The quotes by Alex, his relatives and other people involved are excerpts of the surviving original letters and documents. To view them in full please visit the Archive page.
Already in 1922, the party leader Adolf Hitler threatened the Jewish people with extreme violence in an interview with a journalist.
“Once I really am in power, my first and foremost task will be the annihilation of the Jews. As soon as I have the power to do so, I will have gallows built in rows — at the Marienplatz in Munich, for example — as many as traffic allows. Then the Jews will be hanged indiscriminately, and they will remain hanging until they stink; they will hang there as long as the principles of hygiene permit.”
For Christmas 1931, aunt Selma comes for a visit and spends the holidays with the family. “Atie”, as Alex calls her, gifts him two gramophone records, which he loves to listen to.
Meanwhile, the political situation in Germany worsens. On 31 July, shortly after Alex's second birthday, a federal election takes place in Germany. The Nazi party achieves major gains with 37.7%, making it the largest party. After almost three turbulent years, democracy in Germany is in an existential crisis. The political system is structured increasingly authoritarian, and the democratic parties are not able to form a majority government.
The new year starts with a political landslide in Germany. On 30 January, the German president appoints Adolf Hitler as Reich Chancellor as part of a national-conservative government. The nazi party holds only two of eight posts in the government. The conservative members plan to soften the party’s extremist agenda and utilize the popular support it has for their own goals. This intention proves dangerously naive.
Already when moving into his official residence, Hitler reportedly said “Nothing on earth will ever make me leave this place alive”
Within the next three months Germany becomes a dictatorship.
Across the border in Germany, the situation drastically worsens for Jewish people. In September 1935, the Nazi Party announces the Nuremberg laws. They are a set of laws that strip the German Jews of their citizenship, and forbid them to marry or have sex with “people of German blood”. This means that Jews are banned from voting and holding public office, which further segregates them from German society. From now on these laws serve as the legal ground for the Nazi Party’s hatred and discrimmination against Jews.
On 13 March, Austria is annexed by Germany. There is no armed resistance and Hitler is welcomed by crowds of cheering people. The consequences for the Austrian Jews are severe. Harassments start immediately, and in Vienna Jewish people are forced to scrub the streets clean of pro-independence slogans.
Golda Meir, who attended the conference and later will become prime minister of Israel, commented on the conference.
“Sitting in that wonderful hall listening to the representatives of 32 countries standing up one after another and explaining how terribly glad they would be to receive a larger number of refugees and how terribly sorry they were that they unfortunately could not — it was a shattering experience.”
Despite diplomatic efforts and concessions by the United Kingdom and France to tame and satisfy Germany, Hitler decides for war. On 1 September 1939, Germany attacks Poland. World War Two has started.
Johanna “Tante Jo” van der Woerd-Moll
Deborah “Bob” Lorjé-del Valle
Bep “Mrs. M” and Bert “Mr. M” Meeusen
Wolf “W. de B.” de Beer
“I had no feelings. ... It just became another job. In the evening we never discussed our work, but just drank and played cards.”
— SS Oberscharführer Gustav Wagner, deputy commander of Sobibór, in an interview by the BBC 1979 in Brazil