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An Exile from A Paradise
Memories of a Holocaust Survivor from Będzin, Poland

by Hanna Granek Ehrlich ©2014, Paperback, ISBN: , 178 pp
 

Paradise!

Before the Holocaust, Będzin was considered by many Jews to be an earthly paradise. Będzin sang; it was happy. It was called the “singing town.” Orchestras went throughout the streets. Courtyard musicians performed. 

Hanna Granek was born in this paradise, beautiful city of Będzin. Hanna’s happiest years were spent at Gymnasium Fürstenberg. Hanna remembers the close friendships that developed throughout her years at the gymnasium. Hanna and her friends walked the promenade, danced the tango, foxtrot, and the waltz and went to Shirley Temple and Laurel and Hardy movies. Her childhood was idyllic.

Paradise Lost!

Będzin was captured by the Nazis. A mountain of stones remained of their great and beautiful synagogue. Here a small shoe that had been flung from a child on his way to annihilation There a small tallis flapped on a fence and twisted its fringes, as if trying to oust the defiling forces, the evil that had penetrated Będzin.

Preface i

Prologue vi

Chapter 1 A Childhood in Będzin 1

Chapter 2 Of Synagogues and Shtiblech 4

Chapter 3 School and Friends 7 Chapter 4 Antisemitism Rises 12

Chapter 5 Nazi Horrors 15

Chapter 6 Peterswaldau Concentration Camp 29

Chapter 7 A Transport from Auschwitz-Birkenau 33

Chapter 8 Flowers Bloom and Wither 36

Chapter 9 Reunion with Wolf 42

Chapter 10 A Huge Wedding! 48

Chapter 11 Opportunity 50

Chapter 12 Epilogue 57

Timeline 60

Acknowledgments 63 Works Cited 65 Endnotes 68

Maps 93

Photographs 101

Preface

My name is David Jeremy Ehrlich. Hanna Ehrlich, a Holocaust Survivor, is my grandmother, my “Bubbie.”

Everyone calls me “Jeremy.” At my work I appear as David on our internal networks, so occasionally I need to clarify that Jeremy is my middle name. My first name, David, is in honor of a relative. Those close to me know how I got the name; others don’t. David was Bubbie’s younger brother, her only sibling. He was killed in the Shoah.

I try to recall when I realized that David was my first name. As in a dream from as early as I can remember, I have a vision in my head of my Bubbie showing me the picture of her brother and telling me how as a very young boy he had died in something very bad that she said was a war. She told me he was a good boy and that she loved her little brother very much. I thought he looked older than me in the picture but not by much. I vaguely understood, and I also remember thinking at that very moment how very afraid I was that somehow I would also die.

There are other memories . . . glimpsing pictures of war atrocities that I wasn’t supposed to look at stacked with other papers brought out at a holiday dinner, overhearing stories in bits of English, Yiddish, and Polish, or touching precious photos of relatives, now all gone. There would be a head count at the holiday dinner table, a count of those who were not there, all the lost brothers and sisters, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, all who should have been the at the Ehrlich family Passover Seder but were now only memories.

There were also the ever-present tattooed numbers on my Ziede’s (grandfather’s) arm. As a young boy before my Bar Mitzvah, I would attend Bubbie and Ziede’s synagogue, where I noticed many others with numbers tattooed on their arms. The dozens of families that made up their synagogue were all survivor families. Looking back I realize that from this synagogue family I was fortunate to enjoy a bit of life as it looked and sounded in pre-war Europe, perhaps as in Będzin, my Bubbie’s city back in Poland. With all of these visions and experiences, all the bits and pieces of information that could be gleaned at the time, and with the best of the reasoning and logic I could muster as a child, I established my understanding of the very bad thing that had happened to my family. I believe I also understood that I wasn’t going to be able to comprehend this thing fully until I got older.

As I matured, received an education, married, and had my own wonderful family, the realization that the Holocaust wasn’t something that I would comprehend at any one time became clear. The knowledge comes in very subtle ways. It can also come in shock waves.

While walking though the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington with Bubbie and Ziede (who are founding members of the Museum), I was completely amazed and dumfounded by the level of pain and anguish my grandparents had been able to endure. However, also surreal and very subtle was the knowledge that I was walking through a museum with the active participants, each an actual genuine walking-and-talking piece of history.

At ninety years old, my Bubbie is amazing. She is a Renaissance woman. At any given time she may be on the internet—no doubt looking at some Holocaust related matter, on the phone helping another survivor locate long-lost relatives, giving advice on locating reparations help, being asked to speak, lecture, attend, or otherwise commemorate Holocaust events. If asked, she will translate in the four or so languages she speaks. She knows her favorite operas and can sing parts from them. She can dance a mean tango, and Bubbie still likes to tell a good Yiddish joke. The smile on her face when her great-granddaughters hug her lights up the entire room.

Bubbie had the foresight to have her son Isaac, my father, tape her Holocaust testimony along with Wolf’s. My father also collected, scanned, and inventoried our family photos and documents. My father indicates that he was profoundly saddened but that the work helps explain Bubbie to our children and the world and helps them understand the magnitude to which hatred and prejudice can bring out the most evil side of human nature.

Through Bubbie we can exemplify the resilience and the better side of humanity. In the darkest of nights, people don’t have to lose hope—people can withstand and overcome. We must remember and never forget what Bubbie and our people went through. The legacy of my grandparents, my family members who perished, and all those lost in Holocaust must be this: Let there be no more Holocausts.

Thanks, Bubbie, for your ever abundant love, kindness, generosity, and understanding and for all you have given and continue to give us every day. Thank you for providing me the wonderful opportunity to tell your miraculous story every time someone asks about my name.

David Jeremy Ehrlich

After graduation, Hanna would have gone to the university except, in September 1939, the Germans attacked Poland, World War II broke out, and universities were forbidden to accept Jewish students. The occupation of Będzin was followed by restrictions, ghettoization, deportation, and the murder of most of Hanna’s friends and family. After years in forced labor camps, Hanna was liberated and reunited with her friend from Będzin, Wolf Ehrlich. The two married in Munich and immigrated to the U.S. where they established a poultry farm and a china and crystal shop in Mays Landing, New Jersey. Hanna’s memoir, An Exile from a Paradise: Memories of a Holocaust Survivor from Będzin, Poland, is awe-inspiring, a story of resilience and hope, of exile and acceptance.

An Exile from A Paradise

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