A number of years ago, my father was interviewed for the Jewish Migrant Oral History Project. Thankfully, I have a copy of the interview, and I will be publishing excerpts from it in his memory.
Interviewer: John can we begin the interview by you telling us your full name and where and when you were born please?
Dad: My full name, birth certificate, Joachim David —–. John David —–, born Lipke, L I P K E near Landsberg an der Watte, Province Brandenburg. Landsberg was the nearest town and Province Brandenburg about one million people, predominantly farming. Small farming.
Interviewer: Let’s talk about your family background. Who were your parents? Could you name them for us?
Dad: My father Hans David —– born 1896. Nicholai, Upper Salesia, Danzig Corridor. My mother Freida —– born Catowitz, also Upper Silesia – Danzig corridor. The importance of the Danzig Corridor being mentioned is it changed hands every war between Germany, Poland and whoever.
Interviewer: What was their background? How did they come to be in this part of the world?
Dad: My father’s family; his mother became a widow when my father was four and she lived with her brother Louie Berger. My father had schooling and then he went to war. He was the only Jew in the class and the whole class volunteered so he volunteered. He came back from the war and his relations there were quite well off. They were merchants. And because of them being so smug about everything my father developed an aversion to business people and he was going to study medicine. But lo and behold he didn’t have the money so he got into a veterinary course in Giessen. End of story he decided to really rub it in, he finished his veterinary course and then did a doctorate by working in an abattoir as director. He worked in the abattoir because that was close to where his mother lived and she was getting old and she hadn’t seen very much of her son.
I had assumed that the marriage was arranged because my father was 32 when he married, and my mother turned 21. Also my mother’s parents or family bought that practice in Germany, in Lipke. It was a government practice and he could have private patients if he wanted. It was a fixed income. So they moved there to Lipke after marriage. My mother found it a little hard at first because her family were closer to being more German than my father’s family who were ultra-religious. As my mother tells the story, she was introduced to my father’s family and the men sat in one part of the room, the women in the other. They moved to Lipke, and I was born in 1930 and all went well. My father belonged to all the organisations there, the ex-servicemen, the Front Line – that means active service – who have seen active service and had the medals. Due to my father’s background, my parents left Lipke and drove something like 15 kilometres to Landsberg, where there was a Jewish community, for the Sabbath. They drove there Friday afternoon and came back Saturday after the Sabbath. And they did this without thinking.
Part of my father’s work was servicing what they called a ‘gutt,’ a large property owned by, I won’t say nobility, but so-called junkers, the aristocracy. One was an ex-serviceman, ex-officer and he hadn’t married yet, and they were running wild, and doing things, but he was also like my father; he couldn’t sleep too well and he read a lot. So he and my father started exchanging books, but then he got married and domesticated and they became friends. He was the one later who told my father not to be crazy, to get out of Germany.