Life in Germany

When Hitler and his gangsters came to power it seems they had mainly two objectives; to kill and eliminate the Jews and to build an army big enough to conquer Europe and the World.

One of the first Ordinances against the Jews was to prohibit any possibility of higher education. Sometime in 1934 John was forced to leave the University in Heidelberg and other University would admit him. He went to work in our Father's furniture store. He had completed two years of Medicine. A few months later I had to face a similar situation. The department store I was working for was "gleichgeschalted", which meant the store was aligned with existing laws against Jewish ownership and Jewish employees. A "good German" would be designated by the Nazis to dispossess the Jewish owners and assume ownership. It will help you to understand our hopeless situation, that the German Supreme Court had upheld, as requested by the Nazis, a law, declaring, if something is in the interest of Germany and Hitler, it is legal. I was informed one day, that I did not have a job any longer, with other words, I was fired. I also went to work in Father's furniture store.

A large section of the Jews in Germany, including our Family, were of the opinion that Hitler and his gang could not and would not last. England and France would not sit on their hands while Hitler marched the German army into the demilitarized zone, the part of Germany bordering on France and Belgium. I saw this grand stand play in Cologne. This demilitarized zone was a leftover from World War I. What did France and England do about it? Nothing. Hitler continued to build his army. We still tried very hard to be optimistic. Father was decorated with an "Iron Cross", a World War I medal and he told us, Hitler could not touch a veteran from World War 1. It was a nice try. Every day new instructions against the Jews were published. One of those gave Germans the right to rescind any contract or purchase made with Jews. All they had to do was declare that they did not know they had been dealing with Jews. We had to return the money they had paid, but we did not have the right to get the furniture back, unless they did it voluntary.

Cologne had a conservative population and the Nazis had to take more time to implement their rules and regulations. But other cities were not so fortunate. One of them was the City of Nuernberg, where your mother was born and lived. The name of the man who was running Nuernberg was Julius Streicher, a real fanatic. He made it impossible for Jewish families to work or live there, or conduct any kind of business. So it came that the Family Hofmann, including your mother, moved to Cologne. I met your mother in 1936 on a blind date and we got very friendly and I like to say we went "steady".

Mother's parents, Albert and Johanna Hofmann found an apartment on Benesis Street in Cologne. I met your mother's parents, your grandparents, when I picked up my girlfriend Rita for the first time and I was introduced to them. They were very nice people. The family had a butcher shop in Nuernberg, which they had to give up. I met mother's brother Heinz at that time. He worked as an apprentice in a bakery and he worked there almost day and night, horrible hours. Peter's middle name "John" is in memory of "Johanna" and Margarets's middle name "Annette" is in memory of "Albert".

I have a very good looking wife today and at that time I had a very pretty girlfriend with blond hair, like Peter's hair when he was very young. Since she had moved to Cologne not many people knew her. At that time Jews were no longer permitted to eat in or visit gentile restaurants, cafes or dances. We could only go to Jewish establishments. I took my girlfriend Rita one evening to such a Jewish cafe with dancing. As we walked in, all of a sudden, everybody got very exited, looking at us. The manager came and explained, I could not bring my girlfriend to this cafe, as she obviously was not Jewish and we should leave immediately. We tried to explain that Rita was Jewish and fortunately someone who knew your mother from Nuernberg, came to our help and we could stay. At that time it was already a major crime to have a non-Jewish girlfriend, or to take a shickse on a date and/or to a Jewish establishment.

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A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
Produced by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology,
College of Education, University of South Florida.
©1991 Kurt Lenkway.

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