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.

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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.

Harry Sabol

The story of Harry Sabol, as told by his son Allen

Harry was born in Russia and came to the United States in 1904 after escaping from the Czar’s army. A tailor by trade, Harry set up shop in St. Louis at 321 North Jefferson Ave. with a sign, “Who Does Your Tailoring? Try Harry Sable.”

He even established his own baseball team. According to his son, Allen, the team never won a game so Harry finally disbanded them. Later, he set up shop in Granite City, IL. He ran that shop for 21 more years and closed it in 1962, at the mere age of 84.

During World War II, Harry began selling United States savings bonds. He sold bonds on the streets, in drug stores and any place he could find people to buy them. He was easy to spot in the crowd. He would wear a red, white and blue spangle cloak and a stovepipe hat! But he ran into a little problem. One day the FBI appeared at his house. They wanted to know how he sold the bonds. Harry said he would like to sell them some. But they told him they didn’t have the money since the government took a bond a month from their paychecks. After selling more than $1.5 milllion of War Bonds, he was awarded a medal in 1943 by Earl Shackelford of the St. Louis U.S. Savings Bond office. Later in 1972, after Harry had lost the medal, it was presented to him again in a special ceremony by J. Owen Zurhellen, Jr., U.S. Mission official. Mr. Zurhellen remarked that the United States Government and people owed a debt of gratitude to Mr. Sabol for his wartime activities. He truly was a super-salesman for Uncle Sam!

At the age of 92, most men would have felt entitled to take it easy and curtail some of their activities. But Harry chose a new life in Israel and continued to renew things he liked most: tailoring, the Torah and the Talmud. In Israel, Harry chose to provide tailoring services to residents of the Chassidic village of Kiryat Bobov on the beaches of Mediterranean, just south of Tel Aviv. In exchange, he would ask that each mending job require the customer to study a set amount of pages of the Talmud in his honor. A large tailoring job required a larger number of pages and each job required being paid for in this type of currency. Most of the customers were students at the famed Bobov Yeshiva and Rabbinical seminary where young scholars are engrossed daily in the Torah and Talmud study. He was quite strict in collecting his bills!

Harry Sabol died six months before his 100th birthday.

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 II

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

Six months later we were told to get our blankets and our bowls. We marched about six Kilometers past the guard towers with the men with machine guns pointed at us. That’s how I met Mengele. Dr. Mengele was tall, but not that tall. His hair was light and he wore boots up to his knees. He had these piercing blue eyes. My sister and I were in line, and we saw many people going left. We knew what that meant. We promised to stay together. I went first up to the desk. Mengele asked my name and the country I came from. I had no hair, I was shaved and I was clinging to my blanket and my bowl. He then said to me, “Repeat my name, Dr. Joseph Mengele.” I did and he asked, “How do you speak German so well?” I told him that my mother had taught me as a child, and he said, “Ok. I’m going to tell you something else. Whenever you speak to me or to one of us superior people, better than you lousy Jews, in German you must announce your name, your position and you must ask for permission to approach us. Repeat.” I was lucky I repeated it correctly, and he pushed me to the right with his stick. My sister got through without any problems.  There were about 3,000 women there, and only about half got through.

After we got through the line and into the camp, we had role call. The day was very hazy, and it was drizzly, but when the sun came out, I looked into the distance and I said to her “There are barracks, some kind, but I see chimneys.” She says “What kind of chimneys?” I said “the smokestacks,” and she relied, “Oh my god, Hilda, where are we?” And I just said, “I don’t know. I don’t know.”

Luckily we were both assigned to Barracks one. When we stood role call again, an educated Polish woman asked who spoke German. I immediately volunteered, and got another job as a scribe and cleaning woman. She was part of a group of political prisoners, and the Germans treated them better than us stinking, dirty, rotten Jews, so they let me use their latrine and running water.

There were thousands coming each day.  We found out about the gas chambers and the crematoria. The Jewish people had to push the people in and pull the people out of the chambers.  They had to gas their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters.  They thought, “We are burning all the other Jews, that way they won’t dispose of us so fast.” We heard that many of the men committed suicide when they saw they had to gas their family. 

I was also a punished prisoner. There was a woman whose mother was catholic and her father was Jewish. She used to say, “I went to a catholic school! I went to a convent! Why wouldn’t my mother leave that dirty rotten Jew?” I said to her “What are you doing talking against another prisoner? Another poor, miserable prisoner like you? I can tell you something, they have a saying those Germans. ‘They like the treason, but they hate the traitor.’—you can’t help yourself for long.” I was taken away and beaten. They put a big red cross on my uniform to show that I was punished.

A little while later, the head scribe of the camp, who was also Slovakian, told me that the next day, 100 high ranking civilians were coming to take us out of the camp to work in the special ammunitions factory. She told me to cover the cross with my jacket and come in a group with my sister. The next day we made it through the gate to the civilians and were being selected by the civilians. Luckily the man pointed at our group and asked for our names and numbers. I responded in German and he chose us for his factory. The head S.S. woman at the camp said to him, “That one may not go with you!” Then she ripped off my jacket revealing the big x, and continued, “She is a punished prisoner.” He asked her, “Who are you?” and she responded, “Well, I am the commander!” He responded, “I am the one who is above you. I want that woman! I don’t care what she did, but I want her. And if she is not in the front row tomorrow morning, do you know what’s going to happen to you? I have a gun too. You are not going to tell me, you low-life, what to do.”  The next morning, I was the first one in line.

We went to an ammunition factory in upper-Silesia, where we had to check bombs. We were all sabotaging the bombs, making sure they were not air-tight. We heard rumors about the Germans being beaten by the Russians from the east and the tummies from the west. Sure enough, several nights we had to go into the bomb shelter and the factory was bombed. Then we left, and we had death marches upon death marches. We ended up in Hamburg after death marches and rides in a coal train. We had bombardments, and one of the bombs hit the quarters where the German soldiers lived. Some of them were killed, and suddenly we didn’t see them anymore after the bombing, but we saw soldiers in other uniforms, who told us we were going to Denmark. The soldiers were “Home Security”—no more S.S.  The man who told me I would be free was missing an arm. We were told that they took all the able-bodied young men, as young as 16, and sent them to the front, but the wounded were in “Home Security.” We rode packed in trains all the way to the German border.

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.

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.