Light, Ernest
Interview Date
February 9, 1998
Respondent Holocaust survivor, born 1920.
[T1S1] Respondent provides information on 10 siblings; father owned property, family observant, started Jewish education at age 3; lived in small town, Chudlov, Czechoslovakia, raised in middle class family. Respondent discusses early schooling, then business school: 1937. Respondent discusses summer vacations spent studying Talmud, notes safety of town, describes garden at home, notes large difference in age from oldest sibling to Respondent. Respondent provides names of siblings, comments on 1 brother inducted in Austrian-Hungarian Army. Respondent explains after Munich pact, 1938, city where he lived taken by Hungary; Slovakia became independent. Respondent notes parents lost property and other businesses. Respondent provides names of mother and father: Sima (Pollack) and Herman Lebovic, both perished in Holocaust, 1944.
[T1S2] Respondent continues discussion of siblings, their children and their fate, names members of family who survived and those who perished; notes large extended family. Respondent comments on reaching military age: 1941, drafted in Hungarian Army, details various cities and labor camps where he was sent, notes life not difficult but shortage of food.
[T2S3] Respondent recounts arrival in Bor, Yugoslavia: German occupied, describes his work, describes accident and hospitalization in Szeged, Hungary, comments on excellent care; because of injury, discharged from Army. Respondent begins detailed information on Holocaust; returned home after discharge, notes new Jewish laws: yellow star to identify Jews and rumors of forthcoming trouble: explains children and older people collected and taken to railroad; details incident where Hungarians wanted his leather coat, did not want to give it up, was told, "Where you are going, you won't need a coat anymore." Respondent describes being loaded into cattle cars and reaching destination 2 days later; comments on hardships of trip, describes stench on train, young separated from old, body checked, hair cut, given striped clothes and 3 tiered bunks. Respondent reflects on question regarding parents: "Where are my parents?", answer given: "They are in the furnace." Respondent explains realization that he is in Auschwitz; then sent to Poland to clean Warsaw Ghetto after uprising.
[T2S4] Respondent continues discussion on Warsaw and liquidation of ghetto; then other destinations: Dachau, Muldorff, describes terrible conditions, lack of food and water, cruelty of Ukranian guards, incidences of suicides and becoming ill with typhus; loss of awareness and long recuperation. Respondent begins discussion of evacuation: 1945, and conditions surrounding evacuation. Respondent recounts end of war and return to birthplace: Czechoslovakia (Chudlov), then Prague.
[T3S5] Respondent describes travel to birth city via Budapest, Hungary; names brothers and sisters who survived and return to parents home; lived with family now occupying home, recalls before he left home, made list of possessions and gave it to neighbors; found list in attic, written in Yiddish, went to neighbors and gathered all possessions left behind. Respondent outlines travels to see sister and brother and return to Prague. Respondent begins discussion of entry into United States: had sister in Pittsburgh, PA, wrote letter and received answer immediately; discusses conditions involved in acquiring passport; left Europe, 1946. Respondent discusses arrival in Pittsburgh; two brothers followed; describes meeting with sister and husband and two children. Respondent reflects on finding jobs, acculturation, brother-in-laws candy and cigarette business; lived with sister, then all brothers found apartment together; describes their work; all involved with haberdashery and ladies wear. Respondent notes one brother worked for wholesaler on Fifth Ave; wanted to sell business, brothers bought it together: Light Brothers, describes conditions pertaining to purchase and willingness of banks to lend money; difficult at first, then prospered, mentions most wholesale businesses on Fifth Ave. no longer in existence. Respondent provides names of two brothers: Alex and Eugene; all had 2 children; gives names of wives and children; describes meeting wife Sally, married 12/21/52.
[T3S6] Respondent provides background information on wife Sally, parents, Goldie and Joseph Stein, arrived in U.S., 1939; gives ages and dates of death. Respondent notes wife taught in various schools, after birth of two daughters, remained at home; gives names of daughters, their education and careers, spouses and grandchildren. Respondent reflects on involvement with Holocaust group in Pittsburgh.; discusses Holocaust gathering of survivors in Israel: 1981; gives detailed description of event and how it affected him, upon return to Pittsburgh. started to lecture in public schools and universities; lists their names. Respondent reminisces on questions asked by students after lecture, gives examples: "Do you still believe in G-d?"; quotes from Rabbi Joshua Liebman's book <i><u>Peace of Mind</u></i>; "G-d had nothing to do with the Holocaust, man did"; quotes other biblical passages. Respondent reflects on long membership at Young Peoples Synagogue, names other organizations where he is active.
[T4S7] Respondent reflects on Light Brothers and other wholesale businesses on Fifth Ave., describes Jewish shopping area on Hill District and crowds from small towns who came to shop; notes decline in area after redevelopment in 1960s and opening of large discount stores. Respondent discusses Beth Hamedrash Hagodol Synagogue, comments on Mr. Rubb, "shamas" (sexton), notes Synagogue still active today. Respondent discusses travels out of Pittsburgh. for Light Brothers; notes change in economic system created change of Fifth Ave. businesses; sale of business in 1991.
[T4S8] Respondent comments on wife's volunteer work with various organizations; satisfaction derived from lecturing on the Holocaust; gives additional examples of questions asked by students.
Auschwitz (Concentration camp); Czechoslovakia; Hill District (Pittsburgh, Pa.); Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945); Hungary; Light Brothers (Pittsburgh, Pa.); Congregation Beth Hamedrosh Hagodol (Pittsburgh, Pa.); Young Peoples Synagogue (Pittsburgh, Pa.); Warsaw (Poland)--History--Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, 1943; Jewish ghetts--Poland--Warsaw
Birth Date
Wholesale Business
Light Brothers
Occupation (father)
Property owner
Length (hours)
Braun, Howard
Karelitz, Bess
Berger, Betty
Collateral Materials
Box 104 FF 9
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