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Autobiographical Essays

Beate Caspari-Rosen, MD (1910 - 1995)


April Fool's Day 1933

Hitler came to power in February 1933. Few people had read his book Mein Kampf (My Struggle), and even fewer could believe what he proclaimed in it: heads must roll and Germany will be cleansed of Jews and other undesirable aliens. But on April 1,1933, the first concerted attacks on the Jews were ordered. All windows of stores belonging to Jews were smeared up with swastikas as well as physicians and lawyers signs. There was jubilation and marching groups in the streets but there was also a feeling of defeat and anger among the citizens of Berlin. Had we not marched over one million strong through the streets of Berlin a day before the election? Where were the protestors? The fact was that people were afraid to voice any protest.

My father as always unafraid and thoughtless of danger went downstairs to wipe his sign clean, but was prevented from doing it by some patients who warned him not to do such a rash act.

American Jewish students in Berlin had decided to stay with Jewish families and friends for this day in order to protect them from being attacked by showing their American passports, which at that time was still honored by the Nazis. Early in the morning my future but not yet acknowledged husband, came to our apartment. We had known each other for only two months and my parents did not know that he had already proposed marriage to me. We spent the day tense and afraid whenever the doorbell rang. Suddenly my parents remembered that my father had hidden a pistol in a secret drawer of his desk. He had acquired it after the revolution in 1918, when there was general unrest and physicians were being held up in the streets and in their offices. He did not have any ammunition and my father did know how to use it, but if it was found during a search of the premises by the Nazis it was found, father would certainly have been imprisoned.

When it became dark my mother and George wrapped the gun in some paper. George put the package in his pocket and they left the apartment in order to dispose of the dangerous weapon. They walked toward the river Spree which flows through Berlin. The sidewalks were crowded with people, loudspeakers were transmitting victorious music, and Hitler's voice rose above the noise proclaiming the successful outcome of the day. When my mother and George reached the river close to Unter den Linden, a major street in the city where the victory parade was in progress, they threw the package into the river, unnoticed, and returned home where we awaited them anxiously. We could hear the screaming of men being rounded up and transported in open trucks to concentration camps which had been hastily erected with[in?] the city limits. For the most part they were political prisoners known for their antifascist stand against Hitler; they had been   betrayed by neighbors. The resistance was broken and everyone feared everyone else and did not dare to voice their opinions [“open their mouths”].

The next morning was a lovely spring day. I returned to my medical studies, and my parents recognized and supported our wish to get married at some future date. We certainly did not realize that Hitler's orders would force us to marry earlier than we had planned.

 


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