April 21, 2009
Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 21, 2009
Sometimes history becomes disconnected from us.
An event becomes a story of interest; a tale of something long ago.
Sometimes the lines become blurred
between what is considered reality
and what is considered hearsay.
It is said that all people can be traced to a relation
within 6 degrees of separation.
I am presenting to you now
a case of 3 degrees of separation.
Me, my mother, and Walter.
This is Walter’s story.
Introduction: Judy Buchman
I have the great honor of introducing tonight’s speaker my husband Walter Buchman.
Walter and I have been married for 4 ½ years. When I first heard the story you are about to hear, my first thoughts were of our grandchildren and facing doubts that any of them in this modern age of ipods, blackberrys, computers, and instant gratification could have survived as their grandfather did.
Intestinal fortitude, bravery and the sheer will to live are what make Walter’s story special. With great pride and gratitude for his survival, I present to you my husband and best friend, Walter Buchman.
My Survivor Story: Walter Buchman
For years I have been reluctant to say anything about the Holocaust because I do not have numbers tattooed on my arm, like most of the survivors I have known. I was thinking that without those tattoos no one would believe me.
I must start my story with my Father of blessed memory who with his three cousins and his sister went to Palestine to help start the rebuilding of the land, that was in 1922. They all worked at the foot of the Gilboa Mountains to drain the swamp there, the area of Tell Joseph and started the Kibbutz Bet Hashitah. This area is the most fertile land in Israel, the crop there are unbelievable in flavor and size. There already was an Uncle living in Jerusalem. He arrived there in 1888, and started a business. They were in that area for some time when my father contracted malaria and had to go home to Vienna Austria due to do the fact that he was that ill.
My father married my mother and I was born in Vienna in 1935. I must also tell you that my father was a true communist and a vegetarian. His father and mother left Vienna to go to Palestine right before the Nazis arrived in Austria, 1937. He and my mother did not want to go with my Grandparents to Palestine and they moved to Paris France in about 1938. In 1939 my parents sent me to Switzerland for a Health Visit to Mr. and Mrs. Haller who would later become my foster parents. They lived in the City of Arbon the Canton of Thurgau, on the Bonden Sea (called Lake Constance which is directly across from a city in Germany, Friedrickshaffen.
Somehow my parents let the Hallers who I was staying with know that I had family in Palestine, Great Britain, Bolivia and the USA. My father joined the French underground movement and my mother and I moved to a monastery outside of Marseille in France. My father came for a visit to this monastery and we played a game and I fell on glass and cut my fingers and knee quite badly. My father left and my mother took me to a hospital in Marseille. I had blood poisoning through out my body due to this fall. I had a large cyst on my face that had to be lanced without anesthesia because the hospital did not have any and I still hear my mother scream as I screamed but none the less things turned out well and my mother and I went back to the Monastery. While on the way, there was a parade. I saw the head of the Vichy government Petain waving his hand and hat at that parade.
Some weeks later and during the day there was a knock on the door and two men dressed in long black leather coats came and removed my mother and I. These men took us to an interim camp where somehow my mother was able to make arrangements that I would escape this camp and I would be met by a man. I was 5 years old. The direction that my mother told me to go was through a sewage drain field. When I ran out the other side of the drain field I was wet with excrement.
The man took me to his home and cleaned me up. Then he somehow got me with a group of other children and we all roamed the French countryside to live the best we could. While roaming in France this group of kids ate what we could steal in the camps of the Nazis. I ate bark of the trees, grass, dandelions and rats and mice when we could catch them. I saw the Hitler youth having bayonet practice using babies as their targets. One day my Father came and got me and took me to the border of France and Switzerland. I had in my hand a card written by me to my “Aunt and Uncle” who were in the city of Arbon and the Canton of Thurgau. I wrote that letter in French and stated that I wanted to live with them.
As I ran across the border from France to Switzerland a border Guard shot at me, as I looked back he shot in the air and not at me. I was given to a family in Geneva who sent me on a train to Arbon alone at the age of 7, where I lived for about three years with my foster parents. I had dysentery and was undernourished but the Haller family took care of that and brought my health around. One thing that they did I remember was to grate up eggs shells and I ate them as vitamins. I went to school there for two years that was the only school that I ever went to in Europe. I recall one time in that school that I did something wrong, the teacher yelled at me and when I did not respond he used his fists, he wanted for me to cry but I did not so he continued until he got tired and sent me home.
The Hallers were able to contact my family through a list my parents had given them many years before. At this point my family decided I should go to my Aunt my father’s sister in the United States. I traveled from Arbon to Marseille and then went on a ship to New York alone at the age of 10 ½ . In April of 1946, where I was met by good friends of my parents and also by my cousins. They bought clothing for me and sent me on my way by plane again by myself to Minneapolis MN, to live with my Aunt and Uncle. Some time later I was adopted by them although I retained my last name. I thought at the time that I was the last Buchman in the World so I wanted to keep my last name and I would not allow them to adopt me if I had to change my name to theirs. Later I found out through relatives and trips to Israel that there are many Buchmans living in Israel. Another of my father’s sisters, Cilia and her husband Walter Lippa lived next door to us with their two sons.
As recently as 3 years ago I met the children of my Aunt on my mother’s side living in Bolivia. And just 7 months ago, I was able to find my foster sisters, children of the Hallers who protected me in Switzerland. We correspond regularly and hope to meet face to face in Switzerland next year.
I also want to tell you about my Aunt Eva and Uncle Max Rosenberg. They had one Daughter Rachel. Max was an officer in the French Army, he fought with the French and was captured and was sent to a Concentration Camp and he came out of the camp at 85 pounds. He was nursed to health again and found his daughter and married again to a survivor. He visited my Aunt in Israel several times. While going back to Paris he was walking on a sidewalk and was run over by a Car. My Aunt Eva was taken away to a Camp and was never heard of again. Their daughter Rachel was given in hiding to a French Family, they had one Son. My Cousin married this son and converted to Catholicism and they raised two sons. I met them in Paris in 1967. I have not heard from her at all even though I tried writing.
Many years later I wanted to know just what happened to my parents. I wrote a letter to the Red Cross and two years later they responded to me and found the records of my parents that the NAZIS kept. This was in 1993.
My mother was taken from the interim camp near Marseille to the Infamous Camp Drancy in France, where she was Deported to the Concentration Camp Auschwitz. She was one of 980 in convoy #32, there were 640 males and 340 females. This group was under the supervision of Oberfeldwebel Moller, the orders were composed by SS Heinrichsohn, and telexed to the Inspector of Concentration Camp in Auschwitz by the name of Eichman. Israel found him in South America and he was brought to trial in Israel. This Convoy left Drancy on the 14th of September 1942 and arrived on the 16th of September 1942, where 58 men were selected for work and 49 woman received numbers 63898 through 63953 and the rest were immediately gassed. In 1945 some 45 people were know to have survived this convoy.
On February 15th, 1943 while two Nazi officers were walking across the Lovre Bridge over the Seine River they were shot to death. Because of this incident 2000 Jewish men were to be taken to the Gas Chambers. My Father was on of these two thousand Men he was in the convoy #51 on March the 23rd 1943. And convoy # 50 had the rest. Convoy #51 had 959 men, 39 woman and 2 children. The report that I received did not list when the Convoy arrived in Concentration Camp Lublin ( Majdanek). Those Nazis documented everything including the pimples on peoples noses. As I read the report that I have been given, the Concentration camps in 1943 were working overtime and many of the camps were in disarray. My father’s friend wrote to my father’s sister in Palestine that he indeed had been captured by the Nazis. I do not have this letter in my possession; it may well have been sent to Israel.
I had no brothers or sisters. I lived and I thrived in Minneapolis with my adopted parents and another Aunt and Uncle as well as my paternal grandparents who came to the USA from Israel in 1948. I became a plumber, started a mechanical contracting business and had three sons with my late wife of 47 years Lois.
And now with my wife Judy, we have a combined 5 children and 8 grand children. I live a wonderful life here in Naples and in the greatest country that has ever been, the United States of America. I have to say that in my life time I have had three sets of parents. My birth parents, my foster parents in Switzerland and my adopted parents in the USA. I am a very, very fortunate individual to have survived.
GOD BLESS AMERICA.
Posted by jaselin at April 21, 2009 08:01 PM