Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Hilma Geffen - February 15, 1985


I think the best way to begin is for you to tell everyone your name, and then tell your parents' names, where you were born, then proceed forward into the events of the Third Reich with your experiences.

Uh, my name is Hilma Geffen. I was born in Berlin in January nineteen-hundred and twenty-five. I lived practically all my life in Berlin or in the surroundings of Berlin. My parents were both born in the province Posen. My father was born in Lubrza, Province Posen. My mother was born in Obornik, Province Posen. When they were born in the 1984, and my mother was born in 19...in 18...I'm sorry, in 1884 and uh, my mother was born in 1887. Uh, the Province Posen was German, and belonged to Germany. At the, all the families lived there. I don't know too much about my parents' family, except that my father's family had a grocery store and my mother's father was a butcher. And from what I can determine, they were uh, well-to-do; middle class. My father's family: my father's mother and father died very young and were buried in Posen, the Province Posen. My mother's family came to Germany, to Berlin, and my grandparents were born, were buried in Berlin in the cemetery in Weisensee, Berlin, which is now the East Sector under the Russian uh, uh, the East Sector of Berlin. Uh, two years ago I went to East Berlin and I visited my grandparents' grave. It is in good shape and it was not destroyed during the fighting, during the Second World War. Uh, my, both my parents had brothers and sisters, none of them are alive anymore. In both families had a son who was killed during World War II. My father fought during World War I, I'm sorry, 1914-1918. My father fought during World War I. He was on the Russian front. He earned the Iron Cross and several other merits. When uh, the war was over and Germany was defeated, that part, Province Posen was uh, given to Poland. My parents and their families opted for Germany. You had the choice to become Polish or to stay German. They opted to stay German and like so many others, moved to Berlin. My father uh, then uh, started his uh, career. He was a CPA. The equivalent of a CPA in this country. Uh, my mother uh, stayed with an aunt of hers. Her sister the same way, and they remained uh, with that aunt until both of them married. Uh, my mother was 36 when she married, my father was 40. They married late in life. And during the time, they just married in the worst inflation time in Germany, in 1923. And I heard my mother telling many a time that her wedding cost her two dollars. Uh, it must have been a lot of money in German marks because she paid for the whole wedding with the two dollars. When they uh, they moved into a section of Berlin which is now called, which is called Alexanderplatz, which was a workers' section. It was not very exclusive. There were mainly tenement housing. Uh, we had a coldwater flat, and I guess at that time my parents were very lucky to even get that particular flat. Uh, my father had many clients. Evidently he did quite well, because within six years he had bought a parcel and had a house built in a suburb south of Berlin, which was called Rangsdorf. It was just located outside of Berlin. Uh, it was a village. I would say about 25 miles. We moved to Rangsdorf early 1931, when I was six and I started school in Rangsdorf. In Germany we started school in April. The school year started in April. It has changed now, but then it was April for the school year to start. It was a village school. We had two classes. One was grade one through four. The other class of five through eight. There were two teachers who also lived in the school house. The school house was very new. It was brand new and it was actually very nice school house. A small one; was brick. Uh, new furniture and everybody admired the modernity of this school house. It is still there. It has been enlarged, but it is still there. Uh, school was uneventful. Like first grade, second grade, I learned like everybody else. And the change came in 1933. Not very drastic, but nevertheless there was a change in attitude, in my attitude and behavior toward me by the children and by the teachers and by our neighbors. We had very good relations with our neighbors. We were the only Jewish family in Rangsdorf. We were, we had our house and we had uh, very nice neighbors. We uh, Rangsdorf was a uh, sort of a resort. There was a lake nearby. In summer there was a lot of bathing. In the winter uh, ice sport. It was a lovely surrounding; woods. A lot of people had weekend cottages. They lived in Berlin, they worked in Berlin and on weekends they came out to Rangsdorf and enjoyed the weekend. And uh, my father was very attached to the garden of our house. He planted a lot of fruit trees and of course vegetables, flowers. My mother loved to work in the garden and uh, it was a very good life.

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