My Father’s Foresight
After seeing the movie Into the Arms of Strangers, which dealt with the Kindertransport, I realized that, had it not been for my Father’s foresight, I could have been one of those children. I regret not having asked more questions while my parents were alive. I now want to put together the bits and pieces of my family history that I can recall, or for which I have documentation, so that my children and grandchildren will know something about their background.
My father was a physician in Nürnberg, Germany. When Hitler came into power in 1933, my father immediately wanted to leave the country. My mother, an only child, did not want to leave her parents, who lived in Augsburg, Germany. At that time, my father made no definite plans to leave Germany but looked into countries to which we might emigrate. I can see from the entries in his passport that he had traveled to France, Spain and Portugal. He and my mother had a coded language so he could let her know in his letters how the situations were in those countries. He would write about the weather. “Sunny weather” meant things looked good, and “bad weather” meant the opposite. When he wrote her from Portugal, he said, “It is pouring.”
On April 24, 1934, one of my father’s non-Jewish patients received an official warning from the local German authorities. He gave it to my father. It concerned his “being treated by Jewish doctors” and said, “I have found out that you are being treated by a Jewish doctor. Germans go only to German doctors. The Jew is not a German. To explain further, you are getting your Welfare from the Germans, not from the Jews, whom we are allowing to live in Germany. I hope that this explanation is enough so that in the future you will allow yourself to be treated as a German. I will be watching to see the result of my suggestion and warning, and, if my suggestion is not taken, we will have to deal with this differently. Heil Hitler!”
After reading this letter, my father knew that he had to leave Germany as soon as possible, since he would no longer be able to continue his medical practice there. My parents left Nürnberg on November 5, 1934, to go to Hamburg, Germany. There they boarded the steamship Albert Ballin on November 8, 1934, and arrived in New York on November 16. My father was fortunate that he emigrated early enough to have his medical degree from Germany honored in the United States. Although both of my parents had learned to speak English in Germany, my father volunteered at the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital in order to familiarize himself with how things were done there and, at the same time, to stay active in the field of medicine.
Since they did not know just what would happen when they came to the United States, my parents left me, at age six, with my mother’s parents in Augsburg, Germany. I stayed with them for two years, during which time I attended school there.
In September 1936, my grandparents and I went to Rotterdam, Holland, and boarded the steamship Statendam to come to the United States to join my parents. I have only one memory about this trip. One morning, I was seasick and did not want anything to eat. My grandmother insisted. I obeyed and drank some orange juice, and I still have a vivid recollection of the orange juice coming out of my nose! I was told that, when we arrived in New York and I saw the Statue of Liberty, I remarked, “Look, the lady is making ‘Heil Hitler’.”
My parents did not want my grandparents to return to Germany. They wanted them to go to Canada and then re-enter this country as legal immigrants. But my grandparents stayed with us for about one month and then returned to Germany because my grandfather did not want to leave his cheese business there. Finally on March 7, 1941, my grandparents were able to leave Germany via Lisbon, Portugal in the S.S. Sibonay to come to the United States. They arrived in New York on March 27, 1941.