Margot Wildmann Heller’s Story
Written by Margot, transcribed by Sylvia Wildmann, September 2010
Sylvia: Notes that appear in the right margin of the original document are transcribed in Italics. I translated some words within parentheses.
July 13, 1993
If I don’t start writing now, I’ll forget everything I wanted to write.
I was told I was born Sept. 17, 1922 at 8 AM, on a Sunday. One day my grandfather was in a train and somebody offered him a seat “Grossvater, sit here” Proud to be grandfather, he replied: “I am grandfather, but not everybody’s grandfather.” My father’s cousin’s wife, Tante Sophie, liked to come visit, saying this new baby smells good and looks like snow white, black hair and white skin.
Of course I don’t remember anything about those early years. My grandparents came to visit us every day. They lived in walking distance – grandmother used to say “lass es doch” – leave her alone. It seems I found out I could stay up longer if I sat on the potty a long time. My brother Hugo Max was born January, 3, 1924. My sister Hannelore was born May 11, 1925. My brother Manfred was born April 16, 1930. At that time we enlarged the house. My parents added the upstairs. This way, Lorle and I had a bedroom, the boys had the other room, my parents had the big room above the kitchen. There was one toilet on the ground floor. It was not a flush toilet.
We had a large pitcher with water for flushing. Sometimes in our young years we had a kitten. Once one of them was killed by a pile of wood which fell on it in the woodshed. I remember once we buried a bird in the backyard, duly marking the spot with a wooden cross. We liked to play outdoors and in those days one was able to walk all over town without fear.
When I went to school, there was tremendous unemployment everywhere. Of course a 6 year old does not know that. But when the teacher asked everybody “What does your father do”? I replied: He works. I didn’t know what kind of work he did.
I started school Easter 1929. Went to school in Philippsburg until 6th grade. The teacher all those years was Lehrer Giessler. His son was in my class too and to the great disappointment of his father, he was a rather poor student. Later I was told, Giessler said: “Margot was a good student, what a shame she is Jewish”. We were 33 students in the class, 30 Catholics, 2 Protestants, and myself. I liked school and it seems, one day I wanted to go to school, though I had a temperature. I had to pick up my friend next door Liesl Schwebel, because she was in my class. That bothered my parents, because she was never ready. I don’t remember that I was ever late to school. I also went on errands with her. Sometimes it seems to me I was oblivious to time as at times I went to the railroad station with her, though it was dinner time. She had to bring packages there for her father who had to send these packages for a firm. That was his job.
My parents were especially annoyed when I was not at home early on Friday evenings, as we had a regular Shabbos evening – with the Challah our mother baked, soup, flanken in sauce and cake. My mother was usually too tired to eat cake, which we couldn’t understand.
We usually had a sleep-in maid – young girls from neighboring towns. They helped with cleaning and laundry. Our mother usually cooked. Thursday evenings the big tub was brought into the large kitchen and all of us had our bath. Laundry was done in another building in the backyard – in the “Waschküche”. Laundry had to be soaked, afterwards boiled in the large kettle in that room and rinsed several times afterwards. Some jobs, without running water. I think at times we rinsed the laundry in the “Saalbach” a brook which was at the end of our street.
Sometimes we went to visit Papa at work. He was a printer and they – he and his cousin, uncle Karl Löb II printed a newspaper “Der Bruhrainer Bote”. It was scary to walk into the printing room when the machines were going. It made such a noise when the machine picked up the sheets of paper to be printed.
We had to walk through the shop to Tante Sophie’s garden. There was a big walnut tree and red currants. We were always told walnut wood is very good wood to make handles for guns. Never learned walnut is nice furniture wood. Anyhow the tree was always there, we ate the nuts, our hands were brown from peeling off the outer shell. We also liked to talk to the men in the shop – though Papa chased us as they had work to do.
Everybody in the shop wore coats – not overalls – made of dark blue material with thin white stripes. In the back room was typesetting. They also printed several books, and catalogues and stationery. Later, our parents always impressed on us that Papa was a “Buchdrucker-meister”, meaning he was an extremely skilled printer. He was also editor of the paper. At times he wrote articles for the paper and as Mama had more education, people did not want to believe it that she had not written the articles.
As Papa’s father had died when Papa was about 6 years old, he and his brother Moritz were raised by their aunt, Jeanette Löb, known to us as Oma Löb. Her son Karl took Papa into the printing business. His wife was Sophie. They had no children. We liked to visit there, liked to look out the window, play with their cats. I guess kids get fidgety and I remember Oma Löb saying “Ruhgst net”. Meaning be quiet. There was an ashtray with the inscription: “Ich bin der Herr im Haus, das wär gelacht, was meine Frau sagt, das wird gemacht.”(I am the master of the house, funny but what my wife says will be done).
Work – we helped
Papa usually went to work by bike. Later we all helped folding newspaper and it was impressed on us to work hard in order to accomplish something and to be money-wise independent. I think our mother helped and we helped a little and she could keep an eye on us and this way we kept out of each other’s hair.
During the Nazi time they had to censor the paper. That is the weekend magazine came from somewhere else and when there were anti-Semitic stories in it, they took the pages out. At times they received notifications what they should not print – e.g. army maneuvers. This was a good way to get “real” news.
Oma Löb had several children: Tante Malchen Bloch – Schmieheim. Mama was very friendly with that family. She taught in Schmieheim (Black Forest) before she was married.
Tante Helene Hagenauer lived in Bruchsal. She and her husband had a butcher shop. We saw her often and later, when I went to school in Bruchsal, I visited her practically every day before school. Tante Selma’s Löb’s husband, I don’t remember him, maybe he passed away a long time ago. She lived in Bruchsal and the story goes, her daughter was being punished when she was a little girl and she walked all by herself to her grandmother in Philippsburg. They emigrated to Argentina, where she died. Their name was Herzog.
There are no children in this family.
Oma Löb’s husband was a cattle dealer – like many Jews in the area. Again, the story goes, that one day, visiting some farmers, they invited him for dinner. Being kosher, he refused but said he would accept some of these boiled potatoes, which were standing there in a large bucket. The farmer told him, he is welcome to eat as many as he wants to eat “as the pigs get them anyhow”
At Oma Löb’s and Tante Sophie
Whenever the front door bell rang, somebody inside the house would ask “who is it”. Usually the answer was “ich bin’s” (it’s me) that usually satisfied the person inside the house. I could never understand how they knew who it was, did not know one can recognize people by their voices!
We visited other people in Philippsburg too – e.g. Klara and David Maier. They had a cigar fabric in a building behind their house. In 1938 they emigrated to the U.S. and had a chicken farm in Vineland N.J. Klara always worked hard, he drank a lot. But once on the farm, he became a good farmer and worked hard. They were my parents’ good friends, but had no children. We children liked to visit them because we were allowed to touch all the knick-knacks on their coffee table and were always welcome. We visited them again on the farm, until Klara died. He died earlier.
There was another Loeb family Nathan and Karoline, had a dry goods store. Their daughter Ellen fell into a tub of hot water and died as a result of that at age 5. We were therefore told and it was impressed on us, never to walk backwards because one cannot see where one goes. The hot water was standing there for the laundry. Their maid had left the water there in order to do the laundry. She felt terrible about Ellen and it seems committed suicide by jumping into the Rhine. Our mother always impressed on us to be watchful before, her suicide afterwards did not accomplish anything. Karoline’s husband Nathan died early of stomach cancer.
She and her sister Pauline were deported with us. I remember Pauline was worried I would end up an old maid like herself because I didn’t flirt. She died in one of the camps in France. Was for a long time almost blind. Karoline was deported to a K.Z (concentration camp). We visited them all the time in their house especially when their nieces Trudel and Ilse were there during vacation from Mannheim. This family emigrated to Italy, all were killed in a K.Z. except Ilse who returned to Milano, married Dante Colombo, became Catholic, has one daughter Cristina. They live in Milano.
There were other Jews in town – Maier Karl, the kosher butcher who was very old. His daughter Hanna lived with him in the house and his daughter Rosl worked with Karoline. She had a non-Jewish boyfriend, who it seems dumped her during the Nazi time. She was after that in and out of mental institutions and later “died” in one of them.
As she had been my mother’s good friend, my mother was very upset about that – saying “they (the Nazis) killed her, she did not die.” The ashes were sent to the family. Later it turned out, my mother was right, these were the first experiments on how to kill people.
One was supposed to give money to the “Winterhilfe”(welfare) for the poor.
So young people – Arbeitsdienst(volunteers) – came around to collect money. My mother always told them – I am not giving anything – I am “nichtarish” (not Aryan). She always told the other Jews not to give any money, as all this will just further the Nazi cause.
Across the street from us lived a family with many children and the father had no work. They lived upstairs in 2 or so small rooms. We used to bring them food because they were poor. Later they moved to the Stuttgart area where he found work (in defense).
When I was in 5th grade my mother instructed me in French and math.
I did not find this very exciting, but I was able to enter V-Quinta at the Mädchen Real Schule in Bruchsal. This meant a daily train commute – the train left 6:30AM. Papa always made me some hot chocolate as I was a poor eater. Usually I returned 2:00PM, starved and was able to eat many Weckklöse. I am in contact with Ruth Mannheimer-Kahn from my class. Erna Drayfus-Vollweiler is in the U.S. too. But I am not in contact with any of the non-Jewish classmates.
Our gym and needlework teacher was so proud to tell about the day she met “the führer” in Munich. She was an old maid and that event must have been very important. School year always started Easter time and therefore I did not return to school after Easter 1938. Few Jewish students were allowed in school, one’s father had to have served as a soldier in WWI.
That’s another thing my mother was bitter about. Her brother died as a WWI soldier and is buried in Avincourt, France. His teacher had encouraged the boys to enlist and fight for the fatherland – and now, during the Nazi time we had our civil rights taken away little by little.
We were never allowed to sing “Ich hat’ einen Kameraden” in Oma’s earshot’s, were told it would hurt Oma too much because she had lost her son.
While in school in Bruchsal we went to the rabbi’s house for Hebrew and Jewish history with kids from the other high schools. In Philippsburg, Opa, who was Vorbeter, Schochet, religious teacher, gave us Hebrew lessons and Bible studies. We could never understand how he could correct us when we made a mistake in our Hebrew, all the while he was reading the newspaper. During that time there were few Jewish children as the older generation had moved to e.g. Mannheim. My mother remembering the first war, wanted to stay in a smaller town, felt in the bigger cities people had nothing to eat during the war.
When I was about 10-11 years old we visited a distant cousin, Berta Baer in Karlsruhe. She said “do you know your grandfather is a very intelligent man?” I didn’t know and didn’t care. Would have been more impressed if he had been a famous movie star. It didn’t matter that Opa had studied Mishna and Gemorrah and that he made beautiful eulogies.
I was allowed to be at the high school because Papa was a “frontkämpfer” in WWI. But Easter 1938 my parents decided school in Bruchsal was enough now. I learned to sew and embroider from the nuns in a convent in Philippsburg. Only I and Anita Brossn whose family was communist were the only students. The other parents most likely did not feel they want to send their kids to the nuns for instructions though most people in Philippsburg were Catholic. My mother went to nursery school there as a kid. Some of the nuns were nurses and one used to come and take care of Oma’s feet.
October 1938 I was enrolled into the Jüdische Haushaltungsschule in Frankfurt. After I was there a few days the local students came to school, telling about Polish Jews being transported to Poland.
These people may have been born in Germany, but one does not acquire German citizenship automatically – Anyhow, word also reached us – Poland didn’t want these Jews and they were stranded in no-man’s land for a while. Their German apartments were padlocked. I don’t know what eventually happened to these people. But in those days there were no KZs (concentration camps) yet. Nevertheless, the world stood idly by, there was no outcry from anybody –
A few weeks later – on Nov. 10, 1938, again the local students came with news – “all synagogues are burning and all Jewish men were arrested and sent to KZ.” Soon the Nazis came to the building, told all of us to pack our belongings and go home. “They needed the beautiful building.” So, I and all the other girls, after just one month at the school, returned home. I don’t remember how I got home, but obviously by train.
At home I found my mother quite upset. My mother said Papa and the other Jewish men were arrested. Opa was too old, so they did not take him – Mama said she doesn’t know what made her say Hugo was only 15 and they didn’t take him. (He was actually only 14 years old – MW)
She also told me – the synagogue was burned and Papa tried to save the Torahs etc., was sent home. “Heiner, there is nothing you can do.” He too was very, very upset. All Jewish businesses were closed and had to be “aryanized” within days.
Opa later buried the Torahs in the yard of the Shul, which had been next to his house. We heard in many towns, homes were vandalized, properties smashed and looted.
Nov. 10, 1938
This did not happen in Ph’bg, and mainly outsiders had done the burning.
And again the world stood idly by. After a few weeks Papa came back and little by little the other men returned too. He did not talk much about Dachau, about the treatment. But mentioned uncle Moritz (his brother who had lived in Stuttgart) got additional beatings because he was wealthy. And he told they had to stand outside in their prison garb, which was pajama weight in the cold.
I just remember when Manfred was 5-6 years old, uncle Moritz and Tante Hedwig invited us to come to Stuttgart. She asked what she should get for Manfred and whatever Mama mentioned she felt was too expensive. She always brought us something practical – sweaters, lingery etc… never books or toys. They had no children and were lucky to leave for L.A. in 1940 or 1941. (in 1941 -MW) They had a grocery store there and Uncle Moritz died in 1945 of a heart attack. We visited Tante Hedwig in 1960-61. She was companion to an elderly lady at that time.
After Nov. 10, everybody tried to leave Germany. We too went to the American Consulate in Stuttgart. The consul, with a huge cigar in his mouth told us our papers are not enough and as Papa’s vision was impaired, he would not be able to earn a living for a large family. This vision impairment on one eye never bothered him, but the consul didn’t want to have so many Jews come to the U.S. So we waited.
Mama was teaching at the Jewish school in Karlsruhe and Papa was home. That was awful for him. Mama used to be a teacher before she was married. Taught in Schmieheim.
That’s where she met Papa’s cousins, the Blochs. Their granddaughters are in Israel.
Trip to Mannheim
I went to learn to sew in Mannheim at Mrs. Glismar. It was dressmaking. Have to mention Nov. 10, Oma and Opa came to live with us. Their house was across the courtyard from the synagogue and could have caught fire too.
August ’39 Germany invaded Poland. Again the world did not take that seriously. So everyday, when I took the train to Mannheim, I hoped the Allies had bombed a bridge crossing the Rhine. Nothing ever. Oh, by that time the Nazis had invaded Holland, Belgium, part of France and England was at war too.
House was sold
Our house was sold, the new owner moved in upstairs and we occupied the downstairs. Therefore Lorle and I slept at Oma’s upstairs. I don’t remember for how many months that went on. But it was cold upstairs and at times our breath formed ice on the cover. I don’t remember any details.
Giving up silver – paying high taxes
But already we had to hand over to the Nazis gold and silver and had to pay exorbitant taxes, more than we could afford. Also we had little gold and silver. But Manfred was allowed to play with Papa’s golden watch “Frederle, not every child can play with a golden watch” my mother used to say. Some people declared even silver plate as silver. They wanted to appear wealthy – mama always said – if they asked for what one has – they want it. For a long time already we had no civil rights and the neighbors stayed out of our way. Didn’t want to be seen talking to a Jew or greeting a Jew. Feared they’d lose their jobs. Ironically a few years earlier, one of the neighbors called their baby “Margot” – that was already during the Nazi-time.
Little by little my good friend next door avoided any contact with me. Our neighbors, whose garden adjoined ours, kept up their friendship.
We used to bring them vegetable peels for their pigs and they gave us asparagus pieces – mainly tips.
They always said, when we leave, they will close the little passageway between our gardens. Mr. Göggel was angry, he had to make – I don’t remember what – in his carpentry shop, did not get paid – only vouchers, which were redeemable a few years from the date issued. Later, when we left, Mrs. Göggel embraced my mother and cried. The Göggels passed away and we could not visit them after the war.
When I was about 10-12 – I don’t remember – I had piano lessons. The teacher was an old maid (or widowed) and she was the church organist. Well, I am not musical and did not learn much. I remember she always counted…..und eins, und zwei…etc… Never played recognizable tunes and found these lessons uninspiring. Later we sold the piano. It had been our mother’s before.
In the summer Oma Nendl – Nanette – mama’s mother – always went on vacations.
For a while she went to a pension in Herrenalb in the Black Forest. I must have stayed with her a few days as I remember she taught me how to put the socks on. I was also able to read the poems on the plaques on the walls – but don’t remember now what it said. After the Nazis came to power, this woman at the pension told my grandmother not to come anymore. Herrenalb became early “Judenrein”. Oma after that went to the Jüdisches Alterheim in Baden-Baden for a few weeks. We usually visited her and Papa went to see his parents graves in Kippenheim, not far from there.
Oma and Opa
Opa never went on vacation with Oma. He usually went to Bingswangen (Bayern) where he was born. He had relatives and friends there. Sometimes he brought a large basket – bushel of sour cherries home. Actually, Oma and Opa had little in common, but they got along.
Opa, after the teacher’s seminary in Würzburg found a position in Philippsburg. When he introduced his bride, everybody said how pretty she was. They were very young when they married.
Opa’s anniversary poem
Opa later celebrated his 40th anniversary as a Vorbeter in Philippsburg. The priests and officials of the town were there and I was to study a poem and drove my mother out of her mind because I didn’t study. But on the day of the festivities I recited the poem. I think I wore a pink dress and maybe was 7 years old. That was way before the Nazi time.
A few summers I and Lorle and Hugo went to Bad Dürrheim in the Black Forest. I think I went 3 times, because at 12 I had a middle ear operation and needed a little to gain weight. I didn’t even like it there. Didn’t like organized games etc… and didn’t like the food and especially the café au lait. Some kids were talking about the Nazis, though this was before ’33. It was a Jewish home and run very militaristic by two ladies Falk. I think Lorle and Hugo did not go as of ten, the health insurance did not pay for it anymore and most likely it was expensive.
Usually in summer we went to swim the Pfinz canal. That was about a mile from our house. We changed among the bushes and mosquitoes, had something to eat along. Swam without adult supervision, though the water was deep enough. Further down this stream the horses bathed and even further away, the boys.
Manfred to school
When Manfred started school Mama did not take him. She did not want to see the Oberlehrer, who was my teacher. He had been an old Kämpfer and now it was Nazi time. He had refused her a job on grounds there were not many Jewish children in the school. That was about in 1919. Mama never kowtowed to anybody.
Being deported to France
October 1940, when I returned from Mannheim, from Mrs. Glismar’s sewing courses, Mama was again very upset. All Jews had been told to pack a suitcase per person, take 4 days worth of food, take 1 set of silver cutlery and some money. And not to go out the next day – otherwise, when caught out in the street, we will be shot. Well we were all upset and feared we will be deported to Poland. That was before the deportation to Auschwitz etc… but we knew Poland was very anti-Semitic and the climate was cold.
Trip to Gurs
So the next day – I don’t remember who came to tell us to take our suitcases and walk to a truck that was parked near the municipal building. Mr. Göggel cried and embraced my mother. Mrs. Vetter, the local Home Ec teacher too was out. I don’t remember her reaction, but I remember her sad face. These people realized nothing good was going to happen and often they said: if all that will be revenged. Being devout Catholics, they felt some day the Nazis will get their revenge from God. All the other Jews from Ph’bg marched to the truck. I have no recollection of that truck, what it looked like. In Bruchsal we entered a train – regular train with benches. There were more Jews from all over the area – old and young. I think in Karlsruhe we met other trains. We traveled across the French border. That was a relief. We felt the French were more humane than the Poles. At times a Nazi came through the train, urging people to give up the money – in case they had more than the allowed amount. Some people were so frightened, they flushed it down the toilets or threw it out the windows. It seems we were traveling for ever. I remember in a station “Besançon”. That’s just South of Alsace, so we knew we were traveling South. At one time the train stopped, food was given to one or more train wagons – just to take pictures how well the Nazis treated us. Some people came alone, their spouses were in hospitals at the time. The stress of this trip drove some people to lose their mind. Lack of sleep etc…
Anyhow after about 4 days we arrived in Olorons in the Pyrenées. That’s in South West France near the Spanish border. Again trucks took us to our barracks. Children went with their mothers, and women were brought to different section of what was “Camp de Gurs”. Hugo stayed with Papa and Opa, Lorle, Manfred and I stayed with Mama and Oma. We were assigned to barracks – wooden barracks, no windows, shutters that only opened – or closed. I think we filled straw bags – that was our mattresses. I guess they gave us some blankets. In the middle of this barrack was a wood stove. Fortunately the climate in Southern France is fairly mild. I am sure we were cold, but I don’t remember. I remember I was exhausted when we arrived there. We received very little food and coffee, about ¼ lb bread a day, some watery soup, a cup of wine, maybe a fruit. We had to fetch water outside. There were faucets with potable water. The latrines were outdoors too and so were the washing facilities. I don’t remember if there were showers, but it was difficult for us middle class people to disrobe and wash ourselves in front of all the other women. In our barrack were all the Jewish women from P’bg and some from other towns – I think about 60 per barrack. Outside the mud was deep.
It rained a lot, but for us younger people we did not feel the deprivations that much, rather felt free and glad to be out of Germany. That was in the unoccupied zone – most of France was occupied by Germany. Little by little some people formed theater groups etc. and performed. Some of us were fortunate to receive food packages from friends and relatives on the outside. After the war we learned due to the fact the guards used some of the food for themselves, we received so little. Many elderly people became sick – dysentery. As the doctors – camp inmates too, had no medication and nobody had anything to cook home remedies – many people died, including Oma. I remember Mama talking to the doctor, who told her he is helpless. When Oma died, Mama was very upset. Karolinchen told her: “I know it’s your mother and that’s sad.” Mama felt bad because Oma didn’t have a bed to die in, was in the infirmerie barrack. I did not go to the funeral, felt so bad because the grave had to be emptied of water first. There were some rabbis there too. Later, long after the war, we visited the Gurs cemetery. A young man with his little children was visiting. I asked him who he is visiting. He said nobody in particular, he is Basque. But he wondered if we were mistreated and he noticed many people buried there were elderly. No, we were not mistreated, had little food, old people became sick and died. Julius Bernheim, John’s grandfather is buried there too.
A few weeks after Oma died, uncle Sally, who lived at that time in France, came to visit us. He had come to France via Czechoslovakia – his “red” friends helped him. Later he and our only cousin, Miriam, his daughter and his wife Vita were deported and killed in the camps. Obviously, with little money they were unable to hide once the deportations started. Opa had been living with them and was returned to Gurs.
Mama, Papa and us 4 children at that time were in Rivesaltes, where, supposedly, it was better for children and so all families with children were transported to Rivesaltes. Here the barracks were concrete or cinderblock, the children stayed with their mother, the fathers were in other barracks, but one could move about within the camp. We called the sleeping arrangements “Hazenställe”: There were 2 stories (if one can call it that way) of wooden planks and I guess here too we slept on straw. We slept close together in order to keep warm. By now all had lost lots of weight – I was about 40 kgs. Our mother looked at us and was very sad because she had no food for us. We had relatives maybe in Phrigieux (Périgueux) or somewhere and I don’t know who they were and after the war there was no word from them. They sent packages at times and at one time a package with lots of bread arrived, all moldy. Well, we always received a daily ration of maybe a cup of wine and so mama cooked that bread in wine and we had “bread pudding”. I think she felt it will either feed us or kill us. The situation at that time looked pretty bad, war all over – one heard news only through the grapevine – and no end in sight. Later we learned – after the war – penicillin was made from bread molds! Anyhow on those wooden planks, each family shared one partition and facing our heads when we were lying down, was another family. There was no outbreak of any kind of epidemic – but we all were invaded by various types of lice and no matter how much we tried to get rid of them, they came back. Of course we had few clothes to change and all the washing was in cold water. Food was scarce.
And one day mama sent me to enroll in ORT. They were giving sewing courses and Hugo enrolled in the barbershop course. For this as students our daily bread ration was increased of about 2 slices. A Viennese young woman – Gisi Ausubel taught us pattern making and sewing – all by hand. I don’t remember if there was maybe 1 sewing machine for the whole class. We cut up blankets and I made a jacket and maybe a skirt. It seems the Quakers had to help ORT to come into the camp –Jewish organizations were no longer allowed in.
There were many young people in Rivesaltes and we had a choir and in a way we almost felt we were away from the Nazi problem. But after a while the whole of France was occupied. (All of France was only occupied in November 1942, after we had left Rivesaltes and Mama and Hugo had been deported -MW). Organizations got as many children out as they could. Lorle went to a home run by Swiss Red Cross – near Geneva, in Pringy, in France.
A few months later Manfred was able to go to a place not too far from there – he was only about 11. There a supervisor, Ilse Gottschalk was from Mannheim. Lots of Spanish refugees were there and Manfred learned some Spanish. Later, Mama wrote to Lorle’s directrice and he was able to go to Pringy.
Though I was already about 20, I was fortunate to be included in a group of older girls, liberated by the Jewish Scouts in France (Eclaireurs Israelites de France) and went to Beaulieu, Corrèze. Most of the children there were much younger and I was glad when a lady from a nearby place came to look for a young girl to help her in her household. I figured I had helped at home too, could earn a little money and send packages to mama and papa.
It was Mme Vallat from Château de Gary. I was able to send some packages with food to Mama and Hugo. Also earned a little money. I was able to visit the colonie in Beaulieu. But once the deportations started, M. and Mrs. Vallat did not let me to Beaulieu anymore. They hated the Germans and feared I would be deported. Monsieur Vallat was a retired médecin-général. In those days one did not know about Auschwitz etc…. yet, but knowing all Jews were sent away was enough to know nothing good was happening.
Papa was still in the hospital in Perpignan and we were able to write to each other. Lorle always addressed the letters to Mrs. Vallat and I had to catch the mailman before Mme Vallat saw the letter. She feared for our safety.
By now everything is a little fuzzy – it’s so long ago all this happened. Anyhow I was fortunate and was not deported. Always had letters from Lorle and Manfred and Opa who was alert, but a situation like this, where one had to hide, was a little hard to understand. He was in Montauban and Lourdes after the war; went to live in Lyon with his nephew Albert Rosenfeld for a while and later went to an old age home in Heidelberg run by Rositta Oppenheim. He gave Hebrew lessons to a Jewish kid in Philippsburg, child of refugees from the East. He is buried in the Jewish cemetery in Ph’bg. Papa was only deported in 1943, when he was a little stronger. Unfortunately we did not hear from Mama, Papa and Hugo after the war. Most of our friends did not hear from their relatives and little by little we learned about Auschwitz and other camps.
While in Rivesaltes we could go and pick grapes in the vineyards. Several grownups went. The farmers – grape growers were happy to have help because many men were prisoners of war in Germany or still were soldiers as the war had not ended.
In my group the food was good – string bean salad with green peppers. And we could eat as many grapes as possible. I think we slept in sort of loft with straw. One of the owners came early to the fields saying he drank some Kirsch already.
While in Beaulieu, that is at Chateau de Gary I washed the laundry outside in a huge marmite (vat) that was heated on an open fire. I cooked, went to the farmers for milk. They admired my knowledge of French, which at that time was very bad. But they thought I was a refugee from Alsace and the girl they had during the last war barely spoke French. Sure, before WWI Alsace was German, after WWI Alsace was French. Anyhow, after the war I visited Lorle and Manfred and Ria and Hilda Giesen (Kriesler?) (now Tayar) in Grenoble and somehow ended up living in Moissac, Corrèze. I took care of the directrice’s little boy “le Pou” (the louse). I stayed there until my emigration to the U.S.A. There were a few other Jewish people in Ph’bg Mama was friendly with Karolinchen and Paulinchen. Karoline Löb’s husband Nathan had died and so she ran the dry goods store by herself. There was the Leopoldsin – also a widow. She spoke with a Black Forest accent. Her son had emigrated to one of the Northern countries
The Herrmanns left early for Luxembourg. Their children Liesl and Fritz came to the U.S.. Babette was a total hermit, never talked to people, I think she was friendly with some non-Jewish neighbors. She was deported with us.
The family Faber-Mane had a dry goods store and metal wares etc. Mr. Mane was able to go to England, the rest of the Mane family came here before the war. Mrs. Faber’s husband died in the first war (WWI).
The Nathan Gutmanns had Else and Gerhard, who came here before the war.
Their brother Samuel Gutmann and his daughters were deported with us. Erna and her father came here after the war. I don’t remember what happened to Martha. (Martha died in Gurs on December 13, 1940, one day after our grandmother. She was 31 years old. This information is from the book “Mémorial de la Déportation” by Serge Klarsfeld). She had an out-of-wedlock child. Their mother died young. There is nobody around from this family.
Klara and David Maier had a cigar factory in Ph’bg. Klara was my mother’s good friend. She used to travel in order to make sales. David did only well on their chicken farm in Vineland, NJ. We visited them often. They had no children. Had two stepsisters. It seems their mother died when they were young and our grandfather took them to Mrs. Maier’s mother to be raised by her. Their father it seems was an alcoholic. Mrs. Maier’s mother was Mrs. Zierig. These 2 women came to U.S. before WWII.
Deported to Gurs in Oct. 1940 were Samuel Gutmann and his daughters Erna Berberich and Martha Gutman, Hanna Löb, who was Maier Karl’s daughter; Babette Löb, Karoline and Pauline Löb, Tante Sophie. Only Fäulein (Miss) Vetter, the local Home Ec teacher cried and embraced our mother when we left. Some people were standing in the street, perplexed, showed no reaction.
Actually in Ph’bg we had not experienced beatings etc… because we were Jews.
Actually it’s important to notice we had several people who really loved us. Besides our parents, there were our grandparents and Tante Sophie.
My handwriting is not so good anymore.
Grossmutter and Grossvater came to us daily. Grossvater came during the day – read the paper and left – saying “ich hab’ schon gesehen wie es Euch geht” (Now I have seen how it is with you.) He helped me with Algebra.
I remember Betha Baer in Karlsruhe said: your grandfather is very smart man. That was not interesting for me at 12, preferred he would have been a famous actor. He took care of our garden – we had some vegetables and lettuce. He enjoyed doing this. There were also a plum tree and a gwetzenbaum (elongated plums) in the garden. Next to the house was an apple tree and we had a pear tree. The pear tree was too young and we never had pears..
I used to climb over the fence to play with my friend – later she did not look at me anymore. But also in 6th grade I started in Bruchsal in the Mädchen Real Schule (Girls’ High School) until 1938.
I also remember – there was no running water in town. Opa had to go across the street to a family Wunsch. They never said he could not come anymore. At that time we had a pump installed in our kitchen for water.
I always thought Hugo helped Opa bury the Torahs – but Manfred said he helped. He was only 8 years old. He said there was nothing but wood left.
The manuscript ends here
The notes in parentheses are by Manfred Wildmann