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text Chris Patti: Okay, todays date is May 4, 2010. Were interviewing survivor Arthur Salcman. Im the interviewer; my name is Chris Patti. Were in St. Petersburg, Florida, the country is the United States, the language is English, and the videographers are Jane Duncan and Richard Schmidt.
Okay, Mr. Salcman, could you please tell me your name at birth?
Arthur Salcman: Thats Salzmen.
CP: And was itcan you spell that for me?
CP: Thank you. At birth it was spelled with a Z, is that correct?
AS: When I was born, yeah.
CP: Okay, thank you. And did you go by any other names during the Holocaust?
AS: Oh, yeah, I had many names during the Holocaust. I have names that they gave me, the partisan group. I was working on the rail station, and I was shippingcan you imagine?wood to Germany. They didnt know my real name. And the place was Vranov nad Topou, the area. And as a young man
CP: Can I interrupt you for one second? Before we go into that story, you had one main name that you went by during the Holocaust. Is that correct? Szabo Miklos?
AS: Szabo Miklos, yeah.
CP: Is that S-z-a-b-o?
AS: Yeah, its Hungarian spelling.
AS: S-zits S. Szabo, b-o. Miklos is M-i-k-l-o-s.
CP: Okay, thank you. And thats the name that you went by, that was yourthe fake name that you went by, correct?
AS: Oh, I went by another name too; you know, it depends where I have to change the name.
CP: Oh, okay.
AS: If they were on top of me and I knew they know my name and [that] I was there, I had to change my name.
CP: Do you remember one or two other main names that you went by at that time?
CP: If not, its okay.
AS: I dont remember, but I remember that I camethe way I served thesaved myself, that I have to do the last escape from a hiding place that I was working. I had to escape from there because the man saidI walked in there and I was working therethe half of the division that I was working in BratislavaBratislavaknew how I am because I helped him to get a unit lathe, a big lathe that wasnt available during the war. Because everything was cut off from Czechoslovakia, you know. England and America, they didnt deliver anything.
So he saw a lathe where I was in charge. That guy took me in, the person; he had a tractor serviceit was called tractor servicein Michalovce. And one day he came after me and he says, Look, Arthur, Im not an engineer. Im a businessman. And by the way, he says, You are not a businessman, because he says, You are notI know you is an engineer, but not a businessman. I will handle my part, and I will handle yours. The Russians are getting closer, closer to occupy the city here. The city was Michalovce; it was in East Slovakia, and there was his factory. And he says, I have plans, and I want to put you in charge. You will save my machinery and I will save your life. Thats how we will work it. And he was shipping to mehe told me where his plant was. His plant was in a city on East Slovakia, not far from Bratislavawhat was it?
Lilly Salcman: Bansk Bystrica.
AS: Bansk Bystricano. Bansk Bystrica was already (inaudible). The plant was in the other city.
LS: Liptovsk Svt Mikul.
AS: Liptovsk Svt Mikul.
AS: Liptovsk Svt Mikul.
CP: I dont suppose I could ask you to spell that; it sounds like a lot of letters, though.
AS: (laughs) I could spell.
CP: Okay. But before we continue with this story, I was hoping if we could start at the beginning and then pick it back up once we get to there. Do you know how old are you, about when this is happening, when that story is?
AS: About thirty-four.
CP: Thirty-four, okay. So this is around the end of the war
CP: that youre talking about? Okay. Can we start back at the very beginning? You were bornis it correct that you were born June 10, 1911?
AS: Its correct.
CP: And so, can you tell me your age today?
CP: Ninety-nine. So you got a big birthday coming up?
AS: Yeah. (laughs)
CP: And is it true that you were born in Poa, Czechoslovakia?
AS: Poa. Poa, P-o-s-a. On the S there is a mark; it makes it soft. Poa.
CP: Okay, thank you. Can you tell me what your life was like as a child?
AS: Oh, beautiful. We had a part of a small town, small, and we were like one unit. All of us used to dance together. Like, everybody knew my dad and he knew everybody.
LS: Christian and Jews.
AS: What you said?
LS: Christian, and Jews.
AS: Christian and Jew. Yeah, thats true. Our best friend wasour (inaudible). He was a teachers son, and he slept with us in onein our building with us, with the two boys, Alfred, my brother, and me. And he was with us like a brother, because we had twice as big a place as they had, so he was with us and we were playing soccer all the time, always. And in the wintertime they had to help my brother to take me to school there, because the school was on top of a hill and they had to drag a
AS: Sled. And so my brother was insisting, he says, You wont beI wont let you to play with us if you dont help me to drag the sled with my brother.
CP: (laughs) He told that to the (inaudible) character?
AS: The (inaudible), yeah.
CP: Can you tell me why were you being taken on a sled to school?
AS: Because I had swollen legs from the winter, frozen.
CP: Oh, okay.
AS: Frozen, you know.
CP: And so, you had
AS: And we had to carrywe werent so lucky as the kids today, you know. Theyre like directors. They have schools, beautiful; they get to eat and to drink. The only thing they have to do for themselves [is] the work. But we had to carry the wood to school, two, three pieces of wood, each one. Otherwise you would have cold, so you would freeze then. So, thats what we had to do.
CP: Can you tell me a little bit about your family, how many brothers and sisters you had, and your parents?
AS: I had sevenwe were seven sisters and brothers, five girls and two boys. So, there were seven of us. And my closest friend, who I met after the war just before he diedI meet and Lilly met him in Israel, because he changed his name, you know, again. His name was Ernamsky; he was born Ed Namser. We grow up together. He started building houses at the university and I studied machinery, engineering.
AS: So, but we were very close friends. If his mother wanted to go to the city, my mother took care of the whole bunch of his group and our group. If my mother wanted to go to the city, his mother took care of the whole group. Yes, thats how people lived in those days. There wasnt hospitals like now, for every little thing. You wound up in the hospital: the hospital was your home. Grandpa is being taken care [of] by his sons, by his grandsons; the family took care of people. And today, it depends on strangers; money will do it.
CP: Can you tell me a little bit about your father?
AS: My father was a very nice person, tall man, very well liked. He was so well liked. When he was a young man, he was in Budapest in the Jewish church, in the Jewish synagogue. He was singing
LS: In the choir.
AS: In the choir. He was one of the best singers they ever had. So after the war, I went there with my brother, and I wanted to take pictures of us thatwe got them to let us in, in that big synagogue, and someone was taking, but by the time we came home it waswe came home and it was black.
LS: It was too dark.
AS: We didnt get nothing. Well, anyhow, so he used to do his prayer Friday evening, for Saturdays. And the priest in the town was such a close friend to my dad that whenthey put down the screens and Dad was singing and he has this choir there. Everybody was good; I was the bad singer, because I didnt have good hearing. So I had to be quiet while the rest was a group. And the popesuddenly, in the dark, the pope couldnt reach it, because there was a fence in front of the house. So the priest, I see him, and he took his stick
AS: And he knocked on the window, he says, Mr. Salzmen, continue, continue; its beautiful! (CP laughs) He loved it. Continueits beautiful! He was listening all the time in thehe was love, he was just love. Christians, they wanted to have him for
AS: Weddings. He says, Look, I will love to come. Im not so religious, but I cannot do it for the people; you know, that is something that you have to respect other feelingother peoples feeling, too. So I cannot do it, because I kept kosher, I have Dont you worry; you will have everything good you have to have. You will have a special table, but we want you. Our daughter is getting married. The man owned a millwhere they make flour, you knowand he was very well to do and he loved my dad. And he knew what a good singer he was, and so he wanted to have him at the wedding. So they had him.
My daddy could make a deal. Its like this girl, my granddaughter said, Im going to do business with Grandpa, because its tougher to do business with Grandpa.
CP: Because youre easier to do business with? (laughs)
AS: No, she did the businessshe wanted toyswith me, because its easier for her to do business. My dad, it was easier to do business with him than with my mom. Mom was a little bit tougher.
CP: So you inherited that trait, but you didnt inherit any of the singing ability?
CP: Can you tell me about your mother?
AS: My mother was a short lady, maybe an inch higher or taller, but I wouldnt know today if she was taller or the same size. And all her kids were biggernot much bigger but bigger, taller. The oldest sister was tallest among us. Szidonia was her name, and thats her son, that doctor of engineering. Dr. Polak is his name. His mom married a Polack, so his name is Dr. Polak, Arnold. He was teaching engineering at Cincinnati University.
AS: He could have stayed down forever there; they wanted him. But the time came in and he said, I have to go, because Ive had enough.
CP: So did your mother just stay at home and take care of the house and the kids?
AS: Kids, yeah. And thats plenty. You know, today you have all of two kids; its a big job. The whole world knows about it, how hard it is to take care of that one or two kids. In those days seven was nothing hard, they were doingand as I said, they were helping each other. Strangers would cross the street when my mom needed someone. The lady from across the street would take care of us, all of us, and vice versa: when they need something she would take care of their kids. It was a different life all together.
CP: What did your dad do for work?
AS: Well, we had a store. What do you calla (inaudible).
LS: No, a grocery store.
AS: Grocery, grocery store.
AS: And we then leavehe married thatmy grandpa moved to the city, so he inherited the store what they had. But we didnt conduct it; we hired someone who was conductingthat was butcher shopthat was conducting, because he was no butcher. He was a singer, but not a butcher. (laughs)
CP: Can you tell me how religion was in your family when you were growing up, and religion in the area that you were growing up?
AS: Very nice and very respectful on all the sides, you know. My dad was a joker forIll just tell you how well he was liked and how people appreciated talking to him, and he appreciated talking to those people, because in front of the building, our building, hes standing, and suddenly goes a gentleman with his grandpa. And my daddy calls out to the kids, all the kids, and grabs the kid and picks him up and start to kiss him. He said, Dont kiss him, hes Jewish! Hes Jewish. They killed Christ. Dont kiss him. And other people would get mad. Daddy said, Dont listen to Grandpa. He knows hes wrong. I didnt kill; the Jews there in the next town killed him. I love them! (laughs) So the guy started to kiss my dad!
CP: Wow. So he could just take anti-Semitism and defuse it in a joke like that.
AS: That kind of a guy he was.
CP: Thats an amazing guy.
AS: Yeah. So was my brother, too. My brother was like this one. And he was going to gymnzium in Michalovce, because we had to move to a city to go to higher education. So he moved there, and he was in a play that they put him in; he was a singer, and he inherited it from Dad. So in the play was alike you werewhat is Joshua, was he?
LS: Yeah, Joshua. Joshua was in My Fair Lady.
AS: My Fair Lady. And suddenly, after the game was over, it was performed in the gymnzium in the school. So a gentleman who was working on the
AS: a radio station in Czechoslovakia wants to talk to the parents of my brother. He went up to the director. I want to see What do you want? Well, he says, that boy shouldnt waste his time. Hes beautiful, hes an exceptional singer. And they want to talk, so they got in touch with my dad and got the permissionvery gladly because that was in his heart, you know. And he became a singer for every week in Koicethe city was called Koice. That was the biggest Slovak city that we had.
LS: After Bratislava.
AS: What place?
LS: After Bratislava.
AS: After Bratislava, yeah. Bratislava is the capital. So they invited him, and you know, we didnt have radios like they have now. We have to make the radio. We had to make ourselves the students, had to make to be able to listen. So we build ourselvesteachers were helping us and we built ourselves radios because Alfredthat was his namewas going to sing. So we hadeverybody was calling everybody. Alfred is going to be on the program. And he was making more money as a student than many people who were professionally employed. He was very good, exceptional.
AS: After the warafter the war, he was hired. He came back from Auschwitz, but he didnt know my name. When I came there here to speak next to him, I said, Im your brother, Alfred, because Im the only one who wasnt in concentration camp, you know. And I met a doctor who was helping him in the hospital, so he told me, That is your brother; he came back from Auschwitz. So I went to him, and hes talking. I dont know what he was talking, I still dont know. But he said, (inaudible) spent a few weeks there. And finally he said, (inaudible). And he came out to the United States, but surviving.
After he survived, they called him back to his job and he refused. He was in charge of a big company where they were publishinga publisher was the company. Maz was the name of the company. He was in charge and they called him back, that his job is open for him. He says, No, thank you. He took a job with the airline, because he spoke a few languages: English, Hungarian, German, you know, a little Spanish, and they appreciate that, so they wanted him. So he was (inaudible) the planes at night from Prague. Starting of the flight, always he was there, you know. He helped people to get out, who were supposed to escape and couldnt escape.
AS: It was very special person. And with me, (phone beeps) I came to the town afterI had to prove that my name is Salcman because after I was free, so I still had the name Szabo Miklos.
LS: Thats the telephone.
AS: The telephone. Is the
CP: Yeah, its okay. But before we get tocause well get to that story in just a little bitI was wonderingit sounds like you had a very idyllic upbringing. Everything sounds like it was beautiful when you were growing up. People were getting along. When did you notice things were changing, and how old were you when things started to change?
AS: I was about fifteen. Fourteen, fifteen. No, I must have been older. I was seventeen, eighteen, something like that. And I saw friends that I played with them: they were such close friends, and they turned their back on me. Kids that are likethey used to run up to me, Hi, Arthur, and hug me and I get the bike and go. They didnt do it. They turned the other way because they were afraid to have Jews as friends. So they turned their back. Then I realized, Oh, thats not the same thing anymore. And I felt very bad, and I still feel very bad, because if there wouldnt be such a good guys in the world, I wouldnt be sitting here today. There were good ones, too. They helped me to save my life.
And the good onesI will tell you when I was in the railroad, escaping, because I knew somebodys watching me at night to escape. So at night, the planes were dark, out of the lights. They were afraid in Czechoslovakia they will bomb them, the English. First we were friends, but then later on, you know, we were enemies. So there Im sitting, I was on theno, he was on the other side and I was here. There was just rows in the train at night. And the one who was controlling the seats and giving out the tickets has a little flashlight, and took and checked. Everybody had to have a name and a badge. As (inaudible) the badge or as horrible as it was, you had to have, otherwise
So he looked and sees then Arthur Salzmen. He was going with me to college. So, all the time I was hoping, Oh, that guy wont give me up, he wouldnt hand me over. No. God blessing my hopes, or is blessed, because that was the best person I ever met. So I go out of the train and he [said], Arthur! Dont rush for me, Arthur. I have a beautiful apartment; I work here in Bratislava. I see you didnt shave, you didnt clean. You can stay over with me one night. And he let me stay over. In the morning he says, I go to work and I cannot let you here, because they will find out. You have to go. So I had to go; but this is the guy who instead of handing me over is protecting me.
And after the war, I came home. The town had aboutI would say about seven or eight hundred people, thats all. It was a big town, big department stores there, and they have a camera company there where I lived. In the department that they were looking for methe Skoda Works with a German engineer, was my head. Schtager was his name. And the German engineer, Schtager, called me in and says, Look, you have to go because they pointed their fingers at you. You have to go.
CP: So you got laid off? They had to
AS: Yeah. It was lucky, it was a help, you know, because they pointing. The Germans moved in, you know, Plze. I worked in Plze at the Skoda Works where the borderline of the Sudetenland. Sudetenland was the land went to all Germans. So he said, They were pointing at you. So after the war, I came home and I found an empty house, everything gone. All the furniture, animals, everything is gone. But people, some of them carried back, on their back, furniture that they took from them on the boat. And the head of the office was Mr. Novak, Geza Novak, and in the office was a note from the Skoda Works. If Arthur Salzmen is alive, his job is waiting for him.
LS: He meant telegram.
CP: Wow! And you went back? And you worked there until you moved to the United States, correct? Can you spell Skoda Works for me?
CP: Can you spell Skoda Works for me, where you worked?
AS: And I have a little
AS: Sculpture. When I came back, they gave me a dinner and they gave me a sculpture. And when I came to the United States, I didnt bring money, but I brought very good memories.
LS: And the sculpture.
CP: Thats amazing.
AS: When you walk into my sons house, who has everything, full of expensive pictures there that he picked all over the world and whatever, because he was head of thehe was chairman of (inaudible), a president of culture (inaudible).
(to someone else) Tom!
AS: Hello, Tom. (CP laughs)
Jane Duncan: Real life.
CP: Yup, yup. Well you have
AS: Hes the mostI mean, hes sohe works here. Hes in charge, and when he saw our kids here and they hadfrom the school, sweaters on or something. (inaudible) So, we became very close. Well, thats a different country. I hope it stays like this one. This is great country.
CP: Can I ask you to share the story about the last Passover with your family? Do you remember that story?
AS: Yeah, I do.
CP: Would you share that?
AS: Yeah. I mentioned that the last time?
CP: Um, yeah, we talked about it a little bit.
AS: The littlemy sisters. My sisters were there, my brother-in-laws were there, and the little kids were there, the tiny kids. One, the little boy, he was of all of them the youngest one. The youngest kids wasnt walking yet; you know, shes just staring. Her mother all the time had the baby in the hands, and the other one was about five, four or five years old, I dont know exactly what they were.
And the guy was telling us. This wasthis guy who was talking now wasnt a friend anymore of humanity. But he wasnt a friend not only not Jews; he was like this one, he was born. So he says, You girls, you come next. But if your husbands give up their jobs and report themselves to the German people and they are waiting there when theyre taking you, [they will get to] pick the finest jobs. He was lying. Such liars, you know. And people gave up to save their wives, to save their children. The little boy was about four years old and he said, I dont want to go, I dont want to go! You are the man thats talking; can you imagine an old guy, hes talking how good he will have the parents. And four, four and a half years oldTommy was his name, Tom. He was, I dont want to go with them. And he cried loud, but he went. His mom wanted to save histhe husband and the other sister wanted to save her, and he yelled.
There was a mixture of people, you know. There was good ones and bad ones. The bad ones, the reverse; the good ones would have been the majority. The good ones saved some people. Now, I hadfor instance, I was at the military, and when I was at the military
CP: And this was before
AS: You want me to wait?
CP: And this was before the war started, correct, when you were in the military?
AS: Yeah. Oh, I was before the military. When I came home and I found it there, that If Arthur Salzmen is alive, his job is waiting for him. So I went back. I couldntif they gave me all of Czechoslovakia, I wouldnt have stayed there. I was disappointed. So I was running then.
CP: So youwhen you were talking about the last Passover, you told about hiding in the hay, and your family ran out
AS: Thats right.
CP: Can you tell me about that?
AS: Yeah, the (inaudible) you mentioned. So my brother and myself, we were the only one that left behind the building. A little dog was there, a favorite of my dad. The dog knew that theyre beating the animals, they stealing them, you know; instead of paying really the price of what they were, they were getting them for nothing.
CP: So the dogthe dog could tell that it was wrong, that they were stealing?
AS: The dog knew that this grabbing of the sleds and fighting with the peopleDont take this! This doesnt belong to you! Unbelievable. The dog taught the lesson to the human beings how to act. And I and my brother, we are watching in the place where there was full ofsneo
AS: Hay. Loaded with hay, and between the cracks of the boards.
AS: And then we saw all the friendswe thought they are friends. Oh, they were grabbing the things.
CP: So you could actually see it through the boards while you were hiding?
AS: Yeah, because they were the cracks there, you know, you match the boards. They were cheap and we could see. So then it came down, and it was everything over with my brother and we decided, and I hadI had in my hand a hammer, a big hammer, a sledgehammer, and my brother had an axe. And you know between the two roads there was a wall there that my dad, he was(inaudible) there in the middle. There was a big wall there, big; it was bigger than this wall. It was big enough that a man couldnt jump it; he had to walk through.
So we were going, the two of us with these hammers, one and the other one. And he said, Now, you comeany one of you who come here is asking for something that we normally we wouldnt do it; but we have to save our lives, and we will try to save it. They didnt touch us. We went through the forest. And they went up then in the city where I was working for a German company, and when they were loadingthe closest city was called Vranov nad Topou, Vranov nad Topou.
LS: Just right.
AS: Vranov, V-r
CP: Thank you.
AS: Nad Topou is over the Topa [River]; thats the water. Anyhow, the man that gave me the address Szabo Miklos came to me; his mother-in-law came to me. I was control of them. I was in charge of the five or six people that were loaning money (inaudible), because everything was to Germany. And he came to me and he says, Arthur, I have bad news for you. And I said, What is the bad news, Miklos? He was a communist, but he was a good human being. I dont care what he was; he was a good human being. He wanted to save a person, a persons life. He came to me and says, You got to disappear, because they said, Tomorrow he is going in there. They pointed the fingers at you. Tomorrow you will leave. So he said, Before you finish up tonight, Im going home. My wife will prepare for you bread and salma. I dont know what you call it. Its from a pig.
CP: Or ham?
AS: Ham! Ham. And he says, Ill prepare for you this and that, and he says, Disappear. And thats how I disappeared and started in going with those people in Michalovce. He said, I want you toIm not an engineer, Im a businessman. And I want you to take care of my things; if we save them, after the war, if you want to you stay with me. So after the war he came after me and he says, Would you like to stay with me? I said, Thank you for saving me. He wanted to give me money, a suit I should buy myself. It was nothing. I say, You are great, but I cannot work anymore.
CP: So Szabo actually gave you his papers, right?
AS: Yes, Szabo Miklos. I still have his papers.
CP: So was he risking his life by doing that?
AS: Oh, absolutely; if they caught me and they goand so they take him.
CP: Im going to ask you to share another one of the, I think, your saddest stories, and thats the last time you saw your parents. Would you tell us about that, please?
AS: My sad story was
AS: And here I would bemy nephew, you see, he knew already, the boyhe was here teaching thermodynamics in the United States. And he knew where they are and he was hiding with me, but they caught him and they broke up the line between him and me, and I lost. I just found him afterI went after the war and I could travel, and we went with Lilly. And I went to this, where he was kept in, that place. And there was his name, Arnold Polak; he was fourteen years old. Hes asking me, Go there at such and such a date. He was put on the train to Auschwitz, and I wait for him (inaudible). So anyhowso what was the question?
CP: The last time you saw your parents?
AS: Oh, I was thinking. So I came to the place where my mom was, and I came to her as a partisan, you know. She had a tough time to recognize me, the way I was dressed up, you know, and the way I spoke, but she did. And the fence is normal, what they ask of us, not too high. They put them in a school. On one side were the men and on one side were the women. So I came there, and there she is. And first I went to visit Dad, and then I went to visit her. But when I came to her, it was (inaudible). She said, Son, will I see you again? She never saw; she never saw me again.
CP: And they were taken to Auschwitz, is that correct?
AS: And she knew that, she felt it, but she wouldnt leave Dad; he was by himself. I hadmy brother has problems, too. And in Praguehe was working, as I said, in Prague at the airport. We were sitting in a restaurant during Hitlers time, before they found out who we are. We were sitting a restaurant, and the head of the police department was Dr. Jaroslav Mare; he was with me in the officer school, in the reserve officer school, so we were very close friendstrained to be friends, not enemies, you know. And there we are sitting, and suddenly in the door someone is waving with his finger. I see my brother get up and walk out, but they didnt let him in anymore; he just walked out. He got lost. So, they took him to the police department. They took him to the police department, and he took some time for my friend Dr. Mare, who was a police department chief in Prague. It took some time to find out where, in which department, who did it. It took him over a week. But once he found out, he got him out. So theres another one, Dr. Jaroslav Mare.
And when my wife was pregnant and then she had the baby, Michael was born, so he used to send meit was after the war already; the war, you know. He came back and he got his position back, so after the war. So he used to saynot to say, but he used to put in an envelope to them, the tickets. You see, they werejust pregnant women would get permission to get bananas, chocolate, milk, special items; they were controlled. And he would send it in an envelope and mail it without his address, just my address on top, and put in his tickets and mailed it from Prague to Plze. I should haveshe was in those days supposed to have the baby. And the answer was, when I told him, Dont do that, Jaroslav, dont do that; you need it as badly as she does. No, she needs it more; you dont know what she needs. And he was sending his ticket, and we didnt leave Czechoslovakia. He was sending these tickets to me.
LC: This was after the war.
AS: After the war. Can you imagine? This is another one where they would have caught him, and his father was the head of the railthe big railroad station in Prague. He was head of the police department, but his father was the head of the policeof the railroad department.
CP: Should we take a break? Yeah, I thinkis that okay? You want to take a quick break while we change the tapes?
AS: Yeah, sure.
CP: Okay, this is tape two of our interview with Arthur Salcman. And I was wondering if you could tell me the story of how your nephew came to hide with you: how you went into hiding, and then when did your nephew join you?
AS: Well, my nephews father was in business with a gentleman who has a very big farm, and we were exchanging live animals withso I dont exactly know the detail, you know. And he was hiding both of them and his wifehis mother, Joshua and his mother. And the man who told them, who gave them the secret where I am hiding, was the railroad manager in the town there. And he gave out the secret. The railroad manager walked under the windows [of] the train when they were loading the Jewish people there. And his father was already on the train, and he was saying, Your dad is there on the top of the building with meyour grandpa, your grandpa. And thats how they got really to think where I am and that I escaped, because at the time being we didnt know about nothing. Since they caught himhe knew he was the only one that knew where I lived. He could come to me, come my way; but since they caught him I have to change many times the places so he didnt know anymore.
So around twelve oclock at night, when it was dark and the train started the route, the father was telling him, Josh, I want you to go after your uncle. And he still feels today like I am more of his father than his father was. I want you to go after your uncle. But he didnt want to leave him. But he says he was pushing me so hard, working on him, that, on one occasion, he says, I broke down and the train started to slow down, and he practically pushed me out. He says, Thats how I escaped.
And then, around twelve oclock at night, someone comes in the railroad station and knocks on the door. Thats where he lived, the man who was in charge of the railroad. Knocked on the doorJoshua was the one who knocked on the door, and he sees there in front of him a kid, a grown up kid thats dirty, you know. He says, My uncle is here with you. And he says, Yeah, and thats how we got together. And he took us down then in the basement. They had people who were making pictures, a whole area, and were very much politically involved in everything. So thats how we got together. And then with him, from there we had to escape, because they took his mom and dad. And when we wentyou found the book?
LS: No, but Ill find it. Its here because I looked at it the other day.
AS: Yeah, Im sorry that I
AS: Anyhow, he took me there to the wivesto the gentlemans wifes sister. They had in Bratislava, in the city, under a hill, which was getting up the top. He had a sister living beautifully: they were in high positions to everybody, was in high position. And she was crying on our shoulders every day that we should go already, but she wouldnt give us away because shes afraid, afraid. We didnt have anywhere to go.
But then we had to, becausefor instance, we were watching every day a truck going up with four or five or six people, up the hill. And it was daytime and they stayed there almost till the evening. And then suddenly we lost it, because there in the place there were trees and stuff. And there was the place where they getting rid of the people, their political enemies. They were killing them by shots, and we were counting: shot one, shot two, shot three, shot four. So, you know, they were all shot by them. And then backit was coming the truck, already, by one driver. Took care of the deaths of ourand then he had to escape, and I had to hide. So I found myself a place there in that city by a factory. What was the name? You cando you remember the name of the factory where I got myself a job there? This is the fellow that needed thea very big
AS: Lee. And we had a lathe and I helped him to get the lathe, because it wasnt easy to get a lathe then. People were giving money
AS: Yeah. What is it?
LS: You are repeating; you already
AS: Yeah, yeah, I said it. So thats how I gotso when I had to hide then, later on, I went toeven though I was yelling already from a distance, Hi, this is Szabo Miklos, because I didnt want that they should give me away, you know, or he should give me away. I was yelling to him under what name I am going to meet him.
CP: So he didnt say, Hi, Art.
AS: No, he was just saying, Hi, hi, he said to me. And I had to escape. So the reason I had to escape was becausesometimes its good if you dont know things, you know. I had to do some work in the factory. I put on myself all the oil and everything that I should look like a mechanic. But I acted like no mechanic, because I needed to cut some gears, and I knew how to figure out how to do things myself, and they were watching. And then I go to the placethey had a little caf room where you could buy sandwiches, rolls. And there is a man sitting in black uniform and a black hat, initials from Germany, all trained well, and after a while he looks at me. I got myself a coffee, he looks at me, and he says, Gee, I think I know you. I said, You know me from where? He says, Arent you the Jew from the east coast? And he told me that
LS: He was from eastern Czechoslovakia.
AS: And I sayso then I knew, and I recognized him right away. I used to play soccer with him when I was a little boy, twelve years, thirteen. And he said, Jew, and when he said once more, I said, You SOB, dont call me Jew! he said, You must be the Jew! I hit him and it took him back for a while, but I didnt think that he was disarmed completely. So I left the place and I went to that director and I told him, Look what happened to me; I have to leave. And I tell him what happened, and he says, You must leave right away. So I left right away. And I came out to a place not far from there that a heavy-set ladyyou know, good, well-built, about fifty-five, maybe sixtycomes in and puts in her leg betweenI rang the bell. It was at night and it was snowing and (inaudible).
And by the way, I got there, so one of the German guys was killed, an officer. So they asked him if they wants some help. He said, Yeah, if there is a doctor. So there was one, and he was from Preov. Preov is a city. And then they ask him if he is Jewish, and the guy who was dying there was a German officer, laying on the ground dying. And he says, No, if hes Jewish I dont want him. He was dying, but he didnt want him because hes Jewish. But I dont think that that man survived. I never saw him anymore.
So, thats why they saved me. They threw in some luggage on menot luggage. In the bag they threw me, dungarees and a shirt. I picked it up because they were throwingthe people from the town were helping the prisoners there. And over the fence they were throwing in food; but I, instead of food, I got a shirt, which was more important for me. And I went in the restroom at night and then dressed up put just the shirt and this on, and I was waiting when the occasion will be there and jumped in some (inaudible). Then when I escapedso that was the reason (inaudible).
And I came there and I ringed the bell. I didnt know who was there; I just knew its a big house, very big. It was very impressive, so they must be some well-to-do people here; maybe there is also somebody there with feelings, I dont know. When you try to save your life, you accept anything. So I put inwhere she had her foot I put in my foot, and she wanted to close the door, the gate, and I wouldnt let her. I said, Look, if you dont let me inand I named the name of the partisan unit, that everybody knew in the town there is partisansa Russian, you know. And I named him, and I said, If you dont let me in here, by tomorrow morning you wont have a house here. You know, you became as dirty almost as they were already; you were lying just to save your life. So, she let me in. And she let me in her house, although all the time she tried to tell me that her son would be at home, and that she couldnt do that because hes very much against.
Anyhow, she came to a corner there in her property where there were iron, brass, iron rusting on top of each other, a load. She tries to clean it away, and she opens about two by two feet, an opening, a small opening, and she lets me down. And she says there are other two people therethere are not two, there are three people in there, a husband and wife, and the child. The husband and wifewhen I came there, I just couldnt believe it, you know, in the troubled world, how that could measure. There was Mr. Laufort, a fellow I knew personallythis is Mrs. Laufortwhen I was on the train working and I knew everybody. And they have a daughter with them whos about seven, eight years old. And that was a pail and that was our toilet and our washroom, everything: one pail, and our water and everything. All the dirt, but thats what it was, all the equipment. And she had the sense to drop downif she would have been mean she could have called the police, and they would have made her probably the head of a city or something, you know, the government.
But anyhow, there was five, six days later the Romanians. I hear already catching chicken there on the yard, because they were grabbing chickens, putting their own (inaudible). Anyhow, she comes out and she lifts up the thing and she says, Youre free now. I said, Free? I couldnt believe it.
LS: The Romanians were with the Russian Army.
AS: The Russianthe Russian Army freed us together with the Romanians, together. So the Russian officer there tells me, What are you going to do now? Because the people, the Lauforts, they were there. But for me, knowing that I was a partisan, so she was looking for some rewardyou know, she deserves; she saved a partisan. And so she says to me, You dont have to go down anymore; you are free. I have a couch there in foyer, and its a beautiful couch. You can stay. So there I stayed. That night comes to me the officer, a Russian man, and wakes me up, shakes me, and says, Who are you? Well, I say, I am a partisan and Im from this and this group, and she gave me a place to stay here so I am staying here. And are you Jewish? I say, Yeah, I am Jewish.
And then I wanted to get away from this one and I needed someone to tell that Im not Szabo Miklos, but Im Arthur Salzmen. So I needed witnesses, because the Russians wouldnt let me just go free. I had to prove who I am. So I had to look for two people who can witness who I am and the witness one set of people. And the Lauforts had a daughter. I lived in Brooklyn and they lived in another part of Brooklyn, and they had a daughter who became a teacher who was teaching there in a school, in high school. But I never met her. On the phone I had discussions with people who knew the story, but not with them. We were all busy; we all had our own problems, you know. So this is the story
CP: I just have a couple more questions to ask. And the first one is, can you tell me about how you became a partisan?
AS: Yeah. Ill tell you; its very interesting. I became a partisan. Here Im working and going to the railroad bringing machinery, and I am the one who is in front driving the tractor, and the people that I employ driving behind on the other tractor to prepare them for business. In about five, six weeks after this, suddenly two officers come in in a Jeepan American Jeep automobile, a small onecome in into my office there and say, Lieutenant Salzmen? You know, I still get goose pimples when I just mention it. We know about you.
(inaudible)(inaudible) was the head of the army then. He knows he went with you to school; he wants to see you.
AS: And the reason how it happenedthat was
LS: k-i [sic]. Kyslinky.
CP: When you were captured by the Russians?
AS: Oh, what was the conditions? It was horrible, becausefor instance, when I waswhen they were carrying us about four in a rowand the rows were a mile long; I dont know how many people there were. And the one that knew a little bit Russian and learned a little bit German in the meantime thought that they are guards already. So they have all the rights and stuff. For insistence, the guy who was next to me, he saysin German, and he speaks to me in German. And I turn around to my neighbor, and I tell him, I dont talk German, I dont know German. And he says to him Nicht spreche Deutsch, in the bad German.
LS: Broken German, yeah.
AS: In a bad German, yeah. I knew how to say it but I didnt say it, I didnt know. But he knew, so he hit me with a bayonet, you know, on the mouth. Dumbbell! All the way I had to be hit by the guy whose dumbbell I was, because I didnt know what he was talking. I didnt know because I wanted to save my life. So, that was the story.
CP: And how did you
AS: And then they let peopleand the men they had easier, because in America there wasfor medical reasons, I understand, they had circumcisions. Boys are born and circumcised, Jew or not Jew, because they said medically
CP: So some people were not Jewish, but they were circumcised. They had to die because
LS: But not in Germany, not in Europe. In Europe only the Jews are circumcised, in Europe.
AS: Yeah, yeah, yeah, but
LS: In the old Europe.
LS: After the war they (inaudible).
AS: But lets not confuse them. But some I say werethey were not Jews that came from America, who were teaching me music. He was an American, and he was circumcised here in America; he was born here. And he wasnt Jewish, he was Christian, but he was circumcised.
LS: He wanted to bring usif the Germans wanted to prove you are Jewish, they pull the pants down. Thats it.
CP: Can you tell me, how did you escape once you were captured by the Russian defectors?
AS: Well, Im telling you it waswhen they were capturing us and the Jewsif they knew that they were Jewish people, they killed right there, one shot. Anybody could shoot a Jew; it wasnt nothing wrong with it. They should get from them some diploma for it, you know, a reward. Jews wasnt handled as a human being; it wasnt a human being. But the non-Jews were handled bad, too, you know, because they werent Jewish and they were treated exactly the same.
CP: Can you tell me, then, what happened
AS: So they left off the pants, you know, when they got us already to the final place, which was about one block, a big buildingthe high school. High school or elementary I dont know, but it was a big school, so its one or the other one. It was loaded full, all around us, white thisthe fences all around, and the guard was Germans mixed together with the very reliable Slovaks, Slavs who spoke already a little German and they got their education in Germany. They send them for a few weeks to Germany and they came back. They made up the officers.
So, they were to kill a human being because hes an officer now, you know, and so they let eventhey went one by the other one day, [asking] your profession. You had to prove thatthey even have interviews with each and every one. And I was waiting until he comes to me for an interview, because I knew for sure that I will be one of them, that I will not make it to the interview. So one night when I didnt hear anymore the work outsideit was raining, toowhen I didnt hear any steps because they were at the other end, and I jumped
LS: Out the window.
AS: And I went to the place where I got back, you know, and they accepted me with open arms and I didnt have to worry any more.
CP: So is that how the war ended for you?
AS: For me ended one way, the war. But I still have tountil it completely ended. It completely ended the war when the Romanian in that place where I saidthe lady, she didnt take her foot out from the thing. And I stayed there, and then a few days later the guy came. She came and she said, You are all free. But for me she had a place in the foyer; there was the couch. I dont have to go back. But the Lauforts, they were the real Jews. (laughs) Theyre such a
CP: So after the war was over and you were liberated, you said that you got your job back at the Skoda Works?
AS: Yeah, I did.
CP: Did that happen pretty quick?
AS: I came very quick. I came to my town there, and I wanted the house to be rewritten to the original ownersthe ownership, which was my father and my brother-in-law, you know, and another one. Three of them had the ownership. And the head of this office was Mister
AS: Geza, whatI mentioned him before.
AS: Novak, Geza Novak. Novak. And when he saw me, he knew me when I was a free man, and his children and me, we played together. So he treated me like a human, especially after the war, when I was with him in his office and I had a gun on myself and a uniform, so I was thinking that he thought, Here is somebody who is going to take advantage, now. And I didnt want to take any advantage. I just wanted peace and quiet, and I wanted the house back because its my house. So right away, he gave it in my name. Now I lost that house, and I have a nephew in Slovakia; hes at the University of Bratislava. He is the mathematic department head. Otto Groek is his name. He had a Christian name, kind of, but not made for saving; that was his original name and thats why he stayed with it. He survived. So I bring him upwhat, what?
CP: We are talking about after the end of the war.
AS: Oh, theyeah, I brought him up because I asked him when they gave it back to me, you know, the house. And then suddenly, theyre sending me a bill from Slovakia. I dont know how many thousands and thousands of dollars I have to pay for the house for the
LS: You were still there, after you married Edith and you came to Texas.
AS: Yeah, yeah, but I wasnt there. I was here in the United States when I got from the paper. I have papersits still
LS: The papers said that the house is yours, no?
LS: The house is yours if you go back and you live there.
AS: Thats exactly!
AS: They changed their
LS: But he didnt want to go back.
AS: They changed the rules there. I can have the house back if I go there and I live there. But thatwe leave Czechoslovakia, have a good time in the United States and(inaudible).
CP: When did you come to the United States?
AS: In forty-six . ExactlyLilly, when did I come, forty-six  to the?
LS: Who, here?
AS: Yeah, Queen Mary was the one
LS: Is forty-nine .
AS: I was on Queen Mary when they had the problem and they had to stop
AS: the boat. Its the first time that ever Queen Mary had to
LS: The big storm. There was a big storm and they stuck in the middle of the Atlantic, which was
Carolyn Ellis: And that was 1949?
LS: Forty-nine , yeah.
CP: And then when you came here, you got a job as an engineer pretty quickly?
AS: Very quickly.
CP: And you stayed with that company forever, right?
AS: Well, I stayedI just had two jobs in my life: one in Czechoslovakia and one here in the United States.
CP: Do you want to name the company that you worked for?
CP: AMF, thats
AS: American Machine and Foundry.
LS: (inaudible) bowling alleys. Brunswick AMF. Theywell, AMF was a huge company. They built tanks, they built
AS: First I was in theat AMF, I couldnt even enter theonly withI had a badge, and someone enter with me, pick me up at home in the car and bring me and take me everywhere, because I didnt have any papers. And the white collared people there, the big guys, studied with me (inaudible), and we did the testing of the Navy loaders.
AS: Navy loaders was the unit.
LS: For the Navy.
AS: We did the test of the first shot of a unit, you know, and gave them permission to (inaudible) if its in perfect condition. So, then they finally found out that the wrong guy is handling it. Its a nice fellow, we like him very much, but he doesnt speak the language. He knows engineering, but thats all he knows. So they complain.
So the AMF sent me first to Canada, to (inaudible), to build the division, because we had problems with one division that they didnt accept our electricalthe electrical units had to be (inaudible). And they didnt accept it; they gave us troubles. But if we opened there a division by ourselves, then it was kosher, it was right. But just to come and have a unit there and not to pay for it, its notyou know. So, I had to build there. I stayed there for about six weeks, hire people, helping to put up a new division, and very nice people, very, very great people. It was a great time. The factory was in Guelph, Canada. Guelph, Canada. It was nice to go there. They had a beautiful golf course. You know, its nice to
CP: So I just have a couple more easy questions for you. And were going to talk with you and Lilly later, so I dont want to talk too much about that, but can you tell me when you met Lilly? Like, the year that you met Lilly?
AS: Oh, she was a riot. Its not easy to meet Lilly! I had a brother in New York, Alfred. As I said, the first time when I met him we didnt know his name, he didnt know who I am, but he survived and he became the head
LS: He lived in New York.
AS: And he lived in New York, and he became the head of the airport
LS: The airport in Prague.
AS: In Prague: Ruzyn, Ruzyn Airport. And he didnt want to give it up, because it was very helpful for the Israeli state that he was there. And
LS: You came into New York to have a root canal done.
AS: Yeah, I came into New York because I had problem with the root canal. And he insisted, my brother. I have such a good dentist here, you come. Stay with me. So you know, thats all thats left to me, a brother, so I will come.
LS: So you came to New York.
AS: So I came to New York and we had a dinner. My niece got married, Arnolds sister, the professors sister that is eighty-three now. She got married, and they are sister and brother to him. So
LS: She invited you
AS: She invited me for dinner. Now she invited me for dinner, and again all this rains. I dont know. It was such a bad weather I remember you came in a wet leather coat.
LS: A raincoat. A yellow raincoat.
AS: She was so wet! (laughs) And here we are sitting at the table having good wine and good food, and someone comes in there. She was welcomed very well, because this was planned, you know. And little did I know that thats my wife.
LS: His niece
AS: Thats why they invite me. Thats what my granddaughters tell me. I dont have a problem, but you had a problem. (laughs)
CP: Well, thats a perfect teaser for us later, so we can finish the story of how you met and how you ended up together. The last two questions I have to you are first is: What does being a survivor of the Holocaust and telling your story mean to you today? And the second question is: Do you have a message for future generations that may look at this as historical record? And what would youwhat do you want for the future, what would you share with the future? So the first was: What does it mean for you to be a survivor and to share your story today?
AS: Exactly what I put up on the pictures. They wanted for me a picture, and two years ago we went here to Tampa
AS: Thats whatyou wait. (CP laughs) In Tampa, and they took us to a beautiful place. I didnt know where the place is. We even asked someone to take us, because we didnt know how to get there. And suddenly I walk in, and someone points out to me, Hey Arthur, there is a picture on the wall, I think. So thats you; isnt it you? And I look around. Thats the picture, my picture from the Holocaust Museum. And I put on there how proud I am that my son I brought up to give life to people on that. Thats my message.
CP: Well, thank you so much for sharing with us. Its an honor to listen to your story, and its amazing to see how much love you have in your heart for your family and for your parents and everyone. So, thank you so much for sharing that with us.
AS: Thank you.
CP: Thank you.
AS: Thank you, you are a great fellow.
CP: Thank you.
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Arthur Salcman oral history interview
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Chris Patti.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (89 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (35 p.)
Holocaust survivors oral history project
Interview conducted May 3, 2010.
Oral history interview with Holocaust survivor Arthur Salcman. Salcman was born in Posa, Czechoslovakia, in 1911. When the Sudetenland was annexed in 1938, he was in Plzen working as an engineer at the Skoda Works. He left Plzen and went to Michalovce in Slovakia, where he was a member of a partisan resistance group. Salcman had two close encounters with the Germans but managed to escape both times. He immigrated to the United States in 1949 and worked for the American Machine and Foundry Company. In this interview, he also describes his childhood and family life before the war. His wife, Lilly Salcman, also a Holocaust survivor, is present during this interview and frequently comments. Salcman died in September 2010.
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)
v Personal narratives.
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)
World War, 1939-1945
x Jewish resistance
World War, 1939-1945
Crimes against humanity.
Patti, Chris J.,
Florida Holocaust Museum.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Holocaust & Genocide Studies Center.
University of South Florida.
Special & Digital Collections.
Oral History Program.
Holocaust & genocide studies oral history projects.
Holocaust survivors oral history project.
y USF ONLINE ACCESS
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