Berman’s Branches
Barbara Hacker Berman
Articles - No Ordinary Case of the Flu

In 1918 the USA, and around the world, were hit with a terrible strain of the flu. People died left and right. It was called the Spanish Flu, but it did not originate in Spain.

The first wave of the flu struck soldiers in Europe in the spring of 1918. The strain was lethal. It is estimated that around 30 million deaths came from this flu. More than 25% of the American population became ill. Public gatherings were curtailed, schools were closed; terror rained.

Although she died March 1, 1919, my grandmother, Bella Swerdloff Druse, was a victim. They lived in Philadelphia, at that time. I have visited her grave there. I am her namesake. How would my mother’s life, and her siblings, been different, if she lived?

It is believed that my grandfather, Israel Druse, left Philadelphia to go to New Jersey where some of Bella’s relatives lived. It was not uncommon, at that time, for widowers to parcel out their children so they could work. Fay and Renee went to live as “helpers” with other families. Harold and Florence were put into the AJHS Brooklyn Hebrew Orphan Asylum Hebrew Orphan Asylum. Harold resided there for several years until he was old enough to work. Florence lived there for many years, getting an education as a milliner.