Frankfurt am Main 1936 to 1946

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And Then None

Over 27,000 Jews left Germany in 1939, and over a third of them, about 10,000, went to Italy; and, presumably, from there to other destinations. In 1940, the same year that deportations began, 15,000 more Jews got out, and then none.

Shattered Belief

What impelled my father to leave with his daughter when he did? The ferocity of the Nazi regime was surely a feature of quotidian Frankfurt? And any hope that the Nazis would relent in their hounding of Germany's Jews was even to the pollyannish by then gone. Why did they stay so long, until it was almost too late? It is true, as Victor Klemperer repeatedly writes in his memoirs, that Germans, Jews most prominently but others also, believed that the Nazi regime would not last and would in time collapse. There was also the belief that because the wife and mother was Christian, my father, sister, and, presumably, I would have some protection. That was until near the end of the war, Klemperer's experience (although in his case there were no children). I believe something happened, probably something awful, that decided my father that he had no choice but to get out, and to do it fast

No Satisfactory Answers

It is one of the mysteries of my life why my mother and I stayed. One not entirely implausible reason was that I at almost three didn't provide satisfactory answers to the American consular official when asked questions as part of our application for a visa. It may also have been that German officials refused to allow the entire family to emigrate, to hold us in effect as hostages (but to what); and even more likely that they sharply limited how much money and goods could be taken out. There was my mother's reluctance. Her life and family were entirely in Germany. And hovering was a marriage beginning to rupture, if not already broken. My mother had she left would have been uprooted, poor, in a strange land, and a family falling apart. That she took me to the United States in 1946 is a wonder; but in reality just as the decision to stay was defensible so were to reasons to leave in 1946: The apartment was gone, money could be a problem, the only way she could likely see her daughter was to emigrate -- and perhaps she felt that her son needed a father.

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