Municipalities in Germany in the 1980s asked the Jews who had been driven out by acts of the Nazis and their sympathizers to return and be honored by the community. Mother stipulated that she would only come if she could speak to students. One wide-eyed senion said, in a shocked manner, that no one had told him what went on that caused the Jews to leave their homes, the only ones most knew and cherished. Karola wrote this letter in response to one sent her by two girls.
Karola Koppel Loeb ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- 8 April 1988
Written to sophomore students of school I had attended and graduated from in 1934 in the city of Muenchengladbach in Germany.
Dear Stephanie and Frega and all of the class of 10 C.
Many thanks for your letter of March 18, 1988. I had been very busy with the preparation of our Passover Holiday, therefore I only answer your letter now. Though my mother tongue is German, I mostly use the English language. Therefore you might find a few mistakes in the writing and expression. I give the youth group Muenchengladbach a very special praise to sponsor this contest. Only by knowledge of what happened in those years, people can understand and learn what uncontrolled hatred can accomplish; to destroy human beings and at the same time themselves and to destroy the country of the poets and philosophers. Only by exchange of memories and thought can we prevent a repetition of those gruesome happenings in the future. The youth of all the world is our hope, that the horror of that time will not occur anymore. Now I will try as best as I can remember to answer your questions.
1. In the years previous to 1933 all of us fellow citizens lived very harmoniously together. We had our Christian and Jewish friends and students we knew in the school as in our neighborhood. Nobody asked: "Are you Jewish, Catholic or Protestant?" It was only important to enjoy the friendship. I, as all of my family, had Christian and Jewish friends and I enjoyed their friendship during all my eight years in the Oberlyceum. My fellow students included me in all graduation festivities in 1934, even though Hitler was in power already.
2. After Hitler gained power in 1933, there was not much change in the beginning. I still had the same teachers. They knew me since I entered the Lyceum, as they were the teachers of both of my sisters. In 1933 I was in the Unterprima (Junior class). All of my Jewish classmates had left the school, as no university was permitted to accept Jewish students. The planned education could not be continued. It was mentally very difficult for me to continue the 1 1/4 and study for the Abitur (?) in March 1934. What future was there for me as for all of Jewish people. For the country, for Germany I was not the same person anymore. When class started the teacher entered the classroom with stretched out arm, the Heil Hitler greeting. All of the students, besides me, responded to this Heil Hitler in the same way. In the eyes of the Hitler power, I was a different human being. Every time I felt as if I was hit with a whip, because I knew the meaning of this salute. In March 1934 I graduated, that is I made the Abitur (?) with the grade of B. For my teachers, who had known me for nine years, I still was the same Karola Koppel. What to do now after I had the Abitur? The entree to all universities in Germany was closed for Jews, though a few students, who had started their studies before Hitler came to power, could continue for a while. Slowly this too was not permitted anymore. You could not be a member of any organization, not be in a restaurant to spend some time with friends. More and more we lived in Jewish community only. We met at the sports club Maccabi for all our sports activities, like ping pong, soccer etc. To visit the coffee house where you had coffee and Coke we drove to Kaffeehaus Karemah in Duesseldorf about three quarters of an hour by car. It was a large private house, which was used for dancing and restaurant for the Jewish youth. Here we gathered often. The main topic was always: Where can we go? Which country will let us enter? Where will we be able to settle and start a new life? Where can we learn a profession or trade and practice it? We lived in a Jewish ghetto.
Every day there were new laws regarding Jews. It showed the awful hatred of Hesse, Streicher, Goebbels, Baldur von Schirach, Goering and so many SA and SS Fuehrer and followers. Hitler succeeded with his talks and yelling to convince the masses of his idea of destruction, and to hypnotize the masses. They lost all reasoning.
On the radio we could only listen to Hitler and since we lived close to Luxembourg, all listening to Radio Luxembourg was prohibited. Just the same, my father with tremendous danger, listened every day to Radio Luxembourg news, to listen to the opinion of foreign countries. Christian friends of my father who knew of Hitler's plan to destroy the Jewish population mentally, businesswise and mainly bodily, warned my parents to leave the country as soon as possible. It was not easy for them in their 60th years, to leave all their lives work behind. But we knew we had to get out as soon as possible to save our lives. Our family had the opportunity to emigrate to the United States of America under the American quota. My parents had relatives here who sent us affidavits.
End of June 1938 we left Germany. We were spared to live through Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938, when all windows were ransacked, books and synagogues burned and Jewish people of all ages packed into cattle cars sent to concentration camps to suffer the death of martyrs. We started a new life in July 1938 in America. We, who traveled through this gruesome time, can never forget it as we do not forget the help and protection of many non-Jewish people and fellow German friends in this gruesome time.
With regards to all of you young people,
Karola Koppel Loeb