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: I want to talk about how life was to change. Presumably you didn’t have much knowledge of what was going on being a young boy?
Interviewer: But from stories that your parents would tell you let’s go back to how things would change gradually for Jewish people in Germany from ’33 onwards for instance.
Dad: Well Lipke was a village of about 100 people. It had a few necessities and my father, because of his position, was able to have a car so there must have been a petrol station. Anyway, we had a neighbour, Vanzerloper, I remember the name. He was an optician, or type of optician. If you were that way out in the country..your qualifications would be dubious. He was also a cripple, a hunchback, lame, and as a matter of fact he was the propaganda minister Goebbel’s caricature of what a Jew looks like. When Hitler came to power he put up a device which worked with the wind and it had a hook-nosed Jew gyrating around a pole.
Anyway, my father didn’t take any notice, it didn’t worry him. But when he lost his job in 1935, he realised what he had to do. So he went to the necessary Jewish committees in Berlin and they said “Oh yes, we can get you into Siberia, Shanghai China, Venezuela South America” but I think that’s where it stopped at that time. The rest of the time was visiting relations because we had to preserve our funds living with them and going back and forth – I was left with the relations in Berlin to see what could be done about getting out. But it had been left rather late and it was only through an Australian politician who had toured Europe earlier. McEwen was his name, and he was leader of the Country Party. He noticed there were a pool of professionals and craftsmen and he worked at it and he got 3,000 permits. You need a permit to be allowed to enter the country. I don’t know whether they were all filled but one of the requirements was the age and my father told a polite fib, he said he was under 40. In 1938 he was 42. He had to leave his mother, the widow, behind because she had a heart condition and was old.
Now I am going to say something I probably shouldn’t. My mother was pregnant, and you weren’t allowed in if you were pregnant so my mother had to have an abortion in Berlin. Once we had the permits, things became more organised and we got a ticket for the steamer “Bremenhaven, North Sea”. We left on the steamer in 1938 and came via West Africa to Adelaide.
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