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USF Libraries Exhibits

Immigration from Australia

Herta Pila, Holocaust survivor

She didn’t want to stay either, so she hoped that if I’d be over there I will be able to send her papers. But, you know, it’s very hard to get people to sign for somebody, because they are afraid they really would be taken to task to take care of them. So it took me a long time till I got somebody to finally sign the papers for her. And when I had that German—America had changed, that anybody that fell under the Nuremberg Laws could immigrate to the United States. Well, so now my mother had both papers in her hand. She wrote to me, “What should I do?” I said, “You know what, you go to America. Gina is there.” And by that time my brother, who then also fell under the Nuremberg Law, had gotten papers and he was in America, so then I’m coming. I’m not that fond of Australia. (laughs) But then I found out that with being back on a German quota of having once immigrated, I would have to wait six years.

Well, that didn’t sit too well with me, so one day I—every Friday—I worked for a very religious man who closed the store on Friday at three. So at 3:30 I was at the American consulate. Every week; you set your clock by me. And so finally the consul said, “What is she doing here every Friday?” So his secretary said, “She’s coming to see whether there’s something new. She wants to go to America.” So he called me in and he talked to me, and he said, “I hear you want to go to America, but you know the German quota is six years.” “Yeah,” I said. “But my whole family is in America.” So he says, “How old are you?” I said, “Nineteen.” And he said, “Okay. You have your mother go to the consul in Miami and tell them that she’s got a daughter underage in Australia and she wants her to come.” I said, “But my mother doesn’t know how to speak English; she just got there.” He said, “Tell her your sister should do it.” So, six weeks later I had a permit.

I think we each kind of—she was my mother, I loved her; and still, you know, life was so completely different. You know, we kind of were mother and daughter and we weren’t mother and daughter. I mean, life for her, if I think on it, I think she had a miserable life all during the time. She had a miserable—she had three kids, she had to still—you know, at the time we were around—feed on something that was not there, and she had to take care of it and the whole bit. I think my mother had a horrible life, and sometimes I feel very guilty. But that was just how life was. It wasn’t the same anymore. So, that’s the way it

Because then she got to the—so I could come to the United States. And so when I came to the United States, I had to come on a freighter because I wanted to go down to Miami. By that time I knew that my husband was already— he was not then my husband. He was here, because I used to correspond with his sister-in-law, because I knew his brothers from right after the war. The only thing he always said to me was, “You’re jailbait.” (CE laughs) But otherwise, he and I got along very well together.