were able to sleep only on our sides.  We could not turn over, and we had to lie like sardines.  Early morning we got some black coffee for breakfast, and soup for lunch.  Sometimes the soup had little stones in it and I couldn’t eat them.  For supper we got a piece of bread with some margarine.  Mama, we were so hungry all the time.  When we girls sat together we were always talking about food. We would reminisce about the good times when we were home and had a lot of food.  Once, under my head when I was sleeping somebody stole my bread. Oy Mama, I was starving that day.  Then, every day there were those selections – I never tried to hide from them. I had a feeling that I would survive.

 

     I met girls there and we became good friends; even more than friends, we were like sisters.  We cared for each other.  They were from Satmar in Rumania, very nice girls.  When I saw women walking behind the fence, I was looking for you.  Oy Mama, I missed you so so much!  We were in Auschwitz for five months.  In the end of October we went to a little town called Hornerburg.  It was near Hamburg. There was an ammunition factory there and Mama I had to work making ammunition for the Germans! They gave us better to eat and everyone had their own bed so all around it was better than being in Auschwitz.  We were there until the end of the winter.  Then they took us to a different camp in Zacweidel.  There the accommodations were not so good.  We weren’t working there,only the girls who were there before were working in a sugar factory.  Mama you know that I like sweets, so one day I gave away my portion of bread for some sweet sugar beets.  Oy Mama, did I get sick from it.  My friends helped me; they took me outside where there was a faucet and they washed me. They also took all their potatoes that they had in their soup and gave to me.

      One Shabbos, I went outside, the weather was beautiful.  Suddenly, I saw the Nazis יִמַּח שְׁמוֹ dressing up in civilian clothes and running.  It was April 14, 1945.  Soon, a big American tank arrived in front of our camp gate.  Mama, two soldiers opened up the gate and we were FREE FREE!!  Unbelievable!
 
     We all ran outside towards the town.  The soldiers opened up all kinds of stores for us and we were able to take whatever we liked.  I went into a textile store and took two or three rolls of beautiful material for clothing. I put everything into a blanket and that’s how I schlepped it home.  One of my friends brought home food.  The other brought a bicycle which was stolen the next day.  After two months my friends went home to Romania.
 
     Just then, I met a lady about your age.  We became friends, and even more than friends she was like a mother to me.  Her name was Berta neni.  She was also from Subotica, but we didn’t know her because she was not frum. One day  I found a beautiful, blue, shiny material and she sewed for me all by hand a detailed, beautiful dress. I looked so beautiful in that dress, I think it was so nice of her.  Everybody thought that she was my mother which is a good thing because at that time, this part of Germany was occupied by the Russians and a girl had to be very taken care of around the Russian soldiers.
 
     At the end of the summer we came home together.  Mama, I found your son at home.  He was handsome and good looking.  He was a soldier by Tito, president of Yugoslavia so when I first saw him he had a big rifle on his shoulder and he was guarding his headquarters. He was frum and since he didn’t eat any treif, he lived on bread, eggs and salads.  Mama, he is a good boy.  A lot of shidduchim were redt to him, but he was only looking for a good girl from a very nice Jewish home and she had to be very frum.  Baruch Hashem he found the right one.  Her name is Rochel Stern from Senta.  She is very smart and a good balabusta with a very strong character.  After Srule got married he left the army and crossed the border illegally to Hungary.
     I followed him across the border and we met in Hungary.  From there we went to Austria illegally but this time in a truck full of people.  The very brave Israeli boys from the Haganah helped smuggle us into Austria. For a year and a half we were on a frum Kibbutz Agudah on the outskirts of Saltzburg.  In the whole kibbutz there were about a hundred people.  There were only five little children.  Mama, at the age of sixteen I was a kindergarten teacher.  I loved the children and they loved me.  Mama, I also had to cook in the kibbutz.  Can you imagine that at the age of sixteen when my turn came, I cooked for forty people and they liked my cooking.
 
     My plans were to go to Israel, so again I had to cross over the border to Italy, with Srule, Rochy and baby Miriam.  We crossed the border again illegally, this time by foot.  We walked the whole night.  In Italy we ended up in a D.P. camp in Barletta. Over there I took Hebrew lessons.  I was very good in learning the language.  Mama, in Israel there was a big war.  the Israelis were fighting for independence and from all over they were recruiting boys and girls for the army.  Mama, I was ready to go fight for my own homeland, but Srule said “No, the army is not for you”.  Instead, he made arrangements; near Rome, in Italy there was a frum kibbutz where they also had a B’nos.  My friend and I went to that B’nos.  There were twenty five girls there, and my future husband to be was the president of that kibbutz.  Mama, from all the twenty five girls he picked me for his future wife! Mama, you would have been so happy.  He was the biggest talmid chacham in Italy.  It was your dream come true to have such a talmid chacham as a son-in-law.  He was a Rabbi too.
 
     Mama, we got married on November 21, 1948.  My wedding took place in the kibbutz’s dining room.  Oy Mama, I missed you so.  Not having you at my wedding made me very sad.  I almost cried.  Ten months later, I had my first baby – a boy.  He was beautiful with blue eyes and golden curly hair.
 
     Mama, we came to America in 1950 where I had five more children – three boys and three girls altogether.  They are all B”H wonderful.  Just one little boy is missing.  A big tragedy happened.  I really don’t feel like going into details.  My girls are beautiful and very good people.  My oldest son Asher Enzel is a chazzan.  He sings and davens beautifully.  He made tapes and CD’s.  Reuven has s’micha.  He was a Rabbi in the Belzer Yeshiva.  He also speaks beautifully.  Oy Mama, you would be so proud of your grandchildren.
 
     Mama, at the age of forty eight, I became a widow.  Yitzchok, my dear husband, became sick of cancer.  He was sixty years old when he died.  He was a good, very good husband and a very good father too.  We were not very rich.  He worked very hard to make a living.  He was a Rabbi in a shul for twenty-five years and he was also a maggid shiur in the Bobover Yeshiva.  He was a very respectable personality.  It was a very big loss to all of us.  He was also a very smart and good man.  I miss him.  But, life has to go on.  I met my second basherter.  His name is Dovid Sussman.  He too is a very nice man with a good character.
 
     Mama, bli ayin hara, I have twenty eight grandchildren and most of them are very talented.  One is a producer, the other a decorator, a principal, two lawyers and on and on and on…Mama, I am already also a great-grandmother.  Mama, I love you so much.  Your beautiful face is still like I would see you right here. 
No Mama, I will never forget you. 
I love you.
 
From your only daughter,
 Sheindel  

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