JOSEPH AND MYRA AFTER LIBERATION

EXHIBIT

1945-2016

The Brandmann Family

Left to Right:

Sam (killed in Rumbula forest), Wolf (survived), Joseph (survived), Abram (died of cancer), Mary Asha (killed in Rumbula forest), Paul (killed trying to escape in forest), Bela (killed in Rumbula forest), Frieda (killed in Rumbula forest), Harry (fled to Soviet Union, served in army, died in 1975)

The British liberation came soon after the explosion of the Cap Arcona. It was drizzling and Joseph was at his weakest. They saw the flag and then the British soldiers arrived in their tanks, announcing "You are free; you don't have to be afraid anymore." 

Joseph fainted, nearly right after liberation. The soldiers opened the nearby warehouses that held food for the German soldiers and told the Jews to take what they wanted. Joseph ate too much, while Myra began to refill her emaciated frame more cautiously.

Many died in those days after liberation. Joe became deathly ill of typhus. 

Soon he would be taken to a British war hospital, probably in a displaced persons camp in Nolstat Holstein, where he was nursed back to life for over six weeks. Myra waited for him, but after awhile could wait no longer. She arrived one day to say goodbye; she was leaving to go to Russia to look for her parents. He couldn't walk so he held onto the walls to chase after her and beg her to stay with him. She stayed and missed the boat to Russia.

Afterwards, in the Displaced Persons Camp, they lived together in a soldiers' barrack. The two shared a room with two sisters who became their friends. Myra and Joseph had one side of the room and the sisters had the other. Years later, when Myra and Joe visited Israel a few times they would always reunite with those sisters.

Myra, Joseph, and Frieda's register on the ship Gen. R.L. Houze
Note how the ship's registry information completely matches Joseph's memory as told in his interview nearly 60 years later.
Myra, Joseph, and Frieda's register on the ship Gen. R.L. Houze

They shared a pail for a toilet. But it was a luxury compared to the concentration camps. The young couple, who had lost everyone, were officially married in the DP camp on October 16, 1945 by a court official who signed the documentation. They did not want a Jewish wedding without their parents or family to be there. Two of the witnesses were Mushia and Riva, the two sisters who shared their room. They went back to the room and shared a bottle of champagne. That was a post-war wedding.

They remained in the DP camp until March, 1949, about four years later. During that time, they began their next life together. Their first daughter, Frieda, was born on May 25, 1948. She was named after Joe's sister who had died in the Rumbula massacre. 

On May 9, 1949 they finally left Germany and they arrived in Boston 8 days later on May 18, 1949. The ship's name was the Gen. Hauz. They left Breimerhoffen May 9, 1949 and arrived in states May 18, 1949.  

In the United States, they were greeted in Boston by HIAS who sent them on a train to Albany where Myra had an aunt. They stayed with the family for a few weeks while Joseph found a job in a factory and then set himself up in a barbershop. In November, 1950 they had their second child, a daughter named Elenore, who they named after Myra's little brother Eliahu.

THEIR FIRST HOME IN ALBANY

Joseph, also known as Yosef, Joe, and Dominic, was known as a stellar joke-teller and as a man with one of the most extraordinary memories people had ever met. He declared in his 90's that he had lived a wonderful life. And, indeed, except for a five-year period in the 1940s he did. He was born to a large and loving family and grew up in the exciting city of Riga. As a child, he played soccer and took trips to the Baltic Sea beaches in the summertime.

As an adult, Joe worked for a week or two at Barclay's Home Products in Cohoes, sewing blankets. He then established himself as a successful barber at Patsy's Barbershop in Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany. His clients knew him as Dominic, the name the other barbers gave him because there were so many Josephs in the mostly Italian barbershop. He cut the hair of important members of the Albany political community in the shop and made them laugh at his jokes, which always made him proud. 

Joseph's brother Wulf survived the camps but returned to see his wife in Riga. She passed away and he found himself trapped in the Soviet Union. He attempted to escape to the West, was captured, and sent to 15 years in Siberia. Joseph only had the opportunity to see him in 1988, after 57 years.

As an adult, after her move to Albany, Myra became a proud homemaker and mother of Frieda and Ellie. When the kids went to bed, and the friends came over, she was the life of the party, dancing on tables and having fun. While Joe was the joke-teller, she had the quick wit that left everyone in stitches. 

She was a wonderful cook of traditional Eastern European foods, such as brisket and matzoh ball soup. She always made her grandchildrens' favorite dishes when they came over and hummed her unique tune as she worked. 

Joe saved his earnings so that he could take his wife and two daughters, Frieda and Ellie, on a trip every summer. The family socialized often with the other Holocaust survivor families in the Albany area and made lasting friendships. He won joke-telling contests on cruiseships.

Joe had four grandchildren (Jill, Seth, Nicki, and David) and loved to cut their hair in his basement and then give a lollipop. His incredible memory stayed until the end, as he could name everyone in the family's birthday including his grandchildren, their spouses, and even their dogs. 

Joseph passed away on Saturday, October 20 2012 and Myra passed away on Friday, February 19, 2016.

Their courage and determination to persist against tremendous odds, to survive against the fiercest attempt at extermination, and their hope to rebuild their lives and create a future should be an inspiration to all. They now can count as their descendants four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.