Mila Nishball recalls her unforgettable Holocaust experience


Taylor Nicole Richards – News Writer

During World War II, approximately six million Jews were killed. To put that number into perspective, the population of Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine combined is a little over 6 million. These people were murdered because they were considered, by the Nazis, to be racially inferior subhumans. May 4 is the Holocaust Remembrance Day, and on April 18, Southern invited Mila Nishball to speak to students about her experiences as a Holocaust survivor.

“Mila Nishball lives independently, cooks for her family, drives and volunteers in the community. She is considered by her six children/stepchildren and 18 grandchildren and great-grandchildren to be the matriarch of our family,” said Deborah Weiss, communication disorders professor and Nishball’s daughter. “Her memories will be especially meaningful to you students since she was the same age as you are now when she went through these horrific experiences.”

Nishball was born 30 miles outside of Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1921. She said she has many fond memories of a comfortable, middle-class childhood. Her father was a businessman and she called herself a “spoiled brat.” Nishball’s childhood ended in when the Nazis marched into Prague in 1939.

“I always felt that the love and security of my childhood helped me overcome the tragedies of my life. It gave me optimism and helped me appreciate each day as the best day of my life,” said Nishball to a large crowd of students. “I forgot many things, but I never forgot when the Germans occupied our beautiful country. I ran from one classroom to another and wrote on all the blackboards: ‘It’s better to die standing up than living kneeling down.’ And I still feel that way.”

Soon after the German occupation, more and more laws restricted her freedoms. Her parents heard of a young man in Prague that had an American visa. He was looking for a family to pay for his trip back to the U.S. In return, he would take their daughter with him. Nishball’s family paid for his expenses and arranged their marriage. Six months later, his papers went through and he left Prague.

After her husband left, Nishball’s family lost their business, their car, and their home. They were forced into a ghetto where three families lived in one small space. Her brother enlisted in the Czech army and soon was killed. Her father was arrested by the Germans.

“The last I saw of my father was when they threw him half beaten to death in the courtyard. He swore at the germans. He was a very proud man and died the next day,” said Nishball.

After a year and a half of waiting, Nishball finally received her American visa. She did not say goodbye to her mother, but said “so long,” since they both thought they would see each other again once the war was over. After travelling by ship to New York, Nishball finally met with her husband again. They moved to Bridgeport where he was able to find a job and a three-room apartment. Soon she had her first child and became very depressed because she did not know how to be a mother and wanted help from her parents. Nishball did not like America and longed for her old life in Czechoslovakia.

“Everybody would say: ‘You should kiss the ground you’re walking on. This country saved your life.’ It’s funny how you can forget the bad things and only remember the good,” said Nishball. “Then the war was over and I found out that there was nobody and nothing to go back to. That was when I became a realist. There was no sense in longing for something that could never be. I realized that my life here wasn’t so bad with my family and my friends. I realized that maybe America was the best country in the world.” 

Photo Credit: Taylor Nicole Richards – News Writer

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