In early January 1945, the Kaufbeuren inmates were all sent in trucks to the main camp, called Dachau. In Dachau, the Nazis held prisoners from many different countries, such as Russia, France, Belgium, and Poland. Still, Pawel noticed, the Jews always had the most awful conditions. He felt even more lost and alone. He had no friends and no family left, and decided to take desperate measures. He reached out to a Polish priest to get help.
“He told me not to say that I’m Jewish.”
By assuming a new identity and a new job, Pawel was able to survive a few more months, through April 29, 1945, the date of the liberation of Dachau by the U.S. Army. On that day, Pawel himself saw the athletic American soldiers jumping over the walls and the frightened Nazi soldiers emerging from their posts with their hands up in submission.
There was an announcement that the American chaplain would hold a memorial service with the Jewish survivors the next day. Pawel felt that this was his first connection with humanity again. He joined the services, and started to make friends with some of the younger survivors. Together, some of them made their way to the Displaced Persons (DP) camp in Feldafing, Germany.
Having lost all the members of his immediate family, Pawel started asking people in the DP camp whether they knew or had heard of any of his other relatives.
One woman said she knew that his first cousin, Roma Borenstein, had survived. Pawel found Roma in Heidelberg, Germany, in the fall of 1945. She was a young bride, having just married an American soldier. As soon as Pawel saw her, he burst into tears. Though he had never met her before, he knew who she was because she looked so much like his own mother! Indeed, she was the daughter of his mother’s sister. For so long Pawel had had no one to show him compassion and kindness, that it was a welcome relief to be reunited with at least this one member of his family. He later learned that Roma’s sister had also survived.
Roma helped Pawel enroll in school, where he was able to catch up on his studies and make friends. Many of the young survivors at the school wanted to leave Germany and go to the ancient Jewish homeland. However, the State of Israel was not established as a Jewish homeland until 1948. In 1945, immediately after the war, the British governed the area, then known as the Mandate for Palestine , and strictly limited immigration. Fortunately, however, in 1946 Pawel was able to take advantage of the more liberal immigration policy of President Harry S. Truman , who began welcoming a limited number of Jewish Displaced Persons to the United States after the war.