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Oral history interview with Etta Waldman

Oral History | Accession Number: 2016.103.1 | RG Number: RG-50.106.0255

Etta Waldman (née Bodian), born on May 12, 1932 in Tarnopol, Poland (Ternopil', Ukraine), discusses her childhood in her large extended family; living with her family in a mixed neighborhood in a large house her parents built in 1936; her father, who raised and exported cows; her younger sister Rebecca; being an independent and athletic child; not experiencing antisemitism until Russians came in 1939 and sent people to Siberia; sleeping in other people’s homes until her father became friendly with the Russians and the family returned home; her parents being very protective and her father being politically astute; the Germans coming in 1941; playing with her friend and running home to find her kitchen filled with blood and water and her mother covered with leaves after being beaten by the Germans; her father going into hiding; all the furniture being taken; going into the Tarnopol fenced-in ghetto; staying close to the apartment; her father cutting the wire fence of the ghetto and the family escaping to the village outside the ghetto during one of the Aktions; hiding under the bed with her family for a whole day; seeing Jews being shot in the ghetto; her father arranging for Etta to stay with an older Polish couple in the countryside; seeing Jewish men digging a mass grave under the supervision of the SS; how the SS shot 1300 Jews, including her grandparents and her two aunts, on April 3, 1943; the ghetto being designated as Judenfrei; her father finding a farmer who let them stay in a bunker in his basement for 13 months with a bucket for sanitation; not going outside the whole time; her sister forgetting how to walk; living in an open field for three months in the spring and summer of 1944 as the Russians were approaching and Poles were ordered to evacuate; getting food from German field kitchens; her family sleeping under one shawl; her father finding an abandoned farm house; a German Wehrmacht officer coming with food and shaving supplies for her father during the last 10 days so he wouldn’t look Jewish with a beard; Russian tanks coming in July 1944; returning to their house, which had been destroyed; moving to a small town called Nikilinz in Galicia; Israelis coming in 1945 with false papers for the family to get to the American Zone; staying for two years in another small town called Beton, where her father had a small food stand; attending school and being too afraid to go to graduation because of the antisemitism among the Poles and the Ukrainians; going to different DP camps, including Fohrenwald, where she stayed for a year; going to the United States; arriving in Boston, MA on an Army vessel; going to New York; getting married in 1952 to another survivor; not talking until recently about her traumatic experience when she watched for hours as the mass grave was being dug and the Jews were killed; wanting that tragedy to never be forgotten; and feeling that her greatest gift is that she survived.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Etta Waldman
Gail Schwartz
interview:  2016 May 26
1 digital file : WAV.
Record last modified: 2021-03-22 16:30:15
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