b. Munich, Germany, 1928
Like many German Jews, my family lived in Germany for many generations. They were well known in the Jewish community in Munich. My father was a business man—a partner in the family business and a war veteran. He used to say that the Nazis would never harm a veteran who fought for Germany.
As the Nazi movement grew bit by bit, neither the German Jews nor the governments of other countries faced its growing strength. Anti-Jewish incidents were happening all over Germany as early as 1933 and 1934, but my family ignored them and felt it would pass.
In 1934, when I was six years old, I was not allowed to enroll in a German school, so I went to our Jewish school in Munich. Each year there were more incidents, such as boycotts of Jewish businesses and vandalism of Jewish stores. Some of my family members who lived in small towns were forced out of their homes by the Hitler Youth and had to relocate to a larger town.
I remember one summer day going to an outdoor restaurant where my father was slapped in the face and told, “Jews are not wanted here.” Still my father insisted that this was not serious. “It will pass, ” he said.
Then in 1937 the main synagogue of Munich was burned down—utterly destroyed. Now there were family conferences about whether it was time to leave. It was so hard to decide. We were comfortable among our friends and family, and Germany was a beautiful country. The Alps were only a few hours away, and we spent winters and summers there. So far, our nice lives were not too inconvenienced.
But on November 9, 1938—Kristallnacht—the decision was made for us. That night, we heard on the radio that a lot of Jewish businesses were destroyed and Jewish people were rounded up. The next morning, my father received a phone call at five o'clock from a loyal employee of his business telling him to leave immediately, because the Gestapo was arresting all Jewish males in Munich. My mother agreed that he should leave and send for us later. So my father left with a friend for the country. I went off to school with my friend. We saw nothing unusual during our walk, until we came near the school, when we smelled smoke. Sure enough, our school was burning while the Hitler Youth watched and cheered.
At ten years old, I could not comprehend why anyone would do such a horrible thing. I was also very angry.