Jewish connections in my family
My mother had one really good friend very much alike herself as I understood. My uncles had some friends. They went hiking, had a pint of beer together in a pub or at home. They exchanged ideas being glad to find out that they agreed with each other about almost all the important questions and problems they were interested in.
Aunt Ilse had lived and been brought up in a different family structure, in a much more liberal atmosphere, I think. She was used to discussing, to giving her opinion, she did not hesitate to contradict in the conversation with her husband's brothers and I am sure this was an attitude her husband was fond and even proud of.
Unfortunately my mother was not used to give a different point of view directly, she did so only after the persons she disagreed with had left. A trait of character due to experiences in her childhood and adolescence that had stamped her for ever.
My grandparents had always been politically conservative, and so were their children. They had sympathized with the German Emperor, they were convinced that the Emperor' s decisions were right, just and good for his people. They trusted him.
After the Revolution of 1918 in the Republic of Weimar they voted for the Conservatives, except for Uncle Herman. He voted for the Social Democrats and became a member of their party.
During the years of the Great Depression the youngest son Kurt desperately tried to find a bank which would accept him and give him a post for his professional training, but in vain. So he asked his brother Hermann if he could help him. Hermann talked to his father-in-law who solved the problem by explaining the situation to the responsible persons of his savings-bank and Uncle Kurt could start working there.
For the first weeks or months Uncle Herman and Aunt Ilse offered him to live with them until he would have found a room of his own.
When I was about 17 years old, in the middle of the 1950's Uncle Kurt explained to me that it had been in those weeks or months that he had begun to hate Jews because, according to his word, he began to hate his sister-in-law who, due to his experiences in those days, was a terrible person with unbearable character and behaviour. Well, there are people who don't get along well together, but his opinion is a harsh judgement and shows a complete lack of self-criticism. Unfortunately he found the only explanation for his experiences in the fact that his sister-in-law was Jewish. He left the couple in everlasting hostility.
You can believe me that I feel very sorry, that I am deeply ashamed for such an unbelievable outbreak of Anti-Semitism that must latently have grown in him for a long time, in a person of my family who I had loved when I was a child. With this argumentation he wanted me to understand why he did not want his daughter who lived with her mother to have any contact with his brother and his wife.
Uncle Kurt joined the Nazi party and it was only a few years ago that his former wife told me that she had gone to see him during the 2nd World War in Auschwitz.
My mother had married my father in 1937 and I was born in 1939.
As my father was a baker and ran a big bakery together with two of my mother's brothers, my mother was very busy working in the shop and in her household, including the preparation of meals for lunch for everybody working in the bakery. All this gave her convincing excuses not to take part in the NS Frauenschaft meetings, especially after my father had had to go to war.
My grandmother died in 1942 and it was hard to convince Aunt Ilse not to take part in the funeral for her own security. Strehlen was a small town where people remembered well that she was Jewish She had always been a very self-confident woman and it must have been hard for her to consider carefully the potential risks of her actions and to submit under the restricting and threatening Nazi rules.
At that time the couple lived in Breslau, a big city, where people were relatively anonymous. Being a Social Democrat, Uncle Hermann was arrested one day the course of 1943 or 1944 for political reasons. He was sent to a concentration camp or forces labor camp in the middle of Germany, close to the town of Nordhausen. There he had to work in the Mine Dora where the Nazis had Hitler' miraculous V2 weapon built by the prisoners. Thank God my uncle survived, but he did not talk to the family about that time.
Meanwhile Aunt lisp lived alone in the apartment always afraid of the noise of heavy boots coming upstairs to catch her. In autumn 1944 she was arrested and taken to a collecting point, a camp still in town or close to it, where the Jews were taken to before they were sent to concentration camps.
Fortunately my aunt had somehow managed to inform her husband's eldest brother who lived in the same city.
Immediately this man came to the collecting point, managed to talk to the officer in charge, negotiated with him and succeeded in gelling Aunt Ilse free. Nobody knew what the motives of this Nazi officer were to let her go, perhaps a sudden friendly frame of mind.
For my aunt it was a wonder as well as for all of us, but it was nothing and nobody my aunt could rely on if she was taken there again.
From that moment on she knew she could no longer stay in her flat in Breslau. So she asked my mother if she could come to live with us. I don't know if my mother hesitated for a minute in consideration of the risks she was going to take for all of us. But she agreed.
After Hitler's assumption of power in 1933 life for the Jewish population in Germany and later in the European countries that were occupied by the Nazis became more and more difficult for Aunt Ilse, her parents and her husband a time of more and more severe restrictions began.
For the Christian partner of a Jewish/Christian married couple the Nazi officials offered the possibility of divorce. Unfortunately Uncle Hermann's brothers recommended him to do so, a divorce on time that would not last long, Hitler's time would soon be over, this would be the best for both of them. They talked to their brother, in-good-faith, still trusting national authorities. They could not imagine the fatal consequences such a step would have meant for their sister-in-law.page 3