Publications

Autobiographical Essays

Beate Caspari-Rosen, MD (1910 - 1995)


A Wedding

I met my future husband, George, after Christmas break, in January 1933 in a lecture room of the medical school. As he told me later, he had seen me crossing the floor of the lecture hall sometime before our meeting and had said to himself that this was the girl he wanted to marry: instant love in his case, without knowing anything about me. We were introduced by a mutual friend and six weeks later, while watching an American movie of south sea beauties undulating on the screen, he whispered in my ear: "Will you marry me?" We escaped from the boring film and while walking home we talked seriously about marriage. I could not imagine leaving my parents, my friends, and the country I grew up in and follow him "to far away America.” There was as yet not airplane connection, only a six day ocean voyage  connected the two countries. We decided to wait until we finished our medical studies and get to know each other more intimately. The consequence of Hitler's ascendancy had not yet penetrated the life or mind of the German people. Then, in the middle of June, an order by Hitler was released. Every German Jewish student had to sign a declaration whether  he or she had belonged to a political organization. Since I had been a member of  the Democratic Student Organization, I would have been expelled. We discussed the problem with my parents, who by then had been told of our marital commitment, and we decided to get married immediately in order to become an American citizen, according to the German law. However, according to American law, I became stateless. It takes three weeks in Germany from the time of intention to get married, until one gets the stamp of approval. Only the official marriage registrar can marry you. All religious marriage ceremonies are invalid. We therefore went to the registry office. After I declared that we wanted to get married and asked for permission to waive the three-week waiting period, so that we could get married within the following two weeks, since time was running out for me. The registrar looked up at me saying: "How do you know that this young man is not a white slaver or bigamist?" My future parents-in-law had to put an announcement in the German newspaper in New York City, publishing the intention of George Rosen to get married in Germany. Four days before I had to fill out the fateful papers at the university, we got permission to get married immediately. I never wanted a "White Wedding" anyway and the historical moment was not a time for celebration. We had completely forgotten all about the ceremonies for the wedding. My husband did not want a religious Jewish ceremony, but my parents and I prevailed! I had a long black dress with pink puffed sleeves which I used to wear to formal dances. One day before the wedding my father went out and bought our marriage rings, which we had not remembered  to purchase. My mother made frantic telephone calls to all of my relatives to invite them to attend the ceremony, and we invited the American students who studied with us as well as friends. Many of my friends, however, had already hurriedly escaped from Germany. When the great day arrived, a sunny early July day, I decided to forget about  the eight o'clock lecture in the morning, but George and two of his friends, who would be our witnesses at the ceremony, attended it and afterward came to my home. We left together for the registry, my parents looking out of the window, gazing after us. I can imagine how they must have felt at that moment. On our arrival at the registry we were seated on a red velvet couch. The official put on his black-tailored coat and pronounced us Man and Wife, emphasizing that my husband should be proud to marry a Prussian. By then we were very hungry, having skipped our breakfast. We bought some rolls and ate them in the taxi while driving to the university, so that we could give them official notice of the  change of my citizenship. A wonderful meal was awaiting us when we returned home. I changed into my formal black dress; a heavy thunderstorm had passed and the sun was shining again. I was told that a thunderstorm brings luck. The rabbi arrived to marry us in the traditional Jewish ceremony. He had just been released from prison, where Hitler's militia had detained him over night. My mother found some white lace to cover my head, when the maid came rushing into the room, crying that they could not find the bridegroom. They eventually found him, sitting on the balcony, smoking his pipe. In that way he avoided the Hebrew prayers which are customarily said before the ceremony. It all ended happily. We walked  together into the large dining-room which had been emptied of all furniture and stood under the "chuppe," a ceremonial canopy.

 


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