Well, let me just straighten one thing out. Everyone was supposed to go in the Army then? Every boy was supposed to serve a certain amount of time in the army?
Three years in the army. How old were you supposed to be when you were going to be taken?
Twenty. But you could enlist at 16, 17 or 18.
If they thought that you were running away, then they would try to catch you before?
So the gendarmes in Europe had noticed as soon as I came home that they should lock me up.
How did they find out?
He, that neighbor, went and reported that I was going to go to America as soon as I came home. So from the government, the gendarmes got notice that they should lock me up. But when I came home, my mother told me this but she said, ” I’ll tell you–I was talking with the sergeant like the Postenfüherer, they say because the gendarmes used to come in our place and they used to drink, and they used to eat and they used to sleep (they were friendly). They were very friendly and they didn’t want me to get locked up. So, the Postenfuherer said to mother that the best thing to do, I won’t take him along, but tomorrow morning, let him go to the recruiting officer and let him report that he wants to be a soldier. They’ll examine him but they won’t take him because he’s too young–he’s only 15 ½ years old, so they’ll send him home and he’ll be free and nobody can say anything. So, I did this. The next morning I got up, got dressed and it was 3 miles to go to the bureau where you enlist. I went up there and I went in the office and I saw a soldier at a desk, a sergeant, and I told him that I came to enlist. He said, “all right, sit down.” I sat down and in came a lieutenant and he sat down, too. And then in came a captain and sat down at the table. They told me I should take all my clothes off. So I took all my clothes off and the doctor examined me. There was a major, the captain was the doctor–he examined me and he saw that I was all right and he said all right. He told me to get dressed and they swore me in and they sent me right from there away to Tarnów.
Well, what happened–I thought they weren’t going to take you?
They took me right away.
They fooled you.
They sent you right to…
Tarnów–to the camp.
You didn’t go home.
They didn’t give you a chance to go home.
I came to Tarnów and I was a feltsjager #4.
What is a feltsjager? Is that a little officer?
No, no, no. Feltsjager, that’s the first in the war. They’re very, very snappy.
You mean they’re a certain branch.
Just like here the Marines.
I see, the fancy branch.
Just like the Marines, very good soldiers.
What is the number again?
Number 4. I was number 4 and when I came there, like every recruit…
Let’s stop here for just a little bit because I want to go back and I want to find out some other things before we talk about your time when you were in the Army. Of course I know that you have a lot of stories about the Army you want to tell me.
Yeah, lot’s of stories.
We’ll go back and speak of other things–about your brothers. Now your middle brother’s name was Meilech and the youngest’s name was Leibisch. While you were in the Army, what were Meilech and Leibisch doing?
They were with my mother home, on the farm. They were working together.
They were both on the farm, working…
And the same thing while you were out on the road selling. When you were selling pictures, they were still on the farm?
Tell me a little bit about Meilech. He was married.
He was married but when I was already here in America.
Do you remember the name of his wife?
No, who can remember? I know she was one daughter of her parents (garbled??).
Did he have any children?
You know who his wife was? I’ll you who she was..you know Itzy Schlanger?? (Yah.) The one that has two sons, that’s his sister.
His sister–Itzy Schlanger’s sister?
That’s right. That’s who he married.
Ok. That’s fine. Did Meilech have any children?
None, at all?
You said something about Meilech coming here to this country–tell me about that.
He came. When he got married, he took over a big farm and he owed a big mortgage so he came to this country and he was staying with me and he had board with me and he ate with me and he was working and he made nice money. He made about $38 a week and he put every cent in his pocket and when he went home, he had about sixteen hundred dollars. He had about sixteen hundred dollars at the time. When I went home, I bought him a golden watch and chain for a present, I gave him a big ring with my initials that I had with initials and I gave him everything for a present to take home. He took it home and after when he was home, he never even wrote me a letter. Honest, he never even wrote me a letter.
Be nice. This was while you were living in Hoboken?
What else do you know about Meilech? Do you remember anything else?
You know when he was in my place?? When the twins were born–Jerry and Betty–because he used to play with them. I remember they were small, just like Janny and he was playing around with them.
[probably around 1906 since my ( Mary Wilson) father was born in 1904 “litte Janny” was born in 1954 making him about 2 when the interview was conducted]
All right, now, what have you heard about Meilech since then?
Is he alive now?
The first letter he wrote me when he came home was that he arrived home. That’s all and after, I never heard again.
All right. Let’s talk about Leibisch.
Leibisch, I didn’t know him?
You never saw him after you left?
No, he was a small, little boy when I left, like little Janny, and I never saw him again.
Do you remember anything about his being married?
Yeah, he got married twice. The first time he got married, he didn’t have any children.
Do you know the woman that he married the first time? Any idea of who she was?
No, he told me that they were very nice girls–both of them. The first one didn’t have any children and they wanted them and she couldn’t have any. They went to doctors. And then he married another girl, some cousin of hers, a very nice girl and then he had three children, I think, a boy and two girls, so Hitler killed the two–only one is left and she is in Palestine.
What is her name? Is that Esther?
Esther, Esther Malka.
And Esther Malka is married?
Yes, and she had 3 children.
Do you know the children’s names?
No. Two girls and one boy.
They’re in Israel now?
All right. You went into the Army.
Oh, you’re back again to the Army?
We’re back on the Army.
All right when I came to the Army every soldier got trained and when I got trained, they sent me to school. And I went for 4 months to school.
What kind of school?
To Officer’s School, you know, Officer’s School. I went to school in Vienna. I was in Vienna for four months and when I came back, I came back with stripes. Three stripes–I came back to the Company.
You were a sergeant then?
Like a sergeant–a little bigger than a sergeant.
What was the name of it, do you remember?
Cadet. And I was with the Army about a year and they promoted–gave me a higher rank, like a second lieutenant, must be like a second lieutenant. And then, that’s all. I was a big shot.
All right, tell me some more about the Army. Where were you stationed?
First I was stationed in Tarnów and then they sent me to Vienna for 4 months and then from Vienna I came back again and every year I made three maneuvers. Every year I made it–all 3 maneuvers.
How long were you in the Army?
Three years and nineteen days.
How many minutes?
I don’t know this….
Where else were you stationed after that?
I came to the United States.
No, I mean where were you stationed in the Army–anyplace else?
Tell me about some of those maneuvers–you told me some stories…
About Kaiser Franz Joseph?
Well, the first maneuver we had–you know in Austria the language is mostly German and everything that you speak, you talk to an officer and you have to talk German because he cannot understand anything else, so, naturally, they picked me out to be a messenger from one place to send to the other place.
Why did they pick you?
Well, they picked me because I could talk German. And, I used to deliver the message like to Kaiser Franz Joseph and to his son because they were both on maneuvers. One on one side with white bands on their hats and the other plain. It was like Russia and Austria, something like that.
Two sides, but when Karl came to his father and said, “father, I don’t like this like that. We don’t know who is winning or losing. How is it to get a couple of shots with real guns, with real munitions?” So the Kaiser Franz Joseph looked at him and said, ” my son, you’re never going to be a Kaiser.” He called the big honest (the trumpeter?)–the trumpeter and he immediately stopped the maneuvers. And when he got home, he called him (Karl ?)into his office and the Kaiser said, “you don’t have a heart and I’m sorry I can’t give you the title of Kaiser. If you can’t take your own children and kill them. You know when they come together and shoot one and the other and it kills one or the other and that’s your children. You can’t be by other with them, he says, if you don’t have children, you are like a dead one [confusing]. You can’t go anywhere, you can’t keep warm anywhere and they take everything away from you. And the son said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it, I didn’t think on it, but if I will live long enough to get to be a Kaiser.” So, he got killed.
Tell me about the time that you delivered the message to Franz Joseph–when you saw him.
When you come to him, you have to stop six steps before the Kaiser, you salute, he looks at you and he salutes you back and then he puts out his hand and that means that you have to give him what you have. So you go forwards and hand him the paper that you have–you keep it very safe so that no one can get it away because when you go there, there is somebody on the road that wants to catch and get the paper away from you. He reads this over, and on the other side, he signs that he received it and puts what ever [message] he wants and you have to take it back.
Where did you see him–in Vienna, or in a tent or on the field?
Oh, on the field. And in one week, I was about seven times saluting him.
How long did you stay in the Army?
Three years and 19 days.
And then you were discharged?
Yeah, I got discharged and I got my books and my papers and they asked me where I wanted to go and I told them I wanted to go to Vienna and it didn’t cost me anything to come to Vienna.
To be continued…