An interesting afternoon…

January 20, 2012 § 2 Comments

I went to the Jeanette Wolff senior center, one of Jewish old age homes in Berlin on Wednesday, to speak with the mother of a friend of mine.

Inge Borg Marcus will be 90 on Feb. 4.

This is not her apartment — I forgot my camera (aargh) — but it is pretty typical of what one looks like.

I originally went to speak with her because she is a long time member of the city’s Jewish community I wanted to get an historical view about the community’s many political and financial problems.

But we ended talking a lot about her childhood and the Nazi years.

Inge is one of those people many American Jews can’t understand. She was born in Berlin and  went to school here. She  was kicked out of school on Nov. 10, 1938 after the Kristallnacht Pogrom put her father, like thousands of Jewish men, under arrest. She left Berlin for England in April of 1939.

Her parents never got out. They were murdered in Auschwitz.

Yet after the war she reconnected in Paris with a teenage flame. They got married, had their first child there.

And in 1950, they moved back to Berlin.

Many people I know — including several family members — cannot understand that. My Uncle Al, in fact, bitterly complained to my mother when I made my first work trip to Germany in 1987, with the intention of staying one year. I remained for nearly nine.

“It’s not nice that a Jewish girl lives in Germany.”

My mother didn’t defend me. She didn’t like the idea either. Never mind that none of Uncle Al’s four grandchildren married someone Jewish.

Germany was different.

So when I brought this up to Inge, she nodded her head and said she understood all the criticisms.

“But you have to know they weren’t all bad,” she said, referring to non-Jewish Germans. Inge said she was the only Jewish student at her high school, but was not picked on. She also said their neighbors in the building where they lived were very nice to them.

Inge’s parents were able to live in their apartment until they were deported in 1941. Most other Jews were herded out of their apartments into ghetto-areas where Jews were kept.

“If someone in the apartment building had complained that they didn’t want to live near Jews, my parents would have been out of there like that” she said as she snapped her still quite nimble fingers.

She said they returned to Germany because her husband wanted to see what remained there . They also wanted to make claims for their property and needed to file reparations claims.

And Inge told herself if she returned to Germany, she would do all she could to help rebuild the Jewish community.

And that she did.

Though this is a file photo, it represents what Inge does on a regular basis — She speaks to young Germans about her experiences as a 16-year old     German girl in 1938 in Nazi Deutschland. She talks about being lucky to be able to get to England, but the horribleness of having to leave her parents behind.

   And about the importance of building up the Jewish community in Berlin after the war. I’m very grateful Inge and others did this. I’m not sure I would have been able to do the same.

§ 2 Responses to An interesting afternoon…

  • Klaus Engelhardt says:

    The title of this post is most appropriate

  • reno21 says:

    My parents talked of moving back to Germany after the war, and a friend of theirs did move (Heinz Putzrath, who was head of a reconcilliation committee of some kind). The idea was to help rebuild the country — it was home to my father and he always spoke that fluent, unaccented German that ignored words that entered the vocabulary after 1939. I remember hearing him talk of “der Television” rather than “der Fernseher”. But they stayed in Britain at the end. One of those what-if scenarios.

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