by Dr. Gerhard Falk
is the name of a new book by the
prolific Jewish author, Walter Laqueur. This book deals with that small group of
German born Jews who survived the Nazi terror and reached the United States and
other countries while they were less than 20 years old.
very few. Consider that there were never more than 600,000 Jews in all of
Germany before Hitler. Since Europe had 11 million Jews at that time, the German
Jews were a tiny minority even among the European Jewish population. Among the
non-Jewish Germans, who numbered about 65 million at that time, they were less
than 1 percent.
Yiddish speaking Jews of Eastern Europe, the German Jews did not know Yiddish.
Also, unlike the Eastern European Jews, the German Jews did not live in
all-Jewish shtetls, or small towns. The German Jews lived scattered among
the German population and, despite anti-Jewish attitudes, were Germans in the
same sense that we are Americans. German Jews lived the German culture and
exhibited personality traits that reflected that culture.
anthropologist Clyde Klockhohn and the linguist Samuel Whorf have shown how
personality is closely allied with culture and language, so that someone who is
native to America and speaks English will be quite a different person than
someone who is native to Israel and speaks Hebrew. That was also true of the
60,000 German Jews, that 10% who migrated all over the world as teenagers in the
A few of
those 60,000 came to the United States. Severely damaged by the horrors of Nazi
brutality which for them began in January of 1933, these teens often came alone.
Yet even those who came with their families had been victimized for years before
getting to the United States. Here, however, they faced another nightmare, i.e.
the unwillingness of the American Jewish community to give their Jewish
“brethren” so much as a friendly word, let alone real aid.
there were exceptions to the rule then as there always are exceptions to every
rule. However, Laqueur shows that the American Jewish community, and
particularly the professional Jews located in the various social service
agencies, belittled the suffering of the German Jews and even denied that the
German Jews had reason to come here at all.
the German Jews who arrived here were doubly demeaned, first in their native
land and then here.
Germany, beginning with 1933, six years before the invasion of Poland,
innumerable laws were decreed which made the life of the German Jews unbearable
even before the mass murders began. At once, in 1933, all professional Jews were
deprived of their licenses to practice. Hence all lawyers, doctors, accountants,
professors, architects, etc. became unemployed. All Jewish civil servants were
fired immediately. Since Jews were not allowed to work for non-Jews these laws
meant total destitution.
Jewish physicians could no longer have non-Jewish patients, while Jewish
patients could no longer visit non-Jewish doctors, Jewish doctors and patients
were forced to rely on one another. Jews were also no longer admitted to German
no Jew was allowed to sit on a jury or to attend a German school. This last
decree meant that Jewish students could only attend a Jewish school if there was
one, otherwise they could not attend any school. The consequences of this became
most severe even after immigration to the United States since the German Jewish
adolescents arrived here at age 10 or thirteen or fifteen without any schooling
or with very little schooling.
in 1933, German Jews were no longer allowed to butcher animals in a kosher
all Jews were deprived of German citizenship no matter how long their ancestors
had lived in Germany. This decree included Jews who had fought for the
“fatherland” in the first World War. This also meant that Jews no longer had
police protection from any criminals wishing to steal, assault or otherwise
accounts of German Jews were seized by the state, leaving Jews penniless. Jewish
stores were boycotted as Nazi troopers stood in front of Jewish stores and told
arriving customers not to buy from Jews. The patents of Jewish inventors were
held null and void.
all Jews were forced to adopt the names Israel or Sarah as their middle name.
Jews could not sit on a park bench unless they were willing to sit on a few
yellow benches reserved for them. Every street exhibited streamers with the
legend “The Jews are our Misfortune” even as all newspapers contained daily
hate tirades against Jews, underscored by gross cartoons of ugly Jews raping
“aryan” women and stealing “aryan” property. Jews were not allowed to
enter a library or theater or other public buildings.
of cruelties could go on and on. Most of these horrors are not known in this
country to this day, although the burning of all synagogues on the night of
November 9-10, 1938 is recognized.
victims of all these nightmares came here they faced yet more hostility, this
time from their fellow Jews. With few exceptions the American Jewish community
did nothing for the newcomers. Instead, the German Jews were now accused of
refusing to speak Yiddish because of arrogance. German behavior was not
interpreted as the result of culture and personality but as gross and
overbearing. It was part of the American-Jewish mythology that all German Jews
were guilty of mistreating the Eastern European Jews of the 19th
century, so that now in 1933-1939 the time had come to get even. German Jews
were insulted in synagogues and ridiculed in recreational settings because of
their accents, their mannerisms and their poverty.
is that the antagonism of the American Jewish community towards the German
Jewish immigrants added to the psychic burden of those who had lost everything
but their lives. Of course no one will deny that it was better to come to
America under any circumstances than to die in the European gas overs. That
observation, however, cannot excuse the conduct to which the subjects of
Laqueur’s latest book were treated here.
therefore surprising that so many of the younger German Jews became so
successful in this country. Laqueur mentions a number of such German Jews who
changed their names and were not known as immigrants at all. Those who read the
book may be astonished to find that some prominent Americans with Anglo-Saxon
names are in fact German Jewish immigrants.
day, these experiences have left a deep psychological scar on the minds of the
German Jewish teens who came here then. These folks are now in their ‘70s.
Even now, they display the German origins which are so rejected by the American
Jewish community at this late date. Sixty years after that migration, there are
Jews, particularly among Jewish professionals, who display that same hostility
to these erstwhile immigrants that greeted them on first arrival.
erstwhile immigrants appear to have largely gained behavioral assimilation. That
means they act like Americans, speak good English and sometimes exceed even
natives in their knowledge of the language and the history of their adopted
country. However, few, if any, have ever attained structural assimilation. That
means that hardly any of these immigrants ever feel at home anywhere. Instead
they feel they belong nowhere and are always on the outside.
the story of Generation Exodus, a story never told before but a story
that finally fills a gap in the history of the Jewish people.
Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications,
A New Look at the Supporting Generation (with Dr. Ursula A., Falk, 2002),
& Man's Ascent to Reason (2002).