Thursday, November 18, 2010

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Skype Video Call to Jiri

It is Sunday Noveber 7, 2010, right after daylight savings time was over in Eastern Time in the US.
Sao Paolo, usually two hours ahead of us, is now three hours ahead. Beth Jacoby in Chicago and Ellen Ruby in Sag Harbor, NY, and I had planned to do a Skype conference call with Jiri in Sao Paolo at 11 am Eastern Time.

At 9 am I came up to arrange to record the session with SkypeCap, now IMCapture.

But Jiri was already on line. So I made the connection and we starred to talk. It was amazing to see him, an 86-year-old concentration camp survivor looking pretty good; cheery and animated. He said that he had suffered a bout of cancer and recently had chemo- and radio-therapy. This may explain why he had not been so energetic in recent months in returning email and Geni messages. But recently he stepped up his contribution. He sent a report of the times from 1945-1946, which I "translated" and will paste here. Then I'll add some notes from our Skype conversation (in parentheses) to fill in details.

I wish Beth Jacoby and Ellen Ruby had been in on the call. They would have remembered details that I didn't get.

Jiri refers to his grandmother as Fancsi-Mama. Hungarian names are rendered Last First, as in Klein Blanka (Jiri's mother) and Klein Moric (her father).

Jiri said that he visited Sobrance, Hummene, and other family towns with the son of his brother Andy's best friend, Lewis Kovac. The name had been changed from Klein to Kovacs. Lewis is the cousin who traveled with Jiri in 2006 and who now lives in Los Angeles. This was in the context of a story about Jiri's granddaughter Barbara, who underwent a liver transplant at Cedar Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. The organization that supported this medical work and other good works was supported by Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand and other well-known people in entertainment.

Jiri's son Josef died at age 48 of cancer. He was a mathematician who was supervising and organizing high school math teachers. Where was this? Jiri's father is also names Josef, so there was a bit of confusion in identifying the two Josefs (grandfather and grandson) in Geni.

David's "English Version" of Jiri's report:
Report on the years 1945-1946 : Sent by Jiri Jacobowitz on November 2, 2010, via email.

RETURN TO UNGVÁR:1- Jiri's brother Andy returned to Ungvár in December, 1945. Since 1943 he had been engaged with the Russian Army in the Hungarian Partisan Group

2- January 1945 - Erzsi, Vera and Ani - In April, 1944, Erzsi, Vera and Ani had been deported to Auschwitz, and a few days after that they were transferred to a little KZ Camp in East of Poland, where the Soviet Army arrived in December, 1944.

Auschwitz and Buchenwald3- June 1945 - Jiri and Robi had been deported in April of 1944 to Auschwitz, and after 5 days (Jiri was) transferred to Buchenwald, which camp was liberated on April 11, 1945. (Jiri was selected by Dr Mengele because he was young and strong and could work. Jiri's left arm is shorter than his left by 10 cm. He showed me on Skype video.) As the war ended only in May, it took about 50 days for them to make it finally to Ungvár.

OUT FROM SOVIET: 1- 2 months later I decided to move to Czechoslovakia, accompanid by my 3 cousins (Erzsi, Vera, Ani? ) and Nuszen (Nussen Horovitz, who in the meantime had married Erzsi.
We were without money and identification cards. In Prague I found some Ungvárian friends and they recomended that we move to Podmokly, where lot of Jews (mostly from Karpats) were already living. So it was easy to get a job. Robi moved in with his uncle Zoltán Weissberger (aunt Viola's brother, with whom he moved some months later to Israel and my brother (Andy) remained in Ungvár.

Czechoslovakia - So we immediaely moved to Podmokly and start to work. It was not so easy, but the local government was helping the survivers,

But each month the Soviet Government and Army made all the decisions and it was clear for me what will happen in the coming years.

USA or BRAZIL.So, we decide to try to emigrate USA or Brazil. Since the process to get an American visa was complicated, we decide on Brazil. First we all needed an invitation from a Brazilian, with a lot of guaranties. Uncle Hermann sent for all of us, including Andy and Robi.

Than we needed passports. It was very, very difficult. From my mother's family I have a cousin who was one of the great heros in the Czechoslovakian Army, and one of General Svoboda's assistants. Since we were really very young, without home and family, he was helpful in obtaining the passports.

Problems with Tickets:And after all, the problem with the tickets.
In the meantime we was already seven, as Ezsi in February, 1946 gave birth to a boy, who is today Dr. JOSÉ HOROVITZ, I went to the JOINT in Prague, (The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee) and they asked for a initial payment of US$1,000.00, which uncle Arnold and Hermann fulfilled, I think 50/50.

The Brazilian visas, no problems. Finaly we receied from JOINT in Prague, information that we are booked to Rio de Janeiro, on "S/S Jamaique",  and had to leave immediately for JOINT in Prague. As everything that we have in the apartment, belonged to the government, we needed some money for the railway tickets to Prague.

JOINT provided some money for traveling expenses to Paris. When we arrived to Paris, there was very bad news: "JAMAIQUE" was fully occupied and we must wait in Paris during the time that they needed to arrange for another vessel. And once more provide us with some money for local expenses. It was very difficult for us, specialy because of 7-month-old José. The time was running out, and our visas were expiring. Finally, after 3 weeks, they told us that they had arranged a Brazilian charger "ALMIRANTE ALEXANDRINO" but this one is booked from Genoa, ITALY (Genoa, I think. DJ). So, we went by train to Genoa, where we waited over one week, up to the beginning of November, 1946.

45 Day Crossing
There we were in Genoa, without any assistance from JOINT or any other congregation.
The Brazilian vessel was horrible, one side with about 499 women, and the other side with 499 men...
During the 35 days, horrible conditions, no bath, no food., etc. But finally we arrived in Rio, where we were expected by Uncle Hermann, Aunt Dora and Irion.

Today I'm convinced that without Uncle Arnold's intervention with JOINT, we would have had to wait weeks or months in Genoa, while our Brazilian visas expired ,,,, Because that meant reselling our reserved tickets with great "OVERPRICES"

So, as you say, Uncle Arnold was not rich, BUT R E S P E C T E D !

And I can imagine how difficult the trip was for Chava, Wolf and Bernath's family, with so many children!
I hope you will understand my message, notwithstanding my "english?". Love Jiri