Second Interview Insert Key
Introduction of Interviewers
What is your full name?
What was your earliest memory?
And what was it?
Why and when did your family come to Germany ?
It happened right after the First World War. My father was in the Austro-Hungarian army. During the war he was wounded. And many Jews decided around 1918 that it would be easier to make a living in Germany than in Poland. He knew my mother at that time but he was not married. He got to know her older brother who already lived in Germany and had a very successful business so my father moved.
And what year was this?
When you were growing up did your parents consider your family as Polish-Jewish or more German?
No, there was nothing German in our home. My parents spoke Polish. I never learned it. And it was very convenient because we couldn't understand. No we were definitely Polish. We were Jewish first, I would guess, and Polish second.
When did you learn Polish and German?
Did you speak any Yiddish at home?
Did most of the kids in your neighborhood speak German? Any Polish or Yiddish or other languages?
Would you say you enjoyed living in Hamburg, Germany?
don't think I ever gave it much thought. Life was very nice, very comfortable,
until 1933. It was pretty much taken for granted.
Just thinking about the things you took for granted and the good that happened then, can you recount happy or fond memories when you were younger?
We would go on a Sunday to a park and the park had ice cream and coffee and cake and children could play. And, there were no remarks made, nobody took any notice whether you were Jewish or not. It was just a happy carefree life. Specifics? I remember trips to Spain, I remember trips to Italy. I remember trips to Yugoslavia and to Poland. If you were 7, 8 and 9 years old you take it pretty much for granted. You do not think about it, you just accept it. It's taken for granted, which later on we found out was not as natural as we thought.
Do you remember visiting family in Poland?
My Grandmother and my aunts lived in Poland, which is now the Ukraine. The family, by and large, spoke Polish. My cousins went to the university in Warsaw. But already at this early age, Jews had to stand in the last row, they couldn't sit down. They became teachers but they remained in Poland, except for one cousin who went to Palestine.
Did anyone in your family ever consider going to Palestine besides that cousin?
Did you have much contact with your family in America?
Never, no postcards no nothing?
Did your parents care much for family? Did you have contact with them? Were you close with them?
You would visit them?
We would visit. We would go to Poland every three years or so and see the family. I had one cousin and an aunt and an uncle in Germany and my mother's oldest brother in Dresden which was several hours away. My father had two brothers in Berlin. The contact was constant and very close.
What did your parents do for a living?
My father imported and exported wine, wholesale. He did not have a store. I remember the cellars and the huge barrels of wine which had to age and then were filled off into bottles and sold. It must have been a very comfortable living because we never worried about money.
Did any of your other friends have money concerns?
Some did, but the majority did not. I had several friends whose fathers practiced medicine or law, so there were no money concerns. But I had also some friends who lived in a very slum-like area and could not pay the tuition in a private school, and did not bring lunch to school, so we gave them some of our lunch. There were kids that were not well-off, but it was not the rule, it was the exception.
Did you ever feel a sense of sadness when seeing some of your friends living in these slum-like areas?
Well, I felt pity for them because they were dressed differently, they looked differently and they spoke more of a slang rather than a clear language. I noticed the difference in school as a child, but it didn't bother me, it was just accepted. My father used to say, "There will always going to be people who are richer than you are and people that are poorer than you are," and I accepted that.
Did your mother practice any profession?
My mother was educated in a town that was called Lemburg, it's now Lvov. She spoke Polish, German, Yiddish and French. When she was about 22 or 23 she learned to make hats, but she never worked professionally.
Did you spend a lot of time with her at home?
Why did your mother learn to speak French? Was that common among people there?
What do you mean they "spoke German as a matter of course?"
It was the Austro-Hungarian Empire so you had to be bilingual – Polish and German, or German and Polish depending on the government. And French, I would say the middle class spoke French, the upper middle class.
Did you ever learn any French?
What was your relationship between you and your sister?
Would you call yourselves friends?
How did you spend your time with her?
She was five years younger than I was, so she for the most part had her friends, and I had mine. There was really very little time spent that we would spend together. I used to read to her occasionally. We shared the same room. We walked to school together. But our friends were just five years apart in age and we did not share the same friends.
Growing up did you ever feel like a caretaker for her, like just help her out when she was growing up?
What was your first day at school like?
I wanted to go to school. It was a school with roughly five-hundred students. It was frightening. It was intimidating. And the thing I noticed on the first day was that the faculty was rather old—fifty and above.
You mentioned that you were frightened the first day of school. Can you explain that further?
I was not frightened the first day, I was frightened right after Hitler came to power. Because the streets changed, the children changed, everything changed. I started school in 1930, so till '33 nothing happened. It was just a normal walk to school, normal people. And after Hitler came to power, it took less than 90 days. People would call us names and throw stones. And that was frightening.
Can you describe what school life was like before Hitler's rise to power?
It was a very old-fashioned school. The teachers, to me, were ancient, but they were over 50, all of them. It was an Orthodox school in terms of religion, and religion was taught. You had to learn modern Hebrew, you had to be able to translate the Torah, you had to know Hebrew, in addition to everything else. We took it as a matter of fact, we didn't question it. I questioned it when my kids went to school.
No, no private school. I don't know what I would do today, but this was 1970 when I said "no private school." Because, in a sense, a private school, it's different, it has privileges that a public school does not have. And you are really not exposed to the population at large, you are exposed to people of more or less your background, and I didn't want that for my children.
Were you a good student in school?
In the beginning, yes, I was good, I mean average A's and B's. And then as the pressure from outside increased – and we were beaten up and we were harassed, and our parents told us "it's a passing phase, it will normalize" – we worried. And my grades really were terrible at that point. And my parents got private tutors for English, for arithmetic, for German, for just about every subject. And my grades improved, but I just didn't concentrate, I couldn't.
Were your parents very much involved in your education?
Do you recall any friends that you met during school?
No, I'm still in touch with 3 or 4 of them that started first grade with me. They live partly in Israel, there is one in New York. We have very little in common, we have led very different lives. But we are still in touch. I remember their birthday parties. I remember getting dressed up and bringing a present and playing games. But seeing them now and talking to them now, our lives are very different and have been very different, for the most part. Not each and every one, but for the most part.
Can you recall as a child, any activities you enjoyed doing by yourself or with friends?
We liked to go swimming. We belonged to an athletic club for young people. We played various games, board games and other things. We took walks or went to the park when we got permission to go away from home. Nothing very specific, if you put a group of two or three girls together, young girls, they mostly chatter, it's not an organized playtime.
When you were going to places like pools and this club you talked about – though this was before the rise of Hitler – were there any sort of clubs you couldn't join because you were Jewish?
Well, I belonged to Bar Kochbah which was a Jewish club. I could have belonged to a non-Jewish club, but somehow I never did. When we went swimming, the pool was accessible to everybody, I don’t think there was a distinction made between Jews and non Jews. But going to a private Jewish school, my friends were for the most part Jewish.
Do you remember any special occasions that stuck in your mind?
Well, we went to the fair once a year in November, December, had a lot of junk food and sweets and games and roller coasters, and that was great fun. During the High Holidays when the prayer for the dead was recited, children who had parents went outside, so we played in the courtyard and made an awful lot of noise. Occasionally we would go to a bakery and pick out a piece of cake. But money was very carefully distributed once a week, I think it was on Sundays, and it started out with something like a quarter and it increased in terms of five cents a year, or something like that. So you didn't have much money, but you didn't have need for money.