April 17, 1921 – April 3, 2011
My father Henry Dyzenhaus was an ordinary man with modest ambitions. In December of 1949 he sailed into New York Harbor aboard an American troop carrier, The Admiral Greeley. With him was his wife and his daughter, that would be me. By this time, he had spent three years in a displaced person's camp in Feldafing, Germany. He had been liberated from a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia called Theresienstadt which was the last stop in a nightmare that included Buchenwald. It's a choice to not to define him by the Holocaust.
When he disembarked in New York City on that cold winter morning, he was greeted by a welcoming committee of one. Max Bloch a D.P. Camp friend greeted him with a herring wrapped in newspaper. Max brought this gift to honor our arrival. Just goes to show that if we don't laugh, we are doomed to crying.
The stories of life in Stopnica, Poland would not have been believable except that we know they are true. Henry was an apprentice carpenter to a coffin maker. His parents owned an inn which had a bar and a restaurant. Stopnica at that time was a “shtetel” with a large Jewish population (no Jews are there now). He told the story of the volunteer fire fighters who rounded up horses from the meadow and hitched them to fire truck so by the time they got to the fire, it was too late.
With the modest ambition of an education, he moved to Sosnovice, Poland which was a city with a University. There he rented a room from the Poliwadas and began a romance with Fay, whom he later married. He loved to read especially Russian novels and his ambition was to save enough money and attend the University. When the Nazis were expanding into Europe, my father went back to Stopnica and took my mother with him.
Henry was the oldest of three boys, Max the middle brother and Steve the youngest. Max did not survive the Holocaust. At the end of his life, my father dreamed of Max often and talked about him as he did of his parents, especially his mother. Her name was Esther and she was known as “Esther the Clever.” The family owned an inn with a restaurant and a bar. Esther was the one who ran the business. His father was a sales representative for Singer sewing machines. The last time my father saw is brother and his parents was 1941.
In America, my father found a job as a carpenter. As soon as he could, my father enrolled in night school to learn English, he received a completion certificate and he certainly learned English. He continued on at night to learn drafting. It wasn't long before he moved out of carpentry into management. He ran major projects designing and installing interiors of department stores. To say that he was a hard worker is an understatement. He would leave the house every day before dawn and he often traveled to jobs in other cities.
He was a generous person. One man who worked in his shop was arrested and called my father to bail him out which of course he did. He always looked for ways to promote workers into better positions. Many years after his retirement, we heard from people who had worked with him. His secretary continued to write to him until he passed away.
No one had a father who worked harder or spent more time with his family. He took me to ballet school on Sunday mornings; he rented a bicycle for me and taught me to ride in the school yard. When I was little, the girls next door got mad at me and wouldn't let me in to listen to the record player. With his first pay check, he bought me a record player and records. No one we knew went roller skating or ice skating, but we did. He took us to the rodeo and to the circus. We spent summers in a bungalow in upstate New York. There was one summer when he brought me a new Nancy Drew book every Friday. We went to Florida for Christmas vacation.
When we were moving them out of their house in Marlboro I found a legal pad with carefully documented contributions to made to charities and to anybody who asked him. In the early days there were $5 and $10 donations. In subsequent years, he gave more. When a friend's son was in trouble, he went with a blank check to offer help.
I never heard any warm or sentimental stories about Stopnica. The stories I heard, and there were very few, were about Jewish buys being chased after school and about the neighbors who were on the front lines to turn in Jews when the Germans came to Stopnica.
Esther Dyzehaus Blatt