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Alexander Larys oral history interview

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Material Information

Title:
Alexander Larys oral history interview
Series Title:
Holocaust survivors oral history project
Uniform Title:
Holocaust & genocide studies oral history projects
Physical Description:
1 sound file (45 min.) : digital, MPEG4 file + ;
Language:
English
Creator:
Larys, Alexander, 1939-
Klein, Ellen Wilson, 1969-
Florida Holocaust Museum
University of South Florida Libraries -- Holocaust & Genocide Studies Center
University of South Florida -- Library. -- Special & Digital Collections. -- Oral History Program
Publisher:
University of South Florida Tampa Library
Place of Publication:
Tampa, Fla
Publication Date:

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Concentration camps -- History -- Germany   ( lcsh )
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) -- Personal narratives -- Poland   ( lcsh )
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) -- Personal narratives -- Germany   ( lcsh )
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) -- Personal narratives   ( lcsh )
Jewish children in the Holocaust   ( lcsh )
World War, 1939-1945 -- Jews -- Rescue   ( lcsh )
Holocaust survivors -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Holocaust survivors -- Interviews   ( lcsh )
Genocide   ( lcsh )
Crimes against humanity   ( lcsh )
Genre:
Oral history   ( local )
Online audio   ( local )
Oral history.   ( local )
Online audio.   ( local )
interview   ( marcgt )

Notes

Summary:
Oral history interview with Holocaust survivor Alexander Larys. Larys was born in Krakow, Poland, in 1939. Larys and his parents were deported to the Bochnia ghetto in 1940, where his father forged papers saying they were citizens of Argentina. This allowed them to go back to Krakow when Bochnia's ghetto was liquidated in 1942. They ended up in Bergen-Belsen's Star Compound. When the Nazis started moving prisoners from Bergen-Belsen in 1945, the Larys family was part of a group taken by train towards Magdeburg and were liberated by the American 30th Infantry Division. After the war they lived in Belgium for several years, then went to Israel in 1950, and immigrated to the United States in 1954. As an adult, Larys frequently visited Israel, sometimes for extended periods of a year or more, and was in the Israel Defense Forces. In 2009 he was reunited with one of the 30th Division soldiers who liberated the train, and he has participated in several reunions and events related to the train.
Venue:
Interview conducted March 15, 2011.
Statement of Responsibility:
interviewed by Ellen Klein.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 028782009
oclc - 731179063
usfldc doi - F60-00051
usfldc handle - f60.51
System ID:
SFS0022015:00001


This item is only available as the following downloads:


Full Text
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text Ellen Klein: Today is March 15, 2011.  Im here today with Alexander Larys.  My name is Ellen Klein.  We are in Seminole, Florida, in the United States of America.  Our language is English, and our videographers are Jane Duncan and Richard Schmidt.
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Im here today with Alexander Larys, and hes here to share his story with us.  So, Mr. Larys, tell us a little bit about yourself, if you would.
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Alexander Larys: Well, you have to ask me the questions.  (laughs)
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EK: Okay, all right.  Tell me your name and please spell it.
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AL: Alexanderwell, its really Alex, A-l-e-x, Larys, L-a-r-y-s.
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EK: And what was your name before it was changed to Larys?
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AL: Kupfer, K-u-p-f-e-r.
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EK: All right.  And what year were you born?
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AL: Nineteen thirty-nine.
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EK: All right.  What was the date?
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AL: January 9.
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EK: Okay, great.  And what were your parents names?
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AL: Well, it wasmy mothers name was Antonina; later she was called Nina.  My fathers name was Tadeusz; in the United States it became Ted.
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EK: Okay.  And how do you spell Tadeusz?
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AL: Im not sure.  I would think that its T-a-d-e-u-sthats approximately.
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EK: Okay, all right.  And do you know when he was born?
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AL: No, I dont have the date.
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EK: Okay.  So I think maybe twenty-ninth of November 1904, does that sound right?
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AL: Well, sounds all right to me, I dont know.
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EK: Okay.  And your mother, what was her name before she married and became a Kupfer?
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AL: Oh, I dont knowoh, wait a minute, Stoltzberg.  You talking about her maiden name?
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EK: Her maiden name.
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AL: Oh, Stoltzberg.
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EK: Okay, and how do you spell it?
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AL: And Im not exactly sure, but I imagine it would be S-t-o-l-t-z-b-e-r-g.  Thats the way I spell it on applications.
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EK: Okay, great. And where were they born?
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AL: Well, they were both born in Poland, but where I dont know.
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EK: Okay, and how about you?
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AL: Me? I was born in Krakw, Poland.
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EK: In Krakw, okay, very good.  And what do you remember about being a little boy in Poland?
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AL: Not much.
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EK: Not much?  Okay.  What do you remember about your parents when you were little?  Who were they and what did they do?
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AL: Oh, I dont remember what they did in Poland.  I left Poland at that age of four.
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EK: And your mom, though, what kind of work did she do?
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AL: She was a pharmacist.
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EK: A pharmacist, okay.  And what about your father?
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AL: He waswell, he got a degree in economics, I believe, but he had a toy factory in Poland: a small, small business.
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EK: And he built them?
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AL: Huh?
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EK: He built the toys?
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AL: Yeah.
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EK: Yeah.  Did he like his work?
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AL: I dont know.  I dont remember.
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EK: He didnt tell you.  Okay.
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AL: Oh, did he like his work?
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EK: Yeah.
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AL: I assume he did.  I dont know.
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EK: Okay.  (laughs)  What do you know about your early life?  What do you know about being a boy in Poland?
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AL: Oh, I dont know.  I really dont remember anything.  There was one incident, I vaguely remembered it: I knocked somethingI was left alone and I knocked something over and I started a fire.  It was a very vague memory.
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EK: Yeah, your father said in one of his writings that you had to be left alone a good bit when they were both working.
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AL: Yeah, in the ghetto.
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EK: For a very small boy.  Now, your father was in the Polish army, right?  What can you tell us about that?
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AL: He was an officer in the Polish army, which was actually unusual, for a Jewish person to be an officer, considering that Poland was extremely anti-Semitic.  As far as his military activity, I dont know.
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EK: Okay.  So, I read the story that he was a first lieutenant there when the Germans first entered Poland, and that he was involved in a military action against the Germans that became quite famous.
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AL: Well, I dont know about famous, but it was a small detachment from what I read about it.  Poland fell, I think, on a Thursday or first few days, so it wasnt much of a war for Poland.  And he was guarding a tunnel: he detonated a tunnel impeding the Germans from advancing faster than they did.
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EK: And then what happened?
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AL: Well, he said that he shot himself, but he missed his heart somehow.
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EK: Why did he do that?
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AL: He washe didnt want to be captured by the Germans.
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EK: Okay.  And so what happed after he shot himself?
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AL: Well, he was in the hospital, and my mother somehow managed to get him out.
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EK: Okay. And where did you go after that?
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AL: I dont know.
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EK: Okay.  So the record says that your family went to a ghetto, yeah?  Bochnia?
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AL: Bochnia.
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EK: Bochnia, yeah.  And how do you spell that?
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AL: Oh, well, again, B-o-I would imagine c-h-n-i-a.
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EK: Okay, that sounds right.
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AL: Thats how I would spell it.
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EK: Okay.  And so your familyyou were about a year old then, no?
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AL: Oh, I dont know how old I was when I went into there, into the ghetto.
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EK: All right, so into Bochnia first.  And do you know what your parents were doing when they were there in the ghetto?  Were they still working?
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AL: Probably, but I dont know.
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EK: Okay, all right.  Do you know how long they were in that ghetto?
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AL: Well, in 1943 we were taken to Bergen-Belsen; before that I dont know what happened.
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EK: Okay.  So in some of the records we have from your family, it says that you were first in the Bochnia Ghetto and then that that was liquidated, but that because your parents were considered foreigners, your family was allowed to stay and you were moved to the Krakw Ghetto.
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AL: Well, my father forged documents [that] supposedly we were Argentinean citizens.
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EK: I see.
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AL: At that time, if you owned property in Argentina you were consideredyou could claim citizenship, according to the way I understand it.  So thatsyou know.  But I dont know anything about moving from one ghetto to another.
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EK: Okay, all right.  Well, you were pretty young, right?
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AL: Yeah.
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EK: Yeah.  (laughs)  Little bitty boy.  Okay, so he knew enough to know that Argentinean status would allow you to stay longer, right, so he managed to get the papers?
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AL: Well, supposedly a lot of people were doing the same thing; and most of themfor most of them it didnt work, because the Germans were up to it.  Somehowwell, later on, he thinks that what happened wasafter we were on a train and were liberated, he went over to the train to look through documents and he couldnt find our documents.  So he thinks that what may have happened is that the Germans lost our papers and they didnt know what do with us.  So thats what he thinks.
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EK: About why you were still together as a family and on that train together?
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AL: Right.  We were in the special compound at Bergen-Belsen.
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EK: I see.  Okay.
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AL: Yeah, as a matter of fact, Frank Towers, the officer that was in the rescuethe American rescue partyhe has a list of survivors and its got my name on it; it doesnt have my parents names on it.
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EK: Okay, I can see why they would think maybe the papers had been lost.  So back up a little bit and tell me, do you remember anything from being in Bergen-Belsen with your family?
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AL: Well, I remember some incidents, but not a whole lot.
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EK: What do you remember?
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AL: Oh, I remembernow, one incident, I was playing withI know there were a few kids my age, a few boys my age, and were playing.  I remember we were collecting some things, Im not sure.  They probably were not cigarette butts because nobody would have thrown cigarette butts out, so I dont know what we were collecting.  But I remember one time I was on a sewer pipe, one of those red clay pipes that had jagged edges at the end; it was broken at the end.  And I was standing on it, and another kid rocked the pipe and I fell and almost knocked my eye out; I still have the scar here.  My mother was a pharmacist, so she took care of me.
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Another incident I remember, nextwell, another incident, another thing I remember was we were called out periodically, I dont remember how often, for roll call outside.  They would call names out and take peopletake them away.  Now, we never knewwe hadI had the idea that they were being taken to a good place, whatever that meant.  But we dont know what reallywhere they really were taken.  They may have been taken as hostages, to exchange for Germans; or maybe they were taken to the extermination camps, because Bergen-Belsen did not have gas chambers.  People whothere were about 30,000 people that died there, but that was mostly from illness and starvation.
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So at one of those, I remember a friend, a friend of mine, was called out; and then either that night or some nights after that, I had a dream that he came back and he came back with a spoon.  To this day I dont know whether the spoon symbolized food or it symbolized the fact that we didnt have utensils.
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EK: Or maybe both, right?
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AL: I dont know, but I rememberthe dream was very vivid.  I still remember it.  And the next day, when I woke up, I ran through the barracks looking for him: and of course I didnt find him, but I was sure he was there.
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Another incident was next tonext to our compound, across from the fence, there was a little barracks: it was some sort of a reception area.  It was a fairly small barracks, and people were lined up in the outside coming in and virtually everything was taken away from them as they walked out the other side of the barrack.  So people realized that they cannotthat theyre not going to be able to keep things that they had.  They threw food to us that they had with them.  And one time they threw a bag of rice and people fought over it: it got torn on the barbed wire fence and the rice was scattered.  After all the commotion ended and everybody was gone, I went over there and I collected grains of rice one at a time, and then my mother cooked it.
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EK: Thats very resourceful, as a little man.
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AL: Anyway, and I do rememberI dont remember any brutality on the parts of the Germans.  I remember that people were dying and if someone diednow, you probably know better than I do; youre religious, right?  They laid people out naked on a bench and wash them; was that a religious ritual?  Yeah, I remember that.  And they probably died fromI didnt see anybody shot.
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EK: So do you think that you were kept with your mother because of your special status as foreigner?
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AL: Right.  Well, as a citizen of a friendly country to Germany.  Argentina at the time was neutral.  Yeah.
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EK: And where was your father?
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AL: Oh, we were all three in the camp.  Now, whetherwe were together in the camp; whether weI dont know what the sleep, the dormitory situation, was.
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EK: Okay.
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AL: You know, setup was we were all in the same compound.
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EK: Okay.  And do you remember when they had you all gathered together to leave Bergen-Belsen?
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AL: No.
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EK: Do you remember being on the train?
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AL: I remember being on a train and I remember that it took days; now I know it was about a week.  But we didnt get very far from Bergen-Belsen.  Well, this was two weeks before the end of the war, approximately two weeks.  The Russians wereand this was near the Elbe River.  The Russians were coming from the east and the Americans were coming from the west.  So the train wasthey didnt know which way.  Oh, they put usthere were threethey loaded three trains, with the destination being Theresienstadt, Czechoslovakia.
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EK: Okay.
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AL: Which was still in Nazi hands, securingit was secured for the Nazis.  One of the trains, now, I found out that one of the trains ended upit was liberated by the Russians, so they ended up with the Russians.  I dont know about the third train, but our train was going back and forth; they werent sure where to go.  And then suddenly a small American detachment came by accident across the train, and thats the train near Magdeburg.
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EK: Okay.  And do you remember that?  Do you remember when they came?
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AL: Well, I remember that the train was made up of both cattle cars and passenger cars.  We were in a passenger car.  So I remember we were sleeping outsidewe were outside the trainand I could see warfare going on, air war going on above us.  And then suddenly a child, about ten years oldwell, thats what I was toldcame running down the hill saying, Americans are here.  And it was sort of a small hill, it wasnt much of a hill, and a lot of people ran up, including myself.  I remember running up there, and I remember seeing one American tank and a Jeep.  And they had about a dozen Germans lined up with their hands over their head; they took their belts off and threw it to us.  Purpose of that was, I imagine, so they wont escape, so itd be harder for them to run away.
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And they putthe town where the train was, that place was Farsleben, which was near larger town called Haldensleben, which had a militarya German military camp.  And I believe that thats where they put us up, where we stayed.  And both these towns are near the larger city Magdeburg.
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EK: Yes, okay.  Do you remember how that felt for you?
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AL: No.
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EK: No, okay.
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AL: And I know my father later said that he went back over there looking through the papers and he didnt find our papers.  Thats what made him assume that the Germans lost our papers and they werent sure exactly what to do with us, so they just held us.  And while he was over there, somebody took a shot at him, but missed.  The war was still going on.
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EK: Somebody took a shot at him after the liberation?
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AL: Well, the liberation was of the train.
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EK: Right.
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AL: Yeah.
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EK: Okay, so while you were waiting there in Farsleben.
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AL: Right.
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EK: Okay.  And do you know how long you were there?
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AL: Not really, probably just a few weeks.
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EK: Okay, and then what happened?
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AL: Well, then what happened there I heard recently from the people who were on the train, and from the Americans.  Well, we were in an area, there waswhere the Americans were going to pull out and the Russian army was going to come in.  So they gave us the choice of either going west or east; some people went east with the Russians, and we ended up in Belgium.  How we got there, I dont know.
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EK: Did your father or mother say why they chose to go?
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AL: To Belgium?  No.
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EK: No, okay.  Just didnt want to go to the east with the Russians.
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AL: Right.
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EK: Okay.  And what do you remember of Belgium?  Where were you in Belgium first?
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AL: In Antwerp.
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EK: Okay, and do you remember anything about that?
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AL: Well, very little.  I remember I went to school there, in French, even though Antwerp was predominantly Flemish.  But I was in aactually, it was a Jewish schoolI still have some documentsTachkemoni.
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EK: Right, okay.
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AL: Youve heard of it?
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EK: No, you told me about it.
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AL: Oh.  So that was in French.
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EK: Was that your first experience in school?
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AL: Yes.
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EK: Yeah.  What was that like?
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AL: What was it like?  I dont know.  But I remember one interesting incident.  They made us memorize things; you had to recite from memory.  I never memorized it to the end, and one time they called on me and when I got to the point where Imemorized up to that point, they said, Okay.  Now, maybe the teacher figuredI assume that the teacher figured thats enough, (laughs) but I always wondered about that incident.
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EK: What do you think was happening there?
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AL: With that incident?
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EK: Yeah, that you wondered about.
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AL: Oh, well, probably the teacher realized that I probably dont know anydidnt memorize any more, but they assumed that was enough, probably.  And there was notyou know, it was not coincidental that he made me stop there.
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EK: Okay.
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AL: And we were in AntwerpI dont remember exactly how long: about half the time in Belgium, which was aboutwe were in Belgium for about four years, three, four years, half in Antwerp and the other half in Brussels.
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EK: Okay.  And do you know why they moved to Brussels?
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AL: No.
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EK: Okay.  Were your parents working?  What were they doing?
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AL: My father, in Brussels, he was working in the diamond industry.
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EK: Oh, okay.  Sure.
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AL: He gothe probably worked as a contractor.  I remember he had this long stick onto which you mount the diamonds and you grind them on a machine.
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EK: And how about your mom, was she working?
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AL: At that time, I dont know if she was working.  I dont think so.  I dont know. I dont think so.
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EK: Okay, all right.  And then when you were in Brussels, what else happened?  Your sister was born, no?
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AL: Yeah, but she was born in forty-nine [1949], so thats about four years down the way.  I mean, if you want to hear funny stories
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EK: Sure.
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AL: I remember I had a cane, a toy cane, and it was an old apartment and there was thiswhat do you call those things in wood, eyes or something?  And I poked on it (both laugh) and it went through and the neighbor came up.  I knocked part of a ceiling down.
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EK: And you were in school then, yes, in Brussels?
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AL: Oh, yes.
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EK: Yeah, okay.  What grade were you in then, do you know?
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AL: Probably second and third.  And I was sent back one year, I dont know why.
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EK: It was also in French?
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AL: This was all in French, yeah, in Brussels.  So I spoke French fluently, but I forgot it all.
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EK: What do you remember about school in Brussels?
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AL: Not much.
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EK: What do you remember about family life?
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AL: I dont know.  I remember that my parents sent me to a Christian camp, not because it was Christian but that was probably the only camp available, and I remember that I wasnt too excited about it.  Even at that age, I knew that I was Jewish.  And I guess it must have been on Sundays when people were taken to church, and I was the only one standing, kept standing when people were kneeling, and people looked, turn around and looked at me.  I remember one time when my father was about to visitI expected him to visitI hid in the bathroom not to go to the church.  (laughs)
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EK: So was your family religious, or no?
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AL: No.
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EK: No, okay.  And then you had a sister.
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AL: Yeah, she was born in forty-nine [1949].
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EK: In forty-nine [1949].  And whats her name?
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00:25:39.8
AL: Well, her name then was Nolle, because it was a custom that if youshe was born on the twenty-fifth [of December], Christmas Day.  It was customary for people born in Belgium then to be called that, Nol, Nolle.  But now her names Hannah.
177
00:26:1.2
EK: Hannah, okay.
178
00:26:2.4
AL: Changed it.
179
00:26:4.2
EK: Yeah, okay.  So what happened after Brussels?  Where did your family go?
180
00:26:10.8
AL: Israel.
181
00:26:12.1
EK: You went to Israel.  What made your parents do that?
182
00:26:13.9
AL: I dont know.  (laughs)
183
00:26:14.6
EK: We dont know, okay.  So this is forty-nine [1949] or after forty-nine [1949] that you immigrated to Israel?
184
00:26:20.7
AL: I was always confused about it.  It was eitherwas probably 1950, becauseyeah, must have been 1950.
185
00:26:36.0
EK: And did they have family there, is that why they chose to go?
186
00:26:38.7
AL: There were some distant relatives, yes.
187
00:26:43.8
EK: Okay.  And so, do you remember anything when you first came to Israel?
188
00:26:50.6
AL: Well, initially we were in an immigration camp
189
00:26:56.4
EK: Where was that?
190
00:26:57.4
AL: In a tent.  I think it was either called Beer Yaakov, or it was near Beer Yaakov.  I think so.  At first we were in a tent; then we were in a one-room buildingI mean, buildings: one room was assigned to us.
191
00:27:21.9
EK: Okay.  And then your parents did what?  What kind of work did they do there?
192
00:27:26.5
AL: I dont know.
193
00:27:32.7
EK: And you went to school?
194
00:27:37.6
AL: I dont think I went to school, and I dont even remember how long we were there.  I dont remember going to school, so I dont know.
195
00:27:46.8
EK: Did you speak Hebrew?
196
00:27:48.5
AL: Probably not.
197
00:27:49.8
EK: Yeah.  So that might have made it hard, right?
198
00:27:52.7
AL: Yeah, I doubt that I spoke Hebrew, cause I certainly didnt learn Hebrew in Belgium.
199
00:28:2.5
EK: Right.  How long do you think you were there?
200
00:28:6.4
AL: I dont know, but probably not long.
201
00:28:8.8
EK: Okay, because what did your parents want to do?  Where did they want to go?
202
00:28:12.7
AL: Oh, I dont know.
203
00:28:14.9
EK: Were they trying to get into the United States?
204
00:28:17.9
AL: Well, I think that maybe they applied when we were in Belgium; they may have applied to immigrate to the United States on the Polish quota, which at that time was eight years, I believe.
205
00:28:28.7
EK: I see.  Okay.
206
00:28:29.9
AL: So we went to Israel, and then I assume that eventually our name came up, possibly, and thats what we came to the United States.
207
00:28:44.4
EK: I see.  Okay.  Do you know what year that was that you came to the United States?
208
00:28:47.2
AL: Yeah, fifty-four [1954].
209
00:28:48.6
EK: In fifty-four [1954], okay.  And you were on a certain ship, yes?
210
00:28:52.1
AL: Yeah, the Andrea Doria, before it sank.
211
00:28:55.1
EK: Before it sank, thats a good thing.  (laughs)
212
00:28:57.6
AL: Two years beforeit sank in fifty-six [1956], I think.
213
00:29:0.8
EK: Okay, so fifty-four [1954], all right.  So, what do you remember about coming to the United States, and where did you come first?
214
00:29:8.5
AL: In United States we came to New York, Washington Heights.
215
00:29:16.8
EK: Did you have family there?
216
00:29:18.4
AL: No, my father had a friend in Queens who sponsored him.
217
00:29:24.8
EK: Okay.
218
00:29:27.4
AL: How we ended up in Washington Heights, I dont know.
219
00:29:30.9
EK: Okay.  And what did your father do for work, and what did your mother do?
220
00:29:35.1
AL: My father got into the garment industry; he was a designer, a cutter.  And my mother got a job atI dont know whether initially, but she worked at the Columbia Medical Center in research.
221
00:29:54.3
EK: Okay.  Yeah, from her pharmacy experience, right.  Yeah, okay.  And did you start school?
222
00:30:1.2
AL: Yeah, right away.  Oh, yeah, there was an interesting incident when I walked up to George Washington High School in New York, and I was walking late.  When I got there it was sort of on the late side, and there was a teacher there, standingwhose duty was to check on latecomers, I guess, I dont know what the position is.  And I came up to him and he asked me a question, and it turned out that he was a Hebrew teacher, so I was okay there with communication.  (both laugh)
223
00:30:46.5
EK: Right.
224
00:30:48.2
AL: And as a foreign language I took Hebrew, so that was easy.
225
00:30:54.1
EK: Okay, all right.  And how long were you there in New York?
226
00:30:59.3
AL: In New York?
227
00:31:2.5
EK: You finished high school there?
228
00:31:4.3
AL: I finished high school, and II finished high school in two years because I was two years behind to start with, so they put me through an accelerated, two years and two summer schools.  And of course foreign language I did very well in, which was Hebrew.  And then I started at City College [of New York] in engineering, studying engineering for year and a half, and then I got tired of school and went into the army for two years.  And then I came out of schoolout of the armyand went to a college in California for one term, and came back to New York and finished, finished my degree.
229
00:32:2.0
EK: All right, and then what did you do?
230
00:32:6.4
AL: After I finished my degree in engineering?  Yeah, I think thats when I got a job with Bendix electronics, and I didnt like it.  I wasnt doing anything, thats why I didnt like it; it was pretty boring.
231
00:32:29.8
EK: And this was in New York?
232
00:32:31.5
AL: Well, in New Jersey.
233
00:32:32.9
EK: In New Jersey, okay.
234
00:32:34.2
AL: Right near New Yorkwell, within commuting distance.
235
00:32:40.4
EK: Sure.
236
00:32:41.4
AL: They really had nothing for me to do, they justat that time, there was plenty of government money fueling these companies.  So I quit that, I dont remember the exact dates now.  Well, I startedwell, I quit that job, and even with my degree, I drove a taxi for a while to save up money to go to Israel.  I went to Israel on a trip.  And then I went to California and then I came back to New York, and by accident I got a job teaching at City College, providing that I went on for my masters degree.  Since I didnt know what else to do, I did that.
237
00:33:45.5
EK: Right, okay.
238
00:33:47.7
AL: I did that for a year and a half.  Then I went to Israel again.  This time Ilets see, Im getting confused with the dates, butoh, yeah, that must have been sixty-nine [1969] I went to Israel for a year and a half.  When I came back, I went into my own small business in the security field, servicing and installing intercoms and alarms.
239
00:34:20.6
EK: And that was in Israel or in New York?
240
00:34:22.9
AL: In New York.
241
00:34:23.8
EK: In New York, okay.  So you were only in Israel for a little while.
242
00:34:27.8
AL: A year and a half.
243
00:34:28.6
EK: Okay.
244
00:34:29.1
AL: So here I was way overqualified for my work.  By thenat some point there, I finish my masters.  And I was in the business of servicing and installing security fieldssecurity alarms and intercoms in New York.
245
00:34:54.9
EK: Okay.  And did you go back to Israel after that?
246
00:34:59.3
AL: In seventy-three [1973] during that war I went over.  I got there on the last day of the war.  As soon as I landed, they lifted the blackout.
247
00:35:10.6
EK: They did?  (laughs)  Okay.
248
00:35:12.7
AL: They knew they were safe.  (EK laughs)  No, but seriously, there was a blackout in Israel at the time, and the day I landed they lifted it.
249
00:35:23.1
EK: (laughs) Okay, it might have been you.
250
00:35:25.5
AL: Might have been me, probably not.
251
00:35:27.8
EK: So is that when you joined the IDF [Israel Defense Forces]?
252
00:35:30.9
AL: No, actually I was in the IDF in sixty-nine [1969].
253
00:35:34.5
EK: Oh, okay.
254
00:35:35.8
AL: Within the framework of reserves.  Well, this time, also, I went in for a month or two.  I was in.  Then I only stayed in Israel about six months, came back to the United States, and since then Ive been going there for every year forit depends, sometimes longer.  There was a period of time I kept an apartment there, and I would go two or three times a year for a month or two at a time.
255
00:36:12.8
EK: Okay, all right.  So this story of the train was something that only for a fairly recent amount of time has something thats been known, right?
256
00:36:26.1
AL: Right.
257
00:36:27.0
EK: Can you tell about how that came to be, that this story was brought to light?
258
00:36:34.6
AL: Well, first Ill relateIll say how I found out about it.
259
00:36:40.9
EK: All right.
260
00:36:41.9
AL: This was two years ago?  Either a year or two years ago, we were
261
00:36:51.0
Unidentified Woman: Two years ago, I think, by now.
262
00:36:52.6
AL: Two years ago we were in a hotel inwhat do you call it, Floyd?  No.  Whats the name?
263
00:36:59.3
Unidentified Woman: Perry, Florida.
264
00:37:0.4
AL: Perry, in Perry.  We were in Perry, Florida, watching the network news Friday night.  And, you know, they had this story about this train that was liberated and it looks very familiar to me.  I said, Wait a minute.  So then I checked out on ABC, checked the story out, got some information aboutwell, then I found out that what was going on is that about three years prior to that, I believe it wasit was a teacher up in Upstate New York that had a project on the Holocaust.  And one of his students came to him and told him that his [the students] grandfather was involved in rescuing people off a train.  So thats how this started.
265
00:38:7.1
EK: I see, okay.  So they interviewed him, and who was that, do you remember?
266
00:38:12.3
AL: Do you remember his name?  I have the information.
267
00:38:18.5
EK: So it was one of the tank
268
00:38:21.8
Unidentified Woman: Teacher
269
00:38:22.6
AL: Ah, the teacher.
270
00:38:23.6
Unidentified Woman: His name.
271
00:38:24.3
EK: Rozell, yeah, thats the teacher.
272
00:38:26.0
AL: Yeah, Rozell.
273
00:38:26.8
Unidentified Woman: Matt Rozell.
274
00:38:28.2
AL: Matt Rozell, thats the teacher.  No, he was not a rescuer; he was just the teacher
275
00:38:33.4
EK: No, I meant the gentleman that he interviewed that had been there.  Was he not one of the tank drivers?
276
00:38:39.9
AL: Oh, thats right.  Yeah, he was one of the tank drivers, whos still alive, liveshis name is Walsh, Carl Walsh, and he lives right nearby in Saint Port Richey [New Port Richey].  I saw him twice, recently.
277
00:39:3.4
EK: And that started something, didnt it, because they had a reunion?
278
00:39:6.8
AL: Well, they had this on the Internet, so a lot of people found out, like myself, contacted them, so you had this reunion andthats right, they had a reunion in that place in New York.  I dont remember the name of it.
279
00:39:25.9
EK: Hudson Falls.
280
00:39:27.3
AL: Hudson Falls.  Well, actuallywait a minute.  What I saw on TV was that reunion.
281
00:39:34.2
EK: I see.
282
00:39:35.8
AL: It was about that reunion.  So maybe that it all started right there and not few years before.  But anyway, at that point, I looked up the name Frank Towers and Carl Wash.  Carl Walsh was a tank commander; Frank Towers was sort of a logistics officer, he was coordinating things.  And he was
283
00:40:1.0
EK: He was infantry, right, an infantryman?
284
00:40:4.0
AL: Yeah, it was partthey were all part of the 30th Infantry Division that landed in Normandy and fought across Europe and came totheir objective there was to get to Magdeburg, which was a sizable military objective, and someone told them that theres this train.  So Carl Walsh got an order to follow this Jeep with another tank and they went over to see what the train was all about, and thats how those two tanks and a Jeep came across the train.  And Frank Towers, well, Ive seen him three, four times.
285
00:40:56.6
EK: So learning about that led to your own reunion with him, yes?
286
00:41:0.0
AL: Right.  And the 30th Infantry Division, they have their reunion, an annual reunion, and last year I went to it.  It was in Nashville and there were about four train survivors, or maybe more.  But three of them were my age, except they were not in my compound, I dont think.
287
00:41:28.5
EK: You didnt recognize them?
288
00:41:30.0
AL: Well, I wouldnt have recognized them, but you know, we could have exchanged stories, maybe.  Maybe some of the stories we would have remembered.  But Im pretty sure that there werefirst of all, they were Hungarians, and they were in the Hungarian compound.  Lets see, what else?  I dont know.
289
00:41:51.7
EK: Well, what was that like, to meet him, to meet Frank Towers, this person who helped liberate you and your family?
290
00:41:57.1
AL: Well, interesting.  Hes in good shape.  Hes ninety-four years old.
291
00:42:3.0
EK: Thats impressive.
292
00:42:5.1
AL: But you know, he doesnt jog every day, but hes active.
293
00:42:10.8
EK: But how did you feel?  How did you feel when you met him?  Whats that like?  That has to be a pretty incredible experience, to meet a man that
294
00:42:19.5
AL: No, not to me.
295
00:42:20.4
EK: No?
296
00:42:21.0
AL: No.
297
00:42:21.9
EK: Okay, all right.  So what do you do with all this, with this history?
298
00:42:28.9
AL: What do you mean what I do with it?
299
00:42:31.0
EK: Well, what
300
00:42:33.4
AL: Well, what I just told you earlier, that theres a reunion in Rehovot.
301
00:42:43.7
EK: In Israel?
302
00:42:45.4
AL: In Israel at the Weizmann Institute, May 18, and Ill be there for two weeks.  And I think that the American consulate will be there, the American ambassador; therell be a few dignitaries at that meeting.  Frank Towers will be there, and there will be a number ofwell, a lot of the people that were on the train, a lot of them do live in Israel.  I have a list of some of those people.  And so a lot of them should be there.
303
00:43:27.9
EK: But it sounds like maybe thats become important to you, to participate in that, if youve been to a number of reunions.
304
00:43:32.9
AL: Yes.
305
00:43:34.2
EK: Tell me about that.
306
00:43:36.1
AL: Just did.  (laughs)
307
00:43:38.7
EK: Why is that important to you?
308
00:43:40.2
AL: Oh, I dont know how to answer questions like that.
309
00:43:43.6
EK: Yeah.  Not sure?
310
00:43:45.9
AL: Right.
311
00:43:46.8
EK: Okay, thats all right.  So is there anything else youd like to tell us?  Anything else youd like to share?
312
00:43:54.4
AL: No, thats about it fromrelating to that.
313
00:44:2.1
EK: Okay, all right.  Thank you so much.
314
00:44:4.7
AL: Youre welcome.
315
00:44:5.7
EK: Okay.



PAGE 1

COPYRIGHT NOTICE This Oral History is copyrighted by the University of South Florida Libraries Oral History Program on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of South Florida. Copyright, 201, University of South Florida. All rights, reserved. This oral history may be used for research, instruction, and private study under the provisions of the Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of the United States Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section 107), which allows limited use of copyrighted materials under certain conditions. Fair Use limits the amount of material that may be used. For all other permissions and requests, contact the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA LIBRARIES ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at the University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fowler Avenue, LIB 122, Tampa, FL 33620.


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Alexander Larys oral history interview
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Oral history interview with Holocaust survivor Alexander Larys. Larys was born in Krakow, Poland, in 1939. Larys and his parents were deported to the Bochnia ghetto in 1940, where his father forged papers saying they were citizens of Argentina. This allowed them to go back to Krakow when Bochnia's ghetto was liquidated in 1942. They ended up in Bergen-Belsen's Star Compound. When the Nazis started moving prisoners from Bergen-Belsen in 1945, the Larys family was part of a group taken by train towards Magdeburg and were liberated by the American 30th Infantry Division. After the war they lived in Belgium for several years, then went to Israel in 1950, and immigrated to the United States in 1954. As an adult, Larys frequently visited Israel, sometimes for extended periods of a year or more, and was in the Israel Defense Forces. In 2009 he was reunited with one of the 30th Division soldiers who liberated the train, and he has participated in several reunions and events related to the train.
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