EXCERPT FROM THE LONG NIGHT:
“Beginning in 1940, Jews were uprooted from the border area close to the towns of Teschen and Kattowitz and resettled in our midst. A few hundred families arrived in our town. These exiles left their homes with just one suitcase of clothes and were totally destitute because all their money had been confiscated. We were confronted with the hopeless misery of the exile for the first time. We had to make space in our home for a few of the exiled families, share with them the little we had and give them money so they could purchase ration cards to procure the most basic provisions. Ultimately, all those in need were assisted by Jewish welfare. They set up soup kitchens where the needy could eat for free and they distributed food without charge. Amongst the families who took refuge in our house was a family with many children from the Polish-German border town of Tarnowitz. The father of the family, Mr Hadda, was a proud German nationalist, and had been an army officer in the First World War.
He had fought in Upper Silesia in the Battle of Annaberg and had received a high military decoration for his heroic deeds. He proudly recounted how, due to his initiative, Annaberg had been defended and retained in the German Reich. Every day he preached to us that the harassment and persecution to which the German Jews were subjected must surely be a mistake. He said, “It’s only meant for Jews from the East”. Often he even used the term “der Führer” with pride and respect. He thought the persecution of German Jews was only a precaution made necessary by war, and as soon as the war was over their rights would be restored. Even the military decorations, awarded to this enthusiastic German patriot for his brave fight in defence of the German Fatherland, were of little help to him. In 1943 he and his family together with other Jewish residents of Zawiercie were taken to Auschwitz and gassed and burnt.”
A vibrant community extinguished – Group portrait of members of a hachshara, a Zionist youth collective, at a banquet in Katowice in 1935.[United States Holocaust Memorial Museum]