Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Hilma Geffen - February 15, 1985

Anti-Semitic Laws

Did your father pay too?

Yes, my father paid and it was paid in four installments. And when the four installments were paid up uh, it wasn't enough so they added another installment. We paid either four or five installments. I'm not uh, sure anymore. But it represented between 20 and 25 percent of the assets that my father had. And I'm sure all the other Jews uh, people all over Germany. Also, all the bank accounts were frozen.


Jewish bank accounts. We could not get to our money anymore, but we were assessed some that the bank sent us monthly. An official came to our house and assessed what we needed for the month to live on. The groceries, the utilities, the rent, whatever was necessary for a family of three to live during the month we were assessed. And he determined it and the bank sent us that money. If there were any larger bills, doctor bills or taxes, for anything unusual you had to apply to the bank and ask them to pay the money, or to these people, whoever you owed the money to from your own account. You had absolutely no control over your own bank account anymore. Uh, people who were employed did not receive, and had a bank account, did not receive their salary but the employer had to send the salary directly to the bank. And then in turn, the bank sends you your monthly allowance. I'm not sure. I don't know, I was not aware how much our allowance was. I have no idea what. But evidently, it was enough for us to live on. To buy things. There was no, we could not do anything extra.

Out of that you mentioned that the change had come at the time of Kristallnacht. Did you feel any changes when the Nuremberg Laws appeared or did they not really affect you living in Rangsdorf?

The Nuremberg Laws did not directly affect my family because we didn't have a maid, for instance. It affected a lot of people who were of mixed marriages. And the children were, had to de...the children were asked, or rather the parents had to determine whether they wanted the children to be raised as Gentiles or as Jews. And it didn't matter who was the Gentile partner. Uh, a friend of mine was raised as a Gentile. His father was Jewish, his mother was non-Jewish, but they opted for him to be raised and be declared non...uh, not Jewish. Uh, many of my friends opted to be Jewish and they were in turn eventually were treated just like anybody else. If you had servants and maids you had, they had to be over 45 to work in the Jewish household. Anybody under 45 had to be dismissed. So that there was no mixing of, of blood or race, which was of course very ludicrous. Uh, maids who had been in Jewish households for years and years had to be dismissed suddenly if they were under 45 and uh, believe me they had it very good in Jewish households. Uh, that was so, actually it did not affect us too much, except that I had a cousin who had come from Poland. She was a daughter of my mother's sister who had long passed away in childbirth. She was, she lived in Poland with her family, but she did not like it there anymore and she wanted to come to the big city, Berlin, and find a husband there or live in Berlin. That was about 1934. She worked for some friends of ours as a maid. She also stayed with us for a while and she liked it in Berlin. She had a non-Jewish boyfriend. And I imagined they were to be married, or she thought he would marry her. In 1935, he wrote her that uh, he could not see her anymore. That he could not, certainly could not marry her and she was so upset and so distraught about it that she committed suicide. That was within our family, but as far as my mother, my father, myself were concerned there was not too much difference. Uh, in '38, after the Kristallnacht, I stopped going to school. I went to high school meanwhile in, near Berlin, in a suburb of Berlin and of course I could not go to that high school any further, but went into city of Berlin to a Jewish school. Uh, I commuted every day, from Berlin, from Rangsdorf to Berlin. It was not a modern train. It was a steam train. Now they have electric trains, but uh, there was still steam trains. It took about 45 minutes and then I was on the road about an hour, an hour fifteen minutes, from door to door. To my amazement, I found that the learning and the studying and the curriculum in the Jewish schools was so much superior than what I was used to. We had a lot of holidays. Everybody's official birthday was celebrated and the schools were uh, there was no school and learning was very meager as teaching was very meager. Mostly indoctrination. And I found that I was very backwards and from...and I slipped from a very good student to a very uh, bad student. And it took me a while to catch up. In languages, in math, in science, we, I didn't know half the things that was already taught in the Jewish schools, Jewish high school.

Did you retain any contact with non-Jewish, say friends from high school or from your town?

I had no friends in the, the uh, non-Jewish high school. I probably talked with the kids but I had no friends. So there was nothing to keep in contact with. Nobody there. No. I was pretty much isolated. I uh, of course once I was in the Jewish school I had a lot of friends again. I had a boyfriend who carried my books from the subway to the school. I had a lot of girlfriends and I started visiting girlfriends, and girlfriends visited us in Rangsdorf. They always liked to come to Rangsdorf because it was a suburb and it was very nice. It was the country. And we uh, and it was lovely, especially in the summertime. Uh, in '39, my father saw the handwriting on the wall. That there may be war. They also rumored that Jews were not allowed to have property anymore and he decided to sell the house. He sold it to one of his former clients. And in August of 1939 we moved to Berlin. Back to Berlin. Uh, my aunt had uh, my mother's sister had uh, gotten a four-room flat in Berlin. She used to live in a very nice part of Berlin, but they had to move from that part and she had found this apartment and so uh, she said we better move together. We had uh, also an old aunt. My mother had an aunt who uh, had lived with us for a while. She was a widow and had nowhere to go and uh, had come to live with us. She also had. So she had a room and a little kitchen uh, my parents and I, we had two rooms. And my aunt and her husband had one room. We had one kitchen, then of course, the bathroom. Uh...

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