Beate Caspari-Rosen, MD
(1910 - 1995)
The Blue Glass Sugar Bowl
When my grandfather was a young man in the second half of the nineteenth
century, his brothers Nathan and Charlie decided to emigrate to the
United States. They were penniless, but in time they became successful
business men and quite wealthy. They married and had their own families.
Every summer they would return with wives and children to the small
town where their brother lived, combining this visit with business
ventures; also, their wives could replenish their wardrobes in Paris.
Their children were my mother’s age and became her summer
companions. Sometimes, however, the two uncles would travel by themselves;
I still vaguely remember Uncle Charlie visiting us in Berlin. He died
in 1915. His brother Nathan returned to Germany after the end of the
First World War, and it was an occasion for a family reunion. He conversed
very little, his German had a heavy American accent, and rolled slowly
from his mouth. Afternoon tea and home--baked cakes served to
him and the family. I am grateful to my American Uncles. They left
me and my female cousins small legacies in their will; mine was to
be paid out when and if I married with my parents’ permission.
Their legacy helped me and my husband through the first years when
we began our medical practices in the United States.
sons, my mother's cousins, continued the summer visits after the end
of the First World War; they too brought their wives and children.
They had sent us relief packages of sacks of sugar, flour, coffee,
cocoa, tea, rice and dried fruit, which were evenly divided between
our family and my mother's sister and brother. These were years of
acute starvation in Germany, and we were grateful to them. We all eagerly
looked forward to their visits. Their children, in turn, were my own
age, and I would take them to small coffeehouses frequented by the
new writers and artists and unknown to strangers.
My mother Flora,
as was customary, gave a dinner party in their honor and also invited
her siblings and their families: Aunt Regina and Uncle Alfred.
older sister had married a landowner in East Prussia, who had moved
to Berlin after the war, when East Prussia became part of Poland, as
stipulated in the Versailles Peace Treaty of 1918. As a consequence
of their emigration, my aunt’s family lost most of their belongings,
but managed to save precious dinnerware and silver.
My aunt, too, hosted a dinner party for the entire family. Unfortunately,
shortly before that festivity the sugar bowl broke and she quickly
replaced it with an inexpensive blue glass container purchased from
a store comparable to Woolworth in the United States.
The dinner party
was a great success. At the end of the meal, the wife of one of our
cousins, a rather snobbish woman, admired the blue sugar bowl, remarking
that she collected old glassware. My aunt quickly gave it to her without
mentioning where it came from. After the American relatives said their goodbyes,
we all laughed, never thinking about the incident again. But it may have
had grave consequences. This get-together occurred in 1928.
In 1933 Hitler came
to power. My mother moved to America in 1938 after my father's death.
Her great concern at that time was to save her sister and her brother-in-law
from being sent to the death camps by securing their passage and emigration
to the United States. The document required to admit them was an affidavit.
An affidavit [in
this context] was a statement that promised that the immigrant would
not be dependent on any federal support and that the person signing
the affidavit promised to take full responsibility for the welfare
of the immigrant. My husband and I had signed
several of these forms, although we had little money, but for older
people who might get sick and be an economic burden, it was very difficult
to secure them because the cost was so great. [In fact, Regina, my
had breast cancer, according to my mother, which made the situation
even more dreadful.] My mother [Flora], therefore, visited her cousin
to appeal for
his help. He refused, saying that he had given a certain number of
affidavits already and had reached his limit. I always wondered whether
this decision was affected by the blue sugar bowl. It is more than
likely that my cousin’s
wife had had the it appraised before considering as worthy of being
placed in her
collection of old glass.
My aunt and her husband never escaped
from Germany; Aunt Regina was sent to Theresienstadt and died in a
concentration camp. The family silverware and china, and other goods
were stolen, probably by neighbors.