Survivor STORY

Fay (Fannie) Diamantstein Polazzo was born in Heidelburg, Germany, in 1921. After the rise to power of the Nazis and the first wave of violence against Germany's Jewish population, the Diamantstein family fled to Italy, where they went into hiding.

After being discovered, the family was taken to an internment camp, Ferremonti di Tarsia, in southern Italy. After liberation and a brief period of recuperation in Switzerland, Fay emigrated to the United States from Italy with her twin boys, Fred (Free) and David.

Unable to manage well in a new country as a single mother, Fay returned to Italy, where her parents were available to help her with the twins. There, she met her future husband, John Polazzo, and they eventually returned to America and raised the twins and another son in New York.

Fay and John moved to Atlanta, where two sons live, and where Fay's brother, Adolfo Diamanstein, had also resettled. Fay died in 2007.

Separation from and Finding Family

When my babies were born I was in the hospital and I cried myself sick because I thought they're all gone. I didn't think they were living, my parents and my three brothers. I had no news. They didn't know where I was and I didn't know where they were. And it was a terrible time for me. I gave birth to the kids and didn't know if my parents...Then I found out that they had a list with all the people who are in Switzerland. So I was hoping, maybe, they're still alive. So I looked at the list and my family was there, the whole family, my parents and my brothers. And so I told the Red Cross, if they can get in touch with them and tell them that I'm married and I had twins. That's the news they got.

Making a Living

Then I decided, my husband had to wait for his quota, Austrian quota, and he said to me, "Why don't you with the kids go" (because I had a German quota, which was open) "and I follow you." And that's what I did. I picked up my twins, I went to America. And my husband's sister picked me up and then it was downhill, because he found himself a different girl before he even came to America and started an affair there. And I was stuck with the two kids. Was tough. And so I had to raise the kids by myself. And the organization helped me with food. And then they told me to go to school and learn a trade, or be a secretary, be somebody. I was so young still, and, I think I was 26 years old at that time. And I said, "I have two children to take care of. They're going to nursery all day and I'm starting to find a job." So they told me that they can put the children in a foster home so that I will be free to get an education and they would take care of it. And I said, "No, uh-uh. I'm not going to put my children in a foster home, no way; they already went through a lot. I'm not going to do that." Said there are Jewish foster homes. "I don't care. They are going to stay with me."

I finally decided. They showed me a place where they put children that the parents have to work, they can't take care of them and so. And they only have about fifteen children. Was very nice, they're not all dressed alike, they're all dressed different, it was a Jewish home. And you can see them any time you want to and you can go and be a, go and be a secretary if you want to, something like that. I said ok. So they sent me to school. And I left the children there and I visited them almost every day. And then I found that one of my little boys started stuttering bad, stuttered so bad that he couldn’t talk. And I went, they told me that they didn't want to sleep separate. They had two cribs next to each other. One would get out and go into the other's crib and stay together. When I heard that, you know, I couldn't stand it. So I said, "No," I said, "I take my children back, I have to manage. I take them." You know, so I struggled.

Importance of Family

Well I was very responsible towards my children. I wanted my children to have a good life in America. When I went with the children to Italy [America] he cried like a baby. He said, "Stay in Italy, we're going to have a good life here." We probably would have had a good life in Italy. And I said to myself, I said, "How can I take American citizenship away from my boys?" I couldn't bring it over me to do that. My visa was good for another ten days and we were still talking. I said, "I can not do it to my children." My children... I, what if something happens again in Europe? What if there's a war and we get killed? I can't do it. Which was for me, I would never have come back to America. I did it for my children. That's a mother.

Life Lessons and Perspectives

Well, the message is, don't be selfish. And no matter what you go through, somebody else always has something worse than you do.

Fay Diamantstein Polazzo