Miriam, would you mind sharing some of your story with our readers?
As I said when the Germans came to Carpathia we were moved into a ghetto and then a short time later we were sent to Auschwitz. We had no idea what was coming. We were counted and separated by gender and then by age and health (the strong and the weak). I arrived with my mother and we were quickly separated. I later found out that she was selected by Dr. Mangele to go straight to the crematorium. I was in Auschwitz for 3 months before I was liberated and then shipped to a concentration camp near Landsburg, Germany.
How did you and your husband meet?
It was after Auschwitz in the DP camp in Munich. We met in June 1945, a month after I was liberated, and we were married on January 10, 1946. I actually came to the United States as a war bride, and spoke only Yiddish.
After the war, my husband was very active in the DP camps and tried to help survivors by giving lectures and advising them on what to do next, on how to go on with their lives. My roommates and I attended one of his lectures and later we began talking and talking and we just hit it off. People started commenting on our frequency of talking and it made me uncomfortable. I had been raised in an Orthodox home with Orthodox values about the separation of boys and girls. Then Irving was gone and I didn’t hear from him for six weeks. He had gone to London to try to find my father whom we had heard was there trying to earn a living since our family had been separated.
Irving, how did you find your future father-in-law?
I went from shteible to shteible looking for him in London. Someone told me that there is an old man with a beard living in a bombed out house crying that he left his wife and daughter in Europe, so I went to visit him, and sure enough it was Miriam’s father. I also managed to track down her sister living in Belgium.
Where were the two of you married?
Irving: I needed permission from President Eisenhower to propose to Miriam since she was a civilian. In the end the mayor of the town of Furth married us but it was a civil ceremony not under a chuppa. I returned to my outfit the next day and my comrades were shocked to see me. They asked, “didn’t you just get married, why are you not with your wife?!” They did not understand that according to Jewish law we were not married.
Your wife mentioned that you held lectures for survivors, what were they about?
I had the opportunity to meet with many survivors. I had made arrangements with the Chief Rabbi of London to distribute siddurim in camps. We didn’t call them displaced persons camp; we called them Ohr Chadash camp.
I kept on telling them to believe and have hope. Somehow they must forget and that I knew it would be rough. Many of the survivors I met looked up to Stalin and wanted to return to Russia. I tried to tell them to go to Palestine.
What do you say to those who lost their faith after all they had suffered?
I don’t judge. I once saw three Jews beating up another Jew (just like Moshe Rabbeinu in the Chumash). I ran to stop the fight, but after they informed me that this man was a Kapo helping the Germans, all I could do was walk away. I cannot judge.
Irving, was there ever a time when you were angry at G-d?
No. I got older when I saw the camps. I was too angry with the Germans to be angry at G-d.
Miriam, have you ever been back to your hometown?
No. I was sent to a DP camp in Munich. I did join the March of the Living in 1994. I had no connection to any of my relatives for a long time. I was in my 20’s when I came to America and I felt alone and with no direction because I didn’t know anybody. Thank G-d for my husband’s sister who was like a blood sister to me and showed me the ropes.Ita Yankovich
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