Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Recollections of Holocaust Survivors

A recent article in a Jewish publication described the sensitive story of an elderly woman's recent return to the German village of her childhood.  The story, though compelling, raises some issues.  Ms. B, a 90-year-old woman, discusses life in her little village, including memories of laws restricting Jewish participation in certain professions and government positions. She described how it felt to be "forced from her home." Ms. B emigrated to the United States in 1934.  At the time she was only 10 years old.  I would have to question the recollections of a 90-year-old about the effects of laws on Jewish life in her village during her very early childhood, especially in those initial days of the Third Reich.

Though it is true that restrictive participation of Jews in various professions and activities, and some "unlawful" acts of vandalism did exist to some degree prior to Ms. B.'s emigration in 1934, the very repressive Nuremberg laws, actually banning Jews from certain aspects of public and professional life (1935), and the restriction of schools that Jewish children could attend, did not come into force until after her departure.  Anti-Jewish riots and physical brutality first became a major issue with the events of Kristallnacht in 1938.  I am not aware of any national policy in Germany to forcibly remove Jews from their homes in 1933-1934.

As the Holocaust recedes into history, eye-witness recollections understandably become more vague.  Present-day survivors, now in their late 80's and 90's were very young in 1933-1934.  Jews who emigrated out of Germany as early as 1934-1935 were, indeed, very fortunate.

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