Gorman (Blitzer), Erna
This oral history video interview is available at the USC Shoah Foundation website through the
generosity of the Eugene and Marcia Applebaum Family Foundation
The younger of two sisters, Gorman was born in Metz, France, in 1935. Her father was a Jewish immigrant from Poland; her mother had been brought up in the Ukraine in an Orthodox home.
In 1939, just before World War II started, Gorman and her family traveled to Poland to attend her aunt’s wedding. When the war broke out in September 1939, they were not allowed to go back to France. Gorman does not remember if they were living in a ghetto, but she does know, that all her Polish relatives disappeared within the next year. In order to escape from the Nazis, Gorman’s family moved to the Ukraine to live with her mother’s parents.
In October 1941, the German army occupied the Ukraine and began to implement their anti-Semitic policy. Gorman recalls that her family lived in constant fear and did not leave the house. One day, the Nazis came and forced her father to help bury in mass graves Jews whom they had killed. During this time, the Germans started to establish a ghetto and to send Jews to concentration camps. In order to escape deportation, Gorman’s father dug a cavity in the basement of the house. As soon as they heard rifle shots, the family crawled inside this bunker. There was not enough space to stand up and when they were confined they lived in constant hunger. Gorman remembers that every time she left the hiding place, she saw dead people lying on the street in front of her house.
Since all their relatives had disappeared, Gorman’s father decided the family should try to escape the ghetto. They fled into the woods and found a farmer who was willing to hide them. The farmer offered to let them stay in a very small niche in his barn. Since he was risking his life, the farmer did not even tell his children that he was helping Jews. Gorman’s family could not leave the barn, and they had to whisper all the time. There were no windows, just a crack in the roof provided them with daylight. Every day the farmer brought them some food and water to drink. They were not able to wash themselves, and after a while they were all covered with lice. Gorman recalls that she heard the farmer’s children playing outside and tried to watch them through the crack in the roof. After a few weeks, the entire family became lethargic from being unable to move round. To keep them from going insane, Gorman’s father told his children many fairytales. Gorman states that they did not leave the barn for at least two years.
In February 1944, as the Russian Red Army approached, the farmer carried all the members of Gorman’s family, one by one, out of the barn, since they were unable to walk. They crawled toward the Russian soldiers, who helped them get on an army truck. A German airplane attacked and hit the truck and Gorman’s mother was wounded. She fell victim to her injuries a few hours later. Gorman, her father, and her sister were taken to a Russian field hospital close to the front line. She mentions, that the Russians took very good care of them. They stayed there until the end of the war. After the war, they returned to Metz, where they stayed with Gorman’s uncle in a small apartment. Gorman had to attend public school with younger children, because she had never learned how to read and write. She was the target of discrimination by her schoolmates all the time, so her father placed her in a Jewish school. In 1953 Gorman and her father immigrated to the United States.
Date: July 12, 1989
Interviewer: Sidney Bolkosky
Length: 2 hours
Format: Video recording
To view this oral history video interview, please click here.