Survival in Dusseldorf

Contributed by M. Hirschland, Victoria Hess, and Daniel Kester

M.’s words: Our family history is not very spectacular. As I have been told, my grandfather (a Jew) died in a hospital (in 1935) in a mysterious way. He had problems with his stomach, and went in for a check up. My Aunt Ilse visited him and he was ok. Yet when she arrived home, there was a small handwritten note that she should return immediately to the hospital. When she arrived there, her father, my grandfather, was dead. No one was able to say what happened.

M.’s Ancestors
  1. Salomon Herz Hirschland (one of the three original brothers)
  2. Abraham Hirschland
  3. Isaac Hirschland
  4. Hugo Sigismund Hirschland
  5. Hans Wolfgang Hirschland (and Aunt Ilse)
  6. M. Hirschland
M. has no family pictures to share. They were destroyed to maintain the safety of the family. His family survived the war in a Dusseldorf low-rent apartment. See the Dusseldorf Park page for a history of this apartment.

Deutsche Bank, Dusseldorf, 1939

Ilse has the opinion that they killed him, but it is not verified. At that time the family was not in a position to raise questions. My grandmother (a Catholic) lived in Düsseldorf until she died naturally in her 80s.

My father was born 1925. He was a school-boy as the Nazis became a concern. Other children hit him often and they knocked out his teeth. He had other difficulties in school, and when he was 14 he had diphtheria and was blind for some months. Later, he was no longer allowed to go to school. He left school at age 15 and received his education as a merchant on a Dutch boat on the Rhine. He told me that he had to hide himself often in the coal-silo on the boat, when the Nazis checked the Dutchman.

The Nazis came often to check the apartment, but they couldn’t find anyone, because my aunt and my father were hiding on the roof or in the garden with the help of their neighbors.

Our family was alive after the war – except my grandfather — but they were mental and physical wrecks. My father couldn’t ever forget that time, so my brother, sister, and I grew up under that influence.

Daniel, our historian, explained that half-Jews were not high on the list for extermination, and were often not deported to concentration camps until very late in the war. Fortunately, M. is around to demonstrate this. Daniel says that one reason for this is that the Nazis were concerned with the public’s reaction. If Christians suddenly had members of their families (the half- or quarter-Jews) sent to concentration camps and killed, there would have been an uproar. Read about the Rosenstrasse protests for an example. This shows that the Nazis were responsive to public opinion, and if the German public had protested the deportation of the Jews, things might have turned out much differently.


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