As the Nazis began enforcing their discrimination laws, my father was working at the post office. Since he was born Protestant, they gave him the option of divorcing his wife in order to keep his job. He refused to do this and he was fired. Shortly after, he was sent to do forced labor, first at a communications company, then in Magdeburg to work on an air force base. My mother was then sent to do forced labor making parachutes in a factory. At that time, I was 8 years old and was left to fend for myself. As my name and appearance were not obviously Jewish, I tried to blend in as much as possible, staying out of areas where I was known.
There is a specific moment during this time that I believe saved my life. I was walking down a street when a Hitler Youth recognized me as being Jewish and confronted me. The youth took out a knife and put it to my neck, threatening me. In self-defense, I beat the young person up, so badly that I remember being unsure if I had killed him. He ran away and never returned to that part of town again. (I later found out that I had not killed the youth.)
I went to stay with my father’s brother in Falkenberg. It was a small village, with a one-room school that I attended. This lasted about one year, until the S.S. units moved into the town. The commander of the unit chose my uncle’s house as his place to stay, and my uncle had him share a room with me. This made me very uncomfortable and after one night I decided to leave.
From there, I went on to Zeuthen and stayed with another relative on my father’s side. I stayed there for about a year and left around the end of 1943. I then went back to Berlin, to areas where I wasn’t known. I took shelter in a bombed out building, collected food and money in what every ways possible. I also carried suitcases at the railroad for people in exchange for food or money. Sometimes I would also jump onto moving trains to steal coal to exchange for food.
I survived this way until finally my father escaped from where he was being kept and made his way back to Berlin. Luckily, we reunited at a family friend’s house. This was right around the time that the Russian army began moving into Germany. This time was quite terrifying.
After the war, my mother returned as well and we moved in with relatives and began putting our lives back together. My father eventually found work, and this enabled us to live on our own in the Russian sector of Berlin. However, we could not apply to come to the United States. while living there, so we moved to the U.S. sector of Berlin. From there, we were able to come to the United States in 1949 as Displaced Persons, and settled in New York City.