Frankfurt am Main 1936 to 1946







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Rossertstrasse


Emotional Detachment

Stay we did. I don't remember my sister and father leaving, although surely traumatic. My memory is of my mother and I together, no one else. Yet that breakup, which I couldn't begin to understand, was the start of the superficial emotional detachment that has plagued me a good part of my life. I have no memory of their going away. I don't know whether I cried. Whether I lapsed into silence. Whether I asked questions. What if any answers I got. But that separation in some ways changed me forever, most obviously in creating an emotional armor, passivity in the face of trauma, passivity as a shield, a convenient defense only made firmer by the war. I was imprinted on the war: As a young child, what was a horror for my mother, our friends and neighbors, was "normal" to me, having known little else and already shocked into a neurasthenic state by in effect losing both my father and sister in ways I couldn't understand.

There's no mystery as to why they left. My father surely knew that the seeming protection of having a Christian wife was crumbling. Victor Klemperer in Dresden, married to a Christian woman and having converted to Christianity (I don't know if my father did), experienced increasing repression.

Tante Else

And I remember, weather allowing, the daily walks through the Palmengarten and the more occasional trips to the Zoo, a direct trolley ride away. Whether there was anything from my father and sister, I don't know. There were visitors, prominently Josef and Lina Schmidt, who lived nearby. They themselves had two sons, Wolfgang and Peter, and I was much closer to Wolfgang, and I imagine we played often, in the apartment and perhaps on the sidewalk outside our home. There were surely many visits to Else Andres (Tante Else, although not a relation) a few blocks away from Rossertstrasse. Tante Else was a widow, and I think her husband was killed in World War I. 

I went to school, but it was at most an hour and not every day, the timetable set by the bombings.

I would often take a tram to the Zoo, which is what I called it although the Nazis in their campaign against "foreignisms" insisted that it be called the Tiergarten And my memory is that I went by myself, which seems unlikely, until the Zoo was destroyed in a single night on 18 March 1944, as told by Dirk Petzold

All buildings, except for the bear castle, were bombed to the basement, as was most of Frankfurt. High-explosive bombs smashed the seal pools, the aquarium, and the Gesellschaftshaus where all archives got lost. In the burning carnivore house the cats had to be shot, just as Elephant Ipani who had been run through by an incendiary bomb. The evacuated wisents were killed in Heidelberg. Most surviving animals starved afterwards or died of cold. Only 20 larger exotic animals survived. The destruction of the Zoo was I suppose inevitable, although much of our West End neighborhood was never bombed. Luck I suppose. 

Sometime -- probably November 1943 when children as young as six, I was just seven, had to wear the star -- I could no longer go outside without wearing a yellow star

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I'm four in this picture, so it was probably taken late November or early December 1940, or several months after my father and sister had left. And below, a picture taken in 1941. My mother was 36.


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