Louis S. Goldman

Louis Goldman was born Israel Labe Guntmacher in 1894 in Ladyzhin, Podolsky, Ukraine. The Ukraine is about the size of Texas and Ladyzhin was a small village then with about 800 Jewish families. My father-in-law said it looked just like village, Anatevka, in Fiddler on the Roof. They spoke Russian, Ukrainian and Yiddish. In the 1400s, this was part of the Polish empire and Jews, who had been expelled by other European countries, were welcomed by the Polish empire since they could read and write. But in the 1600s, the Polish empire began to lose power and the fortunes of the Jews also declined. When Louis was born, it was ruled by the Russian Czars, and there were restrictions and pogroms against the Jews. Tobacco and wheat were the main crops of Ladyzhin with production controlled by the government. Jews could not own property. The houses were one-story with dirt floors and no running water and water was taken from the river, where people bathed and sent their waste. Lou’s father was a tailor and better off than most of his neighbors, as he had a little work all year long making a few coats, pants and shirts. Many in the village felt lucky to work a few months a year.

In 1905, when Lou was 11, his older brother, Yosell, age 22, was shot by Russian soldiers. He was a University student who joined the Bund, a Jewish socialist revolutionary group aligned with the Bolsheviks. His father blamed too much education for giving Yosell ideas that got him killed. He pulled Louis out of school in the 4th grade and set him to work in the tobacco fields for 20 cents a day.

The Guntmachers and Tabachnicks were very good friends and neighbors. The Tabachnicks were a large family with four boys and two girls, and the youngest girl was born in America. Their going to America left Louis very sad, because the boys were his very best friends. Dave, the oldest and his best friend, promised to find a way to get him to America. In 1910, a letter came from the Tabachnicks saying he could live with them and Dave was sending him a ticket. He couldn’t get a passport because he was only 17, but the letter was accepted by immigration on both sides of the Atlantic.

All across Europe, people worked as agents to sneak those without papers across borders. His father arranged for Lou to meet agents in Russia, Austria and Germany. The agents would gather a group together in farmhouse barns until they had about 20-30 while they searched out safe places to cross. They had to cross a river into Germany holding on tightly to overhead ropes so the current wouldn’t carry them away. In Hamburg, Louis found a ticket agent and got his steerage ticket. It took two weeks to cross, then another week in Baltimore with thousands of other immigrants and then by train to St. Louis. Going through the immigration process was when his name was changed to Louis S. Goldman.

Louis wanted to be an American. He learned to speak and read and write English as quickly as possible. He went to work in the clothing industry. In 1914, at 19 years old, he got terribly homesick and decided to go home for the Passover holiday.

It was dangerous times; war seemed imminent, but he couldn’t be persuaded to stay. He had no passport, but he figured he could bribe his way. All went well until he crossed into Russia where he was arrested. By giving the warden all the rest of the money he had, he was released and even put on a train, but it stopped short of getting him to his home town. Luckily, a wagon master knew him and took him home, where he got paid by the parents. Lou told his parents the whole story and that he would need money to return to America. They sent him to his uncle who gave him a royal dressing down for being so foolish to travel at this time, but the uncle gave him $200. Lou decided to return immediately because of the war clouds. Again, no passport and he had to go through Poland and Austria to Hamburg, Germany. His father would wire him money for the boat ticket. He stayed at a farm house and they loaded 15-20 people in the center of the wagon carrying bales of hay. At the border, soldiers bayonnnetted the hay, but fortunately, no one was hurt. They crossed a river with overhead ropes to Austria. There, while they were waiting, someone ratted them out. They pooled their money to bribe the police and gave a royal beating to the snitch. In Hamburg, Louis went to the ticket agent to get money from his dad. The agent asked him to do a favor. He had an 11-year-old boy traveling alone to St. Louis to meet his sister. The boy’s name was Elie Chadorosky (Al Price). They boarded the Pres. Lincoln and Dad brought him to St. Louis.

He and his friend, Leo Tabachnick, served in the Army during WWI overseas in France and he got his naturalization papers.

In 1922, Lou decided to get his family out of Russia. He had parents, two sisters and a young brother, all almost starved from the different armies commissioned near their town: Red, White Russians, Germans, and Austrians. He made arrangements with agents to get them over the border. In the woods on a Sabbath eve, not far from the border, his mother, a very observant Jew, insisted on lighting the candles and saying the blessing. She put two sticks in the ground, said the prayer and lit the candles. Then she blew them out because of the great danger. With bribes and luck, they did get out of Russia. They got to Belgium and booked passage on the Lapland, but his father had a hernia and had to be left behind for the operation at a Catholic hospital. He left money with the Nuns for his care and to see that he got on the ship to America when he recovered. Lou told his dad the food was Kosher or he wouldn’t have eaten.

He married Cecelia Tabachnick, sister of best friend in 1924. They had four children. The first child died in infancy, then a son in 1927 and twins, a boy and girl in 1935. The youngest son died in 2000 and the oldest in 2002. They were/are a loving family, hardworking, honest and all good citizens. Like most Jewish immigrants, Dad loved America: it’s a wonderful land of opportunity, citizenship, to earn a good living, educate your children and freedom, especially religious freedom. This made America the golden country!

This story was submitted by Lillian Goldman with information that came from her father and research done by her nephew, Mark Goldman.

The Bakery Born in a Kitchen Oven – Freund Baking Company

Story provided by Gladis Barker

Back in the 1850’s when Mrs. Moritz Freund baked Bohemian rye bread for her South St. Louis neighbors, she had no inkling she was starting an institution that was to become a lasting part of St. Louis tradition. Freund Olde Tyme Rye Bread – baked according to Mrs. Freund’s Old World recipe – has been part of the social history of St. Louis. One interesting fact was that Mrs. Freund oven was heated by cordwood supplied by a bearded, struggling farmer who was later to become President of the United States – Ulysses S. Grant!

Her bread was welcomed by the Union Army soldiers at Jefferson Barracks during the Civil War, and by succeeding generations of soldiers until the post was closed after World War II.

The famous Freund rye bread was present at a wide range of important social events and establishments. When the Veiled Prophet made its first visit to St. Louis in 1878, Freund bread had an honored place on the menu of the first queen. It showed up at the fabulous St. Louis World’s Fair where visitors praised the Freund bread and rolls served in every pavilion and booth. In the 1880’s and ‘90’s at the famous outdoor beer gardens, patrons feasted on hearty sandwiches made with Freund rye bread.

A familiar sight was seeing the Freund horse-drawn wagons rolling from the bakery adjoining the family home at 913 Soulard Street to deliver bread and rolls to St. Louis restaurants. The bakery remained at the Soulard location for six generations.  In 1921 the bakery was moved to a larger facility at Taylor and Chouteau and the wagons were replaced by a fleet of modern trucks which distributed the wealth of Freund ovens – bread, rolls, cakes, pies and sweet goods – to customers throughout Greater St. Louis and a nine-state area in the Midwest.

The bakery remained in the Freund family for four generations, run by sons and grandsons. In 1972, the bakery was finally taken over by an outside corporate baking organization and the bakery lost its family identity. But even though the Freund bakery name was lost, it has left an important mark on St. Louis history.

Hilda Lebedun: Part III

Story was recorded at the Covenant House on May 20, 2008, by Michael Naclerio.

On May first, we got to the German border and were told to disembark. We were guarded by two of them, and they were reading a newspaper. I peaked over their shoulders and was reading it, and in big black letters was: “All is lost, the Furor is Dead.” They were reading it, and the older one said, “Ach! That’s not true, the dog abandoned us.” That’s how we got to the border. We saw people with the Red Cross. There were Danish soldiers there too and they made the Germans give them their weapons.  Then we met the Danish people who greeted us with open arms. They came running with bread and cheese and chocolate, but I said, “Don’t touch us! We’re filthy, stinky, disgusting.” We were skeletons. But they just kept on saying, “Don’t worry about it, you’re free.” I still want to wish many thanks to the Danish people.  They wanted to take care of us more, but they had us go to Sweden, because that country had no bombings from the war. The Swedish Red Cross took care of us, and we worked for some Swedish families, taking care of their houses and their children.

While working in Sweden, we were waiting for some papers to enter the United States.  They had mine ready, but my sisters were not yet, so my family in New York asked me to come and then my sister would come later, but I said, “No way, we went through the camps together. We’re staying together.” After a few more months, we finally went to New York.

The first time I met my husband, he took us to a Hungarian restaurant. He kissed me on the cheek, and I told my friend to tell him, “If I was not a lady I would kick him so hard he would forget who he is.”  He answered, “You tell her she doesn’t want to kick the person she is going to marry.” I came to St. Louis with him for a visit, and I just stayed.  My husband and I raised three great children. My oldest has a PhD in sociology.  My daughter takes brain waves and heart tests, and my youngest son has a Master’s degree in social work from Washington University. They are all three in service, and I am lucky to have them.  
There was one thing that I wanted to leave with. Don’t hate. Hate is a very destructive force. I thank God because he gave me the hope and strength not to hate. We all have the same God. We are so miserable to each other, and I don’t understand why people don’t feel it in their souls: there is one God, we just pray to him in different ways. Until we learn to honor each others’ ways to pray to that one God, we always bring misery upon us. If politically there is such a dissention, why in the name of God?

Hilda Lebedun: Part I

Story was recorded at the Covenant House on May 20, 2008, by Michael Naclerio.

I was born and raised in Czechoslovakia, in the Slovakia part. I had a beautiful family, one brother and two sisters. My father was a government employee. In the smallish city where I was born and raised, we were the only Jews, and we didn’t face much anti-Semitism. When my father went to Prague, he brought back the disturbing news that a person by the name of Hitler was starting problems in Germany and Austria, but we didn’t think anything of it. Nobody thought that Germany was so high up in technology and other things, and we didn’t hear about much. I only found about Krystallnacht when I was in a camp in Poland. Nothing was talked about.

In 1938, there were things starting to trickle down. We heard rumors that Hitler was going to get Czechoslovakia for nothing. We had great trains and uranium that Hitler needed. He then took over Poland very easily. When he occupied them, he interned all of the educated people, the ones who were leading the country. We found out things were going really bad when no Jewish children could go to school, and Jews couldn’t open new stores. That was hard for us to understand, because we didn’t usually feel much anti-Semitism. We sold the house so that the Germans wouldn’t take it, and we kept the money in the bank. We would take 50 crowns for the week and that would be it. Little by little we were put on a curfew, and we had to wear the Jewish star on our clothes. It was unbelievable what could happen to people when there was war, unrest and unemployment in the land. Since the government could not take care of its constituents, they needed somebody to place the blame on, and that was the Jews, because we were in the minority.

I married very young, and they took my husband first. They took men from 16 up to about 45 or 50, where we didn’t know. About two months later, they took my sister. Then two months after that, my parents got the notice, but not me. It turns out that the person in charge of the Slovakian party was my former high school principal. My parents suggested that I go to my grandmother’s house—she lived far away in the mountains—but I refused.  I went to my high school principal and asked why I had received no notice. He told me “Go to your grandmother’s house, hide.” I refused, I asked him to let me stay with my family.

I got the notice, and within 24 hours, we were in wagons on the way to a nearby big city. Our family was there waiting to be transported for two weeks. When we got to the train stations, right away we heard, “You damn, stinking, dirty, rotten Jews. We’re going to put you to work.” We rode to Auschwitz—packed 120 to a cattle car like sardines. In the early morning we stopped, and we jumped out to see S.S. men with machine guns and heard dogs barking. People were screaming. I looked back to see my father, but I was pushed with people that I never knew. We were marched towards the camp, and because I am farsighted, I could see the barbed wire and the towers. I heard the hum of the electric fence, a noise that I can still not get out of my mind. In the distance I saw a huge gate that read, “Arbeit macht frei,” (work will make you free). We went through the gate with the dogs barking and the S.S. men screaming. I kept on looking for my family, but I could not find them.

We came into the barracks, and we got into lines. They asked if anybody spoke German, and I immediately volunteered. They said, “Ok, stand here. You are going to tell them what I tell you. If you talk to us, you are going to talk to us in German.” We were dumped in a foul-smelling bath, then stripped naked. There were five Jewish men sitting there, and then they shaved us—everywhere there is hair on a human body. It was so degrading. We were pushed into the next room, given a generic uniform, shoes—clodhoppers, we called them—a blanket, and a bowl that we were told to guard with our life. They told us, “If you don’t have that bowl, you won’t get fed.” We stood for role call, and then we were marched to the barracks. That was how we got to Auschwitz.

The next day we were marched out for another role call, and somebody told me that somebody was waving to me from the other barracks. In the distance I looked and I saw my sister, so after the role-call was over, I was not supposed to go, but I went over and talked to her. Then we got foul-smelling scoop of soup, made out of rotten beets and rotten potatoes. It took me many years before I was able to eat beets and potatoes again.

Since I spoke German so well, a young Polish woman who had been interned by the S.S. asked me to come help her.  She told me I spoke German better than her, and she also needed somebody to help her talk to the Jews who didn’t speak their native languages. I no longer had to go out to the fields. I was given a sheet of paper to record everybody’s name. I also had to help clean the barracks, with only a shovel and a bucket—there were no floors. We were in Auschwitz proper about six or seven months.

In the meantime, my sister and I wondered what was happening to our brothers.They didn’t separate the mothers and the children, and we were told that they all went to another camp. About four months later we found out that the Germans took all of the mothers and children and disposed of them. My sister found out because the Germans kept immaculate records—my mother and my brothers had a GU, or gas sentence marking, by there names.

Jerry Baum

Story was recorded at the Covenant House on May 20, 2008, by Michael Naclerio.

I grew up in St. Louis, and my father was one of the men who built Beth Israel.  He also helped bring in Rabbi Eichenstein, the Head Rabbi of St. Louis at that time. We had a fight, the Rabbi and I. When I was growing up, I’d go out with my friends, and I worked with my father in the butcher shop. So one day, the phone rings, and it’s the rabbi. He says to my father, “What is Jerome doing in the saloon?” And my father turns around and says to me, “The Rabbi wants to know what you’re doing in the saloon.” I said, “If the Zodiac Bar on top of the Chase is the saloon he’s talking about, yeah I go there, because I like the entertainment and my friends all go there.” We just didn’t see eye to eye, me and the Rabbi.

So I went through High School at Soldan, and when the war broke out, I was 17, and I wanted to join the Navy.  I said to my dad, “I’m going to join the Navy.” And he said “Why?” and I replied, “I don’t like sleeping on the ground. I don’t like sleeping on a cot. I want a mattress. I want a pillow, and I want to be comfortable.” On my boat, there was this one sailor who came from Pittsburg. He used to tease me about being Jewish, so I would throw things at him. He would call me “Kyke” or “Jew-boy,” and I used to get so mad at him that I would throw things at him. I would throw pots, pans, knives, and one day, I even threw a cleaver at him! I never hit him, but I got so mad at him. He was the only one who was allowed to do it. If anybody would say anything he would be right there, and he would get mad. Only he could aggravate me.

When I joined the Navy, I left behind Geraldine Barg, the most wonderful person in the world, who was my high school sweetheart. I proposed to her when I was 18 or 19, and she was maybe a year younger. She said, “Why don’t we wait a little longer.” After I came home from the Navy, she got married to Eugene and I got married to my first wife, Gloria Polsky. Gloria and I had a son together, but after a while, we didn’t hit it off so well anymore.  We got a divorce, but our son caught polio. We both had to take care of him, so we got back together.

I was still in the Navy, so I had to do a lot of work on the West Coast. Gloria was so angry, and she demanded that I come back to St. Louis. I asked her to come over to the West Coast, because I had a house and everything. She said to me, “You come back home right now or we’re getting a divorce.” So I came back home just long enough to get the divorce. By that time, Geraldine and Eugene had split, so I married the true love of my life, Gerladine Barg.

Alicia Rosenfeld

Story was recorded at the Covenant House on May 20, 2008, by Michael Naclerio.

When World War II started, the Army drafted my father. WWII ended in 1945, and I was 7 years old. One day, I was riding my tricycle, and, all of the sudden, people started yelling, “The War is over! The War is over!” And I was so excited, I started honking my little horn, and I remember thinking, “Oh yay! That means my daddy is coming home!”

My father was a Jewish man and a short man, so he took a lot of ribbing for being the short Jewish guy. They named him “Shorty” in the military. One thing I’ll always remember is how my father walked. He walked like he was 10 feet tall. He said, “Never put your head down. You have to have confidence.” But he took a lot of flak from those guys. Luckily, he was a tailor, so he did a lot of work for the big wigs in the Army. They’d ask him to shorten their pants and whatnot, so they took good care of him. But it was still very hard for him being a short Jew in the military during those times.