Brown, Eva (Metzger)
Nuremberg (Germany), Paris (France)
Mrs. Eva Metzger Brown was born in Nuremberg, Germany in 1938; four months before Kristallnacht. She lived with her parents. Her father was a “Currency Jew,” an international businessman.
Mrs. Brown’s father had a passport, but her mother did not. He had been trying to get the family out of Germany for a year. On the day after Kristallnacht, her father went to the officials and said “if you don’t give my wife a passport, you will be responsible for killing us all.” The agent said “you’ll have the passport tomorrow” and they left immediately the following day to her father’s business apartment in Paris, France.
In 1939, Mrs. Brown’s father was rounded up with other foreign aliens and placed in a detention camp and went from one camp to another. She and her mother moved to Angers, a smaller town near Paris.
In 1940, the Germans bombed Angers as Mrs. Brown, her mother, her mother’s friend and boy were walking in the street. Mrs. Brown was wounded on the head and side, her mother lost a leg, the friend was killed and the boy unscathed. There were refugees everywhere and much chaos. Her mother was taken to triage at the hospital and Mrs. Brown was stitched up and placed in a Catholic orphanage. Her mother had a pouch on a string around her neck which she gave for safe keeping to a friend, Helene Vernhes, who was not Jewish, saying “give it to me when I return. It will save my life.”
At the age of two, Mrs. Brown was separated from her mother for four months while her mother was recovering from the leg amputation. She was at a Catholic Orphanage and started to become a Catholic.
Mrs. Brown’s father was freed from the detention camp and lived in Toulouse, France. He contacted the International Red Cross to find his family in Angers. The Red Cross was successful. They were able to go see Helene Vernhes to get the pouch with jewels and she returned it back to her mother. These jewels were used to attain passage throughout the long trip that was ahead of them.
The family now was able to begin their escape out of Europe, going west toward Marseille, France. Traveling was difficult because Mrs. Brown’s mother had a peg leg and exit visas were also required to get out of France. The family waited for visas to arrive from Mrs. Brown’s sister in the United States or from her parents and brother that were living in Israel; whichever came first. The visas and her leg prosthesis arrived on time to board the boat.
The family boarded the boat in June 1941. It first stopped in Casablanca where they had to stay for several months. Mrs. Browns’s father contracted malaria while in waiting in Casablanca. Later they reboarded another boat in Casablanca that stopped in Martinique. In Martinique, they didn’t have exit visas, as they were not prepared for this stop ahead of time. Eventually they managed through their family friends’ connections to contact Rabbi Stephen Wise to attain exit visas for them.
Mrs. Brown recalls staying downstairs below deck on the boat with her father who was ill. Her mother could who could not maneuver the stairs remained on the upper deck. The boat constantly rocked.
They arrived in the United States on August 6, 1941.
Mrs. Brown only heard her mother’s story about the Holocaust, her father remained silent and did not talk. She knows that her paternal grandmother died in Theresienstadt. It was in 1993 that Mrs. Brown told her story, what she remembered, and only then became know as a child survivor. The only thing she remembers, is blood dripping down her face after the bombing.
When Mrs. Brown began to tell her Holocaust story, her mother feared that they would be thrown out of the United States.
As an adult, when Mrs. Brown returned to visit the street she lived on, she began to weep. This was “implicit memory.” The orphanage was gone but the church across the street was standing.
While growing up in the United States, the childhood holocaust experience was not focused on, the focus was on looking to the future. Her identify was as an American and in later years as a psychologist.
Interviewer: Rene Lichtman