Oral History

Norbert I. Swislocki describes fleeing from Warsaw with his mother

Norbert was 3 years old when Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. He and his mother were in Warsaw; his father had been drafted into the Polish army and later ended up in Vilna. Norbert and his mother set out to join him and the family was reunited after a few months. After the family had been in Vilna for about a year, Norbert's father was able to obtain visas for Curacao in the Dutch West Indies and visas for transit through Japan. Norbert and his parents left Vilna in January 1941, and arrived in Kobe, Japan, in February. They stayed in Japan for the next eight months, until Japanese authorities required them to leave for Shanghai in Japanese-occupied China. Norbert and his parents spent the rest of the war in Shanghai. In June 1947 the family immigrated to the United States with the aid of Jewish American servicemen stationed in Shanghai after the war.


Uh, yes, uh one of...on one of the days that my mother and I were, uh, fleeing essentially from, uh, Warsaw, uh, I lost the teddy bear that I had been given. Uh, and what had happened was that the train stopped somewhere, uh, and in the crush of people trying to get out my teddy bear was torn out of my hands. So I bent over to pick it up and as I bent over to pick it up I lost my mother's...the grip of her hand. I mean I just lost contact with her. And I bent over to get the teddy bear and I couldn't get the teddy bear and all the people started moving out and I was sort of swept along I think with the crowd. And when I emerged from the train, uh, I couldn't find my mother. So I...it seemed like forever, you know I had been just a few minutes or less. But she eventually found me on the platform. So I lost the bear but I found my mother.


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