By the time 1938 came, one began to realise that one would have to emigrate sooner or later, and everybody was looking around for relatives abroad, particularly the United States and so on, where one could find somebody, because, at that time, if it was to the United States, one had to have a guarantee from, from a relative in the United States that they would be responsible to the US Government for the person who was going to come.
Right. I, we did find a very very distant relative from my mother’s side, in the United States, and in fact, it so happened that on the eve of the Kristall night, I was writing a letter to that relative in America, to whom I had, neither I nor my mother, had ever written in all our life, so it was a bit of a difficult letter, but right, I was late in going to bed. By about half past four in the morning, the doorbell at our house rang. I looked out of the window, and I saw a couple of dozen Storm Troopers outside the house, demanding that we open the house.
I said, already, before, who lived in the house. It was my father, my mother, myself, a distant uncle, Fritz Ansbacher, his wife Selma, their eldest, their eldest son Wilhelm, who was my business partner, their daughter, Elsie, and their youngest son, Max.
Now, it’s, I woke up my father and my mother, I woke up, I went downstairs to wake up Fritz Ansbacher and his family, now, it so happened, both, I mentioned that before, Fritz Ansbacher had a revolver, I owned a revolver, and for some time we had made up our mind that if ever anything should happen again, of an arrest, we would not allow ourselves to be arrested peacefully, we would shoot it out and whatever happened, happened.
So I went down, woke up Fritz, said to him, “Fritz, get your gun out. This is it.” So, at the last minute, probably, in the, in the afterthought, he was right, he said, “I’m not going to shoot. I’m not going to be part of defending the house.” We had made plans, one of us would protect the back door, the other one will protect the front door, and fire at anybody who wanted to come in.
So, at that time, there was a death penalty for Jewish people owning firearms, so as Fritz refused to, to go ahead with our plan of defending ourselves, the only other thing that could be done, was to get rid of the guns. While the Storm Troopers were battering at the house door, I went up into the loft, and I managed to hide the two revolvers with all the ammunition, up in the rafters, and while I was up there, they had, of course, broken into the house, but I managed to come down from the loft, just in time, that they didn’t see me, where I was.
So as I came out there, they were already coming upstairs, and they were behaving really like, how should I say? Terribly offensive, they were hitting everything, there was a dog in the house, who really was a very, a very vicious dog, and they kicked that dog, in such a way that that dog, for a week afterwards, that dog didn’t come out of the corner.
So the first thing that, they were hitting my father, and my father got, lost the hearing in one ear, he had blood coming out of his ear, then they hit my grand, I forgot to mention, my grandmother from Ansbach, who was my mother’s mother, had been with us, or staying with us for two weeks already, because she had been forced to sell her house in Ansbach, so she was, at that time, about 74, or 75 years old, and they hit her with a rubber truncheon, all across the face, right over her eyes, and her face swoll up, swelled up, and she was later on, in medical, under medical attention, and she almost lost the sight of her eyes.
But when I saw that they were hitting my grandmother, I told them they were behaving in a despicable manner, and then they were trying to go for me, and the leader of the Storm Troopers who, who I knew from sight, he was in the Head Post Office, on the parcel counter, he, he was trying to hit me and then I hit him back, and I knocked two of these teeth down his, his, knocked two of his teeth out, and after that, he and three others took me to my bedroom, they locked the door, and they went for me, and I never thought I would get out alive.
They had, first they hit me while I was lying on the bed, and knocked me to the ground, they kicked me with their feet.
Eventually, one of the men, one of the other Storm Troopers said to that fellow who was in the Post Office, “I think he’s had enough, let him go now.” So they did stop. I came out. So, by, I don’t know how long that whole thing lasted, but I know, but by about half past five or six o’clock, all of us who had been in the house, were frogmarched to the Nazi Party head office, headquarters in Landshut, where the other Jewish people from Landshut had already, were already there, when we got there.
We were, the Commander in that Nazi Party headquarters asked, “Had there been any incident in connection with our arrest?” So that fellow from the Post Office, who was the Storm Troop leader, said “No.” Because there was another law, that if you resisted arrest, or if you attacked any member of the Nazi Party physically, you were attacking their, the system of the State, and that there was death penalty on that as well.
So, however, I assumed that the man, being there with 20 armed, heavily armed men, was ashamed that he would allow a Jew to hit him in the face, so he said, “No, there were no incidents.” So we were there, by about 2 o’clock in the afternoon, the women were allowed to go back to the house, and we men were taken to the local prison, but the leader of the Nazi, of the Storm Trooper, of the local Nazi Party, I have mentioned him before, he was the one who had his eye on Fritz Ansbacher’s sports car, and got it, he said to our women, before they went home
“You may not find your house in the same condition as you left it.”
By God, he was right. When my mother, and when they all came home, they had absolutely vandalised the house, as far as our own part of the building was concerned. They had slashed all the curtains with their knives and daggers, they had poured all the jam pots, the fruit preserves in tins, and jars, they emptied it all over the carpets, which were in a total mess. They smashed up a complete dinner set, every plate, every dish, every cup, every saucer, smashed up. They, they smashed up my gramophone, my record player, it was an old-fashioned gramophone in those days, and they broke all my records, so the house must have been in a terrible mess.
We, we men never saw it, but I know that when my mother came home, and told us afterwards, that some of our non-Jewish neighbours, who have a look at the house after the Storm Troopers had withdrawn from it, people seemed to have broken out into tears, and cried, because they said they had never seen anything like that, anywhere. So, right, that was the scene at our house.
As I said, we men were taken to the local prison, it was a Friday morning, and we were in that prison until Sunday or Monday, and then we were taken by bus, a small mini bus, to Dachau concentration camp. We arrived, and the normal procedure, I don’t think one can call it a normal procedure, the concentration camp procedure, which is, by now, well-known, took place, you arrived, you were shouted at, you, you had to go in, you had to undress, after undressing, you walked through a shower room where the prisoners had to stand up against the wall, and, and the camp guards were on the other side with a fire hose, and they were supposed to spray you, that one didn’t have any, that one came clean into that camp, but it wasn’t the body they sprayed at, it was, they sprayed people right into the face, and they shouted, “Open your mouth”, and they’d direct these sprays right at the open mouth. So I opened my mouth properly, it may have taken half a minute, or something like that.
Well, on we went. We got our camp uniform, our prisoners uniform, ah… which was all striped cotton uniforms. Remember this was, by that time, we were in the middle of November, in a very cold winter, and I couldn’t believe that this was going to, the kind of clothes I was going to wear in the camp. I, I, later on spoke to somebody, one of the Capos, and I said, “When are we going to get our winter uniform?”
He said, “This is your winter uniform. You’d better wash yourself cold every morning, to toughen yourself up, because this is what you’re going to wear.” He said, “They have two sorts of uniforms. They have warm ones which the prisoners get in summer, and they have cotton (cool) uniforms, which the prisoners have to wear in winter.”
So our clothes, clothing, consisted of a shirt, a pair of short under, underpants, no vest, nothing, cotton trousers, a cotton jacket, and that was it, and the prisoners, one of these prisoners caps.
So right, we, we were, I can’t remember my block number, I think it was Block l6, where we were allocated. It was huts which were constructed to hold probably between 70 and 100 people, and there were about 250-300 people in each hut, so we were sleeping, partly on bunks, partly on the floor, on straw, so obviously, there was not much sleeping at night, because we were lying across each other.
That night, when we arrived, the Viennese transport arrived, and they had even been dealt with even harsher than we were, they arrived with, I think with three dead, in, in the railway carriages, and one or two of them had gone, apparently gone, lost their mind and so on. So eventually, we settled down in the camp, to a routine.
The routine consisted of getting up at 5 or half past 5 in the morning, getting washed, then collecting the breakfast food, which was some very thin soup, or something or other, which had to be collected in the cookhouse. After that, at 8, by 7 o’clock, all prisoners marched out of their, from their huts, up to the, to the roll call place, which was opposite the camp Commander’s office. There we stood, usually an hour, before the camp Commander decided to come down and take the, take the roll call.
Every person who was in the camp, every prisoner, had to go out there. If they were ill, they had to be dragged out, they had to be led out, they had to go out there, leaning on other people, shoulder, it didn’t matter what, whether they had a temperature or not, we had people who collapsed and died on the roll call, and if, as it happened, very often, some of the SS men made the mistake in checking, in checking the number of the people who were lined up
Therefore the roll call, they had to do it once or twice over again, the longer, the more often they counted, the longer it took till the camp Commander came down to take the roll call. So, if one was lucky, by 8, half past eight, he came down, took the call, and marched off.
Dachau was only about 30 kilometres from where we lived, so I think there were something like, probably 20,000 Jews, prisoners arrived at Dachau concentration camp, between the 9th, or 10th November, and about l3th or l4th, so obviously there was nothing to do, except that one had to march up and down, and up and down, and up and down the camp streets, and then they were saying, “The Jews should sing while they’re marching.” They thought that would break our heart. So I would, we sang, we felt singing was one way of keeping up our morale, so we all sang very lustily, the next order was, “Jews to stop singing”, because they realised it was building up our morale.
So we were taken to, then we had to make physical exercises, to pass the time, which usually had to be done by a Capo, the man who was in charge of our camp hut, and usually some SS personnel was there supervising. Now, for us younger people at that time, I was coming on for 30 years of age, exercise meant nothing, I could do them, but it was a different story for people who were 50, and 60, and 70, because they had to do the same kind of exercises, and whenever somebody collapsed and broke down, you were not allowed to help them.
It so happened one day, that my father collapsed next to me, during the exercises, and, of course, I lifted him up. The next thing, the SS man shouts at me, “Why are you lifting up that Jew?” I said, “He is my father.” I suppose the man was decent enough, because he turned his back and walked away, because if he had stayed on, according to camp regulations, he would have had to report me as insubordinate behaviour, and that would have meant the bunker.( where physical punishment was carried out) So, I suppose the man was decent enough to say, “Well, it’s his father.” So he turned his back and walked away, he didn’t want to see it. So, my father got over it.
And these things happened, one of the things which we could organise, was the collection of, the collection of the food. The food, there was the breakfast, there was the lunch, and there was tea in the afternoon, or evening, rather. All meals were very very meagre, but it had to be collected from the cookhouse.
The procedure in the cookhouse was as follows. There were three people had to go to collect two big urns of whatever food was being dished out, so one man walked on either side, carried, holding the handle of an urn, and the one in the middle held the handle of two urns, so you, one arrived at the cookhouse, and as one went in, there were always SS men standing behind the door, which kicked you in the back, so you went forward, and you took your, the three man team grabbed the two urns and walked out of the cookhouse on the other side, and then there were SS men standing at the other door, and kicked you in the back.
Now, the dangerous thing was, if, by chance, with them kicking you, food would get spilt, they would withdraw the food, they said, “because it was”, they would say it was done deliberately, food had been spilt, so your hut will not get any food for this particular meal. So you had to stand very firm not to spill, let any food get spilt. So, what we organised was that we younger ones took it upon ourselves to do all the food collecting, we didn’t get any of the middle aged, or older people, to do that, because we knew they couldn’t take it.
Also, when we were marching through the camps, up and down, and up and down, we walked in a column of four or five, four or five men width of the column. We always arranged it that we younger ones walked on the outside, and we took the older people on the inside of the column, because if anybody, because it happened very often, one of the Nazi guards would walk past while we were marching up or down, would just kick somebody, he would hit somebody over the head, so we tried to protect the older people, by having them in the middle, because if anybody got it, it would be the person walking on the outside. So, well, this whole thing went on.
My, of course, the people outside made applications for release from concentration camp, there were various methods of getting release, usually it, you had either to prove that you were going to emigrate, or something or other.
Now, by the time we had been in Dachau for some time, my mother had got in touch with my father’s younger brother, who, I think I mentioned it bef re, was a, was a doctor in Frankfurt, and who emigrated already in 1933. He had, by that time, settled down in London, and it was through him, that my father, my mother and myself got permission from the Home, from the British Home Office, that we would be allowed into Great Britain. He had to guarantee that we, he would see to it that we would be no, no, wouldn’t put the British Government to any expenses maintaining us, but let’s come to that later.
Now, my father and Fritz Ansbacher, they were released, I think, somewhere in the middle of December. Max Ansbacher, the youngest son of Fritz Ansbacher, who was also in, interned, or, who was also sent to Dachau concentration camp, he was released under the juvenile group, because he wasn’t 16 yet. Or he was just 16, he was a Junior, and they were not supposed to have been arrested, so they were released.
So, at that time, the people still left was my cousin, Wilhelm, who had been my business partner, and myself, so one day, both Wilhelm and I were called away, after the morning roll call, this was the procedure when people were released from the concentration camp, that your name was read out after the morning roll call, and you were then called into one of the buildings.
The Gymnastics Room, which was a huge hall, probably the SS Guards used it for to do their physical exercises, we were in there, but one had to get undressed, and one was going to be inspected by an SS doctor, to make sure that nobody was released who showed any sign of maltreatment, because they knew if people came out, that eventually, when they emigrated, people would see that they had been maltreated and this would be used as evidence against Germany, so therefore, you didn’t have a chance in hell to be released if you had any wound or anything that had been inflicted upon you in the Camp, so these doctors inspected the prisoners to be released, but that morning, the doctors who were supposed to do that, did not arrive till about 12 o’clock.
So, from about half past eight, or 9 o’clock, after we had been called in, from the roll call, told to take our Camp clothing off, told to go through a shower, we stood in that huge Gymnastics room, split naked till about half past eleven, or 12 o’clock, till the doctors arrived. To make it even worse, the SS soldiers who were there, the SS Guards call them, had on their big warm uniforms, woollen uniforms, they wore heavy great coats, and they opened all the windows, as many windows as there were, in that hall, and we were in the middle of a winter, it must have been at least –10 or -15, because this was in the middle of a moor area, so we stood there for nothing less than three hours, split naked, and the SS Guards had, they even put their collar up so that their necks would be nice and warm, and we stood there, split naked.
Well, eventually we were released, we managed to get a train home, and the morning after I came home, I went down with temperature, and very severe pain in my back, because the doctor, who found that I was suffering from a kidney inflammation, and I really was in agony for days, for weeks. He said to me that I might suffer from that kidney inflammation for the rest of my life, I would have to be very careful, but I’m pleased to say that it cleared up and I never had any trouble with it.
But I was in bed for about three weeks, as soon as I came out, obviously, the next thing was, to be released, to be given a Emigration Permit from, in Nazi Germany, you had to pay a number of taxes to the Government, which everybody knew, there was a so-called Reichs “flucht steuer” meaning the tax you pay because you’re leaving Germany.
Whatever you took with you, on furniture, or anything, you had to provide some kind, you had to provide invoices of what you had, what these things cost you when you bought them, and you had to pay the, the same amount of money over again to the German Government.
After you had done all that, and you had paid the taxes, what tax there was to be paid from the business, and so on, you then went to Munich, to, there was a special office dealing with Emigration Permits, and you got then, you had to receive a document called the “Unbedenklich keitz achlarung” meaning that there was no reason, taxwise, why an Emigration Permit should not be issued, so every, whenever you went there for your Permit, it took, it took weeks and weeks, you had to go back, and again, and back and again. One met so many Jewish people who were all there for the very same purpose, so eventually I got my permit, and I left Germany on Easter Monday, 1939, and flew to London.