Raised in Chelm, Poland, Nella Juffe nee Gelberg, her parents, and baby sister Pola, lived peacefully and joyfully until the German Army attacked Chelm in 1939. Warned by a Soviet officer, Nella, 7 years old, her father, and her mother carrying Pola, took one of the last trains leaving Chelm, crossing the Bug River into relative safety in the Soviet Union. When the Germans attacked the USSR, Nellaâ€™s father joined the Red Army but was killed a few months later. His wife and daughters found safety in Lgov until the Germans captured them, imprisoning them in a small concentration camp in Lgov 2, where they experience freezing weather, deprivation, and hunger.
The Soviets recaptured Lgov, taking them to the Kursk Province, to Efrosinovka, a village of thatched houses. There Nella and her mother worked on the villageâ€™s communal farm until 1945. The family then traveled across borders to the American Zone, and Nella and Pola joined a kibbutz in Lindenfels Displaced Persons Camp. In 1947, through various mishaps Nella missed the SS Exodus, bound for Israel. In SchwĂ¤bisch-Hall DP Camp, Nella met and married Leon Juffe. The couple and their newborn son immigrated to the United States in 1950, settling in Vineland on a chicken farm and later in Atlantic City where they ran a boutique hotel. Nella and Leon have four sons and seven grandchildren.
Nellaâ€™s memoir is inspiringâ€”the story of a little rascally girl who traveled across the frozen USSR and a ravaged Europe, becoming in the process a wise and good woman.
Table of Contents
Chapter One Firstborn 1
Chapter Two Danger Hovers 10
Chapter Three My Early Life CheĹ‚m 17
Chapter Four The Warning 20
Chapter Five Escape across the Bug River 31
Chapter Six Mother Russia 34
Chapter Seven Refugees Again 38
Chapter Eight Cold as Frost Flowers 43
Chapter Nine At the Countâ€™s Stables 46
Chapter Ten A Motherâ€™s Love 50
Chapter Eleven The Partisans Attack 52
Chapter Twelve The Germans Retreat 56
Chapter Thirteen The Red Army 58
Chapter Fourteen The Selo 60
Chapter Fifteen Making Moonshine 67
Chapter Sixteen Leaving the USSR 73
Chapter Seventeen Crossing Borders 75
Chapter Eighteen Lindenfels DP Camp 78
Chapter Nineteen Training for Aliyah 81
Chapter Twenty Abused 86
Chapter Twenty-one A Wedding 88
Chapter Twenty-two Ellis Island 93
Chapter Twenty-three Brooklyn 96
Chapter Twenty-four Farms and Factories 100
Chapter Twenty-five Ticker Tape 109
Chapter Twenty-six The Hotel Business 111
Chapter Twenty-seven Nine Lives 121
Epilogue From Hell to Heaven 125
Works Cited 127
Nella Juffeâ€™s Oldest Son
industry in Vineland sewing uniforms for the U.S. Military, and then of both working in Atlantic City, where they owned and operated the Kentucky Hotel. They did whatever needed to be done to make sure there was food on the table and a roof over our heads. When my mom and dad, of blessed memory, ask me why I work so hard, I smile and always say that I have never worked as hard as they did. They instilled in me a great work ethic.
The friends of my parents were Holocaust survivors, and I went to the Jewish Day School in Vineland, where most of my classmates were children of Holocaust survivors. Looking back, most of the survivors I met were just remarkable, not for having survived the Holocaust, but for their ability to look to the future, in spite of the past they had come from, and be able to overcome adversity. They all seemed to have a quality of not being scared anymore. After all, what more could anyone do to them? They had experienced unimaginable horrors. These people are tough. The major theme in our house was that no matter what happens, â€śNever give up.â€ť
I donâ€™t ever remember my parents feeling sorry for themselves. They just accepted challenges and adversity and moved forward. They taught us to do the same. For example, I was having some trouble in my business and was thinking about how to deal with this. I looked over at my father, who was sitting nearby, and I remembered a time on our chicken farm when he had to deal with trouble. I was around ten years old. He always bought baby chicks and raised them until they could start laying eggs, which took about eighteen weeks.
Right before he moved them to the coop where they could start laying those eggs, they would be vaccinated. My father had arranged for a team of people to come to the farm early in the morning. They gathered up all the chickens and inoculated them against avian influenza. Twenty-four hours later all 2,000 chickens had died. My father and mother needed those chickens. They had invested most of their savings raising the chickens from chicks. To have the chickens die, meant there would be no additional income, income that they had counted on to support the family, which consisted of four young sons, not to mention the mortgage and all the other normal expenses families have. At ten years old, what did I know about money or supporting a family? However, when I was fifty years old, and I asked my father how he felt when he went into the chicken coop and saw all of his chickens dead, knowing that he had a wife and children to support, he told me that he knew that my mother and he had survived worse and that they would figure something out, and they did. This was a lesson in life that I experienced by example, even though I hadnâ€™t discussed it with him in forty years. It was just part of our lives and the way children learn from the actions of their parents. My brothers and I all learned lessons like this from themâ€”mostly by example.
My parents never had it easy. They never really seemed to enjoy themselves because of what they went through during the Holocaust. Even when things went well, they remembered the past and felt guilty that, of all the Jewish people in their hometowns, they had survived.
Growing up as a child of Holocaust survivors, I learned to cherish my parents. I am very proud of them. I also know their grandchildren are very proud of them.