Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

John Mandel - May 26, 1981

Anti-Semitism in America

Do you recall any anti-Semitism?

Uh, here in this country?


No. Uh, I encountered a lot of problems as a young man when I came here uh, socially. Uh, I--we were only able to socialize among ourselves--I'm speaking of the newcomers. Um, the uh, young uh, the, the, the girls uh, they would have noth... nothing to do with us. Well, I, I really can't blame 'em because we couldn't, we couldn't communicate with them. We didn't have any transportation where they were used to go out with fellows who had a car or something like that and... So uh, it took a little while but eventually we overcame that.

How long have the two of you...married?


Wife: Fifteen years. If there was no anti-Semitism why did you change your name? ???]

Say it loud enough so that you...


Wife: Oh I didn't think you wanted me on the tape.]

Sure! Go ahead.


Wife: I said, if there was no anti-Semitism why did you change your name?] Well, actually I don't think uh, well perhaps, [

Wife: Oh yes it was.] Perhaps it had to do something with anti-Semitism. Uh, when I uh, first became a traveling salesman, which is my occupation, I worked for a uh, local wholesaler from Detroit. And I--he started me out by uh, calling on some accounts in the metropolitan area and I had--I, I didn't have any trouble. My name at that time, I had changed my name from Gino Mandel to Morris Mandel. Uh, and uh, as I went uh, uh, around and introduced myself and, I found that I was able to do business with the, with the people. But then uh, after, after about a month or so, six weeks later, my employer decided that I was ready to travel out in the state and he gave me a territory mostly in the northern part of Michigan. And I, I went away for a whole week and I came back with practically no business and I asked--and I enquired of him, I says--I, I, I told him I, I couldn't understand that. I had really not much trouble selling merchandise in the metropolitan area and I couldn't understand why I had all this trouble up north. And he told me that, his opinion was that it must have been my name. And uh, he said, "Maybe uh, you know, when you go there uh, even though they know you're Jewish, when you throw it at 'em and you say Morris, maybe that--they might find that offensive." And so uh, I asked him, well, what the suggestion was. "Well," he says, "you know, the most common name is John Doe." And, and my name used to be Gino. I say, okay, well, why don't I just add John to my name. And uh, I added that. That was before I became a citizen. So then when I uh, when I uh, finally got my final citizenship papers, I just uh, added on to Morris, I just put in John and that's how I became Morris John Mandel. The interesting thing was that when I went back on my next trip and I started introducing myself as John Mandel I didn't have much more success. It turned out that they didn't care for Catholics any more than they liked Jews. [laughs].

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