Gunther Samuel of Port Washington recalls how he met Ilse, his wife of 72 years.
In 1939, with my uncle in New York acting as my sponsor, I was fortunate enough to have been released from the German labor camp I was sent to by the Nazis. I had been separated from my parents, who were taken to another camp. We were originally from a suburb outside of Berlin.
After a lengthy and emotional journey, I arrived in New York City with a limited knowledge of English and not more than $10 in my pocket. All of my family’s belongings had been confiscated by the Nazis. I was 22.
My first job was with a fluorescent-lighting manufacturer, where I was trained to install lighting fixtures in department stores. I settled into a low-rent apartment on the Upper West Side. The money I made enabled me to venture out and socialize with new acquaintances.
Eventually, I mustered up the confidence to go out and enjoy some much-needed, long-lasting female companionship. It was at Cafe Vienna in Manhattan in 1944 that my dream came true. I asked a beautiful young lady, Ilse Adler, to dance. Ilse was also 22 and happened to share a common bond — she, too, was a Holocaust survivor. In her hometown of Frankfurt, Germany, she had experienced some of the Nazis’ atrocities but was fortunate enough to leave on the Kindertransport, an organized effort to bring Jewish refugee children to Britain just before World War II.
She lived in England for five years before coming to New York. Unlike me, Ilse was able to reunite with her entire family in New York. My hopes to one day rejoin my parents faded in 1941, when the United States officially entered the war. I tried to go through the State Department to obtain their release, but all channels were closed. They, very sadly, met their fate when they were sent to an extermination camp outside of Germany.
I was very motivated to get to know Ilse better with each passing day. Due to my limited financial resources, our dates primarily consisted of lengthy and deep conversations on park benches. Over the next two years, with each meeting, we fell more in love. It was nothing short of wonderful and very fulfilling.
Ilse’s parents were the source of tremendous encouragement, and on Jan. 27, 1946, we got married. In addition, I was very fortunate to land a job with the Alfred Mainzer greeting card company as an independent salesman. I worked for the company for 55 years and retired in 2000, when I was 82. Ilse also sought employment and worked in an administrative capacity at Saks Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. She left that position in 1949 when we started our family.
In 1962, we moved from Manhattan to Jamaica Estates, Queens, where we purchased a house and raised our two sons. They have blessed us with three beautiful granddaughters. Sadly, one of our sons passed away three years ago.
Since 2011, Ilse and I have lived in a wonderful senior citizen community, the Amsterdam at Harborside in Port Washington. I celebrated my 100th birthday in October 2017, and on Saturday, Ilse and I were proud to have celebrated our 72nd wedding anniversary, two wonderful milestones not afforded to many. We celebrated both occasions with our family.
— With Virginia Dunleavy