Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Leo Liffman - May 15, 1985

Thoughts on Germany

Did you correspond with your parents when you got to the United States?

Yes I did. For about...'Til the war started. And then nothing anymore. And I sent some letters through the Red Cross and uh, they were returned. They were very laconically marked "deceased." That's, uh...I think everybody... has a little bit of a story to tell about that and uh, anybody's fate is a little bit different. One can only say that uh, anti-Semitism and Hitlerism, it did not start in nineteen hundred and thirty-three. It started long before that. And there's a real cruel joke even historically. You know, 1923 Hitler started to get uh, uh, legal. If you turned the numbers around it will be 1932, nine years later only, he made it. Twenty-three, thirty-two. It's a real cruel joke, I must say. And, uh...You know, maybe I'm permitted to tell you something, not directly related to it, to give you an idea of the attitude of the German people in general and of the American people following all that. One can judge people almost by the jokes they tell. Those stories was going on in Germany in nineteen hundred and twenty-five. Two guys meet on the street in Berlin. One said to the other, "Hey," he said, "You know, we got an idea what we can do with the Jews." He said, "Oh yeah, what is it?" He said, "We put them all on the high buildings in the town." And he said, "What good does that do?" "Oh," he said, "Don't you know, they are the best lightning rods." Then, nineteen hundred and sixty-five, I was working for a big corporation. I'm not going to go into details on that one. One evening there were some cocktails. And one...Everybody told some stories, told me a story. And on that table I was sitting, the one vice-president said, "Leo, we got a good story for you." Good story, I'll listen to good stories. "Yeah," he said, "You know in Auschwitz?" "Well, yes." "Eichmann called all the Jews together and told them." I said, "Yes?" "He told them, well, I got some good news for you and I got some bad news for you. First, I tell you the good news. All of you will go to the United States." "What's the bad news?" "That you will be going as soap." You know, I looked at the guy. I think I left sitting, left sitting there didn't say a word for about five minutes and I walked out of the place. It was maybe nine-thirty, ten o'clock at night, you know. Twelve o'clock in my hotel room, it was at a meeting out of town, my telephone rings. "Uh Leo?" "Yes." "This is Bob." "Yes." "Leo, I want to apologize. I think what I told you was very untimely and ill chosen." I said, "Fine, forget it." But you know it...What is funny, they think that was very funny. Telling me that possibly the implication that I wash my face with my father and my mother, you know. Feelings, and I mean, it's the uh, starting the attitudes. I read the paper and they still have the Passion Plays going on and, and uh, Oberammergau in Bavaria, where the Jews the perpetrator of all the evil in the world. As long as that's going on we're starting another Holocaust. Then our friend Reagan tells us that uh, all this forget and forgive. Now who, who is he to tell me to...my dead people forgive. The dead can't forgive.

Do you have a family here now?

Oh, yeah.

Um, do you have hopes for the future for them?

Yes. I think it's up to them. They have a chance. Yes. I have one son who is uh, University of Chicago. He can make of himself what he wants as, as matters stand right now, yes. Who knows what can happen in ten, fifteen years.

Do you have anything you want to add to this before we finish?

Yeah. I come to one conclusion actually. You know, the word they're always talking about. I lived in Germany and heard it all over the world. They're talking about the "Jewish Problem." Personally, I think there's no "Jewish Problem," there's a "Gentile Problem," if you will.

Okay, we'll end at that. Thank you Leo.

Mm-hm, you're welcome.

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