Article in The Mobile Press Register, Sunday, August 28, 1955
Ex-Prisoner of Soviets Makes Home in Plateau
By Frank Bruer
Press Register Reporter

Esther Loeb's message is a simple one: Never lose faith in God.

And almost as important: Always appreciate what you have.

On the latter, Mrs. Loeb, who lives at 52 S. Third St., Prichard, has no trouble after five years on a diet of bread and water.

As far as the faith, that too is noticeably pronounced evan after seeing her father die in a Russian prison camp, watching her baby brother die of starvation and malnutrition, chopping trees all day long at the age of 13 and later working 16 hours a day for two rolls.

Even the latest episode has not marred the calm, determined faith of the 28-year-old wife of Samuel J. Loeb.

She now faces the possibility of having to leave the country temporarily after finding happiness for the first time in 15 years.

Lived in Poland

Esther Loeb's story started in 1939. Then she was Esther Lidwin, one of two daughters of a prosperous Polish storekeeper.

Joseph Lidwin, his wife and two children lived comfortably enough near the Polish-German border. They had a house and two stores.

But the brewing war clouds in 1939 sent Esther and her sister, Edwina, scurrying to their mother's parents in Lodz, some 300 miles west of the border.

Just prior to the German invasion of Poland a bitter interracial feud broke out and Germans and Poles were killing each other on the streets. The Lidwins fled, leaving everything behind. After walking three weeks they reached the children at Lodz, Poland.

The Panzer divisions swept through the country, Nazis ruled the nation with an iron hand. A citizen caught outside his home after 5 p.m. was shot to death on the spot.

At that time the German army was taking 1000 girls a week between the ages of 12 and 18 to supply "companions" for the troops.

Fearful for his young daughters, Joseph Lidwin tried to escape to the Ukraine. At the border an undercover man said he could take only 16 across the line. One of the Lidwins would have to stay at home.

Mrs. Lidwin said she would do so. The father must take the girls to safety. They aprted in tears. Three times she tried to escape. Twice she was caught and imprisoned. Finally she got across the border and walked for weeks before locating her family.

Four months later the Russians plunged through the Ukraine. They threw the Litwins on a train on which they rode for two weeks, then they rode another two weeks on a boat.

Threatened by Bears

"I don't know where we were. We finally landed on a small jungle-like island," Mrs. Loeb said. The 2500 refugees cramped on the small island had to burn fires night and day to ward off numerous bears that attacked them.

Six months later they boarded a ship for Siberia.

Some 150 to 200 families found themselves jammed into one barrack. They slept on the floor. It was cold--so cold that once when her father was sick the present Mrs. Loeb dropped some warm water and it immediately froze on the floor.

For weeks Esther Litwin worked side by side with her father chopping trees.

... became too much for Mr. Litwin. He died at the age of 36, seven days after his wife gave birth to a young son, also named Joseph.

Finally, in 1943, the Russians said they were free. Completely without funds, they found themselves unable to go far. Finally they went early in 1943 to Karabalta in South Russia. There Mrs. Loeb worked as much as 18 hours for two rolls. "And sometimes we didn't even get the rolls," she said.

Once again fate stepped in, and this time claimed young Joseph. He died in his sleep.

"It was so strange. Joseph looked at us and seemed to say: 'Why can't I have something to eat?' But we had nothing.

"I remember mama rocked him to sleep that night. He never awoke."

The year 1943 was a bad one.

"For days we had nothing -- many times not even any water. People everywhere were dying from hunger."

The Litwins often ate grass. If they found potato peels it was a "very lucky day."

Bread and water was their principal diet.

Warm But Hungry

It had almost been better in the prison camp when those who worked got a bowl of soup. This contained a small amlount of cabbage and a possible chunk of potato. But the cold was not so bitter down there as the prison camp in Siberia.

In 1945 the remaining Litwins went back to Poland. All of Mrs. Litwin's relatives had died in concentration camps. The Litwins, rather than remain where the Russians were, went to Germany as displaced persons.

Esther Litwin volunteered in 1948 to go to Israel.

She remained there six years, two years of which were spent in the Israel army fighting Arabs.

"It was not so easy for a lone girl," she said simply.

Her parents came to the United States in 1949. Their mother now had remarried and lives "very happily" in Nashville, Tenn., with her husband and Regina.

Esther Litwin came to visit them in 1954 on a visitor's passport. She had not seen them in six years. After the period was over she asked for and received a six-months extension to her passport.

Married Mobilian

Last May she married Samuel Loeb, whom she met on a visit to Mobile. Mr. Loeb operates a store in Plateau.

Now the two are trying to gete permanent residence for Mrs. Loeb in the United States. However, they are having some technical difficulties with the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

"I still have faith in God," Mrs. Loeb said. "I remember once when my sister, Regina, asked daddy in Poland when the Germans came why somebody must hurt somebody. He said: 'Everything will be all right. God is with us.'

"I never forgot that -- when he died, when my brother died, and when we were starving, God is with us."

There is a calm peace that stands out in Mrs. Loeb's conversation and actions.

"For the first time in many, many years I have dound hapiness. I hope and pray I can keep it.

Mrs. Loeb is awed by the United States, its immense wealth, its friendliness.

"But if you could, tell them one thing. They do not understand what they have -- how good it is. If they could only learn to appreciate what they have."

Her eyes reflected a quick mental review of 14 bitter years of hunger, fighting and death. "They do not understand," she repeated.