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Ethel Berger

Tennessee Holocaust Commission -

Chattanooga, Tennessee
Born: 1902 Stanislawow, Poland (Now Ivano-Frankivs'k, Ukraine)
Survivor : Stanislawow ghetto

“We would walk for days and nights without food or water. We begged for help,“ recalls Ethel Berger, sadly. “I saw my friend, my best friend, and she wouldn't let us in the door. She...shut it in our faces.“

In 1941 Ethel, her husband Herman, and their only son Meyer had been forced into the Stanislawow ghetto near their home. Ethel worked for German soldiers in a communal kitchen. “Nourishment was extremely poor; we were all very ill,“ she says. Occasionally she smuggled bread to her father, which could have cost her life.

Common to ghetto life were frequent roundups, called “aktions,“ in which Jews were randomly taken from their homes and killed. During one of these killing sprees, Ethel's father closed the front door to shield his wife. He was arrested and shot. Her mother, sent to a concentration camp, was gassed on arrival.

Ethel often thinks of her son Meyer. He was thirteen years old, “wonderful and creative, strong and kind,“ she recalls. He hid during the day while his parents worked. “He wrote stories and recorded what was going on in the ghetto. He was a smart boy,“ she says. In 1943 Ethel and Herman smuggled their son out to live with a Christian family, planning to retrieve him when it was safe. “The Nazis caught him before we could reunite. They murdered him,“ she says. Ethel and Herman left on foot, arriving in Soviet territory nearly two years later. World news told of Jewish liberation, but freedom was bittersweet. With Meyer tucked safely in their hearts, they began a new life in the aftermath of war with the birth of their daughter, Felicia.