Interview with Elaine Singer for the Holocaust unit for Globaldreamers
My name is Natalie Singer and I am interviewing my Grandma, Elaine Singer. I was at my house and my grandma was at her house in Kansas when I interviewed her. The dates of the interview were January 24-26. We talked through email and we had a wonderful conversation about her experience. I chose to interview this person because my grandma is very special to me and I had heard brief stories about her role in the war, but I wanted to hear more.
My Grandma was born March 30, 1937. She lived in Belgium, France, and went to Ellis Island, then moved to Kansas when she was about 11. She has lived there ever since. As my dad (my grandma's son) recalls, as a child, my grandma worked on the farm they lived on in France including picking fruit and household chores. The farm, in France, was called Lamee. She lived there until she was about 9.
During the war, my grandma went to a school with other children that lived on the farm. It was in a village and it was called Ville du Bear. She walked two miles to get school and two miles back. My grandma started middle school when she moved to Kansas City and she went to high school as well. During her adulthood in Kansas City, she worked at a jewelry store that my grandparents owned, and volunteered at her children's school, the JCC and also many other organizations.
Her family consisted of her mother, (I called her Bubbee), her father, Joseph, who I never met, her sister, Frieda and her brothers, Albert and Aaron. She had a very young brother who died before the war had started.
Now, Elaine Singer has a husband, Neal (my grandpa), and four children, Jeff (my dad), Mike, Dennis, and Pam. She has seven grandchildren including me and she loves to spend time with all of us.
Today, her hobbies include sewing, playing mahjong, poker, bridge, and reading. My grandma was ages 3-8 years old during the war. For most of the war, she lived on a farm in Belgium. She remembers living a pretty good life during the war because they didn't have anything to compare to. Although, one day, there were some German soldiers coming from the opposite direction that they were going. My grandma, her siblings, and some other kids started running to school really fast. The Germans practiced marching on a playground outside the school window that day. The teacher pulled down the blinds so the kids couldn't see.
It was much harder for her parents because they lost their comfortable home and nice life. They lost all of their belongings and had to live in a 2-room place with no utilities except electricity. They also lost their friends and 5 years of their life was lost as well.
On the farm, my grandma and her siblings picked fresh fruit off the trees and they even owned their own pets. My grandma had a chicken! Elaine's favorite memory at this time was going to a movie once a year. They walked four miles each way.
She thought it was the very best when her dad was there to meet them when my grandma and her siblings were coming home from school.
My grandma and her family did not practice her religion. They knew they were Jewish but they did not tell anyone. When the children on the farm went to church, they would go too. The kids didn't go very often, so they didn't either.
When it was D-day, my grandma didn't know what had occurred. One day they just heard the war was over. My grandma thought the U.S. was pretty isolated at the time of the war. The United States did not do anything to help Jews when they heard that they were being killed and treated cruelly.
Today, the U.S. is much more sympathetic to what is going on in the world. For example, the world is aware of the cruelty going on in Darfur, although they are still slow to react. They would not let the Jews into the US, but today many immigrants come from all over the world.
My grandma hopes that the 7th graders and other people reading this interview realize how important it is to be sympathetic, to be aware of what's going on, and be a responsible citizen. She thinks you should vote, participate in your community, and enjoy a democracy and all it has to offer. Appreciate what you have and don't take advantage of it. Elaine Singer's WWII story is one that she and the rest of her family will not forget. Her story will be told to generations to come in the Singer family.