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The Rindes Immigrate to the United States

John Rinde, Holocaust Survivor

So, anyway, we went to Danzig and we got the visa, and we went through the border from Poland to Czechoslovakia. If you think that they search your luggage when you go in the airplane here, you should have seen what happened over there. (laughs) They unpacked every single thing and rummaged from top to bottom. Anyway, so we come to Prague, nice place, and we had to go to Paris and the only way, apparently, from Prague to Paris was through Switzerland, and those guys wouldn't give us a transit visa. They were afraid we would jump ship and stay there, and they didn't want us. So, my father says, "Hell, put us into a locked compartment. Lock us up; we don't want to stay in your country. We just want to get through." Nothing doing. We spent several days in Prague trying to work something out.

Finally, we ended up taking the airplane. We got to fly and we only had three seats for the four of us. And we flew, landed in Strasbourg, and then again we went on to Paris. We come to Paris and we go to the U.S. Embassy—Consulate—and say, "Hey, guys, we want to go to the U.S." And they say, "Well, join the crowd. The line is over there. (laughs) Here is your number. When your number comes, we will call you." I said, "Well, how long will that take?" "Well, we don't know: a year, two, maybe longer. It depends." I say, "What do we do in the meantime?" "It's your business, we don't know." So, the federation came to help us. They put us up in a public housing that they had for refugees. They helped my father find a job, and you know, we extended our transit visa from three days to ten days, from ten days to a month, from a month to three months, from three months to a year, and ended up having a ten-year permit.

In 1947, my brother was born to me—to us. My mother had another kid. And we kind of got settled. My father got into some business and the urgency to go to the United States kind of waned, you know. We learned the language, at least Irene and I. My father spoke French fairly well and my mother didn't do so well. But anyway, we made the living in France and we were planning to stay there. But then came the Korean War and my father had visions of World War III, and he said he lived through World War I and World War II in Europe, and he wasn't going to be caught dead in Europe for World War III. We are going back to the United States, after all. Our quota had come up, you know, in forty-nine [1949] or fifty [1950], and we let it lapse. So, he went back to the Embassy and says, "Hey, remember me? I want to go now." They say, "Well, you have to reactivate the paperwork." And that took another, I don't know, six months to a year, and finally, we left France in December of fifty-one [1951]. Slow boat by, you know, across the Atlantic and made it here in January of fifty-two [1952].

Yeah, that was the name, General Stewart, right. But it was the Liberty ship, one of those troop carriers. So, you know, men and women were separated. We slept in those three deck cots, you know, the cloth hammock-style, and we apparently hit one of the worst storms in the last ten or twenty—previous ten or twenty years. For three days, we were locked below deck. We weren't allowed on deck because waves were washing over. The boat was rocking like that, and getting off that bed to go to the bathroom was an ordeal. I must have lost ten pounds during that crossing. (laughs) And anyway, that's when our ordeal ended. I mean, at least the survival—you know, to get to the point we are now was another struggle—but that had to do with the Holocaust directly, anyway.

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About John Rinde