Gunter’s Story (Part II)

As if a switch had been flipped, a sixteen year old Gunter would suddenly be forced to struggle with the cruel ostracism he’d receive at the hands of teachers and classmates, many who’d he’d considered long-time friends. The harassment would include name calling, being spit on and, eventually, being completely ignored to the point that attending school was no longer an option.

IMG_0015For a time he’d manage to scrounge up work as an electrician’s assistant, yet, as hiring a Jew was an increasingly precarious endeavour, this job soon dried up. Even a stint working as a driver for a once wealthy uncle would eventually prove impractical. Berlin’s citizenry had mutated into something the teenage Kaufmann no longer recognized.

He would get a true glimpse into the depths of his city’s transformation on two separate occasions when witnessing the motorcade entourage of Adolf Hitler passing from a distance of less than five metres. He remembered the slow moving motorcade sending everyone around him into a trance that still left him shaking his head.

With arms extended and uttering a chorus of ‘Heils’, he recalled, “It was like they had received an injection. It is incredible, even today, to believe the people could be like that.” As to his own reaction to the passing motorcade, he didn’t flinch in admitting that, out of fear for his life, he’d forced himself to assume the role of fervent supporter.

And while many in Berlin’s Jewish population chose to believe such zealousness and subsequent discrimination was merely a citywide phenomenon, Gunter’s father’s increasingly futile sales trips throughout the countryside suggested otherwise. With the window of opportunity for earning any living being slammed shut at every turn, the decision was made: it was time for the family to leave Germany.


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