University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies
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CHGS

Liberation

Two days later, May 5, 1945, jeeps arrived at Liebernau. But these were not marked with swastikas, but filled with American soldiers, Third Army, carrying American flags! It was a joyous day. And soon a big truck bursting with Red Cross packages arrived - all for us! Unfortunately, a few prisoners gobbled up the packaged food and died. Their stomachs just couldn't handle the sudden change. Our bodies had to learn how to handle food all over again, beginning with liquids just like babies.

Red Cross doctors and male nurses checked all of us for injuries. I remember that after they looked me over, I was sent to the side while they cared for others. They then came back to me to examine my leg, burned badly 1 three places, and my swollen foot. They peeled off the rust and told me that had another week gone by, they could have had to amputate. Another doctor then sent me in only my underwear, to a hospital in Laufen where and about 25 others, including my good friend, Joseph Scheineman, my painting friend, also liberated with me, were treated for typhoid.

When you have typhoid, your temperature reaches 108 degrees. If you withstand it, you recover. If not, you die.

Luckily, the German nurses there were tremendous, so kind. I well remember my bed next to a window with Joseph in the next bed. And again, by accident this time, I was able to help save his life. One night, I was hallucinating and screaming. Nurses came to give me shots to quiet me down and discovered that Joseph was unconscious and were able to save him.

After about three weeks in the hospital, we were sent back to Leibernau. While I was doing well, Joseph remained weak. Fortunately, a Czech woman, a former nurse, helped him to recuperate. After about nine months, we were transferred to Freilassing, another camp about 10 miles away with better facilities. This was not a labor or concentration camp, but a displaced person's camp eventually placed under Unrah, an American organization that supplemented displaced people's needs.

After a few months we were sent to Ainring, a much larger displaced person's camp. Aiming, a town with a small airport, had served as Hitler's stopping place on the way to Bertesgarden, his mountain villa. I, along with about 20 others, actually lived in Hitler's club, a two-story building where he had stayed many times when the roads weren't fit for travel to the villa. Ironically, it was here where we began our recovery, gradually adjusting to postwar life. Eventually, a bunch of us formed a theater group and within a few months, we began performing. For one of our productions, I played the matchmaker in "Tovia the Milkman," the play on which "Fiddler on the Roof' is based.

Most of us kept hope that relatives would find us or we would hear good news of relatives still living. It was here that my brother Jacob found me. What a joyous and heartbreaking meeting: He brought news of my family, that all but he and Adam, had been killed. That he was going to Austria. That Adam was back in Poland.

While living in Ainring, I got to know a number of American GIs, who were stationed nearby, protecting sophisticated electronics and warehouses at the airport. They were nice fellas, and they gave me my first taste of Coca-Cola. I even met Jewish GIs who spoke broken German and some Yiddish and from whom I learned some English.

During this transition time, I traveled a bit, to Munich and elsewhere. After two years, there were orders to liquidate the displaced person's camp. But according to liberation papers, I was only 17 years old and couldn't be just sent out into the world without guardians. While I was actually 22, 1 was too afraid to tell the truth. And besides, I looked more like I was 17. And so I was sent, along with my childhood friend, Michael Sherman, to an international children's camp in Prien, Germany, near the castle of crazy King Ludwig.

There, about 100 children, orphans from Latvia, Estonia and Poland, myself included, lived and were treated well. The camp was under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Committee, led by Mrs. Roosevelt, who had helped lift any restrictions on children's immigration. And so, at the end of 1947 we were told that we could emigrate to Canada or the United States. About 30 of us, all Jewish boys, with supervisors from Estonia, were then sent to a huge hotel near Munich. There we played soccer, visited nearby towns and continued to be checked by doctors for diseases and lingering effects of our imprisonment. By the end of April 1948, we were ordered to pack for our journey to the United States.

Michael was sent a week before me. I had eczema at the time and was held back until it was gone.

Once ready, a handful of us were sent to Bremenhaven on the ocean, near Hamburg. I'll never forget the name of our ship: the SS Maureen Flasher, an American military ship that had been converted for passengers. With Red Cross women there as our guardians, we young men were treated like kings, given the best rooms and the best food. Although I was seasick - oh god, I was sick - for at least three days. After a week aboard, passing through the English Channel and crossing the ocean, I well remember coming into the New York harbor and seeing the Statue of Liberty. I had dreamed about coming to America and here I was. I was in awe.

Because we were expected, we didn't have to go through immigration but walked off the ship and onto a large bus waiting for us. I had the clothes on my back and a little suitcase with some pajamas inside. And I had been given $1.50 as I got off the ship.

We traveled by bus into the Bronx to a hotel for children. There we were each given a suit, shirts, ties, shoes, socks, underwear and pajamas and were told to throw everything we had away. I threw away my pajamas and the clothes I had worn every day on the ship. I remember one Ukranian boy wearing a tie with his pajamas to bed the first night.

Every day we met with counselors who talked to us about schooling, what where we wanted to go, and choices for our future. We also met with psychologists to help us deal with our war experiences.

I stayed at the hotel for three weeks and while there looked up my old friend, Joseph Scheinemen. "Moniek!" he yelled into the phone when I called. A couple of times I took a nickel subway ride to Brooklyn and visited him, his wife and their first child in their third-floor apartment.

In the meantime, Michael Sherman had been assigned a foster mother, Mrs. Abramson, in Minneapolis, and he soon left for Minnesota. A week later, I had to make a decision. There was no foster family waiting in Minneapolis for me and none in New York. While a family in Baltimore was willing to have me come, I knew no one there and suddenly felt that I should return home, to Europe. But Mrs. Abramson and the Jewish Family and Children's Services came through. She agreed to take me in until foster parents could be found.

They booked me on a Northwest Airlines prop plane, my first flight ever, to Minneapolis. The stewards took good care of me, and there waiting at the airport was a member of the Jewish Family and Children's Services and Michael.

The next month, June 1948, Michael and I attended the JFCS-sponsored Herzl camp, located on Devil's Lake in Wisconsin, to get to know other young people in our situation. We attended lectures, swam, fished and sang for two weeks and then returned to Minneapolis.

About three months later, I moved to the home of another widow, my foster-mother-to-be, Mrs. Minnie Kramer. One of her sons, Ben, was married, while the other, Marvin, was in 10th grade, the grade where I would begin. My first year I attended North High School. Still speaking little English, I started going to the Emerson Library, one block away, as often as possible to read books written in English for several hours a day.

My second year, I transferred to Vocational High School, which included both standard high school classes and trade classes. I finished both 11th grade and 12th grade in one year, focusing on business administration, and graduated with honors in 1950.

After liberation: Murray and a friend pose outside Hitler's Club (left) in Ainring. Murray and Michael Sherman await a boat (above) to King Ludwig's castle during their stay at the international children's camp in Prien, Germany.

Left. Murray before coming to the United States, 1948.