When the soldiers left our town they didn't go too far away.
One day they got ammunition and rifles and came back to our town.
Before they entered the town they bombarded the place with heavy
ammunition. Me and all the children and our mother ran out the
house and ran for shelter . Not too far was the station where
all the trains used to arrive and depart. That building was built
solid and it was like a shelter for everybody. In the meantime
the bombardment was very heavy and when we ran away from our house
we missed our brother Nathan. He was asleep and a big bomb hit
our house. The bomb went through the top of the wall where my
brother was asleep. From great panic he became sick in his bladder.
He couldn't control his water. In the meantime the Germans surrounded
our town. They brought all the males from town to the station
and lined them up. Some were beaten mercilessly. A captain called
my cousin over. His name was Yosel and the captain commanded
him to run to the nearby farms and tell those people to return
all their possessions they robbed the soldiers of. And I was
standing next to my cousin and I said to him "lets go",
and we left everybody standing there and we ran away to the nearest
town. We told them if they don't return all the things they took
away from them they will come after them and they all will be
executed. But they didn't believe us and they did not return
their things. Me and my cousin slept overnight and returned the
following day home to tell them they refused to do as they ordered.
In the meantime when we got home we found out that the soldiers
took all the hostages with them and they went as far as Kovel,
a big city about 50 miles or so. Some of the hostages didn't
even have shoes to wear. They stripped them of everything and
beat them mercilessly and finally they let them go, hungry, barefoot
and cold. Some of them were sick. My uncle Abraham was sick
for a long time. So were others, especially the older people.
But my cousin Yosel and I saved ourselves form those bandits.
After a short time the Russians had made up all kinds of bandits
- one especially called the Pethiras. They robbed people
and killed. There was no martial law. They took possessions
wherever they came and did what they wanted. In the meantime
we find out that the Polish soldiers decided to attack our town
and my mother decided then to make a run for our lives and maybe
to America. My mother hired a horse and buggy and put the few
possessions on the wagon and we started out for the city Kovel
where we would be safer. And our cousin Yacole, the one that
lives now in Mexico, went together with us. We drove in the dark
until we arrived at the outskirts of Kovel. There the war was
in full progress. A few soldiers came over and stopped us. They
saw my mother with all the children and they decided to take me
and my cousin off the wagon and let my mother and the children
continue to their destination of the big city Kovel. The driver
was an old man and he had only one arm so they didn't bother him.
They took me and my cousin to dig trenches. And that's what
we did. We were hungry. At about midnight they brought around
the kitchen and gave all the soldiers food to eat, but not us.
One of the soldiers was next to me. He ate all he could and
what was leftover he gave to me to eat. I thanked him very much
and I started to eat. It was rice cooked with fat bacon. I tried
to eat and that piece of fat bacon came up. I vomited it all
out. I had never tasted any traif (non-kosher) meat.
So we worked until daylight and in the morning they took all of
us to another place to dig trenches. And there were about 200
people at least as we marched through town. Me and my cousin
were walking ahead of everybody. We came to a street and my cousin
turned into that street and ran away from everybody. We could
have been killed by the soldiers but we ran like hell until we
got to the place my mother stayed. We hid ourselves in the attic
for two solid days.
In order for us to go to America we had to continue our journey.
You couldn't get a passenger train to go. So we waited at night
time when a train would go to Warsaw. Then a train with soldiers
went there and we all got on the train, like a baggage train,
and we arrived in the big city. We had to get an apartment to
stay until we got our passports. It took a few weeks before we
received our money for ship tickets from my father. To continue
the journey to America we had to stay on line for days before
we got our visas from the American Consulate. It looked like
thousands of people trying to escape to America. Finally we got
our visas and we took the train to reach the border and all the
time my girlfriend went with us. On the way to the border where
the train had to stop to take on more passengers, two soldiers
camp up to me and took me off the train and took me to their office
and my girlfriend Sylvia went with me. They said I was old enough
to go into the army. I had all the papers to prove that I was
too young to go in the army. So my girlfriend went to town to
see the Rabbi and begged him to intervene on my behalf. G-d bless
him wherever he is. He came down and got me out, and we got on
the train and continued our journey. In the place they kept me
they had placards written in anti-Semitic language- "Beat
the Jews" "Kill Them" -- and all sorts of anti-Semitism.
It was terrible.
On the train we were riding, my girlfriend and a Rabbi's daughter
was sitting along side of us made me to lay under the seat and
they covered me up with their dresses -- so the soldiers wouldn't
see me and wouldn't take me off the train again. Finally we reached
the border and soldiers were stationed there to examine the people's
passports and let them go into Germany. I and my girlfriend were
left for the last. Mother and the children went through, but
me they wouldn't let me go through and my girlfriend started howling
at them why they want to keep me from passing. I showed them
my passport and everything, and finally they let us go past the
border. As soon as we crossed the border we felt for once in
our lives free from oppression - free from passports that you
have to carry with you all the time for identification. But here
you were free. Nobody asked you anything. Finally we boarded
a ship to go to the big city of Hamden. From Hamden we had to
go to Hamburg and get the ship to go to America. But we had to
wait for a ship that was going to America. We stayed in Hamburg
for a short time. Finally we had to board the ship to go to America.
My little sister Ida had taken sick and had to be taken to a
hospital. It was contagious. So my mother said to us children
"you go to America and I will stay here with Ida until she
will recover. Then we will get a ship and come later."
The journey took us 18 days. The night of Yom Kippur was a big
storm, and the ship was rocking like a spindle on the water.
You couldn't stand on your feet. Finally the sea clamed down
and everything was okay. We thought that night we will never
make it - we will go under with the ship. But thank g-d we arrived
safely. The name of the ship was Susquehanna. During the World
War it was a battleship.
Note: The passenger arrival records for the Port of New
York show Isadore, Fred, Louis, Herman, Reuben and Nathan Deckelbaum
arriving on September 17, 1920. Their sister Ida and their mother Bessie
arrived a little over a month later on November 2, 1920.
Finally we arrived in Ellis Island. My father and another Landsman
rented a small boat and came up to the ship to greet us. He didn't
see mother and he hollered "where is mother?" and he
was shocked to hear the bad news that mother remained in Hamburg
with Ida. Finally they got all the passengers off the boat and
for the first time I saw colored people trying to show us where
to go. Finally we got on inside. There was doctors standing
there and examining all the passengers. When it came to me they
wouldn't let me go. They kept me for a day and finally let me
go. We went to my cousin's house - Leizer Deckelbaum - in Staten
Island. We stayed there for a while until my mother and sister
arrived. I remember that my father went to the market and brought
a whole basket with bread, especially white. By morning that
bread disappeared. That's how hungry we were.