The Only Jewish Kid in Town
Oral History Item Type Metadata
You'd be surprised to hear when I say to school. I was a good academic. No, what we did was -- Göttingen was my mother's hometown. My father and mother had different meeting places that they had agreed upon if they survived the war. One was in Kielce. My mother had actually gone back to Kielce, walked from Germany -- she was liberated not far from Ravensbrück. Walked -- got back, mainly walking, to Kielce, looking for us. Escaped out of Kielce, left Kielce, just a few days before the pogroms after the war, and got back to Göttingen because that's where she had grown up, where my great-grandparents lived, and waited for my father.
I came, and I really had no schooling whatsoever, and we lived in Göttingen. So I was put -- I got a year of private tutoring and then enrolled in the high school in Göttingen -- and was the only Jewish kid in school in that town, the only Jewish kid that anybody in that town, at least the children, had seen: which in itself was an experience, because they always expected to find somebody with a long nose, you know, all the caricature out of Der Stürmer and the other German newspapers.
Initially, it was difficult. One is sort of -- it comes with a certain hatred to the town of the people who did all of this. And initially I had this desire of sitting on my balcony to take a machine gun and shoot everybody. Then gradually you meet the children and their parents, and the abstract of the Germans becomes the reality of human beings, and just sort of gradually shed the hatred and you integrate in the town and in the school.
It helped to -- we spoke about Nansen before. One of the things I didn't mention was that when Nansen's book was published in German, he gave the proceeds of that book to German refugees. And his whole approach to the Holocaust and to the problem was reconciliation, and that made a great impression on me, living on that environment and seeing people who hadn't participated in these killings. But I never really felt at home in any sense in Germany, although I was treated well and made a lot of friends.
Then, in 1951, I came to the United States. I came initially alone, just to stay for one year: came to live with my uncle, who lived in New Jersey, and never went back.