Anyhow, when I saw that the other two wouldn’t go to the front, I decided that since I was the only Jew left to go, even there was a Jewish doctor who told me, I had hurt my knee in jumping. And he said (I knew him personally) and he said, “Mann, I can keep you for about three more weeks, because you really hurt yourself.” And I said, “I better go. I think it’s terrible that these three Jews didn’t go.”
EIDELMAN: You sound like you were very patriotic.
MANN: I was! (EMPHASIS) I tell you 90% of the Jews were very patriotic. I remember my father he had two grown-up children and he was running around. He wanted to volunteer for the army. He did not after that. My mother didn’t let him, but the Jews were very, very patriotic. I remember there was one election and, uh, uh, you know, the Jews had a council or you know, it was entirely different, the contribution to the synagogue were deducted from your income tax. I think the Jews paid seven percent, the Protestants five and I think the Catholics three. So you just had to pay. You had no choice, uh, except if you declared yourself an atheist. But it was very difficult for a Jew to, say that. We had a club like the Westwood. They wouldn’t have let someone be there if they suddenly declared himself to be an atheist. So you really were compelled to be Jewish if you liked it or not.
EIDELMAN: Did you feel any anti-Semitism among your fellow soldiers?
MANN: No, no sir, I did not. I have to say that I never was troubled by that. They all were very nice and friendly to me. I was never very strong man, I have to say that. They even offered to carry my…guns. They were very nice. No, I had no complaints about that. Uh, maybe they didn’t realize I’m Jewish. I didn’t make a secret out of it. You know, I was one of the first ones who had the grippe. You know, there was in this country, an influenza epidemic in 1920. Now in 1918 I was at the front. No, we were at rest. You know, we were eight days at the front and eight days back to relax, to rest. On that morning, I collapsed and I…they put a sign on me “Grippe” with a wrist mark and I had to walk seven hours to the hospital. They didn’t care. Seven hours! So I arrived there about – shortly before midnight and the sergeant that opened the door and, “You got grippe? Never heard of it.” And two weeks later our whole regiment had to be, taken back from the front because there were so many. And I was sick from the seventh of June and I finally arrived in Nuremberg on the sixth of November 1918, just before the revolution. On the day of the revolution, on the night, I had to go back to the hospital again. When I collapsed, I weighed 85 pounds anymore, 85 pounds. And six weeks later, they put me in the room where the dying in the hospital, where the people who were ready to die. You know, they had separate rooms. They didn’t want anyone else or the soldiers to see them. So the sergeant said, “It’s too bad that this young guy has to die.” And I didn’t do him any favor, as you can see now. I don’t know if he really wanted it. No, he apparently felt sorry, but, uh, I was really sick.
EIDELMAN: After the war was over and the Germans had lost, did you feel that the Germans had been betrayed as Hitler said and what were your feelings when you found out that the Germans had lost the war?
MANN: I had this feeling already in April after we didn’t…the Germans had hoped that this offensive would be successful and prepare the way to march towards Paris. But when this offensive failed, there was such a depression, I mean, everybody knew at that time that we couldn’t win the war anymore. So no, I was not depressed at all because I thought it was so useless that all these people die. Maybe I was sorry the Kings of Bavaria were very friendly to the Jews, so I didn’t wish them bad, but I, later on, we all found out really that the Germans started the war. We thought, of course, the other ones started the war. We never were told, as we found out in 1919.
EIDELMAN: What did you think you were fighting for?
MANN: For Germany. They said that the bomb was…that the French, uh, dropped a bomb about 50 miles from Nuremberg which of course, never was true…I think. Then the war broke out, I just want to tell you, it was the fourth of August 1914. There were big demonstrations, uh, but my sister and I went to the middle of the city and there were thousands of people singing “Die Wacht am Rhein,” “Watch On the Rhine” and “Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles” the whole night. We left home about seven and we came home about one o’clock in the night. And my parents they were so afraid that something happened. There was such enthusiasm, I never saw anything like it. This night, really, will be always in my memory. Ya, people thought they have to defend Germany. I mean, they didn’t know the real reason. They thought Russia and the Allies, France and England, just want Germany to perish. So there was a lot of enthusiasm.
EIDELMAN: You spoke of a revolution in 1919. Did you mean Russia, or…?
MANN: ’22, ’23. No, no. There were two different things. There was a revolution in Bavaria, a Communist revolution, and the president, a Mr. Eisner was Jewish. Now that took so much by, contributed to the antisemitism in Bavaria that I think six out of eight in this Communist government were Jewish in name. I mean, really, Jews were not supposed to be Communist and they all were at this. Their name was Wiesamen, Langsamen and Eisner. I’ve forgotten all the words, but that made a lot of anti-Semitism in Bavaria.
EIDELMAN: The government of Bavaria became Communist?
MANN: For a short time. There was an overflow and later on, maybe a year later, was the Hitler Putsch and, uh, it was in 1923.
EIDELMAN: Did you observe some of the fierce fighting between the Communists and the Nazis?
MANN: On one day, no. No. No, I was, only that the police in Nuremberg tried to, get the Communists down. No, no, I never watched a fight between Nazis and Communists. If I would have seen it, I would have gone out of the way of course.
EIDELMAN: In 1936, did you go to the Olympics?
MANN: No, no, no. I was interested in it, but it was a nice time. There were four weeks were very nice because there were so many from other countries there that the Nazis would not want to show how they treat the Jews. I do not remember if the signs came from the coffeehouses or the movie theatre. I don’t remember, but anyhow, you felt secure. You knew nothing would happen to you at that time. I would not have gone to the Olympics. In fact I went to the Bavarian Alps during that time…1936 with a friend. Just was too upset to stay in Nuremberg. I show you a picture afterwards how it looked in Nuremberg during the Nazi party days. It was such going on and I still wondered why I hear Hitler talk in my dreams, you know. You heard him over the radio at the time, but you know, for Socialists and Communists, the bad times started really when Hindenburg still was in power. But for the Jews, except for the boycotts which was bad enough and then a lot of people couldn’t go, practice their profession anymore, they were not violent things, at least not that I knew about except it really started as a Christian…really violent.
EIDELMAN: Among your Jewish friends, did all of them want to leave Germany or did you think that towards 1937 some still wanted to stick it out?
MANN: No, no. They all wanted to leave. I mean, there was no life. I mean, you were afraid if you saw Nazis in uniform. They didn’t do anything to me. I think some people were, beaten up, but not…not killed or anything like that. But, uh, I mean, how…would you feel if you walked around, and see all these stormtroopers and if they were in a Nazi uniform and cannot go…cannot do what you want. I mean, you go to movie here or you to theatre or the symphony, you couldn’t do that anymore.
EIDELMAN: What did you spend most of your time doing for entertainment purposes?
MANN: Going together with Jewish friends, you know. I had one; he was a customer of mine. He thought I was Jewish, but he married a Gentile and his son was baptized Christian. But this people were the worst, they really got the worst of. Because the Jews didn’t go with them and the Gentiles didn’t go with them. I heard that his father had a shirt business in Nuremberg. So I felt sorry for this fellow. So – I saw him once in a while. Also, you know, he had…the whole family was baptized. He was a judge. His wife was Jewish and he was Jewish and his two children were born Jewish, but they all were baptized. And all four were killed. I mean, in other words, the important thing was not religion, the race, I mean. I’ll bet you there were 30 who were Protestants who were killed because of their Jewish origin.
EIDELMAN: Did any of your family or relatives perish ultimately?
MANN: 19, 19…including cousins. Two sisters of my father and one brother-in-law and first cousins and second cousins.
EIDELMAN: Were they unable to escape?
MANN: Right, right.
EIDELMAN: They could, they didn’t know anyone…
MANN: In fact there was one. I went through my…my wife said I should get rid of the old mail and you know I have so much. So there was someone from North Dakota who wanted to get two of my little cousins out of there. The one was a nurse. They were 15 and 17. And they had the money to get out, but then it took so long to get their affidavits through. Then they got only five dollars to buy their tickets to America. So I had to write to him, he said he wouldn’t be able, he wouldn’t get them out, you know. He wouldn’t have the money. So these two girls also disappeared and I bet this guy would feel terrible. I think today he probably, if he would have known he probably would have given us $500. You know, what it would have cost. I would have guaranteed a particular job here you know. You know, but when I came here I made $16.50 a week. How could I help someone else? I was so lucky that my uncle was here, who took my mother out. My brother-in-law had part of his business in England, so it was no problem for him to get out. But, my uncle, there were seven brothers and one sister and he really…he brought about 22 out.
EIDELMAN: What happened to…did you have any brothers or sisters?
MANN: I have one sister. She went to England. She died about two years ago. Her family lives in England.
EIDELMAN: When did she leave Germany?
MANN: She left in ’38. She left in ’38. And my mother left after the Kristallnacht. My mother didn’t have a chair to sit anymore. They came in and threw everything what they had…they broke our…
EIDELMAN: They came into your house?
MANN: Ya, my mother lived at the time with two other ladies together and they went in this house and destroyed everything which could be destroyed.
EIDELMAN: The stormtroopers?
MANN: Ya, ya, ya.
EIDELMAN: Was that on Kristallnacht?
MANN: Ya, right. I had a cousin who was, Nuremberg and Furth, they are together like University City and Clayton. Furth is where Henry Kissinger comes from. And I had a cousin there who wasn’t Jewish…
EIDELMAN: How do you spell that?
MANN: Furth? F U (umlaut, you know) R T H.
MANN: Furth, there always were Jews living, whereas in Nuremberg, the Jews were not allowed to live there before, uh 1858. Anyhow, he went to the Jewish hospital in Furth and he had…appendix operation the day before the Kristallnacht and the Kristallnacht they came and threw…threw his bandages off and he bled to death.
EIDELMAN: Who was it? Your cousin?
MANN: He was married to a second cousin of mine.
EIDELMAN: When your father died, what ultimately became of his business?
MANN: It was given up. Anyhow, we didn’t have enough money and he didn’t understand the inflation, so it was…
EIDELMAN: How many employees were there at the peak of the business?
MANN: At the peak of the business, there were about 50 in the factory.
EIDELMAN: Was the business ruined by inflation?
MANN: Ya. Ya. Not by the Nazi. There, I cannot blame the Nazis for that.
EIDELMAN: Do you think his death had anything to do with his disappointment about what happened to the business?
MANN: I don’t think he realized it. I don’t think he realized that. Business was good, you know, in his opinion, and he could sell everything you had. And – he was a very good businessman for normal times. But a lot of people just didn’t understand inflation. It is difficult to understand and we have this inflation here is 12%…50% really was high, but there it was, the workers were paid every day. The wives were there to get the money. They went in the afternoon to buy whatever they needed in food because the next day it was double, maybe triple. And if they were lucky, it was only 50% more. So I mean, just could not understand it. I cannot understand it, how it was. And what people can’t understand is that the people looked for a scapegoat.
EIDELMAN: When you speak to groups now, what is the main message that you like to get across? What is the main feeling that this experience that you went through has left you with?
MANN: I really gave it up to talk of it because things are too upsetting. But my main reason is that they should be realizing how lucky they are that they live in a country, they should fight the apathy, that people don’t realize how lucky they are that they can vote. And people don’t realize how nice it is that you can say of a president, “Oh he’s dumb,” or “He’s uncapable of doing things.” If you would have said this before Hitler, when the Kaiser was there, you would have been arrested. You know also how good the schools are, how I give them example, how the teachers treated the pupils over there – not all of them – but I think, a lot of them were so strict and…didn’t have a good education themselves…many of them. Not in the gymnasium, but in the…in the general school, you know – they were ignorant.
EIDELMAN: You said it made you upset to speak. Is this because it reminds you of some of the bad times?
MANN: Right, right. I figure when I talk to the point where I talk, that relatives died, you know, and you were powerless, when you saw so much injustice and you couldn’t do anything about it…though I stress this point particularly. I also mention that something like this can happen any place. If the people are poor – they look for scapegoat; they look for help; take it any place. Just like in Germany, they want – a big proportion turned Communist, a big proportion turned to the Nazis. You just go for promises and let’s say that everybody should do his part to strengthen democracy and realize how lucky they are.
EIDELMAN: Okay. When you came to the United States, did you come to St. Louis immediately, and what was it like?
MANN: I was very lucky. I had an uncle here who was very successful and in fact, he sent me a telegram to the boat, I should stay in New York for a few weeks at his expense because I wouldn’t be able to do it for a long time. And invited me here for dinner about three times a week. Ya, I was one of the very, very fortunate. What the fortune was that I went in the business of his relatives and…You know, you wouldn’t believe how some people in this country, almost, anti-Jewish. We were two refugees in this big firm. And…
EIDELMAN: What firm was it?
MANN: Renard. Louis Renard Company. I don’t know if you may remember them. They aren’t in business anymore. You know there is a family Renard here. Anyhow, the first year I had to take one week vacation without pay. I made $16.50, maybe $17.50 by that time…when they built here the beautiful Renard Hospital which cost two million dollars. But they didn’t have an understanding for the help, Jews, we were two, it would have been $35, they would have paid us. So it was difficult.
EIDELMAN: Do you feel that they…did you feel that they helped you leave Germany? But when you got here it really didn’t…
MANN: My close relatives were terrific, oh, no, no. I mean, they were distant relatives. No, the close relatives, my uncle and my aunt, they couldn’t have been better. No, no, I was very fortunate. I cannot be grateful enough to them.
EIDELMAN: You did not get married until you came to the United States?
EIDELMAN: Did the turmoil in Germany have anything to do with that, or did it just happen that way?
MANN: You know, after the service I had a few girlfriends. But after 1933, you saw your income dwindling and dwindling and – so we couldn’t marry as a sensible man even if you wanted to. And I knew that my uncle would help me and I certainly didn’t think it would be the right thing to come – that he should help two instead of one. I was the first one of the 20 who came. But he was really great to everybody. He had…his wife, both were – the whole family. I did not have any bad experiences.
EIDELMAN: Now during 1933 and ’34, did you belong to any Jewish social clubs or organizations?
MANN: Ya, I belonged. I wanted to talk about election which was to the, I don’t know, what it was called, synagogue or council. And there was, people standing in line at the two places to vote against the Zionists. There were a few Zionists up for election, but 92% of the Jews went to the election to defeat the Zionists. Just to give an example how patriotic the German Jews were, there was the biggest organization was for the Jews, for the German citizens of Jewish faith. It was the biggest organization, Jewish organization, in Germany and everybody almost belonged to that. My mother never admitted that her son-in-law was a Zionist. My brother-in-law was one of the first Zionists in our hometown. Perhaps she never wanted to hear about it. If she would have known, I don’t think she would have, or my father, would have given permission for her to marry as well.
EIDELMAN: What type of preparation did you make for coming to the United States? Did you start to learn English?
MANN: Yea, I started to learn English, but my English was very poor when I came over. The school, the school to which I went, I had Latin and French and Greek, which didn’t do me too much good when I came to this country. So my English was very poor. But I was lucky that I had all English people to be with, people, so I learned it. I had to learn it fast.
EIDELMAN: Have you gone back to Nuremberg…gone back to Germany?
MANN: Yea, I went back twice. My father is buried in Nuremberg and we visit his grave.
EIDELMAN: What were your impressions when you went back? Did anything memorable take place?
MANN: There were a few things. I was walking in the main street and a fellow came and said, maybe he was saying in German, “Bist du Mr. Mann?” Mann was my name over there and he recognized me at once. He was, of course, a Gentile, but – he…you know, he had a shoe business and they told him to – he should has to, go to the party, be a party member. But he refused, so he had to because he had a lot of big Jewish clients, always, and, uh, he had to move his business from a main street to a small street where was not much traffic. So I knew that he really was. When I came to Nuremberg the same time I called him up and told him I’d be in the hotel and, I left a message for him. He didn’t call up. But on the third morning at 7:30 at the hotel they called up that this fellow was there. I tell you, if I still have it, he brought me a picture of my school class in which he was and I, he had, you know – copied his picture and brought it to me. I thought it was very nice. And – ya, also, I went to this baker I mentioned before, I went to his house, and – he saw me and he cried and he called his daughter. He never knew that I was still alive and he was so excited that, it was really touching. But otherwise, uh, I really don’t know where some of the people were or how they changed. So I really didn’t get in touch with anyone. If I wouldn’t have seen him in the street, I wouldn’t have known about him either. But I knew he was really very touched. Some of them were. Some of them had courage. But – some of them were just…deceptive with before, as long as they have to have Jews as customer, “Why should I show up that I’m a Nazi.” But then, of course, they showed us that.
EIDELMAN: Did you, you know, visit your house where you lived when you went back to Nuremberg?
MANN: Ya, ya, I did. I tell you, it’s really odd. There was three houses left on the whole street. That was one of them which was not entirely, not damaged. The house across the street was not yet rebuilt yet in 1962. And I came, I think, the next time, ’72. There was almost everything rebuilt. Nuremberg was really central and they really…railroad center. And as I said before, I told you what factories there were. So they really damaged it badly.
EIDELMAN: Is there much of a Jewish population in Nuremberg today?
MANN: Now there is 360. But they were mostly people from Poland – who came back. Later on, if you are interested, I can tell you what happened after I left Nuremberg which laws they had and how many died…if you’re interested in that.
EIDELMAN: Why don’t you go into that? Go over it right now.
MANN: Okay. It was after I left. I want to show how it got progressively worse. The Jews really had no income any more. And they were allowed to leave only up to $200 in their house. Everything else was confiscated. First of January 1941, all Jews were compelled to wear the Jewish star. They were not allowed to leave the city. They had to be home in winter at eight o’clock, in summer at nine o’clock. They were not allowed to use any streetcar or bus. They were not allowed to get any newspapers. They had to give up the dogs and cats which they had. And they had to go only to certain businesses where they got their rations. And they also were not allowed to smoke. You know, it was after my time. It never…in 1941…they started the deportation. The first one was the 29th of November, ’41 and of the 512 Jews which came to Riga, out of this 512…15 returned. 50% of Polish Jews were killed. They couldn’t get out. You know, that’s the reason. A much, much higher percentage of Jews in Poland were killed than in Germany. The second transport was the 26th of April and there were 440 Jews. They were families that had children. One had five children, and of this 440, not a single one came back. On the 10th of September, all the Jews which were over 65 years old went to Theresienstadt. There were 533 and of them, came 50 back. It was a little better camp. I think I had a cousin who came back from there. So of all the children who were deported, two came back. And of course, they burned the one synagogue, they made – they’d torn down before the Kristallnacht, the bigger…the one I belonged to, and the Orthodox one, they burned down.
EIDELMAN: Was your synagogue therefore, no longer there?
MANN: No, no. It was not there anymore in 1978. I think they made a parking lot out of it, or whatever it was.
EIDELMAN: As you look back on your whole experience in Germany, what stands out in your mind?
MANN: There really, uh, the most depressing was, just two affairs. But this friend of mine turned around within two or three days and this bookkeeper of my father’s – really believed these lies. But there were so many experiences. Now I was a pretty polite fellow. Most of the people were in Germany. So I was in a streetcar, and I made room for a lady and she said, “I wouldn’t take a seat from a Jew.” But some things like this, you know, insult you but I have to say, at that time, it was pretty much at the beginning, I think the passengers of that streetcar would have been ready to throw her out. They really had a lot of Socialists, you know, but they had to be quiet – they couldn’t do anything about it…
EIDELMAN: Then how did she know you were Jewish?
MANN: I think in Europe you are more conscious of that. You recognize Jews better, I don’t know.
EIDELMAN: Did you say anything to her?
MANN: No. What should I have said? This was already Hitler time. But there were dozens of incidents, you know. That you were, (LONG PAUSE) just…that the people used words, you know, and I don’t know if I looked particularly Jewish, but…you were just recognized. I don’t know how.
EIDELMAN: As far as your neighbors are concerned, were most of them Jewish or did you have any Gentile neighbors and how did they treat you as Nazism grew?
MANN: I don’t know if you heard of Nuremberg Electruden. That is a specialty which goes throughout the whole world and this factory was, their store was across the street from us. But the owner of this factory greeted me till the last minute, a multi-millionaire greeted me till the last minute.
EIDELMAN: I’m sorry, I didn’t understand what…
MANN: He always greeted me.
EIDELMAN: Oh, he greeted you.
MANN: Always, always. I mention this because it was not as you heard from this conversation, it was not that everybody did it, but he did.
EIDELMAN: What about your neighbors? The people who lived, you know, next door, or around your home?
MANN: Well the place where I lived, there were quite a few Jews living. In our house that had four floors, the first one, there was a Jew living and above us a Jew lived. There was only one non-Jewish in this house. And he was neutral. And the house next to us, out of the four, there were two Jewish and – no – I had no trouble there. And I may have felt, I always wandered the streets…the Jewish soldiers who were at the front, they had a special sign and of course I always wore this as a kind of protection. No, anything, never anything was done to me physically.
EIDELMAN: When you were selling textiles and up till 1937, was the company you were working for Jewish owned?
MANN: Well I represented about six firms, six firms.
EIDELMAN: Were all of them Jewish owned?
MANN: No. Three were not. But they didn’t do anything. Maybe they didn’t know I’m Jewish. The name “Fritz” is very German…
EIDELMAN: Maybe you were a good salesman and they wanted the business.
MANN: That could be. I think I was a pretty good salesman. I was pretty well liked. Otherwise people wouldn’t have started…much luckier than a lot of my friends who really lost their shops so early.
EIDELMAN: You had your job right up until the end, is that correct?
MANN: See, I didn’t know if I would get my passport. I had written the letters that I left the country but didn’t mail them, you know. If they wouldn’t have given me my passport on the day, I would have had to stay at least six more months and I would have lost my number at the consulate. I probably wouldn’t have come out anymore. So, after I was in London, my mother mailed the letters to the firms that I’m not here anymore.
EIDELMAN: You said that three of the companies you worked for were owned by Jews?
MANN: There were about six firms at that time and half of them were. Except I think my bigger ones were Jewish. One was one of the biggest hosiery firms in Germany and they were Jewish and then…
EIDELMAN: What happened to them? How were they able to operate, or did the German people take it over?
MANN: They took it over later on. Not at that time. Since they exported and – so they were probably glad that they continued, uh, but of course they would have preferred under Aryans ownership. But later on, I mean they all were taken over by the Aryans, but – as long as I was there, I really don’t know what happened later on to them. But…I know that one…this hosiery firm, that they came to this country. That I know. I know that one glove factory, they came to this country. The third one, I don’t know what happened to them. But uh, after ’38, they all were disowned. I mean, it was just a matter of time. No one of this ones were near where I lived because Mr. Streicher would have seen to it that they would have gone out of business before. But, as I said, it was different in different parts of the country. And…some of them really liked Jews. See they respected. See, they always had a lot of Jewish customers because the wholesale was mostly part of – in Nuremberg and Furth, the wholesalers – there was only one non-Jewish, so, they always did business for years with the Jews and they were, uh good businessmen – not cheaters. They really were. Honest. So they had good relationships. So they, no, I didn’t have to give up anything. Some of my friends did, but I didn’t. Maybe their factories were in other parts of the country or whatever it was. I was lucky. Of course, my business quit. Because the Jewish firms were taken over by other ones and they were Nazis, so when someone sold out, I didn’t even go to their sales. I knew they were Nazis, otherwise they couldn’t have taken over.
EIDELMAN: As you look back on your whole experience, how do you think being a refugee from Germany, so to speak, changed your life?
MANN: It changed my life entirely. Life in Germany was very nice and gemutlich, as they call it. I mean that. It was a beautiful country – Nuremberg was a beautiful city.