Thursday, November 24, 2016

Grandpa Ralph in Germany during the Nazi rule

Based on Wikipedia:
The Nuremberg Rally was the annual rally of the Nazi Party in Germany, held from 1923 to 1938. They were large Nazi propaganda events, especially after Hitler's rise to power in 1933.

These events were held at the Nazi party rally grounds in Nuremberg, where Grandpa grew up, from 1933 to 1938. Grandpa remembers seeing Hitler march down the streets of his hometown.

Grandpa had a few stories that involved encounters with Nazis, and most of them involved things that he did that could have gotten him into a lot of trouble, but didn't, or told how he outsmarted them, or made the Nazis look foolish. I think that he was trying to shield us from the terrible things that happened and he thought that these stories would give us a little idea of what went on in Germany without scaring us too much.

Rudy the Fuhrer

Grandpa was a leader in an Ezra youth group in Nuremberg. One time, he took his group for a walk in the forest. There was another youth group in the forest at the time. They were called Hitler Youth. When the two groups bumped into each other, the leader of the Hitler Youth asked Grandpa, "Who is the Fuhrer?" Now fuhrer means leader, but it was also used to refer to Hitler. Grandpa answered, "I am," meaning that he was the leader of his group, but the Hitler Youth took it as an insult to Hitler.

The two groups got into a fight and the police came and took everyone down to the police station. They let the Hitler Youth go home first and then the Ezra boys, but they kept Grandpa there for a little while longer before letting him go. Grandpa said that they thought the story was funny. I've never been sure whether Grandpa gave his answer seriously, thinking that that was what they meant, or whether he just had a lot of chutzpa!

Rudy and the Nazi soldiers

One day, when Grandpa was a teenager, he and his family were at home when Nazi soldiers came barging into the house. They smashed some items in the house, included their bookcase windows, ruined some books, and demanded any money in the house.

This happened just before the family was going to go on vacation to Marienbad (for an intersesting look at the place of Marienbad and other spas in German Jewish Culture see )and they had taken a fairly large amount of money out of the bank to pay for the vacation. The family gave the Nazis some of the money that was easy to find, but there was more hidden away. The soldiers gave them a receipt and said that they would give them the money back, but the family knew that it wasn't true. The soldiers then left, saying that they would be back.

Grandpa convinced his parents to let him hide the money in his pocket. When the soldiers returned, they searched the house, but did not search Grandpa's pockets. If they had, Grandpa would have been in big trouble!

Rudy Escaping from the Nazis

Before Grandpa left Germany, he went to visit his Uncle Arthur (Forst) to try to convince him to leave also. Arthur was a lawyer, and one of his clients was a very powerful Nazi leader, Joseph Goebbels. Arthur was convinced that because of this, he would be safe and the Nazis wouldn't harm him. Unfortunately, he was wrong and he was killed in the concentraition camp in Auschwitz. Arthur's wife Eva and his two children did make it to the US, and I remember spending time with them when they visited us when we were children.

Grandpa left Germany in December, 1938, a month after Kristallnacht, "the night of the broken glass." The name Kristallnacht comes from the shards of broken glass that littered the streets after the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings, and synagogues were smashed. Jewish homes, hospitals, and schools were ransacked, as the attackers demolished buildings with sledgehammers. Over 1,000 synagogues were burned (95 in Vienna alone) and over 7,000 Jewish businesses destroyed or damaged.

Grandpa told us that when he boarded the train to take him to the ship that would carry him to the United States, a Nazi soldier carried his bags for him and lifted them up onto the luggage racks. Grandpa said he didn't know whether the soldier felt sorry for him or whether he didn't realize that Grandpa was a Jew who was leaving the country.

Jews who left Germany were not allowed to take much with them. He bought two fairly expensive items to sell when he got to the US, a camera and an accordion. When he got to the US, the customs officials wanted to be sure that he brought them for his own personal use. After they questioned him about the items, Grandpa picked up the accordion and started dancing around the customs office, playing it. When the customs officials asked him to stop, he just went on playing. He was having too much fun.

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