Journey to America

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From Skala to New York

Extracts from 1978 Interviews of Skala Emigrés
Who Came to New York 1900-1911


1. Maryam (Mary) Wiesenthal Brill
Born 1889 in Skala
Emigrated to NY 1900
Died 1985 (NY)

2. Usha Dvoira (Dorothy) Wiesenthal Gross
Born 1896 in Skala
Emigrated to NY 1900
Died 1980s (NY)

3. Yankel (Jacob) Wiesenthal
Born 1891 in Skala
Emigrated to NY 1909
Died 1982 (FL)

4. Shmiel (Samuel) Wiesenthal
Born 1888 in Skala
Emigrated to NY 1908
Died 1978 (NY)

5. Chana (Anna) Menchel
Born 1893 in Skala
Emigrated to NY 1909
Died 1980s (FL)

6. Hudya (Ada) Menchel
Born 1897 in Skala
Emigrated to NY 1911
Died 1980s (FL)

 

The Decision to Come to America

We lived very nicely in Skala. We always had a servant and we had a new house that had just been built. We lived very nicely until the fire. Everybody tried to save their own property and it was windy and the fire spread all over the city. Our house didn't go because it wasn't directly in town. But all businesses and everything else went. [Maryam (Mary) Wiesenthal Brill]

After the fire, it was a time of great migration. [Usha (Dorothy) Wiesenthal Gross]
[Note: The "Great Fire of Skala" is believed to have taken place in 1899.]

I came to America because my father didn't want I should become a soldier and eat not kosher stuff there in their army. My brother Sam came before me. He sent me the shiffskarte, ticket. And he sent me some money to come here and I paid him everything when I started to work. [Yankel (Jacob) Wiesenthal]

All the enterprising young men came, because they were poor and to escape the army. [Usha (Dorothy) Wiesenthal Brill]

I don't remember my father [who died when she was young]. My mother wanted to come, but only the three of us were left in Skala, my mother and Ada and me. My other sisters [who already were in America] couldn't afford to take us together. So I was the first one. I came just because Jake went [she accompanied her male cousin]; otherwise I wouldn't go. I was a teen-ager, thirteen or fourteen. I didn't want to come to America. I was crying. [Chana (Anna) Menchel]

We came because we couldn't make a living there. It would be a shame for the girls to go as maids in Skala. There was no way of making a living. [Hudya (Ada) Menchel]

 

From Skala to Hamburg or Antwerp


7. Emigrants took the train from Skala
We went by train, all the way from Skala to Hamburg. [Yankel (Jacob) Wiesenthal]

We got the boat in Antwerp. First we went by horse and buggy to some neighbors in another town and we stayed overnight there. And then we went by train to Antwerp. Another thing I remember, of course, we were third class and they stopped for a while for you to get water. There was no water on the train. So I remember my mother left us three kids on the train and she had a kettle and she went to get water and I nearly died. The others didn't know the difference. I felt sure the train was going to start without her. [Maryam (Mary) Wiesenthal Brill]

 

In Hamburg

We stayed overnight in Hamburg before we went on the ship. I remember I was really very young. I was a kid. And when we came to Hamburg, I was afraid. I only wanted to go to sleep with my cousin Jake. So he says to me, you can't go to sleep with me. Don't forget, you're a girl; I'm a man. You have to sleep with the girls. This I'll never forget. [Chana (Anna) Menchel]

8. The emigration hall in Hamburg, early 20th century

 

Aboard Ship


9. Aboard ship
We were three children and we had one berth. All the four of us slept together in one berth. With our mother. You know how narrow those berths were. [Maryam (Mary) Wiesenthal Brill]

We were in an upper berth. And there was a very rabid Polish lady coming to America in the berth below. She probably didn't like it that there were four people above her and she started out with a real hatred of us. Anyway, one day I wet myself and some of it went through. So then the woman went to complain to the captain. And she said, "Not only did this woman's child wet my bed, but she stole my best blouse." She accused my mother of stealing her blouse and they came and looked among my mother's possessions, but they didn't find it. [Usha (Dorothy) Wiesenthal Gross]

We came through steerage, of course. Somebody else was in the room with us and my mother said in Yiddish, I hope my daughter doesn't get sick. But I was very sick and so was my mother. [Hudya (Ada) Menchel]

I went on the boat twelve days. I took care of Anna. She was sick already and I had trouble with her. We came together on the same ship. Just the two of us. And Mac Shor came together with us. He comes from Skala, but he isn't from the family. [Yankel (Jacob) Wiesenthal]

Most of the time I was sleeping because I was sick. And the last few days, we were on the top of the deck. You had to have $25 to show getting off the boat. I wanted to buy something when I felt good, so I spent $5 on the boat. The only thing we ate there was herring or potatoes. [Chana (Anna) Menchel]

My mother brought herring and all sorts of stuff. She wouldn't eat the food on the ship. She was kosher. [Maryam (Mary) Wiesenthal Brill]

 

Ellis Island


10. Becky and Charles Edelstein
I came by myself. I was a boy already nineteen years old. Uncle Zechariyah and Uncle Baruch Kalman came to meet me. They came to HIAS and they brought me home. [Shmiel (Samuel) Wiesenthal]

I came to Ellis Island. They took me out right away. Came to meet me a cousin of mine, Charlie Edelstein, Becky's husband. He came to take us out because my brother Sam was working. So the immigrant society HIAS took me off and they brought me to Charlie's house. And he came for Chana [Anna Menchel], he had a job to take her on. [Yankel (Jacob) Wiesenthal]

They detained my mother and they separated me from my mother because they thought my mother was old [she was 56]. She didn't eat on the boat and she never looked young. You know, she was wearing one of the babushkas and they wanted to send her back. My mother disappeared, where I don't know. And all of a sudden I heard somebody paging us. I walked up, as little as I was [9 years old]. They said somebody was calling for my mother, so I went looking for her. It was my sister Elsie, my sister Rose, my brother-in-law Charlie Edelstein. [Hudya (Ada) Menchel]
11. Miriam Menchel

 

In America

We found a little grocery store on Christie Street. None of us knew the language. How can you have a grocery store without knowing the language? So that's how prosperous it was. [Maryam (Mary) Wiesenthal Brill]

I was working a tailor, like I was working for a shop and then I didn't work Saturday. I made them in a Jewish place. They were working without Saturday. Then I got married and I bought a store. [Shmiel (Samuel) Wiesenthal]

I worked in a shop making knee pants but I wanted to be an outside man. So I started to work for Charlie Edelstein, in the egg market. I was a candler in the Washington Market and I was getting two dollars a week. Later, I went into the butter and egg business on my own. [Yankel (Jacob) Wiesenthal, who became a member of the New York Produce Exchange]


Page designed by and photos 1-6 & 11copyrighted by Helene Kenvin
This page created by Max Heffler
Updated Sep 26, 2006. Copyright 2005 Skala Research Group. All Rights Reserved.