Sonya Welis Frenkel

Things Sonia told me about the Holocaust or memories from my childhood about my mother

Although my Mom hated to talk about the Holocaust there were things that I will never forget.

There was always a house full of food and she was always going shopping! She was afraid of not having enough food for us.

The house was spotless and clean. She hated filth and was obsessed with cleanliness and a healthy atmosphere. Her nightmares of the filth and contamination from the Holocaust never left her.

We never took showers at our house; as a matter of fact she broke the shower tap so we could not use it and never told us why. I learned this only after my marriage to my husband Moshe and our first visit to our house when she did not allow him to take a shower.

While working as a dressmaker one of her friends convinced her to steal a piece of cloth so they might have an extra piece of bread. While returning to steal the cloth a German SS soldier caught her and put a gun in her mouth. He tried to shoot her and for some reason the gun did not go off! He then bashed her in the head and sent her out! She said the trauma affected her so much she was afraid to go to sleep. The next morning she was up and sewing uniforms. She said her head hurt so much she could barely see but she knew if she stopped working they would kill her.

She remembered a straw mattress on a freezing winter night with a little thin blanket where about ten girls were pulling in order to keep warm. No one could keep warm under those conditions. She said she was always cold and hungry.

One of the most horrifying experiences for Sonia was the train ride and the sound of the wheels. She also said the overcrowded train ride was unbearable and many people died of suffocation and hunger before they reached the camps.

One of the saddest and hardest memories for Sonia was when the Bialostok ghetto was liquidated and she was separated from her family. She never saw her mother, father and two of her brothers in her life.

She also remembered the screaming and crying that did not leave her for a long time.

I remember the Holocaust Memorial day as a young girl and seeing my Mother allow herself to cry. She never cried at home and only when seeing the atrocities on television did she allow herself to cry in front of us.

My father told me she always cried at the Holocaust Memorial ceremonies.

When she first arrived to the United States, doctors told my Dad that she was an extremely ill woman because of the Holocaust. Her determination and strong nature helped her to build a new life with a family and loving husband.

When she became ill, my brother called and told me I had to come to the USA to say goodbye. She was then very ill with cancer. Two days before I was able to arrive she was taken to the emergency room and almost died. She kept asking my brother and sister. When is Marsha coming? I have to see Marsha. Her strength kept her alive and she waited to see me.

After spending a week with her, I knew I would never see her again. Saying goodbye was the hardest experience I ever had in my life. That morning I woke up and went to talk to her in her bedroom. She asked me to call my brother and sister and remove the suitcases from her house.

She was very emotional and said she could not deal with seeing suitcases again. She told me she remembered the Holocaust and the suitcases made her even sadder. I called my brother and told him to take the suitcases out of the house immediately and he did. After her left I told her the suitcases were gone and she was relieved. She told me the goodbye was hard enough and the suitcases made in unbearable. She knew she would never see me again. I still remember her waving and crying. I can see it now as I am writing these words for all to see. I too was crying, it was a day I will never forget.

ShaniHer last wishes were for us to write on her gravestone that she was a Holocaust survivor and instead of making donations to the synagogue to please send them to the Holocaust foundation at Yale University. Both of those wishes were granted.

Last but not least, she asked me to always teach children about the Holocaust. It is one promise I will always keep, it is engraved in my heart and soul.

Sonia, we all loved you so much. You would have been proud of your children and grandchildren. You would have even been more proud of your great granddaughter- Shani.

Your legacy will live on forever.
Marsha Frenkel Goren