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Oral history interview with Flower Silliman

Oral History | Accession Number: 2017.168.2 | RG Number: RG-50.978.0002

Flower Silliman, born on April 20, 1930 in Calcutta (Kolkata), India, describes her grandparents who immigrated to India from different parts of Iraq; attending a Jewish girls’ school; her mother, who was kindergarten teacher; her father, who worked in the port commission of Calcutta; her two brothers; moving around Calcutta a lot; the Baghdadi Jewish community; not being encouraged to spend time with non-Jews; keeping kosher; attending Lady Irwin College in Delhi beginning in 1946; getting a degree in teaching; the chaos of the time, including the fight for independence, the Partition killings in Bengal and Delhi, and the refugee wave from East Bengal and Punjab; her parents’ views of her adopting Indian customs; learning about the situation for European Jews during the Holocaust in 1945; Jews in India assuming the concentration camps of Europe must be like the internment camps that were in India; the Zionist families in India; a small number of Baghdadi Jews in India going to Israel in 1945-1946; celebrating all of the major Jewish holidays with family; her leisure activities as a child; the worry of Indian Jews that they would not do well in an independent India; many Jews leaving India after independence; staying in India with her husband; hearing first-hand stories of Jews escaping from persecution during the Holocaust (she describes several of them); the European Jewish refugees who came to Calcutta and their integration into the Baghdadi Jewish community; how it was common for women in the Jewish community to marry British and American GIs; two Jewish military chaplains she met in Calcutta, David Seligson (American) and Chaplain Bloch (British); visiting Israel for the first time in 1975; the Bengal Famine and the Hindu-Muslim riots and the influence of the events on the feelings in the Jewish communities of India; her humanitarian efforts during college; being in New Delhi at Independence in 1947; meeting Mahatma Gandhi several times; her support for Independence; Pamela Mountbatten, the teenage daughter of Viceroy Mountbatten, visiting the women of Lady Irwin College in the evenings; and the power of the Holocaust museums that she has visited.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Flower Silliman
Olivia Rosen
interview:  2017 May 16
creation: Kolkata (India)
3 digital files : MP3.
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, courtesy of the Jeff and Toby Herr Foundation
Record last modified: 2023-08-25 09:05:58
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