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Jutta Buder

image of Jutta Buder holocaust oral history
Nationality: German
Location: Germany • Missouri • Siegen • St. Louis • Stendal • United States of America
Experience During Holocaust: Family Resisted the Nazi Party

Mapping Jutta's Life

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“I still want [my children] to know what stuff we humans are made of... you must live under your circumstances and you must think very hard and very clearly about what surrounds you and what your choices are. And in our life it seemed that the choice was patience, but if more people had rebelled earlier, maybe something could have been changed.” - Jutta Buder

Read Jutta's Oral History Transcripts

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Tape 1 - Side 1

PRINCE: My name is “Sister” Prince and I’m interviewing Jutta Buder on September 29, 1986 for the St. Louis Center for Holocaust Studies and the Oral History project.
Jutta, let’s begin at the beginning. What year were you born?
BUDER: In 1932.
PRINCE: And where were you born?
BUDER: In a city called Stendahl which is now in East Germany. It was in – well, just plain Germany. It’s not too far away from Berlin. My father was a judge and that’s where we lived until I was about two because in 1934 already, my father was thrown out of the court system in Stendahl for refusing to join the Nazi party. As a judge he was, of course, employed by the government, by the State, and he should have joined the party of the government, but he refused to do that and also criticized what was happening in Berlin. So, this was already in ’34 and my mother did the unpardonable sin and kept shopping in Jewish stores, which was forbidden. My father represented a Jewish lawyer, which was forbidden because all fraternization already was forbidden that early. And so, they were asked to leave. He stayed within the law. He was given the choice of two little towns in Westphalia and he chose one where my parents and my brother and I moved, called Siegen which is about 75 kilometers east of Cologne, and that’s where my parents settled. As I say, he remained a judge. He was demoted and he had just about the lowest position as a judge which I think was sort of like a police court judge here in this country. So, he retained that position but was simply not promoted during the war and in his court were very minor cases, so he never once was forced to – or he would have somehow avoided it – to apply any of the so-called Nazi laws. I later asked my father just how this was possible and he said that all the cases were reviewed first by a Nazi board and any case that the party wanted to have anything to do with, they channeled into a different court which was manned strictly by party officials or Nazis. It was a regular Nazi court. And it had nothing to do with the actual law. And other minor cases were allowed to get into my father’s court, for example. So that’s how he was able to just avoid enforcing any of the so-called Nazi laws.
Well, anyway, so we moved to this little town called Siegen in ’34 when I was two and my brother was five.
PRINCE: What was your father’s name?
BUDER: Kurt.
PRINCE: And your mother’s name?
BUDER: And the last name was Zelle. And it was an embarassing name for a judge because Zelle means the same in German as it does in English, like a prison cell – Zelle. When the accused heard that the judge’s name was Zelle, or Cell, which is the name of a prison cell, they didn’t like that very much.
My mother’s name was Anne Lotte.
PRINCE: And your brother?
BUDER: Claus. Well, there I was, two years old. My brother was five. He, of course, started kindergarten very soon, and the reason I mention this, my parents told us later on that one day long after my brother had started kindergarten, the teacher asked my mother why Claus never came to kindergarten anymore, and she said that she sent him off everyday. Children would just simply walk, even little children would just walk to kindergarten. Even if it was 20 miles away, little five year olds would just walk out of the house and go. Well, it turned out we lived on the bottom of a mountain and on the top of that mountain were big barracks and that’s where the SA soldiers lived. And every morning they came marching down the mountain in goose step and in formation and in uniform, and when my brother, Claus, went up the mountain to the kindergarten which was on top of the mountain, they came down and he was so excited that he marched through town with them and (LAUGHTER BY BOTH) just followed them everywhere because there was great drama and music and the bugles and trumpets, and singing. And they marched and waved the flags and marched through town and he marched with them.
PRINCE: (LAUGHTER) I’m sure he had a friend or two in tow.
BUDER: So, the children all marched along and thought it was a lot of fun. Well, that was soon corrected.
And, then I must say that I had a totally happy childhood. My parents somehow shielded us from this initial pressure, the things that were an absolute nightmare to them. I remember in ’39 we were vacationing in the Friesen Islands and one day we had to quickly pack up and everybody had to go home because I was told war had broken out. So, we had to pack up and go home. I remember that excitement. Then I remember my father secretly listening to foreign stations on the radio. The reason he had to do that very secretly was that we lived in a duplex and our neighbors on the other wall could have heard that he was doing that.
PRINCE: Do you remember how he did it?
BUDER: Well, he had moved the radio away from the wall, I remember that. And he had moved it to an inner wall and then very, very quiet, I remember him sitting there with his ear – you could barely understand it in the room and he was just sitting real, real closely to the radio.
I was seven when the war broke out. Then, bit by bit, of course, our parents talked to us about what was happening in our country and they had two friends, one couple and one widower with whom they could discuss totally honestly what was happening in the country – absolutely nobody else.
PRINCE: What did they do, what were their jobs?
BUDER: One was a manufacturer. He wasn’t a big professional man or politician or anything. He simply had a small factory and the other one was a retired major from the First World War and I don’t know what in the world he did. We always referred to him as Der Major, the major. And I don’t think he did anything except write his memoirs. He was a learned man. And those three people and my parents were the absolutely only ones who spoke and analyzed honestly what was happening in our country.
PRINCE: What did they tell you that you can remember?
BUDER: Well, by that time I had started school, and my brother being three years older, it was even more important. Every single day my parents would ask us what we had learned in school that day, and we would go class by class and tell exactly what we were taught. And my parents would say very clearly, “That is right, that is wrong,” and it’s really this way or another way, “but don’t say anything in school tomorrow and don’t say anything outside to the other children.”
PRINCE: It’s like living two lives.
BUDER: Yes, but it didn’t bother us in the least. Children are much more resilient than we give them credit for. If there is a lot of love and honesty, it works just fine. We knew they didn’t play any games with us, that it was very clearly said and we understood it. They said, “Look, there is something terrible going on in Berlin and we must endure these years. We are not going to leave the country.” Later on my father said that Germany suffered such a terrific brain drain. So many very bright people left Germany that it suffered an enormous brain drain, he called it. And he did not speak English. My mother did. But the law and the German language were his livelihood. His own mother lived in what is now East Germany. Anyway, my parents decided not to leave.
PRINCE: Jutta, when your father and mother acted as they did and you all moved, how did the grandparents feel? Did that cause problems within your own family?
BUDER: No, because they lived in three different cities. Our grandfather lived actually in Berlin. He was old and didn’t take a stand anymore. My grandmother, my father’s mother, lived in Halle which is also now in East Germany, also too old to take a stand. His sister was a librarian and was not married. No, I don’t remember there being any pressure within the family although there were families where there was a lot of pressure.
PRINCE: Also fear, because they did a very heroic thing.
BUDER: Well, they did it quietly. That’s what was so frustrating. There wasn’t much you could do actively. They did it quietly. Although, after the war when the Americans came to our part of the country, they found stacks and stacks of papers on my parents’ bad behavior, just on our one family, which is why the Americans then looked for my father and knew they could trust him and put him in charge of reopening the court system in our area and serve on the denazification board. We’re getting a little ahead of ourselves.
Well, the Americans, of course, had to help the Germans start to set up some kind of a system again, be it opening the stores or starting a court system. And everybody who was employed, re-employed, went through this denazification process and for that, naturally, they needed some German input. So, there were very, very few people and very, very few judges who had not joined the party. Most of them had joined out of convenience and some out of conviction. And that is exactly the difference my father could make. He knew the judges. He knew the lawyers and as they were pulled back in, he could tell exactly who had been a member of the Nazi party out of convenience and who had been out of conviction. He was asked to write a lot of letters for other people to get re-employed. And that was very hard to do because in many cases he knew that somebody really was “gung-ho” and followed the Nazi ideals. They probably did not know about the extent of the atrocities and my father also knew they were probably able and willing to shift very quickly and support another system. I remember that he labored long and hard over those decisions and he did reopen the court system in our district in our area, and he became the presiding judge of the court in our area. And in ’49 he went to the Supreme Court of North Rhine Westphalia. The Supreme Court consists of different departments. Each department is called a “Senate.” And he asked for the 13th Senate which was the reparations. That was the branch of the Supreme Court in North Rhine Westphalia, which is sort of equal to one of our states here. He went to handle the reparations. The German name is “wiedergutmachung.” It’s “make good again.” It’s a very childish name but that’s what he then spent the rest of his life doing, to repay claims made by mostly Jewish people, of course, who had been forced to leave, to repay them, that is what he did until he died in 1962.
PRINCE: What a very special man he was.
BUDER: And that was one of our main consolations, that first of all his life had found completion, his views had proven to be right, the insanity did come to an end.
PRINCE: And he was allowed to live.
BUDER: And he was allowed to live and beyond that, even bring back a little order and make some statements.
PRINCE: Why do you suppose that he was allowed to be moved and carry on even in such a small – I’m surprised that –
BUDER: Well, he was just quietly – he didn’t do anything awful. He didn’t actively work against the government because that would have –
PRINCE: But he spoke out, and usually, they just –
BUDER: Well, he had spoken out too much until ’34 already, and that’s when we were what’s called “strafversetzt.” That means “transferred by punishment.” That was a punishment to get thrown out of the court system there and he moved to this little tiny town.
PRINCE: Possibly they considered him such a statue that if they threatened and told him they would do that, he might change. They might have wanted him to be one of them.
BUDER: Well, they just stayed as quiet as they could. They only spoke out, as I mentioned, with these two other couples and he just never did join the Nazi party even though he was employed by the government.
PRINCE: It sounds as though they discussed everything with you, that you were terribly aware of all the things that were going on.
BUDER: They discussed with us what they felt we needed to know. They felt we needed to know that we could not believe everything that happened in school and, of course, we were just saturated. You didn’t say, “Good morning” to anybody, you said, “Heil Hitler” to everybody, whether it was the milkman or the grocer or your friends or your teacher. You had to say, “Heil Hitler” as a greeting. It was everybody’s greeting.
PRINCE: Let’s talk about your life. What do you remember first? What’s the first memory you have?
BUDER: The first memory I have is really this train ride when I was only two, this train ride from Stendahl to Siegen and my father looking for a house. And then I remember the restrictions and when I started going to school. Every morning before school started, we all stood in the courtyard with our right hand raised up and we had to sing the national “Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles” and “Die Fahne Hoch.”
PRINCE: What’s that? I’ve heard that before.
BUDER: “Up with the flag.” And we had to sing those two songs and I remember we all used to get tired standing there with our right arm up and we used to put our arms on each other’s shoulders but we weren’t allowed to do that. (LAUGHTER) I heard a nice pun that only works in English: that the years of the raised, of the lifted rights – all the people’s human rights were lifted, which is a nice little pun.
PRINCE: How did your friends react?
BUDER: Well, they absolutely did not know. I mean, I credit my parents for still leaving us, giving us a really nice, fun, innocent childhood. For years, I would say, probably until ’44, we played and there was no tension between our friends and us. We played just as hard as anybody else. We all played together and we simply did not talk about what was happening in the country and anything that my parents said was wrong that we were taught in school, we simply stayed quiet. We simply did not talk about it.
PRINCE: You had a very disciplined mind.
BUDER: We simply separated those things.
PRINCE: Were you asked to write papers in school? Did that pose a problem?
BUDER: I don’t think that posed any problem for me. No, because I was still in elementary school and – no, that did not pose any problems that I can remember.
PRINCE: Your school started in – how would you say?
BUDER: Well, we start when we’re five and go for four years, actually I had just started high school. For four years you go to elementary school and then you start high school. So, at age nine or ten – yes, you start high school. So when things got really bad, I think I was in the second year of high school, as I remember.
PRINCE: In ’44?
BUDER: That would have been in ’44, yes.
PRINCE: When the tide was turning against Germany, you mean.
BUDER: Well, for us in our little lives, we had no bombing attacks until ’44. One bomb fell once in the middle of ’44, but that was obviously an accident. But then early in ’45, the bad bombing attacks started in our town. There were bad attacks long before that in other cities. But in our city it didn’t start until ’45 because it was a small town and it was in a mountainous area and a lot of heavy industry had moved into the valleys and the Allies apparently didn’t find out about those until ’45. And my parents and our friends, whom I mentioned earlier – they were the only ones with whom my parents could really openly talk about the situation – these friends had a company and had fairly heavy equipment and were in the process of digging out a cave in a nearby mountain. And we were going to dig out that cave more and more and when things go really bad, we were going to go in there and spend the last few days of the war there, possibly. But, there were bombing attacks every single night and we could just never sleep through one whole night without being awakened and having to run to the shelter. So, one particular night we decided to just take a few things and spend one night in the part of the cave that had been dug out. On this particular night, running down the mountain, little path to get to the bottom where we went into the cave, my father tripped and fell and maybe he fainted – we don’t know – but anyway, he just fell. And he was very tall – and hit his head and he was unconscious for what turned out to be two weeks, so we had to take his knapsack and pick him up and carry him the rest of the way. And we made it to the cave before the bombs started falling too badly, and we then stayed there til the end of the war. And that was in February.
PRINCE: In the cave? You stayed there until May?
BUDER: We stayed down there because my mother was also told in the meantime that known non-Nazis – Nazi objectors – were at that point, still rounded up. So we just did not dare to leave down there. Somebody had alerted us to that. So we just stayed there.
PRINCE: With those other people?
BUDER: With the other family, yes. They had two daughters. We would sneak out during the day and we would just run around like there were lots of other people running around because most people’s homes by that time were bombed and lots of people were running around. Well, we went to nearby farmers. We tried to get back to our house. That was hard to do because the windows and doors had been broken from all the air pressure from the many bombs. And a lot of people had already stolen things out of our house, plus we didn’t really dare to go into our house for fear somebody was going to grab us and recognize us. So, what we did was, in the factory that my parents’ friends owned, worked French prisoners of, civilian prisoners of war ‘cause most of the factories were staffed with prisoners of war.
PRINCE: Slave labor?
BUDER: Yes. And they knew that their employer was not a Nazi sympathizer, on the contrary that he worked very closely with these French people, and protected them as much as he could, and they knew that. Now, they were on our side and they also knew that we were in the cave and we sent them up to our house and we told them exactly what to find where. And our neighbors were delighted because they thought our house was being plundered and things were stolen and they were delighted because by that time they didn’t know my parents’ feelings, and so they brought us things. And once I remember we found a horse and we killed a horse and that helped us for a long time. And while we still were in our house – I have to tell you this one funny little story – on national holidays – Hitler’s birthday or –
PRINCE: April 20th?
BUDER: April 20th, exactly. For all the national holidays you were supposed to hang out the flag and we, our parents just never did that and every block had a…
PRINCE: The German flag or the Nazi flag?
BUDER: The Nazi flag, was the Hackenkreuz, and there were Gauleiter, there were like block units, so every house was somehow under somebody’s authority. There were people marching around – neighbors who had to make sure that everybody had the flag out, or who walked around at night to be sure that not a bit of light came through the windows because every night for years we had a blackout. We had all the doors and windows were covered with dark material or dark blankets so there wouldn’t be any bit of light shining outside. Well, these men would come around and would pressure my parents, would say they had to hang out the flag. My mother said that on my father’s small salary they couldn’t afford to buy a flag. Well, the pressure was finally really so severe that she went and bought a flag about the size of a handkerchief and hung it out of our toilet window. (LAUGHTER) And even that was written down. And even things like – well there were always parades in town and Nazi little paper flags with the Hackenkreuz were handed out to people – little paper flags with a wooden stick. And it was written down how my mother would walk along and while she was walking along she just sort of quietly looked around, but with her hands just tore it up like little bits and pieces and threw it in the gutter. She couldn’t just throw the whole flag down.
PRINCE: I’m utterly amazed.
BUDER: She just sort of walked along and she remembered doing that and it actually was reported.
PRINCE: Continually being spied on…
BUDER: Somebody, somebody just noticed and, “Hey did you see that woman…?” There were all kinds of stupid little things like that…
PRINCE: Was there like maybe one person who watched you or just people were taught to…
BUDER: I think people just observed it and told somebody. I don’t know.
PRINCE: Did you get that kind of teaching in school, you know, like what are other people thinking?

Tape 1 - Side 2

Were you taught in school to tell on each other?
BUDER: No, not that I remember. No we were not.
PRINCE: I’d like to go through whatever you would like to describe as a typical day in school and then I would like to be sure that we discuss the Hitler Youth.
BUDER: Yes. Well, I was a little too young. I was in a group and that was absolutely mandatory but you didn’t have to swear anything. I was, thank goodness, young enough so I was in a group called “Bund, Jungmadchen Verband,” I think it was called. It was like Brownies. There was a Bund Deutcher Madchen, the B.D.M. where you were actually sworn in. It was just like the Hitler Youth, for the boys and before the Bund Deutcher Madchen you were automatically – everybody was in school – we were in the Jungmadchen Verband, but you would just get together like scouts, like Boy Scouts. Sure, we had to wear a uniform and we had to sing Nazi songs but we didn’t have to make any declarations. One thing, however, that I did have to do – I was in the choir and we had to sing at weddings and one day it just happened to be the 16th of December, ’44. We were practicing in a room in a hotel for a wedding and it was a real Nazi wedding. I had never seen or attended a Nazi wedding. In other words, the man was in uniform and the woman, I guess, was in bridal gown – we never got to it. While we were practicing there was the first terrible bombing attack on Siegen at one o’clock on December 16th.
PRINCE: You haven’t forgotten that?
BUDER: I haven’t forgotten that and if nobody remembered that we were singing, that we were practicing in the back room. So when the siren sounded, everybody left and forgot about us, and because we were singing, we didn’t hear the siren until the bombs started falling, and the hotel was immediately hit and I, myself, remember just slithering down some steps and I ended up down in the lower level where the bathrooms were and the water burst and it was so terribly loud that I really thought my head was going to explode. Because the water was rising down there among all the toilets, I somehow got up again but the front entrance was burning, so I ran up to, I guess, the second floor and I remember standing at a big open window with everything burning down below. And on the street were a lot of people but I realized that they were all prisoners of war. There was a factory across from the hotel and all the prisoners of war were not allowed in the shelters. There were shelters all over town – tall buildings – they were not underground. And there was a great big Russian man standing down below and he just waved to me. I could see he was Russian by the kind of uniform he was wearing. They were all identified even though he was a prisoner of war, working in a factory. And he waved and waved and waved, and I was in uniform. I wore a white shirt and black skirt and a black scarf with this leather thing. I didn’t have any emblems on me. This dear man waved to me and I just jumped and he caught my fall and then he took me and he – they were burning trees and burning horses and everything – and he would just take me and just throw me across or jump across with me and we couldn’t even talk to each other because he was Russian, and he ran with me to the shelter and he just shoved me in there, and he was not allowed to go in.
PRINCE: He couldn’t go in himself.
BUDER: Yes. So there were nice moments like that.
PRINCE: You must have been so frightened.
BUDER: Well, I don’t know. Sure, you’re – but you’re beyond being frightened when something like that happens.
PRINCE: Like in shock?
BUDER: Yeah. Well, the whole town then was burning and you would see people on the tops of buildings, screaming for help and the whole building was burning and you couldn’t help. You saw some terrible things then.
PRINCE: Like a nightmare.
BUDER: Totally, yeah. My mother happened to be in town shopping that day and she knew that the shelter was right close to the hotel, and she figured that we were all in the shelter, and she made her way to the shelter and found me. Actually by the time this man just kind of threw me toward the shelter, the heavy doors were all locked, but there was always sort of a little vestibule almost in the front of the actual doors to, they all had that, I think, to keep the wind pressure from these bombs out of the actual shelter. So, when the attack started, they would close the heavy doors, but then there was always still some room where you could stand at least in front of the shelter. There was still a roof but it was open and that’s where I was and where my mother found me. She had been in a shelter in town but she had bought some bottled water, some lemonade or something like that, that day, and that actually might have saved our lives because we had to get through so many terribly smokey areas and we used some handkerchiefs or something – I don’t remember really what it was – I guess it was handkerchiefs. So, we just slammed the bottles against a wall and soaked the handkerchiefs with the lemonade and held it in front of our faces to get through some areas that were totally very hot and smokey.
PRINCE: What did people act like in the shelters?
BUDER: Well, in the shelters you just sit there stunned. You don’t cry or complain. It’s much too big. You don’t carry on. In the shelters I remember, everybody was just stunned.
PRINCE: It must have been very difficult because they had been told and promised and all of a sudden…
BUDER: Just total disaster, yes, right.
PRINCE: Was it possible that it came in small parts, though, that there must have begun to be shortages, there must have begun to be…
BUDER: Well, there was constantly this promise of, “Wait, just hang on and wait. There is a wonder bomb.” I guess the V-2 or whatever that was called.
PRINCE: V-2, I think you’re right. I was going to say V-8 but that’s (LAUGHTER) tomato juice.
BUDER: (LAUGHTER) I think it was the V-2, and up until the last minute there was this talk about everything is going to be allright. “We’re just bluffing and we’re just letting them think that we’re getting worn out, and Hitler is in control and he’s going to set off this V-2 bomb,” which of course was totally stupid.
Now I have asked my parents, naturally, this big question. We all discussed it. They did not know what went on in these camps. They knew that people disappeared, that people left. Most people that we knew – well in Siegen there weren’t terribly many, well, there were Jewish people, yeah, but not terribly many ‘cause it was such a small town, and they knew that there were places where they were, I guess, collected or had to go through. They did not know, and I completely believe my parents, what went on in places like, like Dachau and Auschwitz.
PRINCE: But in Dachau, originally Jews were not the first taken into Dachau and people like your father or Catholics…
BUDER: Or homosexuals…
PRINCE: Right, just people who spoke out against them, priests – they were the first people to go to Dachau and after a while they took the Jews. But the beginnings were – and that’s why you were so fortunate that your father did it in such a way that he wasn’t taken.
BUDER: Well, and that was another point – the Nazis were so extremely powerful so fast because they executed people from within their own ranks very quickly and openly, which, of course, sent utter terror through – I can’t think of his name right now – the head of the SA, the first –
BUDER: No, not Rommel, of course…
PRINCE: No not Rommel, R-O-H-M, because he was head of the SA.
BUDER: He was head of the SA and was he not homosexual or…
PRINCE: They all had a perversion of some kind, I believe. I think he was.
BUDER: Yes. So, he was with people from their own ranks, and then the threats, of course immediately went out. If more people had rebelled against the system earlier – I mean very, very early – maybe it could have been changed. And I cannot help but think of where were the terrorists during the early ’30’s. Now we have terrorism all over the world and a dozen people are killed here and a dozen people are killed there. It is inconceivable to me that there wouldn’t have been somebody who could have, where were the terrorists when…to destroy this machinery very, very early.
PRINCE: I think you have three different kinds of – more than three but three main groups of people. You have your people that actually do the damage and then you have the people they do it to, the victims, and then you have the bystanders, you know. And I think that people like your father were very few and far between. It does seem that the people that I have met, like yourselves, who knew the difference and who were taught the difference, seemed to suffer the most about it. You showed me a film that’s going to be, and you don’t want to shy away from things. People like yourself who are raised with a sense of right and wrong still carry so much of it with you because it still puzzles and still bothers. And you paid your price also.
BUDER: Yeah. That was just very, very clear to us. It didn’t mix us up in the least to have our parents give us one set of values and the school another. They told us what was happening in the country, that it was all wrong, and that we had to wait it out but we had to be careful what we believed.
PRINCE: You really had a most unusual education and most people are told maybe a little right or wrong but they don’t have a chance to see it and live with it every day and go back home and have it sort of straightened out.
BUDER: Every day, every single day…
PRINCE: Because of the closeness. Obviously you had a really warm family life, but aside from that you had a warm intellectual closeness that most families…
BUDER: Yes, the importance of the individual was stressed greatly by my parents. We, no matter where we were, my parents really had no national feelings whatsoever. They really had very worldly ideas.
PRINCE: Um-hum, but they loved Germany, they loved Germany.
BUDER: Yes, because, well, circumstances put him there and he had learned Greek and some Hebrew and Latin in school.
PRINCE: I take back my statement. (LAUGHTER) I’m wrong to say that to you. Did he love Germany?
BUDER: Well, I don’t think he loved Germany more than another country, no. He just, I think, stayed because of the German language and law. That was his livelihood.
PRINCE: He loved mankind.
BUDER: He loved mankind. The only time my father was in this country, since there was the barrier of the language, he did not like it here terribly much. Things just went entirely too fast, too superficial and everybody was so terribly friendly in the month or so that he was here that he couldn’t find the people that he really should have had something in common because everybody was so nice, but that is the way we are here, you see. So, the German mentality, I think, yes – more reserved people…
PRINCE: And more private…
BUDER: …More private, yeah, that’s a good word, I think appealed to him more, but he had no particular feelings for the “Fatherland” or something. As a matter of fact, my father, as I mentioned, died when he was 72 years old in ’62, and he’s buried in Germany. My mother died while she spent some time with us here. She was visiting us here, and she had told us, “If something should happen to me while I am here with you, then for heaven sake, don’t do such a foolish thing as ship me back to Germany. Have me buried wherever I die.” And she is buried right here which is just wonderful. It’s wonderful for my parents’ relationship. It symbolizes that wherever they are now has nothing to do with German or American soil. And when I became an American, after I had lived here for three years and was eligible for my American citizenship, I wrote this foolish letter to my parents and asked if they would mind if I gave up my German citizenship and my father was almost upset that I would ask such a foolish question. And he said, “First of all, you are you whether you live in Nazi Germany or the United States during peace time or in Red China or in Siberia. I would always hope that you will distinguish right from wrong, that you will work for what you consider good, that you will work against what you consider bad; secondly, you should be a good wife, a loyal wife to your husband; thirdly, the best mother you know how to be to your children, and then, of course, you want to be a voting member, an active member of whatever community you live in. And so naturally, if you expect to live your life in the United States, you need to become a member of that country. It’s foolish of you to expect the protection of a country across the ocean. You want to vote and be an active member of wherever you live.” And so, of course I should become an American citizen, which was a good answer.
PRINCE: Are you like your father?
BUDER: Very much, obviously – yes, yeah. Am I like my father – oh, I’m sorry, I misunderstood. I thought you said, “Do I like my father?” Oh, I’m embarassed at the answer. (LAUGHTER) I liked my father very much. But, am I like my father? Well, I keep those values in mind. It is my experience that my values system goes right back to my childhood. Whatever I learned in school or so might have added knowledge and, sure, experience. But my basic value system goes right back to my childhood.
PRINCE: And they shared it, your parents.
BUDER: That’s a big responsibility for all of us parents to not be wishy-washy with our children but to be clear.
PRINCE: How about Claus? Do you mind my asking about Claus?
BUDER: Well, he stayed in Germany and he was supposed to have been sworn in, into the Hitler Youth.
PRINCE: Because being three years older…
BUDER: Again, everybody who was in school was simply scooped up and on Sundays they were all expected to go to a certain movie theater where they were all sworn in to the Hitler Youth. Sunday after Sunday, my brother, Claus, was sick, (LAUGHTER) and I remember people coming to the house and wanting to pick him up and my mother said, “He is sick in bed.” And she even got a doctor to give him a certificate saying that he had to rest a lot. He was simply sick in bed, so he was never sworn in. He had to attend functions and, as a matter of fact, we both wore things that were considered a part of the uniforms because they were very cheap. They were much cheaper than regular clothing and we were very, very short of money. We never had any money and my father earned so very little that I still don’t know how they really managed. So, we wore a lot those Navy pants and Navy jackets the boys in the Hitler Youth wore. But he was never sworn in because he was always sick on Sunday. Then another thing toward the later years of the war, since he was – it’s true, he looked pale and skinny. He had pneumonia and he had pleurisy. He did have all kinds of things wrong with him during those years. But boys his age were actually picked off the street. So that was another reason why we…
PRINCE: To go into the Army towards the end…
BUDER: …to help fight, yes.
PRINCE: This happened in 1944.
BUDER: Another friend of ours the same age as my brother, Claus, was walking home from school and this dreaded thing happened to him. All of a sudden two SA men or SS men would walk either side of you. A boy would walk along and all of a sudden these two men would walk to either side of the boy and just walk with him, and then he’d never be seen again. And this happened to our friend. The streetcars were still running and these two men started walking to either side of him and he knew what that meant, and he jumped on the streetcar which caught them by surprise, and then, of course, he got off the streetcar somewhere and he and his family had to go into hiding. So those dreadful things did happen toward the end of the war.
PRINCE: And Claus now is living in Germany?
BUDER: He stayed in Germany – well, we were all in Germany then. I didn’t come here til ’56. I didn’t really start enjoying school until after the war. That’s when I really blossomed in school. I just was very quiet and I didn’t get terribly good – neither one of us got very good grades because we were so quiet and probably a little awkward because we didn’t know quite how to express ourselves. So, after the war he was finished very quickly with high school but because all the prisoners of war were then returning, he couldn’t get into the universities, and so he had to work for a few years before he was eligible to start at the university. They went by age to accommodate all the prisoners of war first, to get them back into the universities first. Then he studied law and he’s in a government career now as a lawyer. He’s working in Bonn.
PRINCE: Oh, how nice. And he attended college in Bonn?
BUDER: Right, and he lives in Bonn. I remember my mother saying that one thing that was really obviously clearly missing in Germany after the war was the Jewish element. And I don’t know exactly what she meant by that but I was rereading some letters and it was after she had been here. After my father died, she visited us every two or three years for three or four months at a time and she liked it here very, very much. And when she returned to Germany, she wrote that, “It is very noticeable that in Germany the entire Jewish element is missing in the German nation now.” Exactly what she meant by that, I don’t know.
PRINCE: It could have meant a lot of things.
BUDER: Well, the discipline and the learnedness and the kindness…
PRINCE: The arts…
BUDER: …the arts, all typically Jewish. The immense kindness are typical of the Jewish life. I think that is one thing that she meant.
PRINCE: I have some notes written down that I’d really like to go over but we’ve covered a lot. I’d still like you to describe a full school day. I think that’s so important because I see you as a little girl. You know, you’ve lived your life and I’m just listening to it. But when you say thank goodness that you had a chance to talk at home, you obviously had to be very quiet at school. Was that scary for you?
PRINCE: Weren’t you afraid that you would say the wrong thing?
BUDER: No, I don’t remember that at all. I just remember that we all had to gather in the schoolyard and, like I said, sing these two German songs and say “Heil Hitler” even to our friends and to the teachers and to everybody. But I don’t really remember any particular hardship or anything that was terribly different. It was very disciplined and we had to be very quiet. The school day was not at all like what I observed when my children went through Community School where the best was brought out in everybody. My parents had hoped to send us to the Waldorf Schools. Do you know the Waldorf Schools? There are Waldorf Schools here in this country. These were founded by Rudolph Steiner who was the head of the anthropological society. There are Waldorf Schools in Detroit and in New York and different cities, and they basically are – they are probably a step beyond John Burroughs, taking in a great deal of nature and learning about the sun and the universe and the natural cycle in this world and how humans have to, or should adapt and respect and work with this tremendous law that exists in nature. Well, there was nothing like that in our school. We sat in our seats and we were taught and our teachers were terribly strict.
PRINCE: They disciplined and not so much expression – just memory.
BUDER: Just discipline and learning. Our math teacher had enormous hands and I remember he would ask you a certain math question. You would have to stand up. He would ask you a question and you would stand at his desk. Then he would leave his desk, with his hand outstretched and he’d walk toward you, making eye contact the whole time and his hand came closer and closer to your cheek. And he constantly was looking at you. You couldn’t think under those circumstances. I remember that. I thought, “If I could only look away or not see him and not see this hand.”
PRINCE: Did he ever strike anyone?
BUDER: Oh yes. He’d come closer and closer and then his hand would just sort of be next to you and “bang!” if you didn’t give the answer. I don’t know what they expected this would accomplish. It was just dreadful.
PRINCE: It must have brought out the worst in the worst people, you know, the teachers.
BUDER: That’s a good point. Yes.
PRINCE: When you were talking earlier about schooling just a few minutes ago, my mind went to some of the teachers who must have been very bad and had a wonderful time during those years.
BUDER: That’s true. The teachers themselves must have all played a role. They certainly were not expressing any real humanity.

Tape 2 - Side 1

PRINCE: You could have had a child sitting right next to you that was really taught similarly to you and you never would know because they were also taught to be very quiet.
BUDER: Yes. But the parents were gung-ho in our neighborhood. I know they were all glorifying the Nazis because they would rush out of their houses and, “Oh, did you hear?” They would report on the different battles. I remember they would come shouting out of their houses, “Did you hear? Turn the radio on. Hitler beat so-and-so.”
PRINCE: Just like a football game everyday?
BUDER: Yes, yes. I remember that you could feel the enthusiasm.
PRINCE: Did you feel like an outsider?
BUDER: A little bit, of course, because we simply didn’t share this enthusiasm and because my parents sat at home and moaned and groaned. But I – my brother, Claus, and I – and he was much more reserved than I – I was in the streets all the time. I was a bit of a tomboy and he was in his room studying most of the time. He was a real loner. And, yes, he went into his shell more and more because by nature he was more reserved and then to have this burden on my parents. He is very reserved to this day and actually I think this might have hurt him somewhat. I, by nature, am first of all more outgoing and, like I say, I was playing outside constantly and also somehow I just was discreet enough to simply hold something in.
PRINCE: You played the game.
BUDER: I simply did not – I wasn’t ever tempted to talk about my parents, not even to my best friends. I read – you probably have read too – Bertolt Brecht The Jewish Wife. It’s a collection of stories which are just horrible, how children squeal on their parents.
PRINCE: Turned their parents in.
BUDER: Turned their parents in, wives turned their husbands in. Or, in The Jewish Wife they just played this game with each other. The Jewish wife usually was about to be picked up but she pretended that she was visiting her mother because they just could not confront this problem. So, all through the play – it’s a short play – they talk past each other. They keep talking, husband and wife, as if she is visiting her mother, but they both know that she’s never going to come back and they don’t know what else to do.
PRINCE: And he is not Jewish.
BUDER: He is not Jewish, and she is Jewish. The name of the entire book is called The Jewish Wife, as I remember. And it has these short stories in it called, “Children Tell On Their Parents.” I wasn’t once tempted to do that. Thank God – ‘cause a little child…
PRINCE: You could get mad at them sometime and very easily…
BUDER: Sure, sure. But I don’t remember ever being tempted to do that. But that’s sort of how I know the feeling in the neighborhood. They were always yelling, like a football game, delighted when there was a special announcement on the radio.
PRINCE: Tell me about your teachers besides this one. Did you have an affinity or a feeling for one particular teacher that might have seemed to be a little different from the rest?
BUDER: No, none in elementary school. No, there wasn’t a single one that I knew that I felt particularly close to or that saw possibly my struggle or what was going on in my life and that looked for me. No, there wasn’t a one. I didn’t start enjoying my teachers until after the war.
PRINCE: Was there a picture of Hitler in the classroom?
BUDER: Oh yes, in every classroom.
PRINCE: Did the greeting used to be Gruss Gott?
BUDER: Well, Good Morgen or Gruss Gott. Gruss Gott was more in southern Germany.
PRINCE: In Bavaria?
BUDER: Yes. Guten Tag.
PRINCE: But it changed.
BUDER: Oh yes, you simply had to. As a school child, particularly, you were immediately reprimanded, and you just had to.
PRINCE: I understand. What I’m thinking of is turning one’s self into what they wanted and afterwards turning one’s self back.
BUDER: You mean after the war?
BUDER: Well, I had just started from elementary school into high school in ’44. Well, actually in ’40 I started high school, so-called high school. And some teachers were no longer there after, when the system started up again and others – there was a different mood, very clearly a different mood. I know that for years the history class in German schools analyzed carefully what led up to the Second World War, treated the Second World War as one fact and then continued after the war without really confronting the war years or those issues. I think it was probably about 20 years – as a matter of fact, the feeling I have, and I’m not in Germany terribly much, but in talking to nieces and nephews who are in school now, Germany is really just now, and has during the last five years, begun to fully confront what happened. I don’t know whether you saw the show at the Art Museum, maybe four or five years ago. There was a show by contemporary German artists and they expressed their anger at the cultural interruption that Germany had suffered. The pictures were all horrible. They were all about violence and war and hunger. There was one artist who painted everything – well, he must have painted it right side up, but everything was hung upside down and signed at the bottom. Everything was upside down.
PRINCE: Which is the way he saw it.
BUDER: Yes. Trees were upside down, everything was upside down, the roots reaching for the heavens and the ground lying on the earth, for example. And also poetry, and at the same time there were movies, German movies shown at the Art Museum that showed gray, gray, depressed people trying to deal with this ghastly heritage in the after-war years. I remember there was a movie about a teacher, a German teacher who was trying very hard to change the history books. The history books were not full of lies but they did not shed any light on what really happened.
PRINCE: What really happened was so difficult and so vast. I think what bothers me the most is when they just blame it on one man.
BUDER: Yes. The entire country was ripe to follow.
PRINCE: In school, how did you begin to speak again? You were still in your same town.
BUDER: We were still in the same town, yes. And it was a very slow start because the schools were all destroyed.
PRINCE: Am I calling it right? Is it a town or is it a small city or…
BUDER: A town. It had 36,000 inhabitants at the time. It has a lot more now.
PRINCE: It must have been the turning in a change. Was it like someone died?
BUDER: You kind of – nobody ever heard of the Nazis after the war, (LAUGHTER) which was one thing that was very noticeable. I can’t remember how our teachers dealt with it. I think they just went back to actual learning without venting any feelings. Everybody was so desparately seeking order. It started very, very slowly because the buildings had all been destroyed and at first, we, for example, had school one-half day a week because there were so many different – there was one school building in a nearby village and that school building was used by a huge district. So, every school that would have otherwise had their own school would just go like half a day a week. And then as another building was finished, they would go two days and so on and so forth. And so it was such a slow start to bring order again that there was great emphasis on learning English. I don’t remember any sessions that kind of vented anybody’s feelings and we had a lot of children from Berlin or from Cologne or from other cities that had been even more terribly destroyed than ours had been. So we had a strange mix and huge classes of all kinds of children.
PRINCE: They would come into the town…?
BUDER: They would temporarily live in our towns because every house was just jammed full of people. A lot of people who were fleeing from what was then already the Russian zone. There were 60 of us sitting in one classroom with one teacher. And I just remember absolutely starting with math and German and geography and English, lots and lots of English because everybody had to learn to speak English. There were so many soldiers, you know, in town.
PRINCE: Certainly you had seen a lot by the time you were 15 or 16.
BUDER: Yes, (LAUGHTER) I guess so. But when you are a child, you just think that’s the way it is. You didn’t know what else to compare it to, so you just bounce along with the punches. You just thought, “Well, that’s the way life is.”
PRINCE: A question occurs to me. You said that you were wearing little black skirts and white shirts and it was because they were less expensive. Probably it was better anyway, maybe. What did people do with those clothes. There was a shortage of clothes after the war. Obviously, everything was destroyed. Did people just keep wearing their little skirts…?
BUDER: Well, people wore curtains or sheets or…
PRINCE: But they did not wear their…
BUDER: Everybody had white skirts and – no, red skirts, because they were all cutting out the swastika from the flags. We didn’t have that because we just had that funny little handkerchief flag, but everybody had red skirts on that were made out of the flags.
PRINCE: This is a funny, unnecessary question but it fits.
BUDER: No, that was one of the amusing details.
PRINCE: So nobody really did wear those uniforms.
BUDER: Oh, no.
PRINCE: They kept the shirts maybe?
BUDER: The shirts probably. The thing about the uniform was this black handkerchief with this knot.
PRINCE: So did they wear it without the handkerchief?
BUDER: Oh, yes, they would not wear that black thing anymore, right.
PRINCE: I wonder what the statistics are of those who threw them away and those who kept them.
BUDER: I don’t know. I don’t have any idea what happened to mine.
PRINCE: I just meant how many people cared and how many were glad to get rid of them, or if they even knew.
BUDER: Well, a lot of those things, those kinds of things, were stolen by American soldiers – any memorabilia. My father, as a judge, when the court was in session he wore a long black robe and on the black robe was a little eagle. They cut it off with scissors without even making a hole even.
PRINCE: I’d like to touch for a moment on the religious part of your life. In your town, when you went to church, and if I may ask – what church did you…?
BUDER: Evangelical and Reformed was our church but we didn’t go to church very much.
PRINCE: I was wondering what part that played in your life – if it was a social where you went for functions or dinners or anything more.
BUDER: None whatsoever. My parents had a philosophical view of religion, I think something comparable to the Ethical Society, maybe. The fact that each of us have to think very hard and deeply if we want to understand spiritual values, and I was not confirmed until way after the war. So, we had – religion was part of the curriculum in school we did have “so-called” religion. The Protestant children would into one classroom and the Catholics into another. That was part of the regular curriculum. But, no, I did not – it was not a big part of my youth and I did not feel any particular change through the Nazi regime.
PRINCE: As far as the church…
BUDER: As far as the church was concerned.
PRINCE: What did they tell you in school? Did they discuss Jews at all in school?
BUDER: I really don’t remember whether they discussed Jewish people in school. I know there was a separation because all Jewish people had to wear a yellow star and there were special benches where Jewish people were allowed to sit and nobody else, and vice-versa, but really I don’t remember that in my low grades that this was openly discussed in school, no.
PRINCE: What did you think of them? What were they? Or did you think?
BUDER: Well, there weren’t terribly many Jewish people that you would see, I guess, anymore. As I say, I was born in ’32, so by the time I really would have been aware and recognized Jewish faces – yeh, the war started when I was seven, in ’39. I still have trouble – Gene always makes fun of me – when I meet people, I don’t necessarily know that they are Jewish. But Gene says, “Don’t you recognize that so-and-so looks Jewish?” Well, I don’t because I didn’t grow up to see enough Jewish faces, whether there is nose, eyes or whatever, I don’t know. So that didn’t – I didn’t grow up with terribly many Jewish people. I don’t remember a single Jewish child in my class, for example. I don’t think there were any in my class. Our parents, of course, told us what was happening in the country and…
PRINCE: That they were getting rid of them?
BUDER: …that they wanted to eliminate the Jewish population.
PRINCE: They knew where they were going.
BUDER: Well, they were going into Holland or America or Canada.
PRINCE: I’m glad you brought up the star and the benches. Can you think of anything else that you remember as a child you might have seen?
BUDER: No, I really can’t, no.
PRINCE: Shopping in stores?
BUDER: Well, there was always this yellow star and at night when everything was completely dark, everything was blacked out, everybody was wearing a phosphorus pin. Everybody had some kind of a glowing button on their self, so we would all bump into each other. We did bump into one another, but at least you saw somebody coming – there were these buttons moving around and I remember then also this big yellow glowing Jewish star.
PRINCE: Just a couple more questions. When it was over with, what kind of thoughts or feelings did you have when it came out that this had actually happened to the Jewish people, that this had been going on?
BUDER: Well, that was years later. I tell you, I don’t think I really was aware of the horrors until I came to America, just exactly what had happened here. There was – I don’t ever remember seeing a movie which I’ve seen in this country.
PRINCE: It was awfully early.
BUDER: Well, it was ’56 when I came here.
PRINCE: No, no, I meant right after the war there wouldn’t have…
PRINCE: Did you hear about it, though, right after the war?
BUDER: Yes, we started hearing about it and we were all sort of in wonderment. I wonder if my father, for example, ever saw any of those pictures. He died in ’62 and you’d think he would have. Whether he saw the horrible pictures – well, the facts certainly were out by then, and he reacted in his way by taking over this reparations matter. But, I know I never saw the horrible movies that we have all seen on our T.V. which are just unbelievable and one thing I don’t believe we discussed at home is how to deal with this heritage, because it is a ghastly heritage for any German, and I think my parents advised us to go forward and just to consider our actions as honestly as we possibly could.
PRINCE: Well, you certainly were taught to live a certain way which is so commendable. I mean it was really a privilege to have listened to what you said and be able to think that there were some people like yourself who knew the difference. I’m grateful to you for putting it down for us on tape and knowing that there were people like yourselves and the inability to do something would have been very difficult. You know, you sit here in this lovely home of yours and you of what we’re talking about and I never met you before and it’s been very nice to be able to do that. But to think that what we’re really discussing and just two little individuals trying to sort something out. But you’ve shared your life and I appreciate that. It’s no fun to go back and yet I think it must give you some sort of pleasure to talk about your parents and how you were raised, because as I said, it is really something to be quite proud of.
Have you shared – not just thinking about the Jews – but just your own life with your children, about your schooling and the difficulties you had growing up, living in a cave and that type of thing?
BUDER: Oh yes, yes. I have talked to them about it. You don’t want to frighten anybody and it’s all hypothetical now, but I still want them to know what stuff we humans are made of, that you can – you must live under your circumstances and you must think very hard and very clearly what surrounds you and what your choices are. And in our life it seemed that the choice was patience but if more people had rebelled earlier, as I said, maybe something could have been changed. It is still just amazing to me that this could have happened, but as you said, it was not just one man, the country was, after the League of Nations, the country was simply ripe for this system, it seems. And the Germans are very ambitious and will do all sorts of things in the name of ambition. I remember right after the war, with so many English people and especially Americans, I thought, “I never want to see an American when I grow up,” because they saw us on our knees and sitting in the gutters and having made such an unspeakable disaster of civilization during those years.
PRINCE: Well, you had your own resistance. That’s what your father did, he resisted. When you talk sometimes, you know, people think that all Jews went, but there was a certain passive resistance and whether you stayed alive, whatever circumstances, and yours was more than passive, it was quietly active but you still resisted.
I thank you, Jutta, you’ve been very gracious to let me come and hear you. Thanks so much.

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