Ella Klein (The Feldmans)
By Joan Pollak, taken from her online work
in Susice, first met Fred Feldman before the war when they were both working in
the Klatovy shoe factory. (Fred was unable to get a job as a doctor at that point
in time, although he had a medical degree from Charles University.) Fred was an
eligible bachelor at that time, who was often fixed up in Prague by his
sister-in-law Otilie Feldman, wife of Max. (Secretly, Fred was having an affair
with the married wife of a farmer in a local town.)
Ella, who did not know other members of Fred's family, went on a transport to Auschwitz in January of 1943, which was very early. When she went through the Selection line at Auschwitz, she decided to lie and say she was a doctor. According to other Czech Survivors, Ella was put to work by the Nazi's inspecting women in the labor camps who were sick and sending them to the infirmary. (For those who were sent to the infirmary, this meant certain death.) One woman who was hidden from Ella was her future sister-in-law, Vera Feldman. Vera had a rash, and the other women hid her as Ella entered the barracks for an inspection.
Another job of Ella's was to inspect women, as they stood daily to be counted for pregnancy. She did this by poking them in the stomach. Those who she found to be pregnant were sent immediately to the Gas Chamber. One person who remembers being poked by Ella was her future niece, Georgine Feldman Hyde. Another friend of Vera Feldman's, from Susice, remembers Ella poking women quite well.
An acquaintance of Ella's asked her in Auschwitz if she would help her. Ella was quoted as saying "I don't help anyone." However, Ella did help save one person, a friend who was the wife of a Czech Orchestra conductor. She gave her a job as the cleaning woman for the infirmary, and in this capacity she survived.
At the end of the war, Ella joined a Hunger March and came back to Susice. Soon after, she found Fred, and soon they were married. In fact, Fred's brother, Bert, encouraged the marriage, because he was afraid Fred would resume his affair. One day, Fred brought Ella to Prague and introduced his new wife to Georgine Feldman. Georgine was taken aback when she recognized her, and called her uncle, Bert Feldman about the situation. Bert was extremely upset, but had trouble at first believing Georgine's story. Later, after his marriage to Vera, he heard similar stories and accusations, and did realize the truth. Ella consistently denied these accusations, and Fred always believed her.
After the War, some Hungarian women reported Ella to the Czech authorities as a Nazi Collaborator. There was a Czech law, called the "Small Degree", to punish such collaborators. Although Ella was accused, no punishment went through. However, Ella was denied a passport to leave the country. In fact, when Vera tried to get a passport to leave the country, her name had been confused with Ella's, and she had to straighten out the situation in order to receive a passport.
Fred and Ella, who had had a baby (Jane), were anxious to leave the country, and paid a man to smuggle them across the border to Germany. Taking Vera and Bert's cook as a babysitter, they tranquilized Jane so she wouldn't cry, and escaped successfully in 1948. They ended up in a DP camp in Ravensberg, Germany. They arrived in the US from Germany in 1951.
Ella did not want to live in New York City, near where others in the Czech community might seek revenge in some way. She and Fred lived in Munnsville, NY, where he practiced medicine. Jane was sent to a Catholic girls school. They eventually moved to Oneonta, NY.
Ella did not get along with her sister-in-law Vera, and would talk behind her back. However, she did maintain contact with Georgine Feldman, and brought her son, John, wienersnitzel every Sunday when he was a college student at nearby Colgate.
Although Fred has passed away, Ella continues to reside in Oneonta, NY. Some of the Czech survivors remember her with hatred, while Georgine Hyde, a Holocaust educator, is more forgiving. She reminds us that Auschitz was an aberrant and traumatic situation where we cannot sit in judgment of anyone for their survival.