Autobiographical Essays

Beate Caspari-Rosen, MD (1910 - 1995)

In Memorium

Some friendships are formed early in life, and if one is lucky last into one's old age. I grew up in Berlin, an only child, but with many friends. We played together in childhood, and later on went to theaters, movies, walked together in the forests surrounding Berlin and danced together. A small nucleus of friends from among the larger circle formed and we would more meet quite regularly in a friend's apartment during the winter months on a Sunday afternoon and evening. New faces would appear and disappear,  but one of the  young men, Max, would always attend. He was an aspiring actor. I knew very little about his background and only found out bits and pieces about his life. His Jewish parents had come to Berlin from Poland during World War I. They must have been very poor, since Max would spend many of his nights in the main post office close to his home to read and study, for the building was well-heated and also did not shut off the electric lighting.  He stopped going to school when he was sixteen-years old and spent his time in a theater where one of the leading actors in Berlin  became interested in this talented young man. Max loved poetry, and on our Sunday afternoon get-togethers would read old or newly published poems to us. The 1920's after the First World War was a very fertile period for new German authors and poets. Rilke's romantic verses were much beloved, Brecht and Toller were revolutionary in their ideas, Klabund and Ringelnatz, who is less known in the United States, was read by all of us all. We were enthusiastic listeners. Poetry has to be read aloud to hear the rhythm, understand the meaning, and to grasp the images the poet wants to convey. I am grateful to Max, for he awoke in me my love for poetry, though at that time I was not aware of it. Then came Hitler. We were scattered all over the world. Only many years after the end of the Second World War did I hear about Max’s fate. Max had fled with his girlfriend to Belgium, where they spent the war years, but he had not gone far enough. Toward the end of the war Hitler ordered a last great round-up of all Jewish refugees in the occupied countries. Max was caught and, with many others, taken to the railway station to be sent to extermination camps. Max ran. A bullet hit him. He died on the  station's platform. His girl friend came to America after the war and when I met her, she told me about his death.


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