GIVAT AVODA, SAALFELDEN, THE ALPINE PEACE CROSSING
My first visit to Givat Avoda in Saalfelden was not enjoyable. I didn’t like the place. It took me almost 35 years to realize how important this place is for my family heritage. A personal account by Gal Talit.
y mother, Bilha Talit – in those days known as Bella Klein – is a Holocaust survivor from the Kaunas ghetto in Lithuania and the Stutthof concentration camp. Even though she never told us what she went through during the Holocaust, our family heard stories about her life in Givat Avoda, which is the Displaced Persons camp located in Saalfelden. We always knew that in addition to being a teacher at the camp, she was a member of the Bricha organization. As part of this activity, she crossed the Alps from Austria to Italy several times, accompanying groups of Holocaust survivors who were on their way to Israel (then still Palestine). We always knew that our parents (my father was originally from Palestine/Israel) met each other at the camp, fell in love and had their wedding ceremony in the camp's main dining room. One story in particular stands out from my mother's accounts about the Alp crossings. I do not know if this actually happened. Mother said that on one of her journeys across the Alps, on her way back from Italy to Austria, she sank
into the deep snow at the top of the mountain, one foot in Austria and one foot in Italy, and could not continue walking. Her friends from the Bricha, whom she was accompanying, had to pull her out of the snow while leaving her boots in it. Only then did they manage to extract her boots out of the deep snow and continue their journey back to the camp in Saalfelden.
Bilha (Bella Klein) and Moshe Talit on their wedding day at Givat Avoda, April 20, 1948
I first visited Givat Avoda camp in Saalfelden in the summer of 1973 as a child. It was the first time my parents had returned to Austria since leaving it in 1948. As part of our tour, we visited Saalfelden and searched for the Displaced Persons camp. My mother and father were very excited to visit the place, but I, as a child, found our visit to the camp very boring. Although the technologies available to us today did not exist in 1973, we were able to locate the Austrian lady who worked as a cook in Givat Avoda back when they resided there. We even met her and her family in the village of Seefeld in Tirol to where she had moved and had opened a family restaurant. Following this visit, for several years afterwards, mother and father met with the cook every time they visited Austria. For many years, I kept in touch with her youngest son, who was close to my age. That was the end of my 1973 experience of visiting the Saalfelden DP camp. I did not find the place interesting. At the time, I did not know how significant this place would become for me in the future.