Just one man's story
- 30 Jun 06, 11:22 AM
LONDON - Yesterday I asked 29-year-old Antje to blog about her thoughts on German patriotism, which by many accounts has been given unprecedented licence of expression by this World Cup.
Today I pass on the thoughts of someone from the older generation, who left Germany in 1939 and now lives in Costa Rica. I felt Alfred - a regular reader of this blog and now aged 75 - had an interesting story that deserved to be told.
By Alfred Fiks
I was two when Herr Adolf Schickelgrüber (Hitler's real name) became Chancellor of Germany. I was four when the Olympics were held in Berlin under Nazi auspices.
My parents were hard-working, law-abiding Berliners who owned a small business not far off the Ku-damm. They had emigrated from Poland in 1919; married in Berlin in 1920; my father became a master journeyman in his craft in 1924; they became German citizens in 1930, and produced three sons: Max, Fritz, and yours truly - all born in Berlin.
Herr Schickelgrüber soon became the Führer, and he did not take kindly to my parents' success and fairly happy life - they were, after all, members of his favorite scapegoat group responsible for all of Germany's troubles.
So, life became more and more difficult for us: * Our German citizenship was revoked in 1934, without any warning and without the right of appeal; we were suddenly aliens in our own country; among other things this meant we had no passports for travelling. * In November 1938, Herr S. sent his brown-shirted thugs to vandalise my father's store and our flat - looking for him in order to take him away. I remember pieces of glass from the kitchen window flying into my tomato soup before running to hide under the bed. This would became known as Kristallnacht because a lot of crystal chandeliers were destroyed that night. This German blemish was a Government-sanctioned foul - the police did nothing to interfere. In my memory of the 68 year-old events, it was the opposite pole of the German character to that evident in the 2006 World Cup
* An "Aryan" Administrator was put in charge of all my parents' property - the store and a four-room, middle-class flat. * In January 1939 we received an expulsion order from Adolf's Berliner Polizeipräsident. We had to leave Reich territory or be forcibly ejected. The immediate problem became where to flee to without documents?? We had already waited in vain for American visas more than a year. * We stored our personal possessions - including my toys and football - in a shipping container in the Port of Hamburg to await our arrival in the USA. We learned after the war that all our things were confiscated by the Third Reich in the early 1940's and auctioned off.
Looking back on it all in the autumn of my life - I'm 75 now - the Führer seriously underestimated my parents. He considered them sub-human; thus, he never saw their immense intelligence and resourcefulness - in 2000 years of exile their DNA had been honed for survival skills, their gene-pool peppered with intellect and genius. He was also in the dark about their tremendously protective good-luck shield.
Because consider this: * My older brother Max was sent to the USA in 1937 - he couldn't continue his studies in Berlin. When America entered the war in 1941, he joined the US Army, which helped our visa application. * The Nazis never found my father on Kristallnacht because some good Christian neighbors were hiding him. * We escaped from Adolf's clutches TWICE. First in June of '39 just two short months before the nightmare of WW2 would become reality. We were on one of the last trains to leave Berlin for Paris. We had relatives there who had got us French visas. * Unfortunately Adolf's troops quickly occupied the area of France where we lived and we had to flee once more. This time (1941) we escaped walking across the border to "Free" France. I was 10 by then. It was night-time and I remember being led by a local farmer - with German border patrols and dogs audible in the woods - across the fields.
* Since the American visas were still not in sight, we managed to get entry permits to Cuba - as a safe haven to await the coveted documents. With the help of some good people we made our way to Marseille and sailed from there to Havana, via Casablanca. It took us three weeks to cross the Atlantic, in bunk-beds built in the cargo holds of the ship below its water line. * In 1943 - five years after applying - we finally got the US visas since we had not perished while waiting, unlike many others. * We began a new life in America. My parents' New York store - smaller than before - required longer work hours but they had survived and they were free human beings - no longer persecuted and fearing for their lives. We proudly became US citizens in 1948. Their intelligence and luck held out until they died of old age in the 1980's in America.
As for me, I've been lucky too. Consider: * I finished my elementary studies in NY, played defence on my secondary school football team (or soccer team as it's called in the US) in the 1950's, when only my mother would come out to watch us play. People say football is not so popular in the USA because the scores are too low; they're used to larger numbers! * I completed university studies in Business Administration; then went on to a Master's degree and a PhD in Industrial Psychology. * In my professional life I've been: a university professor, an international consultant, and a psychometrist. * I am retired and trying to do a little writing now. I have been living in Costa Rica for the last 25 years. A shame the CR team couldn't do better in this WC. * I'm married to a wonderful Costa Rican woman. I have three grown children and two grandchildren. * I have nothing against Germans younger than me (which is almost all of them) and - now that Costa Rica and USA are out - I hope Germany win the 2006 World Cup!