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Early Encounters With Germans

Near my school, a widow had set up a small pension in her house where she served lunch to middle-class men who worked in nearby offices. Mother arranged for me to join this crowd and I quickly learned to behave like them: I would say ‘good day’, take a newspaper from the wooden frames hanging by the entrance and seat myself at my regular table. (Reading the paper while eating is one bad habit that has stayed with me for life!)

Two years later, when German officers replaced the regular customers, the daily paper selection was expanded to include the Volkische Beobachter and Der Sturmer–anti-semitic nazi papers which allowed me to practice my German and provided me with a new perspective on Jews and Judaism.

Seeing me reading their newspapers, the German officers would pat me on the head, inquire about school and praise my good German. I quickly became their little pet. Who knows? They may have even missed me when I abruptly stopped eating there a little while later–never suspecting, of course, that it was a little Jew they were pampering.

Shortly afterwards, I was told by the woman of the house that it would be better if I didn’t come back, that she didn’t need Jews’ money; she had enough German customers. That was when it finally hit home that I was one of those Jews, that I’d better beware of those German officers because I was on the wrong side of the fence.

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