From the Desk of Erna Rubin (1927-2014)
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Holocaust Memories from Czernowitz

The Secret Language
By Erna (Ella) Rubin
Translated from Romanian by Julian Tzvi Rubin

I met Rosa for the first time when she came to work for us as a trainee (my mother had a sewing workshop). She was short, plump but cute. She was a serious girl about 14 and took the job seriously and learned the trade of sewing.

I do not remember who came up with the idea that we learn a secret language of our own, but Rosa and I took the matter seriously, and we've reached the ability to speak German backwards. For example, "Rosa" became "Asor" and I "Erna" was "Anre" and so on for all the other words in German. We were speaking fluently to such a degree that the listener was sure we are talking some kind of foreign language.

One evening we left the public garden on our way home. It was a wonderful summer evening in Czernowitz of before the war, despite the threatening black clouds that had been already hovering over our heads and threatening to destroy the blue sky.

We talked freely in our secret language about this and that. Suddenly a young man walking next to us asked, "What language are you speaking of? Hungarian it is not... It's also not Hebrew... Then what is it?"

We continued to talk in our secret language, even about the guy who was walking by.

After a while when the young man realized that we are not communicative he left.

The war erupted, as everyone knows, and our childhood and youth suffered greatly from it. In 1940 the Russians arrived to Czernowitz. But the disaster began when the Romanians were back in 1941 and large posters, on the walls, cried out, "ghetto in October." Indeed, we were evacuated from our home in October.

I do not want to elaborate in detail but after three weeks in the ghetto of Czernowitz we were sent to the camps in Transnistria for three terrible years of poverty, hunger, typhus and fear for tomorrow but with hope in our hearts that kept us alive.

I don't have good memories of the Russians because when we returned after the war to Czernowitz I had to hide for 11 months, closed at home, since they would capture young Jews on the streets and send them to Dombas, a remote place in Russia, for slave labor in coal mines. And yet I must acknowledge the fact that the Russians saved our lives.

On May 10, 1944 we crossed one of the bridges over the Prut River and returned to Czernowitz. We met survivors and among them was also my friend Rosa and her family.

The first time we met, after three years, she said something to me in our secret language and Rosa's mother laughed, "Girls, what you haven't been through and you have not forgotten your secret language."


Erna Rubin

Read the story in Hebrew and Romanian

Erna Rubin's Holocaust Memories

The Secret Language Uncle Herman and His Friends Mommy The Fundraising

Mein Kampf Abridged, Clarified and Annotated

Revisiting the Transit Camp at Korneuburg, Austria, after 58 Years

*Julian Tzvi Rubin is the Son of Erna Rubin

More about Erna Rubin

Ella Rubin Art Gallery - The Holocaust Mood

More about Ella Rubin and Her Art (Art-3000)
Erna Rubin's story from The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM)
The Ella Rubin Odyssey (Flickr)
More about My Jewish Family History and Genealogy

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