They have found refuge in the headquarters of the Young Men’s Hebrew Association at Lexington avenue and Ninety-second street, those twenty-one exiles from Nazi Germany whom a Jewish Daily Bulletin reporter went up to visit in search of a color story.
They have found refuge, but they have yet to find happiness.
Half an hour spent in their company and the reporter left with the impression that here was perhaps the unhappiest group of men this side of Dante’s Inferno.
To a man, the group is stamped indelibly with the mark of Nazi terrorismâ€”fear. Fear of the past Dread of the future, which stretches out before them bleak, forbidding, hopeless.
Uprooted from the placid trend of their professional livesâ€”the group includes a middle-aged doctor of international law, several artists of mature years and a sprinkling of physicians and teachersâ€”they find themselves faced with the necessity of building their lives anew in a city which they feel is essentially unfriendly, turbulent, cold.
Without exception the refugees in this group are possessed of a dread of discussing their recent past in Hitler’s Third Reich. Their dread is not for themselves. They know they are beyond reach of the Nazi bludgeons. What they fear is for their relatives, members of the family whom they have left behind.
Again and again, even after shaking hands and pledging absolute secrecy about dangerous details, a refugee in this group suddenly breaks off in the middle of a sentence and demands renewed assurances that his identity will be concealed, localities disguised beyond shadow of recognition and even his profession given as something else.
The entire group gives the impression of somehow having wandered into modern days from the time of the Inquisition.
Only four or five blocks from Yorkville, the German section on the upper East Side, these genuine Germans, in many cases blonde and blue-blooded, suffer from the most intense loneliness. One of them described his life as ‘a living death.” Anotherâ€”we will call him Bornstein and describe him as a lawyerâ€”not having heard from his parents in the last five weeks, said he was contemplating suicide if this life went on. And, from his appearance and obvious depression, he was not just talking.
No longer young these men who have achieved some sort of success in their communities and professions in Germany wander about this strange city of the new world like ship-wrecked people on a strange island. For company they have only each other and for glad tidings they have only rumors and predictions about Germany’s future. Even should Hitler fall within the year, there is no going back for them except as outcasts from their professions and former lives.
They live, as one of them said, within a glass case. They can see and even hear the life around them. But from human contact, which can only be had in native surroundings and among familiar people and things, they are irreparably cut off. At least, that is what they say and feel and that is the fact that counts, among these outcasts on the beach of the new world.