Leib Ganz

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

I was born in Transylvania, Romania, in 1920, and I am a survivor of Hitler. My father used to work with a horse and wagon, transporting goods from the train station to stores. I had two sisters. One had a baby, but I don’t know what happened to them.

I was in the camps from 1941-1945. When I was 21 years old, the S.S. came and took me away. They sent us to Russia, but the trains we were on were broken because of the war, so we had to march for two days. We marched to Kiev, where we took the trains. I was an inmate at Mauthausen, which we called the smallest and the worst of the camps. They didn’t send us to gas chambers or anything, and they didn’t shoot you, but when they wanted to kill you, they would beat you with their night sticks.

I was liberated in 1945. Then, after the liberation, I was sent into a hospital in Italy. I lived in Italy for almost 4 years. There was a girl from the Jewish Federation, and I said that I wanted to go home. When I got out of the hospital, I found out that the Russians were occupying Romania, and I heard that the Russians wouldn’t be good to us, so then I didn’t want to go home. After that, I decided I wanted to go to Israel. I talked to the Haganah, a secret organization that brought Jews from Europe into the then British-controlled Palestine. But both times they were ready to take me, I could not go because I was in the hospital.  Eventually in 1951, the Jewish Federation brought me to the United States.

I had trouble in St. Louis. I couldn’t find a job—it took almost three months. I spoke Italian because I had lived in Italy for 5 years, and when a girl who I knew from Italy was ready to give up her job, she let me take her place. In those years, I used to go to a friend’s house every day because he had a TV, and we all liked to watch TV. One day I was doing the dishes there, and a woman came up to me and asked me why I didn’t have a wife. I responded, “If I have a wife, I’ll have kids, and I’ll have to buy clothes and blankets and things for all those kids.” She said to me, “Well would you get married?” And I said, “Sure, if I find the right woman?” That’s how we met, and in 1952, we got married.

Since the 1950s, I’ve been to Israel three times, and I even wanted to move there and live in a kibbutz, but I was too old. I love this country. I am happy to be here, and I’m happy to be Jewish.