Interviews

Former Jewish homes in Germany: “I felt like a thief!”

Most homes in Germany are handed down from one generation to the next. My mother’s family, the Westerfelds, had built their house in Stockstadt am Rhein in 1721, and they lived in it for 200 years. In 1939, when my grandparents were desperate for money, one of the town’s prominent Nazis pressured the family into selling the Westerfeld home for next to nothing. Eventually, the home was handed down to ...

Female prisoners react to my memoir, MOTHERLAND

A Wisconsin women’s prison selected my memoir, MOTHERLAND, for its book club, and then invited me to speak to readers. The women related to my mother’s story in a way I never could have predicted. My grandparents sent my 12-year-old mother as an unaccompanied minor from Nazi Germany to America to save her life in 1938. My grandparents never explained to my mother why they felt they had to take ...

Message in a Box!

On one of our visits to the small German town my mother fled as an unaccompanied minor in 1938, a woman my mother hardly remembered asked that we visit her in her nursing home. My mother wasn’t interested, but the woman insisted, saying she had something she absolutely had to give to my mother. Finally, we stopped by her home, and she presented Mom with this box. “Before your mother ...

Anniversary of the Kindertransport and the lesser-known American program

The World Jewish Congress marked the 84th anniversary of the Kindertransport with this post: "After the Kristallnacht pogrom of November 1938, Jewish groups organized a secret rescue operation to get Jewish children of out of Nazi-occupied Europe. Because of immigration laws, their parents were unable to join them. "The first group of children arrived in the UK in December 1938. It is estimated that up to 10,000 children were saved ...

A German friend remembers my family for Totensonntag

Every year for Totensonntag, a German friend takes her son to the stolpersteine that memorialize my family in Stockstadt am Rhein -- my mother's town. Totensonntag is a Protestant religious holiday in Germany and Switzerland that commemorates those who have departed. My friend sent me this photo this morning of the candle she placed at my family's stumbling stones. Recently, I read this fascinating article, "Monuments to the Unthinkable" by ...

In Memory of Gerda Katz, my mom’s best friend on the ship in 1938

Five years ago today, my mother's best friend passed away. The two met on the ship in 1938 as they fled Nazi Germany to America. In 2011, eighth-graders reunited the two friends after a 72-year separation. The first time Gerda and Edith "talked," they said hello and then sobbed together. No words were necessary. Each felt the other was the only person who understood their deep uprooting and unbearable losses. ...

Another remarkable find in my mother’s old photo album!

Here, my mother's sister, Betty, (4th from left) is flanked by her German friends just before she fled Nazi Germany for America in 1937. In her writings, Betty described how she got her passport. “I was a wide-eyed fourteen-year-old, very much a country bumpkin. Everything was new and interesting. Life lay ahead of me and, if it were not for Hitler, things would have been fine. “But I knew I ...

Germans live uncomfortably with the houses once owned by Jewish families

In Germany, old homes are preserved and handed down from generation to generation. After the Holocaust, homes that belonged to Jewish families in Germany were abandoned or torn down. For decades, no one wanted to live in them and face what had happened to these families. Nazis stole my mother's home in Stockstadt am Rhein, which had been in the family for over 200 years. I tell part of this ...

Another remarkable photo from my mother’s old album!

Another remarkable photo find in my mother's old album! This one shows Mom's sister, Betty, who took mandolin lessons with a group of boys . When the Nazis came to power, her teacher terminated her lessons. Here's how I described the experience in IS IT NIGHT OR DAY? "But now, suddenly, we were filth, Jews polluting the village. In 1935, the Nuremberg Laws cut us off completely, and after living ...

Remarkable find in my mother’s old photo album!

Last week, my 97-year-old mother found a remarkable photograph in an old album! It captures the group of unaccompanied minors she traveled with from Germany to America in March, 1938. Taken on the ship, my mother is in the bottom row, hands on her head to stop the sharp winds from blowing her hair in her face. Right next to her is her best friend on the ship, Gerda Katz. ...