Grizzly cub, Snow

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Throwback Thursday

T.S.S. Nea Hellas

My father, Amos Sommers, arrived in America in 1939. He came over from Piraeus on the Greek ship Nea Hellas.  The Nea Hellas was originally the Turbine Steam Ship Tuscania but was rechristened the year of my father's passage, 1939, the year the Nazis started their campaign  across Europe. Later she served as a troop transport. She was targeted by torpedo twice by an Italian submarine, and attacked three times by Nazi aircraft in the Mediterranean, she completed her wartime service without the loss of a single life. Eventually she was rechristened the T.S.S. New York.

The TSS Nea Hellas / New York the ship of dreams for thousands seeking freedom and a new life in America

"...Coming to America was the dream of millions. The Greek Line passenger ship, Nea Hellas was the ship of dreams to thousands fleeing Nazi Germany, Greeks and other Europeans yearning for freedom and the bridge to a new life in America. During World War II she served as an allied troopship. After the war she resumed her service on the Piraeus New York route, until 1955 when she was renamed the New York, and served the northern Europe to America route."

My father was 12 years old. His name was then Amos Kaitz. Kaitz means summer in Hebrew, his native language. My father was born in 1926, in Tel Aviv. Accompanying him on the ship was my grandmother Pessia and his four year old sister Tirtzia, known forever as Terry. My eyes may be deceiving me but I believe that one can see a tiny jewish star next to his name on the naturalization slip he received after the war.

Pessia, who we called Pessa, may have actually been named Pola. She came from the town of Wyszkow in Poland, from a very large family, the great majority of whom were later decimated at Auschwitz. According to some family lore, Pessia was the name of a deceased older sister.

My father described the ship as very spartan. My grandfather Israel, must have already been here, working for a time as a chicken farmer in New Jersey and then finally with Uncle Julius in Detroit. My father enlisted in the U.S. army in 1945 as a 19 year old with a year of college at UCLA behind him. He was reticent to say much about the war but I heard some stuff at a family gathering between older relatives that was pretty hush hush.

He went back to school after the war and graduated from UCLA in 1950. He played football, soccer and wrestled there and met my mother Adelle Roberts as well, who was in the UCLA Theater Arts department.

My father now resides in an Alzheimer's group home in the Central Valley of California.


The Jesus Of Existential Meltdowns said...


Helen Bauch McHargue said...

So that's where your name came from. Your father is a fascinating man - so many accomplishments. It's great to see you back - will you be doing this every Thursday?

Blue Heron said...

Who knows, Helen?