Start of Main Content

Fritz Gluckstein: Protest at Rosenstrasse

First Person Podcast Series

Fritz Gluckstein discusses multiple close calls with the Nazis in Berlin, his detainment at a Gestapo holding site at Rosenstrasse 2-4, and the subsequent public demonstration that brought about his release.



FRITZ GLUCKSTEIN: While we were inside there was a demonstration by the non-Jewish wives, some husbands too. They demonstrated, demanded our release.

NARRATOR: Over 60 years after the Holocaust, hatred, antisemitism, and genocide still threaten our world. The life stories of Holocaust survivors transcend the decades and remind us of the constant need to be vigilant citizens and to stop injustice, prejudice, and hatred wherever and whenever they occur.

This podcast series presents excerpts of interviews with Holocaust survivors from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's public program First Person: Conversations with Holocaust Survivors.

Here is Fritz Gluckstein talking with host Bill Benson about multiple close calls with the Nazis in Berlin and his weeklong detainment at Rosenstrasse in 1943.

BILL BENSON: You were able to continue in school to 1942, when the schools were closed, as you mentioned. Then you went to work and it wouldn’t be long after that before you would have your first close call.

FRITZ GLUCKSTEIN: Actually, yes. One day, my mother accompanied friends to the collection point for deportation. The SS men were, “Oh, what are you doing here?” “Helping the Jews.” “I bet you, you have a Jewish husband or something. Okay, tomorrow they are to report at the collection center downtown.” It used to be an old people’s home.

The next morning, my father and I reported and we were put in a room with ten other people. There were some mattresses and they were sitting. And then I’d mention, the commandant was the notorious SS captain from Vienna—Brunner—called to Berlin to speed up things, and he did not permit us to lie down during the day.

He used to get up and try to catch us. And the regular police guarding the building went ahead and said, “He is coming! Get up! Get up!” Noteworthy. Had they been caught, the least what would have happened—Eastern Front. After a week, I was told: “Down for interrogation with Captain Brunner!”

I remember my father prepared me for the ordeal, like, “Fritz, don’t show an attitude, no hostility, answer question fully but don’t volunteer anything.” I still remember down in the office, I was sitting behind a chair. The German SS at his side, learning how it’s being done, actually tried to catch me right away—“Your mother is Jewish?”

“No.” Well he asked me some questions and then, “Out you go and you’re going to report to a decent job.” And I went outside and to my surprise, it’s my father and we stepped out in the street—sigh of relief. The date I remember exactly: January 24th, 1943, my 16th birthday. And after that, I had to work at a factory.

BILL BENSON: After that, after your interrogation on your 16th birthday, as you mentioned, you went to work in a factory.

FRITZ GLUCKSTEIN: In a factory, but only for a short time. We worked for the air force. One morning, it was Saturday, door opens, SS officer comes in. “Out, everyone.” They put us on trucks and drove us to a former dance hall and there we stayed. Actually we were interviewed by some plain-clothes criminal police, with a friend of mine, and they let us out.

They shouldn’t have done it, but they let us go. “Get out of here, we don’t want to see you.” And friend and I stepped out in the street, 8 at night, breaking the law. It was forbidden for Jews to be in the street after 8. This was not a written law—word by mouth.

Well, next morning I went home. My father had been picked up to another factory. My mother had been away with her aunt. I sent a telegram saying, "It would be wise if you came back soon." Ration cards had to be picked up at the end of the month. It was on Saturday; Monday, I went to get the ration cards.

At the ration card office, everyone wears a star, picked up in a van, sent to a collection point. It was the collection point where I had become bar mitzvahed, confirmed, some years ago. And there I was sent to another collection point downtown and it was Rosenstrasse.

It belonged to the Jewish community, and there was the husbands and children of intermarriages. And they put us in a room—15, 20, no mattresses—and there we spent our time, speculating what would happen to us and standing in line to use the bathroom because the facilities were insufficient. What happened after a week, we were told, “Released.”

BILL BENSON: You were in there for a week.

FRITZ GLUCKSTEIN: For a week. After I went downstairs, to my surprise, I found my father. We had to wait until employees of the Jewish community filled out the release slips and then we had to be signed by the commandant, Sergeant Snyder, and I still remember my father walking ahead of me and he looked at us and then he sneered, “A judge you have been? Then you certainly have ruined the lives of many people.”

“Well,” said my father, “I hope not.” And we stepped out. And why were we released? We didn’t know it. Our room didn’t have a window, or no window to the front. While we were inside, there was a demonstration by the non-Jewish wives, some husbands too. They demonstrated, demanded our release.

First the police came and tried to scatter them. They reassembled and the SS actually came. They had machine guns. They came again and again, they didn’t move, and you can see from the diary of the Minister of Propaganda and Volk Enlightenment, Goebbels, he said, “What’s going on? That’s not a good time, we’ll do it at a later time." Particularly right in 1943 after the Battle of Stalingrad.

They let us out. There is actually a film, the movie Rosenstrasse. It’s dramatized but still gives an idea of very much what happened. After that we had to work at labor gangs, cleaning up after air raids.

BILL BENSON: That demonstration by the wives and some husbands, that was extraordinary, though, wasn’t it?

FRITZ GLUCKSTEIN: Absolutely. The only one in the Third Reich.

NARRATOR: You have been listening to First Person: Conversations with Holocaust Survivors, a podcast series of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Every Wednesday at 1 p.m. from March through August, Holocaust survivors share their stories during First Person programs held at the Museum in Washington, DC. We would appreciate your feedback on this series.