Autobiographical Essays

Beate Caspari-Rosen, MD (1910 - 1995)

My Grandfather Louis Arnswalder

My mother's father came to live with us after the First World War. He must have been a man in his late sixties at this time. His wife had died when my mother was a young girl and she had kept house for him until she married and moved to Berlin. They had lived in a small town and my grandfather retired from his business as a wood merchant and moved to his older daughter in East Prussia. When, at the end of the war, in the peace Treaty of Versailles, in 1918,  East Prussia became part of Poland, my grandfather moved to us [in Berlin] and became a part of my close family. He was a very quiet man, but liked to have people around him. He had a slight tremor of his hands, which became greatly activated when he did not likw the meal he was eating and the soup would land on the table cloth. Otherwise, he was an active man and in no way handicapped,  and until the end of his life when he was in his eighties, he would walk every day back and forth to the synagogue about a half a mile from our apartment. He observed the Jewish laws religiously. For example, a religious Jew is not allowed to turn on the lights when the Sabbath begins on  Friday evening, when the sun sets. He also cannot give orders to anybody else to break the laws. Therefore, he would call the maid and tell her that it was dark in the room; she understood, and turned on the electrical switch.             

Surprisingly, he was a very liberal thinking man and read  the liberal newspaper in Berlin, which was somewhat like The New York Times. He did not interfere in  any way with my lifestyle, though he may have occasionally disapproved of it. However, when my I parents went out in the evening, he probably felt that my morals, had to be supervised and at ten o'clock sharp my grandfather would knock on the door of my room when I had a male friend visiting. He would pull out his golden pocket watch and wind it ostentatiously, indicating that it was time for the young man to leave. Only a very patient young man like George, my future husband would out wait him, until grandfather would  reluctantly wish him a good night, retiring to his room, but leaving the door wide open.

He spoke very little and never talked of his past. I was not curious enough to ask questions. What I know about him from I learned from stories my mother told me. I am still sorry that I just accepted his presence in our household and did not form a close relationship with him.    

When he died shortly before I left for America in 1935, I realized how much he had been a part of my youth and how much I missed him. He was truly an honest and honorable person. After having written this short story about him, I spoke to my only cousin left of this  branch of my family, and she told me that grandfather lost his parents early in life and was brought up by an aunt and uncle, who gave him a home, but no love. He had three brothers. Two of whom emmigrated to England where they  became missionaries. Since they must have converted to a Christian religion--Jews do not carry out missionary work--my grandfather said the prayers of the dead over them and after that never mentioned their names again. The third brother went to America, where a branch of Arnswalder exists but no contact between the families was maintained, to my knowledge.       


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