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Grosse Hamburgerstrasse

By Fritz Gluckstein

“Have your husband and son report tomorrow morning to the deportee collection center on Grosse Hamburger Street!” the Gestapo officer ordered my mother. She had accompanied friends who had received their deportation orders to the collection center in the Levetzow Street synagogue, where the officer questioned her, wanting to know why she was concerned about “those Jews.”

The next morning, my father and I set out for the designated collection center, a former old people’s home. There we were registered by employees of the Jewish Community Center and assigned to a room already occupied by five or six men who also had non-Jewish spouses. The room was empty aside from mattresses on the floor. The building was guarded by regular uniformed Berlin policemen under the command of the Viennese SS Captain Alois Brunner, well known for his brutality. Brunner had given the order that no one was to lie down during the day, but, of course, some of us did so anyway. However, no one was caught, since whenever Brunner left his office for an inspection, one of the policemen rushed through the building warning us of the commandant’s approach. The policemen’s action was remarkable; at the very least, they risked being posted to the Eastern Front

On the second or third day—I do not remember when exactly—I was told by a policeman to be at the commandant’s office in half an hour for interrogation. My father and an older gentleman, a distinguished journalist I was told, prepared me for the ordeal: “Do not be a hero. Do not show any hostility or contempt. Answer questions fully, but do not volunteer anything.”

At the appointed time, I was ushered into Brunner’s office. He was sitting behind a table, facing the door; on chairs along one wall about ten SS officers had settled down, ready to observe the proceedings. Right away, Brunner tried to catch me off guard. “Your mother is Jewish?” was the first question he threw at me. “No,” I replied, “my mother is Aryan.” He then asked me about my past and my daily activities—at the time I was working at a Jewish welfare office. After about five minutes he instructed me to report the next day to the labor exchange for a “useful job,” and then he told me to get out.

In the anteroom, I was told to wait for my father, who was to be released with me. A short time later, we both stepped out into the street, heaving a sigh of relief. The date—I remember it well—was January 24, 1943, my 16th birthday.

©2005, Fritz Gluckstein. The text, images, and audio and video clips on this website are available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined in the United States copyright laws.