Walter D. (Wally) Wilkerson, Jr., MD
Montgomery County Republican Party
Maybe it is my age, but I am always interested in reading the obituaries in the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal. At least one or more of the obits always includes unknown individuals who loved America and left it greater than when they arrived. The December 16-17, 2017 issue contained an obituary for Hilda Eisen, 1917-2017. It related a story of a refugee who came to our country after surviving the Holocaust. Hilda Gimpel lost her parents and five siblings in the Holocaust. She and her husband, David, survived and they fled into the Polish forests to join up with Jewish resistance forces and waged guerrilla warfare against the Nazi forces. They survived on a diet of potato soup and slept on the ground in rain, ice and snow for two miserably cold winters.
Near the end of World War II, her husband died, but the Russian military refused to let her visit his grave. ”Cursing her in the vilest terms”, the officer said her husband was lucky anyone would weep for him. No one would cry for her. After the war, she married another survivor, Harry Eisen who had also lost all of his family. Hilda told a reporter: “To tell you the truth, I got married out of fear, being scared to be alone in this world, no family and no friends. He had the same feeling. He didn’t love me. I didn’t love him”.
They spent three years in refugee camps where they dreamt of settling in America. Finally they were able to sail to New York and settled in southern California where Mr. Eisen had a cousin. They did not expect welfare or other assistance. Rather, Mr. Eisen found a job “cleaning meat barrels in a hot-dog plant”. “Once they had saved enough money, the Eisens bought 100 chickens, and started a backyard farm in Arcadia near Los Angeles. He managed despite a poor command of English”. A newspaper reporter wrote that he “talked Jewish to my chickens and they laid eggs”.
They washed and packaged the eggs and Mr. Eisen rode a bicycle and sold them “on street corners”. By the late 1950s, their hard work and tenacity paid off. They moved to Narco in Riverside County California where the business flourished. In 2000, the Eisens sold their business that had grown to employ 450 employees and had annual sales on $100 million dollars. The Russian officer was proved wrong. The obit reported: “When she died November 22nd at the age of 100 at her home in Beverly Hills, California, there were three children to grieve her, along with eight grandchildren and seven great grandchildren”.
Hilda and Harry Eisen were refugees who came to America for the right reason – a love of America. They never asked for welfare or other benefits like so many of the non-citizens or illegal immigrants. They happily assimilated into our society and culture and left America better than when they arrived.