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.
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.
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.