Oral History

Alisa (Lisa) Nussbaum Derman describes postwar emigration with the Brihah movement

Lisa was one of three children born to a religious Jewish family. Following the German occupation of her hometown in 1939, Lisa and her family moved first to Augustow and then to Slonim (in Soviet-occupied eastern Poland). German troops captured Slonim in June 1941, during the invasion of the Soviet Union. In Slonim, the Germans established a ghetto which existed from 1941 to 1942. Lisa eventually escaped from Slonim, and went first to Grodno and then to Vilna, where she joined the resistance movement. She joined a partisan group, fighting the Germans from bases in the Naroch Forest. Soviet forces liberated the area in 1944. As part of the Brihah ("flight," "escape") movement of 250,000 Jewish Holocaust survivors from eastern Europe, Lisa and her husband Aron sought to leave Europe. Unable to enter Palestine, they eventually settled in the United States.


From Bialystok we came to Lublin. In Lublin we met, we met a a greater number of, um, of um, of young men and women that Aron knew that were members of the Ha-Shomer ha-Tsa'ir that were friends of his and his sister's friends. And we traveled with them. We were given passports as Greek Jews, and we began to travel. From Lublin we went to Krakow, from Krakow we went to, to Czechoslovakia, to, to, um, Bratislava. From Bratislava we went to Hungary, and wherever we met, we went, we were met by the Brihah. They somehow arranged it where the trains, uh, the entire European continent, people were traveling en masse, going home, going home. Everybody had a place to go but the Jews. They were going home to Italy, to, to Czechoslovakia, to Romania, everywhere. People were traveling, the, the trains were all full, you, you grabbed on, people were hanging on the outside of the, of the boxcars, and, in, in the passengers cars. There were no tickets, people just traveled. The Red Cross announced, too, that they had facilities or whatever. We, we were given really passports by the, uh, Red Cross, as refugees. And we came to, uh, Graz from, from, from, uh, Hungary we came to, to Graz. And in Graz we had to cross the river and to cross to get the western zone of occupied Europe. Uh, we did it with the help of the Brihah. They led us, a group before us went to, to go through to swim through the river, and some of them drowned. And they decided to hold off and to send the rest of the groups through the Alps. And we went through the Alps, with leaders that led us. And we came to Treviso. Treviso was already Italy. And it is in Treviso that we met up with the Jewish Brigade [a brigade group, in the British army, of Jewish volunteers from Palestine].


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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