Printed below are excerpts from a letter recently received from a Jewish refugee from Germany by Prof. A. Z. Idelsohn of Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati. The writer, a friend of Professor Idelsohn, is a graduate engineer of a German college. Ousted from his profession, he was forced to become a peddler in Germany to earn a livelihood for his family, before he was able to escape to Paris.
Paris, May 10, 1933.
My letter, written from Paris, will undoubtedly surprise you. The facts contained here are to me a dreamâ€”a nightmare of horror.
I have been here in Paris for two weeks. Despite the peaceful surroundings of my dwellings and the welcome absence of turmoil, my nerves are still on edgeâ€”a hangover from days and nights of chaos in Germany.
One night a Nazi horde, representing themselves to be police, forced their way into my home, seized all my books, insulted my wife in the most despicable ways, and sat with loaded and cocked revolvers until the distraught woman for the sake of the children admitted that I was in Nâ€”’s home.
Immediately the gang cut my telephone wires, leaped into a motorcar, and sped to Nâ€”’s home. There they surrounded the house as though they were greyhounds and I a hare. It was a wonder that I had ever wanted to spend the night at the home of Nâ€”.
That night Nâ€”became a hero. Although the brownshirts flogged him mercilessly with a rubber hose, he refused to tell where I was. They threatened to shoot him. Still, he remained adamant. His Nazi prosecutors accused him of secretly operating a Communist Pressâ€”an idiotic idea.
Nâ€”’s little daughter was asleep, a pearl necklace about her shoulders, and on her arm a gold wristwatch hung. The Nazis clawed over this girl on the pretext of examining her jewels.
What did they really want of me? This question was answered by their subsequent interrogation and ill treatment of Jews, who have had nothing to do with German politics. It is well known to the fifty Jews who were arrested near Nâ€”’s house that night and who are still detained. Those who displeased a Naziâ€”and these constituted a large majority of the Jews apprehended on that nightâ€”were not released.
The Jews retained their dignity despite the fact that they were ruined, their goods appropriated, and themselves suppressed in all ways. Their tormentors with perverted sadism wanted to look upon them as jelly-fish.
During four weeks of observation, I could go nowhere where there was not intense anxiety and worry among the Jews. It was not the blows of the beasts which plagued me during this period; rather, it was the ceaseless questioning, the third degree, which they plied upon us poor people, that tortured us almost into insanity.
After weeks of being bull-dozed by these merciless creatures, I came to Paris. “Certainly,” we refugees thought, “certainly, we shall find help here.” But nevertheless we asked ourselves what lay ahead of us. I had left Germany with only fifty marks.
While the urge to flee from Germany inspired every Jew in the country, only a few of the better circumstanced people were able to travel in comfort or to enjoy a decent livelihood once they had reached the sanctuary of foreign territory.
I was, to be sure, better treated in Paris than I had been in Germany. Those of the middle class who fled with me knew me well, and from them I received some aid. But labor was forbidden us in Paris. I am forced to seek employment in the stores here.
Relief organizations here offer us some help; but this welcome charity is inclined to flow more toward Jews who were German citizens than those of us who had no citizenship in the country….
German mails no longer enjoy any privacy. Nazi censors attend to that. I am without word, and almost without hope, for the survival of my beloved children and my brave wife. I carefully scan the list of suicides in Germany published daily in the foreign press; and, fully appreciating the starvation and want of Jews in that country, I can well appreciate the urge that causes them to take their own lives. I can not enjoy the few pleasures that are left to me in life, because I know that there are other thousands who are deprived of even those few.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.