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My Mother Worked Miracles During the Holocaust

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
March 15, 2023 3:01 am

My Mother Worked Miracles During the Holocaust

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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March 15, 2023 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, the late Judah Samet tells the harrowing story of how he and his family managed to survive the Holocaust.  

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Happy streaming! And we return to Our American Stories. On February 5th, 1938, Judas Semet was born in Hungary to a family of entrepreneurs. In March of 1944, the Nazis entered his family's town and forced them onto trains bound for Auschwitz.

They wouldn't make it there. Let's get into the story. Here's the late Judas Semet with his story of survival. In my train, there was this guy I thought was an old man. He had a stubble. And I remember his sweater was gray and he had a black jacket on. He was dead already a few days.

The train would stop every two, three days to take the dead and bury them or burn them. And they took him too. And I was very angry because I lost my pillow. I lost my windbreaker.

You know, that didn't mean anything. By then, modesty was gone. Desire was gone. We lost sense of smell. The whole train became like a big toilet. One bucket was two, three gallons of water and the other bucket was for toilet purposes. Nobody could get to it anyhow. So, you know, that bucket was for men and women. We didn't have men and women separate. But they had a bucket with water, two, three gallons, and they put maybe 80, 90 people in it.

There was only a standing room. So my mother talked to the commandant, which she was not supposed to do. And she said, look, we know where we are going, but surely you don't want us to die on the way there. What would the people in Czechoslovakia, that we were through, what would they say about the Germans? They were the flower of the Western world. 1933, they won half of the Nobel Prizes. 37 and a half percent of that was won by Jews.

What would these people say? What happened to the Germans? So the sergeant took out his pistol and put it to my mother's head. They had a very specific order by Hitler. If a Jew opens his mouth, you shoot him on the spot.

The only way a Jew can talk is if you ask him a question, he may answer. So he was going to do his duty. So the commandant, without even turning around, called him, you dumbcuff, you idiot. Can't you see you killed her?

We have nobody to talk to. Now, my mother knew the rules, but she figured that if you make it to Auschwitz, we'll be dead in 50 minutes coming out of the smokestacks. She was very courageous. She got lucky. They replaced a bucket of water with an oil drum filled with water. There were many, maybe hundreds already were sick, would have died without water. So she really saved a lot of people on the train.

So that was actually the first miracle, because this happened with her not once, several times. We ended up in a lumberyard, and the owner was an Austrian, major Nazi. He opened his shirt, daunting us with a big sweater, a tooth on his chest. He also had French prisoners of war. They were abiding by the Geneva code, and they were fed well, but we were fed starvation diet.

We had starvation diet. My mother would go out at night after working 12 hours, and she would go to a village, and she would barter with the wives there, get babies. She said, get yarn and get a needle, and I'll make clothes for your children. My mother could do anything with her hands. She's the one who put the factory together.

She's the one who taught my father, who was a scholar, who was an intellectual, how to work the machines and everything else. So she was making them clothes for their babies. I bet she would get a little cheese, a couple eggs, some bread, not too much, because they were not supposed to deal with Juicida. So they had to be very careful, and she would come probably maybe 1 o'clock in the morning. She would come back, getting up 5 o'clock in the morning to go to work again. One night she didn't come home, so we didn't know what happened. By the next day, she didn't come, panic started to take over, because without my mother we couldn't survive.

There was no way. She was like an eagle, spreading her wings and covering us. See, my mother had three qualities. First, she was a beautiful woman. She was short, 4'10", but she was built, you know. Secondly, she wasn't just smart out of the box. She was brilliant. And thirdly, she had guts.

When she was a teenager, and her father was an entrepreneur. He was in a wholesale grocery store. He used to go to the grocery store to collect, but that Hungarian was so enthusiastic.

You know, we don't have enough curses in this country. Go to Hungary. So he was afraid to go to the store, so he sent my mother. She's 15 or 16 years old. She walks into the store.

She puts her hands behind her back, starts walking. The guy knew who she was, so he opened her mouth. But my mother didn't pay attention. She always told us, don't listen to what they have to say. Let it fly over your shoulder. Watch their hands, because words cannot kill you, but their hands can kill you.

Didn't pay any attention, then in very low voice she says, well, your shelves seem to be stacked pretty well. You don't really need anything today. But you know, people are going to come today, later on. They'll come tomorrow, they'll come the day after.

In a few days, you're not going to have anything to sell. You think my father is going to give you another nickel's worth. She came home with the money. But she did that kind of stuff for him many times. She was fearless.

It's good and it's bad. It's one of the things that I inherited from her. So anyhow, without her, there's no way we could make it. A few weeks later, no, a few days later, I think, all of a sudden she showed up. We didn't know. Why didn't they kill her?

What happened? Somebody in the village squealed, so she was arrested, put in jail. In jail, she shared a room with an Austrian beauty, 20 years old maybe.

And they kept him. She said he was as handsome as Hollywood, was so handsome. And my mother would do anything to save us, whatever it took to save us. She never told us why and how. But anyhow, I used to squeeze her. I said, what happened in the prison? And she said, well, the girl, the Austrian girl was a beautiful girl. I said, what was her crime? And she said, because Hitler gave a direct order to all the beauties between 18 and 25 to entertain soldiers coming home on a furlough. And she asked her as a Catholic country, and she came from a very good family.

And they hung her. But my mother, she convinced the guy that her four kids and her husband sickly won't make it without her. She had a way of talking to people. She never ever raised her voice, not even on us. Our biggest fear regarding my mother was disappointing her. We knew that she loved us so much. First of all, she would do everything, which she did.

OK? But it wasn't just a mock love. It was the whole body, you could tell. So disappointed to disappoint her was terrible. And you're listening to the late Judas Semet, who is a survivor of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting, and who died in September of 2022 at the age of 84, sharing the story of how his mom saved him and the family. He described his mother as having three qualities. She was beautiful. She wasn't just smart. She was brilliant. And she had guts. And he shared some of the stories of her courage. My biggest fear I had was disappointing my mother.

To disappoint her was terrible. When we come back, more of this story from the late Judas Semet, here on Our American Stories. Another week, another free pass to entertainment. Check out all the shows and movies you can watch with Xfinity Flex, no strings attached. Face the darkness in the season two premiere of Yellow Jackets from Showtime. Crack open the history vault and dig into shows like America, The Story of Us. Then watch free picks from networks like Disney Story Central and more with the kids.

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Exclusions apply. And we return to our American stories and with Holocaust survivor Judah Semet. When we last left off, Judah was telling us about his gutsy mom who would do anything to ensure the survival of her family in the harshest of conditions. Let's return to the story.

Here again is Judah. A few weeks later, trains arrived finally. They loaded us up on the train and we arrived in Bergen-Belsen. The method there, unlike Auschwitz, where they killed you right away, the method there was starving you to death. And what happens when you are starved, it kills your immunity system. And the worst thing in the camps was typhoid. Typhoid killed more people than anything else and also dysentery. Now dysentery was because if you don't eat, your stomach starts to shrink to the point where you don't have a stomach.

So you put it in and it goes straight out. The whole camp was like a toilet. But the Germans appointed what they called the Judenrat, which was the Jewish committee. Their job was to keep the camp clean. They picked them up for brutality. And they had to be brutal because the Nazis watched them. If they were not brutal enough, they would shoot them.

They never had any problem replacing anybody. So in Bergen-Belsen, when we arrived there, we already saw at the gate there were about two stories of corpses. They kept dying all day. Many of them just gave up, lay down and died. I mean, if you don't have hope, you know, you've been there two, three months, the same, you get weaker and weaker and weaker and so I suffer. You lay down and you die. Or what you do, you jump on the fence and you die that way.

So at that point, that didn't mean anything to me anymore, you know, because that's all you saw at the time. When the starvation continued, there were three men's halls. One for the officers was like a five-star restaurant, the best of everything. The second one was for the guards. The guards usually, there were some Germans, but mostly the locals.

Hungarians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, they were the worst of the worst. And they were watching. Eventually, I made a friend that was about the same size as myself, the same age. By then I was seven years old already.

Believe me, by then you were a man. And this friend of mine, we always followed them. The officers coming out of their mess hall, they were always having a wing or they had some other kind of meat they were chewing on. And then when they finished, they threw it on the ground and we threw ourselves on that and grabbed it. There was nothing to eat maybe, but the taste was still there.

And that kind of filled us up. Now in the meantime, the camp was inundated with lice. I mean, the lice was unbelievable. So my mother convinced us to eat the lice.

She said the lice are blood suckers and blood is protein. And you eat that. So between that and what they gave us to eat, which was a small hard dried black bread for the six of us, and some colored water that was supposed to be soup, that was our meal for the day.

What my mother did, she broke the bread into olive size. And she fed us five, six times a day with a teaspoon of that water. So she was the hero in our story, my mother.

So anyhow, we were there for ten months, maybe ten and a half months. And then a third train came and they asked for volunteers to get on the train, 2,500. And my mother took us and put us on the train.

And that's another thing that I discussed with her years later. We knew it's a dead train because they were all dead trains. You were supposed to die. And that train was going around and around and around. They were looking for a place where they could finish us off. But somehow we survived. And eventually, after a few weeks, we stopped in the forest, near Forest Leben, and we thought, well, maybe this is where they're going to finish us.

And sure enough, we had a big rumble. It's a tank. But it was right away that the turret was not aimed at the train. And then the turret opened and the soldier popped up, and he didn't have German uniform on. So my father was studying English already.

He was a scholar, so he picked up English very fast. He yelled, Americans, Americans, Americans. And we were saved by the Americans. And from there, they took us to Hillersleben.

Hillersleben was a mid-sized town over the Rhine, where the Rhine was very broad and very deep. And there was a big bridge, but the bridge was bummed out. So we figured that's where they were going to close the doors and push the train down and just kill 20, whatever, 22, I don't know how many were still alive. The chances that she took, see, I remember I asked her, you put us on the third train. You know it was the death train.

How do you make the decision? She says, I had a choice between the maybe and the sure thing. The sure thing was if we stayed in Bergen-Belsen, for two days we would be all dead because they stopped feeding, or even water. Look, a healthy man can live without water two, three days. Not a sick person, we were already sick. The maybe was, if I put you on this train, maybe another miracle is going to happen, like the first one. And she was right, she had the right instinct. And we survived. And I spoke to my big brother about it, you know, who's in Israel. And they always said somebody should make a movie about this woman.

I don't know who can play her. And a terrific job on the production, editing, and storytelling by our own Monty Montgomery. And this interview was conducted before Judah died. He's also a survivor of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting.

Antisemitism rearing its head again in his lifetime, and so close to home. And by the way, we tell these stories for a reason. There are a few survivors left from the Holocaust, and it was the Americans in large measure and the Allied troops that liberated these camps. And as they showed so vividly in Band of Brothers, all of the Allied troops figured out why we were fighting when they stumbled on these death camps.

That a country like Germany, a beautiful country like Germany, could sink to those depths of depravity. What a sad tale. And what a story of his mother's courage and her intuition. The chances you took, why did you put us on that third train, he asked his mom. The sure thing or the maybe were the two things she described. Staying in that camp, it was certain death. The maybe getting on that train and hoping another miracle would happen, which it did.

Judith Semet's story, the story of the Holocaust, one story at a time, which we do here on Our American Stories. You wouldn't settle for watching a blurry TV, would you? So why settle for just okay TV sound? Upgrade your streaming and sound all in one with Roku Streambar. This powerful two-in-one upgrade for any TV lets you stream your favorite entertainment in brilliant 4K HDR picture and hear every detail with auto speech clarity. Whether you're hosting a party or just cleaning the house, turn it up and rock out with iHeartRadio and room-filling sound. Learn more about Roku Streambar today at

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-15 04:20:59 / 2023-03-15 04:29:29 / 9

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