I was born in Breslau, Germany, on February 22, 1928.
My mother was kind, and never laid a hand on me. She made a braid with her long curly black hair and wrapped it around the crown of her head.
My father was a representative for a machine company, traveled, and was seldom home. He was very strict. If I made a mistake, he would hit me on the side of my head or pull down my pants and spank me with a belt. Today, he would be put in jail, but Europeans raised kids much different than Americans. He wanted me to be a lady, and I was a tomboy. I wanted to climb trees. Sitting home and knitting was not my cup of tea.
My little brother was born in the mid 30’s, and he had our mother’s black curls. I felt more neglected when he was born. He died in the concentration camp. There are no records, he just went in and never came out.
My father showed only me a secret compartment behind some bricks in the smoke house. He said if anything happened to him, he was hiding money and jewelry there for us. He told me not to tell – not even Mother.
When I was eight, I went to see if my friend Julie could come out and play. Her mother answered the door and yelled, “No she can’t, and don’t ever come back here again!” I ran home crying and repeating, “I hate them, I hate them.”
My mother told me, “Never say hate. They are foolish people. Bad men are putting things in their ears. They are afraid. We just pray differently. Jesus was like a Rabbi to us. People were afraid of him too and killed him just like they would a criminal. Never be afraid of who you are.” She taught me not to be hateful.
I was only allowed to go to school until I was ten.
Things got terrible for Jews in Germany. We couldn’t sit on park benches, and many stores would not sell us goods and food. A lady with a vegetable street cart, who always sold to my mother, could not sell to us anymore, but she hid a sack of vegetables for us to take in the night. We were happy to have them even though they were too rotten for her to sell.
It became very difficult for Mother to feed us. . I remember a man who would come to our house. I had to go into another room and shut the door until he was gone. When he left, we had food.
When I was fourteen, they came to take my mother to a forced labor camp. She pleaded for me to go in her place. At the moment, I was glad to do it, but later, “How could she?” I’ve never forgiven her for that.
They first took me to a camp with only tents and benches. I was later transferred to a camp in Czechoslovakia. They told us we were digging tank stops, but today, I think it was mass graves. The Czech’s seemed kinder than the Germans. They felt sorry for us, and would throw their half eaten apples on the ground so we could eat what was left.
When I was fifteen, a SS guard raped me. I fought hard, but lost; I was a young girl, and he was a big grown man. I have scars from fighting him, and I almost lost my left eye. For days, I could not stop crying. A lady who shared my bunk told me to let it go. She said I was young and could survive if only I forgot what happened.
From then on, we had mainly women guards, who could be mean, but it was better than before.
At seventeen, I was liberated by the Russians and allowed to go home. The only things I’ve stolen in my life was a pair of boots and a big blanket I needed for the several week walk to home in Breslau. May was cold. I hoped for my mother, my brother, my father, the flower pots, but there was nothing – only one synagogue remained. It was a dead city.
I remembered the secret hiding place and convinced a building guard to allow me into the rubble of our house, because I had no other place to live. As promised, my father left a small amount of money, an amethyst necklace, and a ring I later gave to my daughter.
The exquisite necklace is my only childhood keepsake.
To be continued.