Saturday, November 30, 2013

Kristallnacht--One Boy's Story: Leaving Germany

After Kristallnacht, November 8 and 9, 1938, life for Jews in Trier, Germany became more and more difficult.  Manny Klepper, a young boy, lived through these years.  This is the third part of his story. 
In 1939, Manny was 7 years old.  He couldn't attend school because Jewish children were not allowed to go to school.  The streets of Trier were dangerous for Jewish people, so Manny, his mother and their maid, Anna, stayed inside most of the time. Manny had no ideas where his father was, he found out later that he had joined the resistance movement. By 1940, his father, Morris was never home.

In 1940, they never left the house, with one exception-- Manny's mother, Ottilie, was leaving the house on Paulinestrasse to go to the town hall to check on the status of their exit visas.  Manny's sister and grandparents were already in Chicago, and the rest of the family was hoping to join them.

Getting an exit visa from Germany was difficult for Jews, since they had to have a country that was willing to receive them.  A visa to the United States was almost impossible to obtain, due to United States foreign policy at that time.  Although the US government was aware that Jews in Germany were being harassed, leaders were reluctant to say anything that would make Hitler and his government increase their anti-Semitic actions and make things even worse for the German Jews.  The United States had become more and more isolationist during the 1920's, and was not interested in getting involved in any European conflicts.  There were articles in many American publications , including National Geographic, which praised Hitler and his "New Germany. "   In the 1930's, celebrities, such as Charles Lindbergh, were openly supportive of the Nazis.  The United States was deep in the Great Depression, there was terrible unemployment, and the conventional wisdom was that immigrants, especially Jews, were not welcome because there weren't enough jobs for Americans.

The Klepper family was fortunate since they had family in the United States, who were working to get them out of Germany.  Elsie, Manny's aunt, was married to a man who had connections to Henry Horner, the Governor of Illinois and Congressman Boyle.   Both these men used their influence to help the Kleppers to get visas to immigrate to the United States.  They left just in time, in 1941, the remaining Jews in Trier were deported to either concentration camps in Poland or the Teresienstadt, the "model ghetto" in Czechoslovakia

Early in 1940, the visas came through. Now that Hitler controlled most of Western Europe, traveling to the United States by  going west was impossible.  They would have to go East. Russia was a neutral country at that time, so the plan was to fly to Berlin, go to Moscow and travel across Russia. Manny was 8 years old. Ottilie and Manny flew to  Berlin, where they stayed for a few days with their Klepper relatives. 

Since Jews were not allowed to have money, they had put cash in a bank account in the name of their maid, Anna. They withdrew this cash before they left Trier for Berlin.   When they left Berlin for Moscow, the Kleppers saw them off--this was the last time they saw these relatives, since they were moved to concentration camps and died in the Holocaust. At the airport, Manny remembers that the line of people was 4 deep, all exiting Germany.  They were allowed only one small suitcase, and at the last check point, Nazi guards confiscated most of Ottilie's cash, telling her that she had more money than she was allowed to take out of Germany.  They boarded Russian planes and flew to Moscow.  Manny tells that there  were 12-15 planes, each with 80 to 90 people.

Berlin in 1940.

In Moscow, Manny and Ottilie were reunited with Morris, Manny's father. When Manny's asked how his father got to Russia, the answer was " Resistance fighters had ways to move people. "  His father rarely had much to say about the last few years in Germany when he was never home. The family stayed in Moscow for twelve days and managed to do some sightseeing.  In Moscow, they boarded the Trans Siberian Road and began the next part of their journey.

 Manny and his family visited Lenin's Tomb in Red Square in 1940.
Manny Klepper is my brother-in-law.  He speaks about his experiences in Nazi Germany in his community.

Friday, November 22, 2013

After The Kristallnacht--One Boys Story

Trier is in the gray area #21.

The story of Manfred Klepper, a boy who lived in Trier Germany, at the beginning of the Holocaust continues. 
After the Kristallnacht, life for the Jews of Trier became more and more difficult.  "Dirty Jew" was painted in red on Jewish homes and Jewish owned businesses were also labeled.  German businesses were labeled as German owned, to encourage people to buy only from them.    
Manny Klepper, six years old at the time, witnessed the results of Kristallnacht on his home,  was not permitted to attend school at all.  His family rarely left the house in 1939, and  in 1940 they never went out.  Manny's sister, Charlotte, ten years older than Manny, was called "dirty Jew" by her classmates, starting  in 1933, shortly after the Nazi Party took control of Germany.
Manny's father, Morris, was rarely at home in the evening in 1938--Manny was told that he was out playing cards.  By 1939, he was not at home at all.  Manny had no idea where he was or what he was doing.  Many years later, he found that his father was working with the resistance.  Morris rarely talked about his experiences, and when he did, he revealed very little information.

Advertising Poster for a Rally in Frankfurt 1936

After 1933, the Jews of Trier began to leave.  In 1925 there were over 800 Jews in Trier, by 1939 just over 200 were left.  The Nazis made it difficult for them to leave, and this was compounded by the fact that very few countries were willing to receive them.  Manny's family was more fortunate than others since Manny's uncle was related to the Governor of Illinois, Henry Horner,  they were able to get help obtaining American visas.  They also had family who were naturalized citizens of the United States.    In  May of 1938, the papers finally came through for Manny's sister, Charlotte and their grandparents.  They were given four months to get their affairs together and leave.    However, a friend warned them that they shouldn't wait, and encouraged them to leave as soon as possible.  It was rumored that Hitler's armies were planning to invade the Sudetenland, a part of Czechoslovakia with many German residents.  If this happened, there would be war, making it impossible for anybody to leave.    Charlotte and her grandparents quickly settled their affairs and left, crossing the border to Luxembourg in a cab.  They were safer in that country, but they were not truly safe until they boarded the American steamship that took them to the United States.  Once they were on the ship,  they were considered to be in America. 

Tin button commemorating Nazi German conquests in Europe including the Sudetenland

There were no exit visas for Manny and his parents.  Conditions were worse in 1939 since the SS and Gestapo controlled Trier.  Manny and his mother rarely left the house, and Morris was never home.  In March of 1939, The SS came to everyones'  house in the neighborhood of Paulinestrasse, ordered them outside and closed  down the area.  The people were told to come to  the  red painted wall surrounding the convent behind the Klepper home. (The nuns from this convent had helped the Kleppers clean up after Kristallnacht.)  Five people were standing against the wall.  They included the Mother Superior of the convent, the Priest assigned to the convent, a Rabbi and two other people who were accused of hiding and aiding British airmen from the RAF.    There were several trucks and soldiers standing around.  On command, the tarp was lifted from one of the trucks, and a squad  of soldiers was revealed.  They were ordered to shot.  The trucks sped away, leaving the bodies on the ground.  Manny was told to go home, his mother stayed behind to help carry the bodies into the convent.

The Kleppers were working desperately to get their exit papers from Germany and visas for the United States.  Finally in 1940 the papers came through.
Manny Klepper's story continues next week.
American Newspaper headline 1939

Manny Klepper is my brother-in-law, and speaks about his experiences in Germany in his community. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Kristallnacht--One Boy's Story

Late afternoon, Trier Germany,  November 9, 1938 . There was a bang on the door on the Klepper home.  Outside were 5-6 young men in their late teens and early twenties who  pushed Otille Klepper aside and barged in. Her husband wasn't home, she was alone with her small son.   The men were armed with large sticks and tire irons.  They broke the mirror of the hall tree, just inside the front door.  Frau Klepper grabbed her five year old son, Manfred and ran out the back door, down the stairs and into the cellar.  They were joined by the upstairs neighbors.  She locked the cellar door from the inside, and waited.

Kristallnacht, November 9 and 10, 1938 is sometimes called the beginning of the Halocaust.  On the night of November 9, gangs of young men broke into and destroyed the homes of Jewish families all over Germany. On November 10, Jewish Temples and businesses were destroyed. Kristallnacht means night of the broken glass in German.

Manfred,  now today known as Manny, heard the furniture being thrown around and glass breaking in their home for what seemed like hours.  The noise let up for a few minutes when the gang went up the stairs and destroyed the neighbor's home.  After about 40-45 minutes, the noise stopped.    Mrs Klepper and her neighbor unlocked the door and went upstairs.  When they entered the Klepper home, she said "Our place is a total disaster and so is our neighbors."    There was broken glass and dishes everywhere.  Since the Kleppers kept Kosher, they had three sets of dishes, not a single dish was left.  Their built-in dining room  buffet had glass doors, which were shattered, the drawers were pulled out and the silverware was dumped on the floor.  Not a single dish or glass was usable.  The furniture was broken, the beds were ripped apart, Glass shelves in the bedroom were torn down and the China and glass figurines were thrown on the floor and smashed to pieces.  The bedposts were broken. The place was uninhabitable.

There was a Catholic Convent and Orphanage, St Paulin, behind the Klepper home.  Shortly after the noise stopped, four nuns from the Convent knocked on the door, said that they had heard the noise, and wondered what happened.  After taking a look around they left and came back with four more nuns who brought brooms, shovels and buckets with them.    Manny's mother, her neighbor and the nuns began to clean up the mess.  It took them all night and part of the next day to clear out the debris from the two homes.  Manny and the neighbor children stayed in the cellar while the cleanup was taking place.  After the  two places were cleaned up, the nuns brought dishes and food for the families. 

The Porta Negra, an ancient Roman building in Trier

Manfred Klepper, Manny, as he is known, was born in Trier on November 18, 1931.  His parents lived in Mering, a small village outside of Trier, where they owned a general store. Most of his family was in the farming business, one side of the family raised cattle, the other side owned vineyards.  His grandparents lived in the city of Trier.  In 1937, Manny and his parents moved into their home in Trier.  Since the Nazi party and Hitler took control of Germany in 1933, life for the Jews became difficult.  There were boycotts of Jewish businesses and Jewish people were continually harassed.  In 1937, a large Nazi Rally was held in Trier.  The situation was getting more and more dangerous.   The Kleppers had relatives in the United States, so they decided to leave their home in Germany and come to America.  US foreign policy made it difficult for Jews to get permission to immigrate and it often took a long time to get the paper work together.  Manny's grandparents' and sister's papers came through first, and they left Germany in 1938.

Nazi Rally in Trier, 1937
  Manny Klepper is my brother-in-law.  He speaks about his Kristallnacht experiences  in his community.  His story continues in my next blog entry.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Always in Style!

Pauline Rychly Koshuba and John Koshuba 1920
Lillian Krause 1936 HS Graduation
Lillian and Dave Gerstein 1964
A little album full of fashionable ladies and gentlemen at their best.  

As I go through the old snapshot and formal portraits I am impressed with the beautiful and fashionable ladies of the Rychly, Koshuba, Gerstein and Noznick families.
Walter, Joseph and Julia Koshuba 1920's
Julia Koshuba 1937 HS Graduation
Lillian Gerstein and Girlfriends 1960's

Julia Koshuba Noznick 1920's
Anna Koshuba 1916
Gerstein, Krause and Endliss Families at the Chez Paree 1950's

Lillian Krause Gerstein 1920's
Marya Klak 1912
Lillian Krause and friends, 1940
Lillian and Dave Gerstein 1940's

Sally Popko and friends 1920's
Pauline Koshuba and Julie Koshuba 1940's
Lillian Gerstein 1941
Julie Koshuba 1940's

Friday, November 1, 2013

Growing Up in New York City the Lower East Side Way

The Tompkins Square Boys Club, 10th St and Avenue 
The Library at The Tompkins Square Boys Club

E.H. Harriman, founded the Boy's Club of New York in 1876

Growing up on the Lower East Side of New York City has been chronicled in many novels, studies, newspaper articles and memoirs.  My father, Peter Noznick, never wrote his story, but through many years of story telling, I have managed to put together the story of his childhood, from 1915 to 1930.

Peter Noznick was born in 1915 in Bellevue Hospital, on Second Ave in New York City, which unusual for that time, since most children were born at home.  His parents, Marya Klak and John Nyznyk were living on East 92nd Street, in the Yorkville area.  Their New York roots, however, were on the Lower East Side.  They were married in St George Ukrainian Catholic Church on East 7th Street in 1914,  and that is where their  son Peter was baptized.

Marya and John's marriage was on the rocks, and within two years it ended and she moved back to the Lower East Side neighborhood. Marya was now a single mother, illiterate, and not fluent in the English language.  Yet, she was able to find the best available situation for her son. She found the Children's Aid Society of New York, which had many services for women in Marya's situation.  She sent him to a Children's Aid Society day nursery, so she was able to work.  She worked at a cook at a summer camp, near Lake George, in Upstate New York, and found an area family to take my dad for the summer.  He had fond memories of that summer, especially of the family dog, a large collie.

Tenement Kitchen from the Lower East Side Tenement Museum NYC.

Marya married Peter Zackowski, and the two of them worked three jobs in order to save enough money to buy a farm. In  the passbooks from the Dry Dock Bank and the Emigrant Savings Bank,  most of the deposits were under ten cents.  At first the family lived on Avenue C, across the street from the Eagle Pencil Factory, between Twelfth and Thirteenth Street.  Later they moved around the corner to 624 East Eleventh St, a typical three room Lower East Side Tenement. They lived there until 1930, when they moved to Connecticut.

Children's Aid Society Dental Clinic
My father moved from the Children's Aid Society day nursery to the Sixth Avenue Industrial School, which served boys through the fourth grade.  The children studied school subjects in the morning and received job training in the afternoon.   He attended a public elementary school for fifth and sixth grade, and in seventh grade moved to the James P. O'Neal Junior High School 64 on Ninth Ave between Avenue B and C. He was in the Rapid Advance Program, which was the "gifted program" of that time.  My dad always liked school, and was a good student.

The Children's Aid Society's Sixth Street Industrial School
Peter joined the Tompkins Square Boys' Club, on Tenth Ave and Avenue A,  which became a very important part of his life.  He had a lot of time on his hands and very little supervision at home, since his parents were always at work.  The Boy's Club provided a quite place to study, sports and recreation facilities, and kept him out of trouble.  He learned to swim in the pool where the Olympic swimmer and star of Tarzan movies, Johnny Weismuller trained, and took advantage of the facilities that were endowed by the Harriman family in 1876.  He attended the Boy's Club summer camp, Camp Carey, on Long Island, in Johnsport, New York.  At Camp Carey, he was able to meet both both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, stars of the New York Yankees. The Boy's Club had a boxing ring, a large gym and just about everything a young boy would want to have.  The dues were fifty cents a year.  The staff members were young college educated men, who provided good examples for many boys who basically played in the street.

A Poster from the NY Public Library