Inge Franken

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fehrbelliner92:jacob [2007/10/09 16:03]
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fehrbelliner92:jacob [2007/11/21 10:07]
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 Story of Jacob Herfeld Story of Jacob Herfeld
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 Jacob Herfeld was born on 6 December 1912 in Prenzlauer Berg, a district of Berlin. His family lived in Christinenstrasse,​ where his parents ran a kitchen furniture shop. His brother Rudi was five years older than he was, his sister two years younger. His mother was from an Orthodox Jewish family from Poland and spoke Yiddish. When the First World War broke out, his father enlisted as a soldier and was killed early in the war. Now his mother was alone with the three children and the shop, which she continued to run. She had little time for the children. So Jacob started kindergarten in Fehrbelliner Strasse at the age of 4 and it became his second home until he left school in 1926. He always went back home to his mother and elder brother Rudi at 6 o’clock in the evening. His little sister attended the children’s home with him.  Jacob Herfeld was born on 6 December 1912 in Prenzlauer Berg, a district of Berlin. His family lived in Christinenstrasse,​ where his parents ran a kitchen furniture shop. His brother Rudi was five years older than he was, his sister two years younger. His mother was from an Orthodox Jewish family from Poland and spoke Yiddish. When the First World War broke out, his father enlisted as a soldier and was killed early in the war. Now his mother was alone with the three children and the shop, which she continued to run. She had little time for the children. So Jacob started kindergarten in Fehrbelliner Strasse at the age of 4 and it became his second home until he left school in 1926. He always went back home to his mother and elder brother Rudi at 6 o’clock in the evening. His little sister attended the children’s home with him. 
-“Those were the best years of my life.” The atmosphere in the home was very liberal and personal, under the leadership of the principal, Fräulein Schlesinger and her two assistants, Fräulein Luise Tietz, (whose married name was Frau Heilmann) and Paula Kroner. Later, Eva Landsmann joined the staff. The ultimate aim was that: “we children should be happy”. ​We didn’t live strictly according to Jewish law: “Less Jewishness”.+“Those were the best years of my life.” The atmosphere in the home was very liberal and personal, under the leadership of the principal, Fräulein Schlesinger and her two assistants, Fräulein Luise Tietz, (whose married name was Frau Heilmann) and Paula Kroner. Later, Eva Landsmann joined the staff. The ultimate aim was that: “we children should be happy”. ​They didn’t live strictly according to Jewish law: “Less Jewishness”.
  
 A large “pleasant” group of children, divided into three groups, was accommodated in the house. There was a crèche for the babies, the kindergarten and an after-school group for the school-age children. Some of the children, who were orphans or only had one parent, stayed overnight in the home, too.  A large “pleasant” group of children, divided into three groups, was accommodated in the house. There was a crèche for the babies, the kindergarten and an after-school group for the school-age children. Some of the children, who were orphans or only had one parent, stayed overnight in the home, too. 
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 Before the children went home, there was often a group time in the big hall. They all sang an evening song and learnt new songs and dances. ​ Before the children went home, there was often a group time in the big hall. They all sang an evening song and learnt new songs and dances. ​
 In the summer, the children often went on trips to Werbellin Lake. Jacob Herfeld spent five holidays in Eichwalde. “That was the best time, far away from Berlin, no troubles or cares!” ​ In the summer, the children often went on trips to Werbellin Lake. Jacob Herfeld spent five holidays in Eichwalde. “That was the best time, far away from Berlin, no troubles or cares!” ​
-After his Bar Mitzvah when he was 13, Jacob Herfeld left the after-school group, but he kept dropping in for years, visiting the assistants and the children. When life started to become more difficult for Jews, around 1927, the bigger children put on plays for the younger ones. One play was called “The Way into Life”. “We wanted to prepare the children for the reality of life as an adult”. Jacob Herfeld ​played ​the main part.+After his Bar Mitzvah when he was 13, Jacob Herfeld left the after-school group, but he kept dropping in for years, visiting the assistants and the children. When life started to become more difficult for Jews, around 1927, the bigger children put on plays for the younger ones. One play was called “The Way into Life”. “We wanted to prepare the children for the reality of life as an adult”. Jacob Herfeld ​acted the main part.
 After leaving school, he trained as a typesetter and joined the Maccabi boxing club when he was 14. He worked as a copy editor at a printer’s until 1937, when he and his brother Rudi had their work permits taken away. With his brother, who was also a musician, he now had to do heavy labour in building construction in Lichtenberg,​ a district of Berlin. ​ After leaving school, he trained as a typesetter and joined the Maccabi boxing club when he was 14. He worked as a copy editor at a printer’s until 1937, when he and his brother Rudi had their work permits taken away. With his brother, who was also a musician, he now had to do heavy labour in building construction in Lichtenberg,​ a district of Berlin. ​
 Jacob Herfeld became engaged to a German Jewish woman in 1936. They learnt English together, because they wanted to emigrate to Australia. However, that never happened. His anti-fascist opinions were known in the block of flats where his family lived along with two other Jewish families and some Nazi families. His brother’s boss warned them. On 28 October 1938, his mother and his fiancée came to their workplace and told them, “You must not on any account come back home any more. You must leave Berlin at once!” The brothers said goodbye in the fiancée’s flat and fled to Poland. Jacob Herfeld became engaged to a German Jewish woman in 1936. They learnt English together, because they wanted to emigrate to Australia. However, that never happened. His anti-fascist opinions were known in the block of flats where his family lived along with two other Jewish families and some Nazi families. His brother’s boss warned them. On 28 October 1938, his mother and his fiancée came to their workplace and told them, “You must not on any account come back home any more. You must leave Berlin at once!” The brothers said goodbye in the fiancée’s flat and fled to Poland.
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 When the Second World War broke out, times got worse again. There was very little food, and Rudi Herfeld was not able to leave the house, because he was too Jewish in appearance. So Jacob Herfeld boldly went to the German barracks and demanded food for his family, in his broad Berlin street dialect. This worked a few times, but then it became too dangerous. It was very hard to reach the decision to leave Poland as well. But on 11 November 1939, the brothers fled via Cracow across the border into the Ukraine. When the Second World War broke out, times got worse again. There was very little food, and Rudi Herfeld was not able to leave the house, because he was too Jewish in appearance. So Jacob Herfeld boldly went to the German barracks and demanded food for his family, in his broad Berlin street dialect. This worked a few times, but then it became too dangerous. It was very hard to reach the decision to leave Poland as well. But on 11 November 1939, the brothers fled via Cracow across the border into the Ukraine.
-A Ukrainian driver offered to take them there. ​But he was a people smuggler for the German border police. So they were caught in a trap. Everything they had was taken off them and they were thrown into a partly flooded cellar. After one night, all the refugees were chased into the river which formed the border. Both brothers reached the Polish border, because Jacob Herfeld was a strong swimmer. They made their way to relations in Cracow, who took them in. But Jacob Herfeld could not bear life there, for “the bread of strangers doesn’t taste sweet”; besides, he knew that they had left their mother alone in Warsaw, old and ill. He wanted to fetch her. Along with his brother, for whom he felt responsible,​ he went to Lemberg. There was a Commission, at which one could apply for permission to travel to Warsaw. However, that was unsuccessful. So he attempted the journey illegally and was caught by the NKWD, the Soviet secret ​Service ​at that time. “I was in jail for a month with 60 others – thieves, murderers – in the cell.” Then the long journey began, on foot and by ship to the far north, to the Carelian border with the Soviet Union.  ​+A Ukrainian driver offered to take them there. ​However, ​he was a people smuggler for the German border police. So they were caught in a trap. Everything they had was taken off them and they were thrown into a partly flooded cellar. After one night, all the refugees were chased into the river which formed the border. Both brothers reached the Polish border, because Jacob Herfeld was a strong swimmer. They made their way to relations in Cracow, who took them in. But Jacob Herfeld could not bear life there, for “the bread of strangers doesn’t taste sweet”; besides, he knew that they had left their mother alone in Warsaw, old and ill. He wanted to fetch her. Along with his brother, for whom he felt responsible,​ he went to Lemberg. There was a Commission, at which one could apply for permission to travel to Warsaw. However, that was unsuccessful. So he attempted the journey illegally and was caught by the NKWD, the Soviet secret ​service ​at that time. “I was in jail for a month with 60 others – thieves, murderers – in the cell.” Then the long journey began, on foot and by ship to the far north, to the Carelian border with the Soviet Union.  ​
 Jacob Herfeld ended up in the Gulag Jerzewa. He was tried there and sentenced to three years in prison for crossing the border illegally. He refused to give more information or to sign any confessions. The fact that he was a Jew fleeing the Nazis made no difference. “I just wanted to save my life! Jacob Herfeld ended up in the Gulag Jerzewa. He was tried there and sentenced to three years in prison for crossing the border illegally. He refused to give more information or to sign any confessions. The fact that he was a Jew fleeing the Nazis made no difference. “I just wanted to save my life!
 The living conditions were terrible. We lived in primitive wooden barracks and were forced to fell trees in the forest. I was the only German; all the others were Poles, Russians and Lithuanians. I needed all my energy and my former sportsman’s training to survive the dreadful exertions, tortures and insults.” The living conditions were terrible. We lived in primitive wooden barracks and were forced to fell trees in the forest. I was the only German; all the others were Poles, Russians and Lithuanians. I needed all my energy and my former sportsman’s training to survive the dreadful exertions, tortures and insults.”
-The three year sentence was finally over in 1943. Jacob Herfeld was not released, however, because he had no personal ​identification ​documents. It was decided that he must remain in the camp until the war was over. In 1945 he asked once more to be released, but instead he was taken to another camp, a death camp. “I was held in solitary confinement for nine months, undergoing interrogations and physical and mental torture.” He was sentenced by a military court to six more years’ imprisonment for spying against the Soviet Union. He was taken to a different camp, near Kargopol. “We were like dead men” in the camps, cut off from all information;​ we didn’t even hear at once that the war was over. I didn’t know what was going on in the world. No-one was allowed to talk to us.”+The three year sentence was finally over in 1943. Jacob Herfeld was not released, however, because he had no personal ​identity ​documents. It was decided that he must remain in the camp until the war was over. In 1945 he asked once more to be released, but instead he was taken to another camp, a death camp. “I was held in solitary confinement for nine months, undergoing interrogations and physical and mental torture.” He was sentenced by a military court to six more years’ imprisonment for spying against the Soviet Union. He was taken to a different camp, near Kargopol. “We were 'like dead men' ​in the camps, cut off from all information;​ we didn’t even hear at once that the war was over. I didn’t know what was going on in the world. No-one was allowed to talk to us.”
 Jacob Herfeld spent a total of ten years in different camps, before he was finally released. However, he still had to stay in the USSR, but he arranged to be released from the cold into the warmth of Central Asia. He travelled via Tashkent to Mary in Turkmenistan. He was now 38 years old and owned a rucksack, a kilo of sugar and one fish. Jacob Herfeld spent a total of ten years in different camps, before he was finally released. However, he still had to stay in the USSR, but he arranged to be released from the cold into the warmth of Central Asia. He travelled via Tashkent to Mary in Turkmenistan. He was now 38 years old and owned a rucksack, a kilo of sugar and one fish.
  
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 Nadia died on 19 April 1998 of a thyroid infection. Jacob Herfeld was in hospital at the time with a broken hip joint. So he was not able to see his wife again or to arrange her funeral himself. “Strangers buried her.” ​ Nadia died on 19 April 1998 of a thyroid infection. Jacob Herfeld was in hospital at the time with a broken hip joint. So he was not able to see his wife again or to arrange her funeral himself. “Strangers buried her.” ​
  
-Jacob Herfeld’s sister in Israel had told him what had happened to his brother and his mother. Neither had survived. His brother was shot by the Nightingale Brigade” (Brigade Nachtigall) in a wood 20 km beyond Krakau. His mother was killed in a gas van. “My loved ones have no graves. I went to Poland in 1968 but found no traces of them, only mass graves. I went to the Polish embassy as well, but they could not help.”+Jacob Herfeld’s sister in Israel had told him what had happened to his brother and his mother. Neither had survived. His brother was shot by the 'Nightingale Brigade' ​(Brigade Nachtigall) in a wood 20 km beyond Krakau. His mother was killed in a gas van. “My loved ones have no graves. I went to Poland in 1968 but found no traces of them, only mass graves. I went to the Polish embassy as well, but they could not help.”
  
-When Michael Gorbachev became President of the USSR, Jews finally had the chance to emigrate to Israel. Herfeld’s three previous applications had been refused. He arrived in Israel in October 1988 and met his sister again after 50 years. He met her three children and twelve grandchildren. He did not want to live on the kibbutz, so he bought a flat in Tel Aviv. But he did not like the life in Israel. He did not live according to Jewish laws and so felt that he was not accepted and still a stranger. “I’m not Hassidic!” Besides, the climate did not suit him. He felt drawn back to Berlin, his home town. “In November 1989 I came back home.” ​+When Michael Gorbachev became President of the USSR, Jews finally had the chance to emigrate to Israel. Herfeld’s three previous applications had been refused. He arrived in Israel in October 1988 and met his sister again after 50 years. He met her three children and twelve grandchildren. He did not want to live on the kibbutz, so he bought a flat in Tel Aviv. However, ​he did not like the life in Israel. He did not live according to Jewish laws and so felt that he was not accepted and still a stranger. “I’m not Hassidic!” Besides, the climate did not suit him. He felt drawn back to Berlin, his home town. “In November 1989 I came back home.” ​
  
 Jacob Herfeld received a German passport immediately. He had already found a flat, when he was in Berlin for a visit. Jacob Herfeld received a German passport immediately. He had already found a flat, when he was in Berlin for a visit.