Holocaust story has surprise finish

Holocaust story has surprise finish
Nesse Godin's problems were far from over when World War II ended.

But you have to listen to all of her story. There's a surprise ending.

She had survived the ghettos, the concentration camps, the labor camps and a death march during the German-led Holocaust that struck her homeland of Lithuania.

She found herself in a quandary, however, when peace returned to Europe. The people who meant most to her � friends and relatives � had been scattered throughout Europe.

"That's how I was introduced to hitchhiking," she said, drawing laughter from the capacity audience who heard her speak at USD's Old Main last week.

She eventually arrived in a Lithuanian city where a post office had been set up by various relief agencies. It was a place, she said, where you could leave your name, and hope that, at the same time, you could find names left by friends or relatives.

"One day, as I stood looking at the names, a woman came up to me and said, "Who are you from Shauliai, Lithuania? I don't remember anyone looking like you."

Nesse explained that, "I just got out of the camps. How should I look?"

Nesse told the woman her name, "and the woman replied that she was with my mother, and my mother was alive. And we were eventually reunited," she said.

After a few months, men started to come back to the country, but sadly, Nesse's father wasn't among them. He was killed in the Holocaust.

Families that were lucky enough to have men return soon started experiencing a better lifestyle. For example, they were able to raise their own food. They no longer had to visit soup kitchens to survive.

Nesse and her mother were still relying on soup kitchens. It was a situation that was becoming more and more difficult to tolerate.

"Finally, Momma said to me, ?Nesse, one of us will have to get married.' And I immediately thought, why would Momma want to get married again? She's 46 years old ? but Momma right away said, ?I would never get married again. But you will have to get married. Because otherwise, two women can't survive.'

"I looked at Momma," Nesse said, "and I said ?How do I do that?' "

Nesse was just a little girl, she said, when the Germans came and took her from her family. "I never went on a date. I never went to homecoming. I never went to a party. I never went with a boy to the movies. And my mother wanted me to get married," she said.

Nesse's mother, however, made it sound so easy. "Don't worry. There are a few guys here that are a little older. I'll talk to them, and maybe one of them will marry you," she said.

Nesse was only 17 years old at the time. Her mother first tried to get her interested in a 30-year-old Russian man in the community.

"No Momma," I said. "He's too old for me."

So she tried to arrange a courtship between Nesse and the man's younger brother.

"But I didn't like him," Nesse said. "I can't remember why anymore, but for some reason, I didn't like him."

So Momma suggested bachelor number three � a young man named Jack.

"I said, ?Okay Momma.' "

Nesse's mother spelled things out for Jack right at their first date. "She told him, ?Listen, you've lost all of your family. You marry my little girl, and we'll all be a family. And he said, ?Okay.' "

Nesse passed this advice on to the USD students in the audience. "You see, if Momma picks you a girlfriend, or if Momma picks you a boyfriend, it works."

Nesse knows. After all the pain and suffering she endured during the Holocaust, Momma helped change her life dramatically for the better. But could a marriage under such strange circumstances have any chance of remaining strong?

"I have been married to Jack 60 years," Nesse said.

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