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.
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Interviewer: I did want you to tell us what you know of your father’s military background. His experiences during World War One.
Dad: Well he was in the Horse Artillery, and his little unit – the ones who survived – ended firm friends after the war. You get a medal for volunteering, you get a medal for serving in the front line, you get a medal for being wounded twice badly and you get a few other things but those were the three medals my father was proud of. Because anti-Semitism had always been in Germany or Europe – even England – and even though Jews lived better in Germany until after World War One, they still could not achieve the ultimate. A Jew could not become a regular officer in the regular army. He could become a reserve officer but not a regular officer. I repeat that because of my father, because he never reached the rank he thought he had earned.
Interviewer: Did he ever explain to you possibly as a boy why this racism existed – why Jewish people were always going to be in a particular strata?
Dad: He tried to on the boat. We were together for about four, five months and he taught me Hebrew and he taught me chess and he taught me mathematics and I think he possibly tried to explain. All I knew was there were do’s and don’ts, full stop. When it came time for me to go to school I arrived all dressed up there and nothing too bad except it became embarrassing when I wanted to go to the toilet because all of a sudden there was a crowd of people there waiting to see what my penis looked like. The headmaster was a friend of my father. He told my father it was a bad mistake to go to school because under Hitler’s edict I wasn’t actually allowed to go.. So I didn’t understand too much because when the parades went past our little village of kids and the Hitler Youth etc, I asked my parents… I told them I would like to join. It was only later I learnt.