Julek's Letters: Julek's Dream of a Better Future

Uncle Julius "Julek" Zylberger was a Holocaust survivor, and he wrote several letters about his experience.

Julek's Dream of a Better Future

Rain, rain and rain. For five days it has rained, and there are no prospects of improvement. The black clouds cover the sky all over and the darkness seems to say: "No, boys, your time has not arrived yet." And another day passed. A day of impatient expectation, a day which has exasperated our feelings to such an extent that we could not fall asleep.

The night seems to last a century. In our room, dead silence reigns, but I am sure that nobody sleeps. From time to time, I can hear a boy whispering to his friend, but I don't pay the slightest attention to it. I am absorbed in thoughts: Yes, we are going to Britain. I try to recollect what I know about Britain. It is a highly civilized country; an island; a developed industry. Undoubtedly, I remember it from the geography lessons I used to have.

We have been in Prague five days and we are eagerly awaiting our departure, but the weather is not favourable and this is probably the reason why the aeroplanes are not punctual. The five days passed pleasantly.

Prague, a city of over a million inhabitants, was a place where we could find enjoyment. After six years of sorrow, it was extremely delightful to go to cinemas, theatres, and to visit the art gallery, which impressed us very much. We visited the famous castle of Prague, the palace of President Beness, and many other historical buildings. But it did not last very long. After a few days it became tedious. We knew that something extraordinary awaits us.

The six years of German concentration camps passed like a dream and a new life opened its gates widely for us. I lie in bed and consider it. Yes, it is a significant moment in my life. I recollect the past. The outbreak of the war, mental suffering, four years of dreadful life in the Ghetto, evacuation, the last parting from my family, concentration camps, hunger, heavy strokes of the whip, and then, at last, liberation. I survived the various tortures, recovered health, and I am physically splendid. But the losses were tremendous. My family perished in an unnatural way, in the same way as millions of European Jews. I am lonely; solitary like a small isle in the middle of the ocean. I think about my future life. I tremble like a leaf when I think of it. What is it worth? I have no home, and what is worse, there is nobody to give comfort. How can I start a new life? It seems almost impossible. I feel it. My energy fails me, my mental power too. Oh, but how ridiculous! Why did I have such a fight for existence? I suffered six years in the belief of seeing freedom, to see the sun which would shine for me once more. And now this has happened. The terrible time is over, and a new world invites me. A new world offers me its assistance but I have no strength to accept it. I feel a pain throughout my body, and my head falls heavily on the pillow. A cold chill passes down my back. I am half-conscious, but it does not last long. A mysterious power awakes me, a power which whispers: "Get up, you senseless fool, and begin to work." I am furious, furious like a ravenous beast which is thirsty for blood. But what troubles me? What has suddenly produced such a rage? I know what it is. It is a desire for revenge, a desire for vengence over the Nazi murders who are responsible for everything that is evil. They have broken my heart and doomed my future. But have they only broken my heart? Am I the only one who suffers from Nazi cruelty? Am I their sole victim? No! Millions of Jews have been exterminated in an inhuman way, by barbarous means which were not known in history before. Human beings have been mercilessly killed, children were taken away from their mothers. I feel that nothing would stop me now from committing a crime. My mouth is half open, and my eyes look expressionlessly at the wall as if waiting for advice. I endeavour say something aloud but I am not able to utter a word; my voice refuses, my mouth does not obey me. I look timidly round me but I cannot see anything.

My eyes are now filled with tears. I weep softly. Then for a few minutes I am lying in such a position. Gradually, tears disappear from my face and I resume thinking.

I look now scornfully on the idea of revenge. How could I have thought so even for a moment? Is this according to principles of humanity? Would such an infamous deed avail the dead souls in the least? I am a member of a nation which has suffered various persecutions and which has not yet sullied its name with blood. A new idea flashes into my head. I reflect a moment and soon I determine. I am talking to myself. Don't hesitate, start life anew. Try to forget about the past. Don't look backwards, look constantly forward. Get in touch with your brothers and sisters. Unite with them. They will help you and and you will help them.

Together, together we shall acquire strength. Together we will achieve our common aim. Surely, there will be obstacles. But what are obstacles against a will? With our common effort we shall defeat our enemies and crush our oppressors. We will show the world that our profession is not money lending as we have been judged by anti-Semites in European countries. We will show the world that we can think, work, and create.

But what has happened? Who makes such a noise? A loud voice penetrates our room. The voice becomes louder and louder. Now, several other voices are audible. A boy comes puffing into our room. He commences hastily, "Get up, boys. The aeroplanes are here; our departure is taking place at ten o'clock," and in a second he is outside.

Everyone rises as if it were a command. In ten minutes we are dressed and washed. Yes, it is true. We get direct orders from the aerodrome to get ready. In two minutes, I have packed my things. We eat breakfast quickly and after one hour buses take us to the aerodrome. The weather favours us this time. The sky is clear and the sun casts its warmth upon the earth. Some birds are flying round and warbling sweetly, probably announcing the arrival of summer. A breeze blows quietly as if murmuring a song.

We are at the aerodrome. Some journalists are trying to get into conversation with us and want to know everything as is their habit; others take photos; one even develops a film. It is precious stuff for them, the right opportunity to make money.

Our leader wants to say a few words of farewell. He has not permission to enter Great Britain. He is the founder of the youth hostels in Terezin. He worked inexhaustibly, day and night, in order to relieve us, and is attached to us like his own children. He starts in a low voice but with such a spirit that these calm words penetrate our minds vigorously and move us entirely. He speaks about our future and several times emphasizes the word "belief." You must believe in your own strength, in your power to create.

The due time arrives and at last we are going into the aeroplane. The aeroplanes move forward and in one minute we are in the air. We are mounting higher and higher. The buildings of Prague vanish from our sight and the aeroplane cuts the air. Ten minutes later we cannot perceive anything; we are under the clouds. Everyone is in his best humour. We sing various songs and seem to enjoy it very much, but soon it becomes evident that we are not used to such a journey Singing ceases; some boys begin to vomit and others try to fall asleep.

A pilot asks me (with a gesture) to go with him. I agree, and take a friend with me. We enter the cockpit and sit opposite the pilots. They look curiously at us, eager to exchange a few words, but we don't know a single word of their language. One is tall and fair. His calm and handsome face has regular, delicate features. The other is short and stout, with curly hair, and a peculiar expression. Both are sympathetic and very friendly. Their eyes are searchingly fixed on us, hoping to read something from our faces. We would be delighted to hear something about Great Britain but, unfortunately, we don't know English, and therefore we cannot come to an understanding. We demonstrate with a gesture that their effort is in vain and we smile slightly but they do not give it up. One takes out coins and gives them to us. The other shows us pictures from all over Britain. The time passes.

The aeroplane emerges from the clouds and before us appears a marvelous view. We admire in amazement the beauty of nature. From one side, the shores of France and, from the other, the coast of Great Britain. Ships in the English Channel look like toys and the water has a brilliant colour. But the aeroplane shoots forward and soon we are under the clouds again. We are now busy surveying the construction of the aeroplane. We study intensively every corner and we don't omit the smallest screw. The time passes quickly and we don't know how we landed at the aerodrome at Carlisle. We are examined by doctors and then we go into buses, which were arranged to take us to our hostel. We are rather tired after a whole day's journey and we would be glad to go to bed. We go off and look around.

Our madrichim (leaders) who have been waiting for our arrival over a week, greet us. Their faces express the utmost happiness and indescribable attachment. Their look embraces us with a motherly love, with a love that is more than precious. I think that for the first time I understood the Jewish character. We are scattered all over the world, but we have the same heart. One may be religious, the other not; one may be right, the other left, but everyone is ready to sacrifice himself in order to help his brothers and sisters.

Oh, no! I am not lonely. I have found new brothers and sisters. I have found my own brothers and sisters whom I will love and who will love me in return. Oh, never, never, will I separate from them.


Julek's Letters: Ghetto - Camp - Dream
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