Early in 1935, Dr. Johanna Maas called upon Mutti and told
her that several women with no religious background had
approached her with the wish to learn what it meant to be a
Jew. Dr. Maas wanted to start a Chumash class and told Mutti
that her name had been suggested by the Chinuch Librarian to
be both a member of the class and a consultant. Mutti was
delighted. From then on, she attended two 2-hour classes
every week. She often remarked upon the rapid progress of
the women and of their remarkable achievements and love of
learning. "What does Rashi say?" they would ask Mutti.
The week before we left in May 1937, Dr. Maas and Frau
Professor Adele Rieser came to our house to wish us well and
say good-bye. They brought a large hand-embroidered Shabbos
tablecloth that all the women in the class had worked on as
a surprise gift. Mutti treasured this present. Later, we
learned that Dr. Maas and her mother were able to leave
Germany and live in Switzerland and so survive. I remember
how Mutti wept when we found out that Prof. Dr. Phil.
Ferdinand Rieser and his lovely wife Adele had been deported
to Gurs. Prof. Rieser had been a celebrated Director of the
Badishe Landsbibliothek. Adele perished in Masseube in 1943
and the Prof. in 1944, both after having suffered much.
In 1935, my brother Osher fell on his way to cheder.
His eyeglasses broke and cut his face. We quickly summoned
the family doctor who urged us to take him to the Children's
Hospital, which was Catholic, to Prof. Lust, who was the
Director and an excellent children's surgeon. "He is also a
meshumod," Papa remarked bitterly, "having sold his
birthright for the lentil soup of professional
"If you don't take him," said our family doctor, "Osher's
face will be badly scarred." Osher was hospitalized and
Professor Lust operated successfully on Osher, who was then
only seven. On our second visit, Osher felt much better and
shouted, "How could you put me in a place like this? Look
what is hanging on all the walls! See that little one with
the blue ribbon? I can't even make a brocha here over
the food you bring. I want to go home."
He was scheduled to stay until the following Monday but
insisted on coming home before Shabbos. The nurses expressed
their disapproval when we picked him up on Friday
A year later, Prof. D. Lust was arrested by the Gestapo and
taken to Dachau. After the authorities found out that he had
saved the child of one of Musselini's officers from certain
death, he was released. He was not permitted to work but was
given a chance to emigrate to the U.S. Fearing his ability
to pass the medical tests there, he committed suicide in
1939 in Baden-Baden.
The bitter years after 1933 ushered in events that
overwhelmed us. There were the Nurnberg Laws which affected
our everyday lives. Jews were forbidden to employ non- Jews
of a working age, so now, there were no gentile maids,
bookkeepers, cleaners, most of whom left their employers
with tearful regret. Some of our employees used to come at
night to help but finally, Papa stopped this because of the
At the same time, employed Jews lost their jobs, businessmen
lost their gentile customers, doctors were forbidden to use
their titles and were referred to as "handlers of the sick."
Heads of families were arrested by the Gestapo and sent off
to the Camps. The Jewish community helped those families
financially but could not assuage their grief. All of us now
walked on a path of thorns and stones. My sanctuary became
the Fromme Shul and the Tanach.
I started to read Yehoshua - Shoftim through to Malachi and
finished it all in two months, in addition to the school
work. Every Friday night and Shabbos morning, I went to
shul with my friend, Selma Lupolianksy, the daughter
of the woman for whom Yad Sarah was created as a
Nazis marched the streets; loudspeakers endlessly screamed
out the speeches of the current Haman. The shul was
an oasis of peace and holiness. Our chazzon, J.
Altmann, had a lyrical tenor voice. I imagined angels
lifting up his fervent, melodious prayers to the very
heavenly Throne. I am glad that at that time I did not know
that both Joseph Altmann and his brother Jakob would run
into the burning shul in 1938 when the beams were
already falling to save the Torah scrolls, and then be sent
with their wives and little children to perish in Asuchwitz.
(On the infamous Kristallnacht, all the synagogues in
Germany were burned. The Gestapo did not let the Altmann
brothers take out the Torah scrolls until the beams
During those difficult times in 1935-36, I would close my
eyes and see Mt. Horev glowing in the morning sun, Hashem
talking to Moshe out of the thorn bush, alight with holy
fire; Moshe descending from Sinai with the Luchos,
almond blossoms on Aharon's staff...
Our bodies were in Germany but our hearts and souls yearned
for Eretz Yisroel. I would read Yechezkel and Yoel (chapter
39 and chapter 4 respectively) for spiritual encouragement
and now I marvel how appropriate they are for our present
times, as well.
We are transient -- the Torah eternal. On the tapestry of Am
Yisroel there are many golden threads, some of them are of
the strictly religious German Jews who very carefully
applied the halocha to every facet of their daily
lives until the end. The Holocaust is an unhealed pain in
the Mishkon of my heart. I mourn for it every minute
of every day. Whoever survived has a sacred obligation to
perform the mitzvos which a fallen brother or sister
would have done and to remember those whom we knew
personally and those whose names only Hashem knows...