The original oral history interview was conducted on February 3, 2004 and was subsequently edited. Numerous changes have been made by Fran Greenberg and her family.
Interviewer: What was your birth name?
Greenberg: My name was Fanny Silberstein. My mother called me by my Jewish name, Fagela.When I came to this country, my uncle changed my name to Frances, most people call me Fran.
Interviewer: Tell me about your family?
Greenberg: My father was Simon Silberstein, and my mother’s maiden name was Jeanne
Toder. I have one sister, her name was Gisele, and my uncle changed it to Gloria.
During the occupation my sister and I went under the name Plot. We had a cousin on our
father’s side called Jacques Plot in Paris, so we took his name because it didn’t
sound Jewish. We called him uncle Jacques.
Interviewer: Where were you born?
Greenberg: I was born in Paris, July 10, 1937. We lived at 154 Rue Oberkampf. I remember
the apartment very well. My mother was always amazed at how much I could
remember, but unfortunately they were not good memories.
Interviewer: What do you remember about your family and your grandparents?
Greenberg: I never knew my grandparents. My mother was born in Poland and came to France
to study her trade and start a business; she was a dressmaker. She had taken
care of her aging parents in Poland and when they passed away, her older
siblings paid for her voyage to Paris. She met my father while she was in Paris
and they married so she never saw her family again. Her siblings left Poland for
America and her sister went to Brazil. My father was born in Russia, but I do not know much about his past. We had a mirror in the kitchen and I
remember watching him shave. I must have been around 3 or 4 years old. My father had a
business in Paris, like a hardware store, but I really don’t remember.
Interviewer: Describe your childhood home.
Greenberg: All I remember is that we were all living in
a very cramped, small apartment. We had a kitchen with a table and one bedroom
that we all shared. We had no bathroom. We had to go down the hall to the toilet that all the tenants on that floor shared.
My mother would wash us in the kitchen sink, and take us to a public bathhouse once a week.
Interviewer: Tell me what happened to your father?
Greenberg: I can still remember when men came in the middle of the night. They banged on
the door and told my father that he had to go with them. I found out later that
the men were French citizens working for the Vichy government. My father was in
his pajamas, my mother brought him slippers and said, “can he please have a
cup of hot tea before he leaves,” because it was cold, but they just took
him away. I think it was at the very beginning of the raids collecting the
Jewish men in our area of Paris. I don’t think anyone was prepared for it. It
was the last time I saw my father. He was sent to Camp Drancy, a police prison
camp in Compiegne, and then was deported to Auschwitz in 1942.
After my father was taken, my mother realized that it was a dangerous
situation. She was not sure how much longer we could live in the apartment. When
we came home one day, and our apartment was padlocked. We found someone to open
it for us. Everything we owned was gone, furniture, clothing, pictures, personal
items, and whatever my father had hidden under the beds, it was all gone. We
were told by the landlord that it was not a safe place for us to live anymore.
So that is when my mother went to live with a very dear friend, Berthe Beiderman
and her young son Armand. Berthe lived on the other side of Paris on Rue Duris.
She wanted us to come and stay with her. She had a small apartment across a
courtyard of the main building. We spoke to the concierge and she said that all
the Jews who lived in the main building had left, as they were afraid that the
Germans would soon be there.
Interviewer: Was Berthe Jewish?
Greenberg: Yes, and her husband had been taken around the same time. My mother told the
concierge that we were going to stay with Berthe. She said that it was very
dangerous at this time. My mother did not know what to do, so the concierge
said, “you can stay and hide in the main apartment building on the 4th
floor during the day, and sleep in Berthe’s apartment at night.”
So we stayed in the empty apartment during the day and then we would go to
Berthe’s at night to eat and sleep. We did this for days or weeks, I can’t
really remember. The concierge was not Jewish, she was very brave to help us. If
she had been caught hiding Jews, she would have been arrested like us. As time
went on, we felt more secure and started to venture out. In front of the
apartment building was a barber shop. The barber, a non-Jew, was a nice person
and knew of our situation. My sister, Armand and I would go out and play outside
in front of his shop.
One day, my mother, Berthe and I were on the top floor of
the apartment and my sister and Armand were playing outside. All of a sudden we
could hear them crying, “maman, maman.” The Germans had come and were
marching down the street. They were ready to run down the street to grab the
children, when the barber came out and said,”come to papa,” and took
them into his shop. When my mother and Berthe saw that they were safe, they took
me and we all hid in the closet waiting for the Germans. I remember asking my
mother what happened after that. She told me that the Germans asked the concierge
if there were any Jews in the building, and she said “no.”
First they crossed the courtyard and went up to Berthe’s apartment. They
asked the concierge, “what happened to the occupants?” She said that
they must have been in hurry and left all their belongings. She followed them
throughout the building. Then they started going from floor to floor, checking
each apartment of the main building. We could hear them from the closet. My
mother must of felt that this was it and that we would be found and taken away.
Then we heard the concierge talking to them. She brought them some food and
drink. They were sitting on the steps eating and drinking, then she said, ”
come on down to my apartment I have good wines, I will show you.” They left
with her, and forgot to check the last apartment where we were hiding. So, she
really saved our lives. After that incident, that is when my mother realized
that she couldn’t keep this up; sooner or later we would be caught. That must
have been when our mother decided to put us in foster care.
My sister and I then went to live in the French countryside. I don’t
remember the name of the cities. The HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) might have arranged it, but I am not
sure. We stayed with a gentile family, a foster family. I can still remember
their last name, Lance. Our mother left us there so she could run and hide
without worrying about us. It was a place safe from the Germans. It was not a
good home for us. There was very little food, and any extra food they gave to
their own children. Some days we lived on one or two pieces of bread.
But then the bombing started, and I can remember playing outside and all of a
sudden the sirens would sound and the bombs were dropping before we could run
for cover. We would run to the house and climb over the fence were the next door
neighbor had a bomb shelter in his basement. Sometimes we would stay there for
days. When we would come out, we could see how many homes had been bombed down
to the ground. My mother would try to come at night to see us. I could hear her
crying, begging the foster parents to feed us more and she would give them any
money she had. I have no idea how my mother lived. I think that she was running
and hiding in the forest as many others did.
After that, my sister and I went to another home, their name was Reynolds. We
had no schooling, only their own children went to school. I don’t know why. My
sister and I had to get up every morning and walk miles in the freezing cold to
get them a newspaper. Then my health started to fail. My lungs were bad and I
was weak from lack of food and care. I think that is when the HIAS took charge.
They sent me to a sanitarium. The diagnosis was childhood tuberculosis. I
needed good food, medicine and care. The sanitarium was run by nuns. The HIAS
found my sister a children’s home nearby so she could visit me. We were still
in the French country side. The nuns were wonderful to me and I started to
Catholicism. I went to confession. I needed to believe in something. They
showed us movies about Jesus; for me that was entertainment. But it was a lonely
place and I missed my mother. I always wondered where she was. I was there when
they declared that the war was over.
Interviewer: How old were you then?
Greenberg: About 6 or 7. I remember everybody jumping on the beds and running around
screaming. I didn’t understand what was happening. The war was over, but my
life was not different. I still did not know where my mother was and still had
some health issues. Then I left with my sister and we went to some Jewish
Interviewer: Did you see your mother through all of this?
No, not then. After the declaration, my mother came to get my sister and me
to go back to Paris to our apartment at 154 Rue Oberkampf. The French White
Cross as I think it was called got us some furniture and appliances to furnish
the apartment, as the Germans had taken everything during the raid.
Interviewer: Your original apartment?
Greenberg: Yes. I remember that the kitchen table that they gave us was too long and you
couldn’t shut the door, so they came and sawed it in half and fixed it so we
could use it. My mother had a brother in Canonsburg, Pa., his name was Sam Toder.
He knew a soldier from Canonsburg that was going to Paris. He told him to look
us up, his name was Velvel Katz. He found us in Paris, and told us that our aunt
and uncle had told him about us. He brought us all kinds of canned foods and
filled my mother’s cupboard. I can still remember the first time I ate canned
fruit cocktail and he introduced me to chewing gum. He was a young soldier,
probably in his 20’s, he was wonderful to us. My sister and I always looked
forward to his visits. Shortly after that my mother became ill and had to be
hospitalized. The HIAS sent a young woman to take us out of Paris to a foster
home in the country. I can’t understand why our cousin Jacques couldn’t have
taken care of us. I guess he had a large family of his own.
This young woman took us and two other little children on the train, I guess
she was a social worker, but I don’t remember her name. We stopped at a home
in the country to drop off two small children with a foster family. They seemed
like a wonderful family. The man was a guard in a chateau, it was a beautiful
place to live, but it was for the younger children.
So we left and went back on
the train. She took us to a small town to live with an elderly couple who could
hardly get around. She dropped us off and left. It was a very strange place.
They hardly spoke to us. We had soup for dinner and then they left us and went
to bed, never telling us where we were supposed to sleep. They didn’t mistreat
us, they just didn’t do anything, but they collected the money for taking care
of us. We wrote to the social worker and told her how unhappy we were, and that this was not a good place for us. She told us
not to tell our mother because she was very sick and it would upset her.
Finally after complaining and complaining, the social worker came and took us out of
there. On the way back to Paris, she had to stop to check on the other children
at the country home. We had dinner with them. The couple told her that the
children were going to be leaving shortly, and asked us if we
would like to stay with them. We were thrilled as we could see that they were a
wonderful couple and it would be a good place to stay. They were younger, had a
beautiful home with all kinds of farm animals and we always had wonderful food
on the table.
Interviewer: Were they Jewish?
Greenberg: They were not Jewish. But it was the only time that I can remember that I
didn’t cry for or miss my mother because they were so good to us. We went to
school there. They had a horse and buggy and would take us around the park. I
can’t remember how long we lived with them, but it seemed to be a long time.
Then we had to leave again. I think because my health was failing again but I
don’t really know. When she came to take us away, we couldn’t pull ourselves
apart from them. The woman was crying so hard, her husband was trying to console
Interviewer: What were their names?
Greenberg: I don’t remember. We called the HIAS to see if they had a record of all the
foster homes we had been in. They said that the records were gone. It’s a
shame because my sister and I would have loved to thank these wonderful people.
From this foster home we went to a Jewish home for children. Then all of a
sudden my sister and I were called back to Paris. We took the train back to
Paris. My mother was in the hospital there and very sick. I did not know that
she was dying. My mother wanted to see us before she died. I think that my
sister, being older understood that she was dying, but I did not. In the
hospital, my mother was in bed and had candy under her pillow. She kept giving
us candy and hugging us. That was the last time I saw my mother, she died at
only 45 years of age. My sister would cry and she would say to me, “if you
knew what I know, you would cry too,” and I didn’t want to ask her
because I wanted to believe that my mother would some day be with us. My mother
died October 26, 1946. I was nine years old.
After that I was sent to another sanitarium away from my sister. My sister
Gloria was very thin from malnutrition, so she was sent by the HIAS to live with
a nice family in Switzerland for a few months to recuperate. Then she went to
live with Jacques for a short time, until we were united again.
The sanitarium was not a happy place for me. I was very lonely and wanted
leave. I couldn’t see my sister and I missed my mother. Like I said, I didn’t
know that she had passed away. I cannot remember how long I lived there. Finally
I was healthy enough to leave the sanitarium. There were about 10 children who
were leaving the sanitarium. We were taken by bus to a children’s home, I am
not sure what it was. Maybe it was a daycare facility since there were mostly
babies there. We all sat around a large table waiting for our families to pick
us up. One by one, parents came to pick up their children. Jacques was supposed
to come and get me. I waited and waited, but he never showed up. So the
institution fed me dinner and they said, “you will probably have to stay
overnight because we don’t know where your uncle is.” I always called him
Uncle Jacques, since he was my father’s age. So I stayed overnight for many
nights. Weeks went by and no Uncle Jacques. The women who were running the
children’s home said, “you know, we better find a place for you to
sleep, because we don’t know if your uncle is ever going to come for you,” and nobody knew how to reach
So they found me a large crib to sleep in, as that’s all they had. Every
day I would help and play with the little children. I made dolls out of rags for
them. There was a high school girl that would come once in a while to volunteer,
her name was Nicole and we became friends. I felt that Jacques would come sooner
or later, so I made the best of my situation. It is hard to remember how long I
was there, maybe weeks or a few months. One night I went to bed and I prayed to
God in the only way I knew, through my Catholic learning. I prayed for three
things to happen in three days. I prayed that the next day be a good day for
God, with no sins in the world. I prayed that the second day Nicole would come
to help with the children since I had not seen her in many days. And for the
third day I prayed, “God, please have Jacques come to get me.” The
first day went by uneventfully. The second day Nicole showed up and I said in my
heart, “This is it.” So the third day I packed my bag and waited. The
women in the places said, “Poor child she thinks that her uncle is really
coming for her.” I wouldn’t go to bed, I sat in the hall with my coat on
and suitcase by my side, at 11:30 pm the door opened and there was Jacques.
There he was! It was a real miracle. And I believed that God had answered my
prayers. We traveled all night by car. I remember him saying to me that I have
to sing to keep him awake.
Interviewer: Did he tell you why he had not come sooner?
Greenberg: No, I was a child, and did not think of asking, “What happened to
you?” Jacques was a very well-to-do man. He had an apartment for his family
in Paris, he took his family to the seashore in the hot summer months and he had
a beautiful summer home in Neuilly Plaisance outside of Paris. We arrived at the
home in Neuilly Plaisance in the morning. Everyone was waiting for us on the
porch, there was my sister, his wife Terese and their five children. It was a
special day for me, especially to see my sister again. We stayed with them and
we had a wonderful summer. Jacques took care of our expenses. He had a maid,
butler and nanny for the children. But when fall came and the children had to go
back to school, they were going back to Paris. They told us that there was not
enough room for my sister and I in Paris, so we would have to stay with the maid
and butler at their home in Neuilly Plaisance a few blocks away from Jacques’s
home. We called them Meme and Pepe, which meant grandma and grandpa.
Interviewer: Were they related?
Greenberg: No, they were caretakers, and getting paid by Jacques for keeping us. They
had a small two bedroom home. It was not a bad place, but it was not a warm or
loving place either. At least we had food and a roof over our heads. We finally
went to school regularly for the first time. I was always frightened and had
nightmares. I would hold my sister’s hand all night. Sometimes I would run
into their room crying from nightmares, Pepe would hug me and try to console me,
but Meme would get mad. I know that I had emotional problems, but no one cared
or had the patience for me except my sister. They gave me medicine for me to
sleep at night.
We lived with them through the winter and spring. When Jacques and his family
came back to Neuilly Plaisance for the summer, we packed our bags, ready to move
back with them. We went over to the house and we were so happy to see our cousins. We spent the
whole day with them, but when dinner time came, my sister came over to me and
said, “look at the dining room table and count the plates.” There were
no plates set for us. So we knew that they were not expecting us to come back to
live with them. We cried all the way back to Meme. We saw them daily, but we
never lived with them again. We stayed with Meme and Pepe until we left for the
Interviewer: Can you remember how many homes you and your sisters lived in?
Greenberg: I think 5 foster homes, 3 orphanages and I was in 2 sanitarium. You know, it
is hard for me to remember episodes of my life in the right sequences. So I do
skip around a bit, But I remember a frightening experience that will stay with
me forever. After my father was taken, my mother had to go back to work to take
care of us and she placed my sister and me in a day care center run by nuns in
Paris. This was during the occupation. around 1941-1942. I must have been around
4 or 5 years old. In this daycare center, most of the children were Jewish. One
day, in the day care center, my mother came to pick us up. We were all in the
dining room eating with other children waiting for their parents. All of the
sudden, the Germans broke in. They were grabbing all the mothers, (women)
pulling them by their arms and their hair. We were all screaming and crying. The
nuns couldn’t do anything. I saw a pregnant women screaming as they pulled her
out by her hair. She was a neighbor of ours. After they left, I couldn’t find
my mother. A little boy came over and said, “your mother is okay.” He
had helped her hide in the big chimney and she was saved.
That is when I
realized what a dangerous world I lived in. My sister had to wear a large yellow
Star of David during the occupation. I don’t know what the age requirement
was, but I was told that I was too young to wear one. I was happy that I didn’t
have to wear one. I didn’t want anyone to know that I was Jewish. I felt that
they would want to kill me. When I lived with my mother and sister back at our apartment after the war, I
would ask my mother if I could go to Catholic Church with my friend Monique and
she would say, “go ahead, because wherever you go, God will hear you and
pray that your father comes back.” But she used to also say to me,
“Some day you will be a Jew again.” She understood the way I felt.
Interviewer: Under what circumstances did you happen to leave to come to this country?
Greenberg: Well my mother started the preparations during the war. My mother wanted all
of us to go to her sister in Brazil because she was very close to her. But we
could not get passage out of the country during the war. After my mother died
Jacques told us that her wish was for us to go to Brazil and her next choice was
to her brother and sister-in-law in Canonsburg, Pa. I believe that what took so
long was, my health problems. I had to show proof that I was well and could come
to this country. Jacques took care of all the preparations, but my uncle Sam
Toder paid for the passage.
My sister and I took the train with Jacques to Cannes to get on the ship. I
can still remember how beautiful Cannes was. We got on the ship, the Sobeisky
just the two of us alone. I was 11 years old, my sister 12 ½. It was a Polish
ship. We were put in I guess it was called steerage. We slept on bunk beds with
many people crowded in the room. It smelled bad from people getting sick, it was
terrible. It took ten or more days. Here we were two little girls on the ship
taking care of ourselves.
The only things we had of our mother were pictures and a beautiful expensive
double string of pearls. Jacques had put it in our suitcase, which was very
foolish. We found out, that when we were sleeping, people would go through
suitcases and by the time we arrived the pearls were gone, stolen. Our cousin
Tania Silverman came to get us from the ship. Her mother was my aunt who lived
in Brazil. Tania had come to live in New York with her Martin. She was about 21
years old and expecting her first child.
Interviewer: Which port did you land at?
Greenberg: New York. I know that my cousin Tania was able to take us right off the ship
and take us to her apartment in Long Island, New York where our aunt was waiting
for us We met my aunt Sarah Toder, we called her Tante (French for aunt) from
Canonsburg, Pa. She had come to pick us up to take us home. We would have liked
to stay with Tania. She was very warm, loving and happy to see us. My Aunt and
Uncle were older. They had already had raised 3 children of their own. I never
felt that my aunt was happy about having to take care of us. My uncle was the
blood relative. We were an obligation to them. My sister and I had a difficult
time after we arrived in this country. People think that, you come to America
and everything is good. Well it wasn’t so good for us.
Interviewer:Tell me about it.
Greenberg: My uncle was a nice, sweet person, but he did not run the house. She did and
we were a burden to her. I did have some emotional problems which they could not
handle. We started school there. Canonsburg was a wonderful little town. People
had heard about the two little French girls, and everybody wanted to meet us.
Our uncle went to work everyday, so it was our aunt who was taking care of us.
It was difficult. We did not get along very well. Within a year, my aunt and
uncle put me up for adoption. I lived with a family, Jerry and Geraldine
Moskowitz. They showed up at my uncle’s one day and took me home with them.
They lived in Elizabeth Pa.
My sister stayed with my aunt and uncle for a while. It was very hard to
leave my sister. My sister spoke Yiddish and I did not . She had learned it from
our mother. So she was able to speak to our Aunt and Uncle, as they did not
speak French. So I let my sister do all the talking for me. I was very attached
to my sister as she had protected me all these years. I never left her side.
Being separated from my sister was unbearable.
The Moskowitzs were a young couple. They couldn’t have children of their
own, so they wanted a child, but I did not fit into their plans. They took me to
their little one bedroom home, so I had to sleep on the living room couch. They
were very cold people, not warm at all. I would go to bed crying for my mother
and she would say to me ” I know you’re not crying for me. “Well,
she wasn’t my mother, she was a stranger. I lived with them for about a year.
They knew that it was not working out, so they packed me up and took me back to
Canonsburg. My aunt was not happy. She said, “What did you do that they
didn’t want you? You cannot go out of this house this weekend. I don’t want
the neighbors to know that they brought you back.”
My sister was not living with them any longer. She had gone to live in
Wheeling, West Virginia. My aunt and Uncle had a daughter Minna and her husband
Manny. They had three small children. I think that my sister went there to be a
mother’s helper, to help Minna with the children. So we left to go to Wheeling
to visit my sister. I was so happy to see my sister again. But I could see that
this was not a good home for my sister. She was a maid in that house. That is
when I met Sophie and Harry Ginsberg. They lived on the second floor of my
cousins’ home. It was a two family home and they were renting the second
floor. My aunt said that I would have to sleep upstairs with the Ginsbergs,
because there was no room for me. My aunt and uncle left me there and went back
to Canonsburg. I would see my sister everyday and I was so happy to be with her
and I got along well with the children. I did not realize that the plan was that
if the Ginsberg liked me well enough that they would adopt me.
So because my sister was living downstairs and I was so happy to be with her, I had no choice.
I said, “You know, it’s a roof over my head, good food, and they seemed
like decent people.” Sophie had been a school teacher for many years. She
was about 41 and had no children. They had been trying to adopt a baby. So, when
they asked me if I wanted to live with them and be adopted, I said, “Yes,” because I thought this was great , my
sister was downstairs, and I’ll be upstairs with them. I was 12 ½ when I was
adopted by the Ginsbergs. Then the next summer my sister went to New York to
visit our Cousin Tania and her husband Martin. Our cousins had one child, a girl
called Rhona. My sister was so happy there. Tania was warm and loving like her
mother in Brazil. Tania saw how unhappy Gloria had been living at Minna’s
And so Tania called me to tell me that my sister was going to stay with
them in New York. She said, “She won’t be coming back, we don’t have
much, but we can manage.” So here I was now stuck in Wheeling with the
Ginsbergs, I had agreed to be adopted only because my sister was living
downstairs. But there was nothing I could do. I knew that my sister would be
happier with Tania in New York. Shortly after I was adopted, the Ginsbergs
adopted a newborn baby girl. Her name was Marta. I think that she helped me get
through the years that I lived there. She was the only thing that I enjoyed in
that family. I learned that I could love again and this little girl gave me a
lot of love back. I helped raise her while I lived there.
Interviewer: Did you go to school?
Greenberg: When my sister and I lived in Canonsburg, we were put in the first grade to
start, as we knew no English. We were given Dick and Jane books to start. Then
we had flash cards with pictures and words on them. And that’s how we learned
English. Little by little we kept being pushed up the grades. But we missed a
lot being pushed up like that. I went through elementary and High School in 7
years. It was very difficult.
Then the Ginsberg family moved to Pittsburgh, Pa. We lived in Squirrel Hill.
It was a Jewish area. I started school there at Taylor-Alderdice High School. It
was a very large school. I enjoyed the school, had a lot of friends and found
some happiness in my life. When I was 14 ½ my sister came to Pittsburgh to
visit me. I had not seen her for a couple of years and it was wonderful to see
her again. While she was visiting me, she was fixed up with a blind date. His
name was Ronald Schwartz. He started to call her after she went back to New
York. He really fell in love with her, and asked her to marry him. So my sister
came back to Pittsburgh and at 17 ½ married Ronald Schwartz. That was so great
for me. I had my sister close to me again, so living with the Ginsbergs was
manageable. Sophie was a great mother to Marta, but she had adopted Marta as an
infant, and I was 12 ½. She tried and I think that she meant well, but she
treated me more like one of her students, and I needed a mother. Harry was never
a father, or a good person, he was an abusive man. My sister Marta and I were
prizes he could show off. But I felt close to their extended families. They both
came from large families.
Then I met Dan Greenberg when I was 16. I was in high school and he was in
college at Pitt. We were just good friends at first, because I was dating some
of his friends. Then we started dating seriously, but I was not planning on
getting married. After I graduated high school I wanted to go to art school. And
Dan was trying to get into dental school and while he was waiting, he was
drafted into the army and couldn’t get out of it. So he was sent to South
Carolina for basic training. Being apart was very difficult for us. I think that
other than my mother and my sister, Dan was the only special person in my life
that made me feel loved and cared for. He called me from South Carolina and he
said, “Well, I can’t live this way, let’s get married when I come home
from basic training.” He was so lonely.
So everybody thought that we were crazy, but we planned it and we were
married. I graduated high school in June and we were married September 29, 1955,
I was 18 and Dan was 20. His parents were Leo and Eleanor. His sister Sandy was
about 14 when we were married. They were a very close family. Dan had to go to
Camp Gordon in Augusta Georgia to finish his training. So we lived there for few months. I became
pregnant with our first child. Then unfortunately he found out that he was being
shipped to Korea. We tried to see if we could get him out of going, but there
was no way. To be separated again was going to be very difficult for us,
especially now that I was expecting. I wrote to my sister Gloria who at that
time was living in Honolulu, Hawaii. Her husband Ron was lucky enough to be
stationed there. So my sister sent me a telegram. She said, “If Dan has to
go to Korea, come here and stay with us in Hawaii. There is a wonderful army
hospital here and you can live with us and have the baby here.” So, after
Dan left Augusta, I took the train back to Pittsburgh, raised some money with
the help of Dan’s loving grandmother for the trip and for Hawaii. It was
wonderful to be with my sister and brother-in-law. Dan was able to come when our
baby was born. We had a beautiful baby boy on June 19, 1956. We called him
Stephen. Dan had a six week leave in Hawaii.
Dan tried to get reassigned to Hawaii. But they wanted him back in Korea. We
tried many different things to get him to stay longer, and we wiggled out four
months instead of six weeks. We were so happy to be together again, we didn’t
want to be apart. Actually, he was almost court-martialed for staying over his
leave. In the end he had to go back. So I went back home to Pittsburgh with the
baby when he was four months old. I fixed up a small apartment waiting for him
to return. Dan came home when Stephen was one year old.
Interviewer: How did you get back to being Jewish?
Greenberg: It was difficult. I felt comfortable being raised Catholic during the war.
Since I lived in a convent I had no choice and the nuns were good to me. I said
my prayers every night and went to confession. I think it helped me get through
the difficult times. I remember that my aunt was upset at the thought that we
had eaten ham in France. Then she found pictures of Jesus and Mary in my little
wallet, she was so upset. When I lived with the Ginsbergs I went to school in
Wheeling, WVA., called Edgington Lane. The Ginsbergs sent me to Hebrew school
and two doors down was a Catholic church. So I would take a scarf with me,
because at lunch time I would go and pray at the church. I even missed
Christmas. We always celebrated Christmas in France. I remember one Christmas,
when I was living with the Ginsbergs. I was baby sitting Marta, I went outside
and broke off a little piece of pine tree and put it in my room. But as I grew
older and lived in a Jewish environment in Pittsburgh I moved away from it.
Meeting Dan help me through it. I told him the way I felt and he understood. I
could have married anybody. I didn’t feel that I had to marry a Jew, but I was
lucky to meet Dan. Then I remembered my mother’s words, “Someday you will
be a Jew again.” And I wanted to raise Jewish children. Dan became more
religious after we had Stephen. He started to daven every morning and went to
synagogue every week. After we returned to Pittsburgh we started to keep kosher.
It was very difficult for me at first. Dan has been a wonderful husband and
Interviewer: Well how did you get to Columbus?
Greenberg: After Dan came home from Korea, he worked for a wallpaper and paint company
in Pittsburgh. That was the business he knew from his family. We had another son
We named him Marc. He was born in Pittsburgh. Then we moved to Johnstown, Pa.
Dan managed a store for the company for a year. We did not like living in
Johnstown, so we moved back to Pittsburgh where our families were living. But
Dan couldn’t find another job in Pittsburgh. Dan had a job offer in Columbus,
Ohio with a paint manufacturer, so we moved to Columbus, Ohio. We fell in love
with Columbus and have lived here for 44 yrs.
Interviewer: What was the company called?
Greenberg: It was called Symphony Paint co. They are no longer in existence. Then we had
a third son called Andrew in 1964, he was born at St. Ann’s Hospital. We lived
at 41 N. Waverly St. for about six years. Then we purchased a home in Bexley, at
2450 Dale Avenue so that our children would be able to go to a good school. It
was a great place to live and raise our family. Then we purchased a restaurant
near the Ohio State campus called The Huddle. My sister and her husband moved
from Pittsburgh to Columbus to run the restaurant with us, but it didn’t work
out. Her husband, Ron, found a job in his field in Florida, so they moved there
and are still living there. they have three children around the same age as our
children. We keep close contact. My sister Marta lives in Athens, Ohio. She is
married and has a son. She is a professor at Ohio University.
I could not have any more children, and really wanted a daughter. We always
talked about adopting. So we applied with Franklin County children’s Services.
They told us that it would be a long wait. After 4 years of waiting we had given
up. Then one day they called us and said, “We have a little girl for you.
She is 4 years old and we will bring her in the morning. “Carrie Lynn
Greenberg came July 4, 1976.” I will never forget that day. Our sons saw
her and said, “I don’t now about you, but we are keeping her.” We
now had four wonderful children.
Our oldest son Stephen always wanted to know about his grandparents, and what
happened to them. My mother-in-law use to say, “why do you upset the
child?” And I said “He is asking questions and I am going to tell him
why his grandparents died.” Stephen always felt that he had missed
something, not having my parents for grandparents. Stephen loved learning. I
never saw a student that loved Hebrew school and going to synagogue like he did.
At that time we belonged to Tifereth Israel. Then he met Rabbi Vilensky and
started to go to the Orthodox synagogue. And the more he learned the more he
wanted to learn. Then one day when he was about 14 Stephen said that he was
going to keep strictly kosher and not eat out anymore. He walked to synagogue
every Saturday rain or snow and davened every morning. Marc was not observant.
After Bexley High School, OSU and a law degree from Capital Un, he moved to
California to work for a few law firms. Then Marc became a US assistant attorney for the Justice Department. A position he really loved. His first
big case was the skinheads. He handled the case well and prosecuting them. Andy
attended Bexley High School and Fort Hayes drama department. He moved to
California to pursue his career in theater, but found other outlets for his
talent. When we adopted our little girl Carrie, we took her to the mikvah as she
was not born of Jewish parents. At 13 years of age, we gave her a choice, she chose to be Jewish. She attended Hebrew school and was Bat
Stephen is an Orthodox Rabbi living in New York with his partner Steven
Goldstein. Marc is an attorney, married to Alex, has two sons, Zachary and Noah
and lives in Long Beach, California. Andy is a mortgage broker married to Karin,
has a son, Jacob and lives in Ventura California. Carrie is married to Tyson
Ramsey, has a son, Michael, and a daughter Eleanor Rose, she works for
Foundation Title, in Columbus, Ohio.
Interviewer: Do you ever keep in touch with the family in France?
Greenberg: I kept in touch with my cousins after we visited Paris but not before. My
sister and I and our husbands went to Israel and France in 1981. That was our
first trip back to Paris. We really had planned to visit Berthe and Armand as we
felt so close to them and we kept in touch with them. They made the arrangement
for our stay in Paris. We remember Berthe’s little apartment with one small
toilet on each floor that everyone shared. When she saw us, she couldn’t stop
kissing us, she was so happy. And the first thing she showed us was her toilet,
a real toilet and bathroom. We asked her about Jacques. She knew nothing, as the
poor Jews and the affluent Jews didn’t mix. My sister had a lot of bad
feelings about Jacques. I believe he helped support us during the war and after
our parents died, but he did not invite us to join his family. He always seemed
like a cold person, never showed us any affection. He didn’t raise his own
children; he had maids, butlers and nannies. But I wanted to see if we could
find him and his family. So we looked in the phone book for Jacques Plot. We
found him and told him who we were. He couldn’t believe it! He said, “You
must come right away I want to see you.”
So Berthe took us to downtown
Paris, and there was, this large building all lit up saying, JACQUES PLOT. When
he opened the door and saw us, he threw himself on the floor and grabbed my feet
and cried. I could not believe that this was the Jacques Plot that I had known.
He became so emotional when he saw us. We sat in his office and talked. . He
wanted to know about our life and our children. When I told him that my son
Stephen was going to go to the Yeshiva to become a Orthodox rabbi, he said,
“How could this happen from what you came from.” I said, “I think
that God had a hand in it.”
The next day we all went to 154 Rue Oberkampf, where we had lived with our
mother. It was like a dream. The big brown double doors opened up. There was the
courtyard and across the courtyard was our apartment building. But first we had
to pass by the concierge and she tells us that the building was sold and the
developer was going to tear it down because it was in very bad condition and it
was too dangerous to go up to the second floor. My sister argued with her, as my
sister’s French is much better than mine. But she would not let us go. So we
were walking around the courtyard on the cobblestones remembering our
Then this man came over and asked the concierge who we were, she
said, “oh, they are ladies from America,” and she tells him what we
wanted. So he came over and he said, “I am the new owner of the building.
If you are very careful walking up the steps, I will unlock the door and let you
go up to see the apartment.” And as we were walking with him, the concierge
was screaming, “it’s your responsibility.” As she was angry that he
went against her wishes. Seeing where we used to live was so very emotional, it still makes me
cry just thinking about it. When we opened the door, we couldn’t believe how
we all had lived in just two little rooms. We could hardly contain ourselves.
But I am glad we were able to see it because it is no longer there. We took our
husbands to see our school.
Then Berthe took us to the cemetery where our mother
is buried. We had never been there as children, as we never went to our mother’s
funeral. Berthe had made all the arrangement. I think that she wanted to protect
us. Our mother’s coffin was a large concrete block above ground with her
picture encased in glass on the coffin. I think that it was her wedding picture. What
was hard for us is that we found out that she was buried with other people in
the same grave. It was a very emotional day for us.
On one of Stephen’s many trips to Israel he decided to stop in Paris, but I
don’t remember the year. Studying there, he fell in love with Israel. But,
anyways he stopped in Paris to meet Berthe, Armand and Jacques. I remember
Stephen telling me that Jacques was uncomfortable walking through Paris with him
because Stephen wore a kippah. But Stephen loved visiting with Berthe.
Stephen went to the cemetery to visit his grandmother’s grave. The Jewish
grounds keeper took him to the grave and started to say the kaddish.
Stephen said,”this is my grandmother, I will say the kaddish, but
don’t worry I will pay you.”
Interviewer: Did you ever find out what happened to your father?
Greenberg: I remember my mother sending pictures all over Europe looking for him after
the war. I always dreamed that somehow he had survived the war and would find
us. I thought that maybe he wouldn’t know how to find us once we came to
America. But after all these years we knew that he had probably been killed.
Finally one day, only a few years ago, I went to the Columbus Red Cross to see
if they could help me. A few months later, Louise White from the Red Cross
called me to tell me that she had my father’s death certificate. I was in
shock. My husband Dan went to pick it up, and there it was my father’s death
certificate. I found out that after my father was arrested, he was taken to a
police camp called Camp Drancy in France where most of the Jews were taken
before they were shipped out. He was sent to Auschwitz on June 5, 1942. His
prisoner’s number was 38972. He died there July 8, 1942. The certificate said
that he died of heart failure, but we know how he must have died. He was 40
When I was volunteering for the Jewish Family Services, I met Bobbie Shkolnik
who was working there helping the new Russians obtain restitution from the
German government. She asked about me, so I told her my story. How my sister and
I started working on trying to get restitution when we were in our 20s. We tried
several times, but finally gave up as we had no papers, no proof. And we had no
birth certificate. Bobbie said, “Let’s try again.” I said, “I
don’t know if I can go through it again.” But now I did have my father’s
death certificate for proof. She called the French Consulate to get it started.
They said that we needed a birth certificate to show that Simon Silberstein was
our father. My sister wrote to the city hall in Paris and found nothing, it
seemed hopeless. Then she decided to write and check every arrondissements, and found our birth certificates. We now had the dates and
times of our birth and even the doctor’s name. I can’t explain it, but it
felt good to find it. Doing this oral history has been a very emotional journey
for me , but I know that it needed to be told for my family and future
generations. With all the difficulties in our lives, we have survived. My sister
and I have loving husbands and wonderful children and grandchildren. Our parents
would have been proud.
End of interview