Walter and Hella Manuel

Our family's life changed when we had to leave our small town in Germany, Flatow, West Prussia, where our family lived for many generations. My father, Jacob Luft, could not support his family because the people did not want to do business with a Jew.  My brother, Lothar, and myself, Hella, were not accepted by the other children in school. They refused to sit next to us.

My father and my mother, Herta, decided to move our family to Berlin in 1935, believing things would be better for us in a big city. With a partner, we started another business which did not work out. It was very hard for us coming from a small town to adjust to a big city like Berlin.  My brother and I went  to a Jewish  school.   We had to take a train to get there.  It was very different than what we were used to. The teachers expected a lot from us. Most of our teachers were former college professors, since as Jews they were no longer allowed to teach at the colleges.   We learned a lot  in a short time.   It was not easy but we did it.

When I finished school, our family prepared ourselves for leaving Germany.  My parents wanted me to learn a trade so I worked for 1 1/2 years as a millinery apprentice.  My father made sure I spoke English well and sent me to the Berlitz School.  I had an uncle in Berlin who left Germany in 1937.  After he left the Gestapo was after my father.  They told us that my uncle left with too much money and that was not allowed.  That was the reason they wanted to put my father in a concentration camp.  He went into hiding for several months with two old ladies who were relatives and lived in the outskirts of Berlin.  We were able to visit him only once a week and when we returned to our apartment we knew the Gestapo had been there.  They threw cigarette butts in our mailbox and that was very scary.  Finally, they gave up and my father was able to return home.

Life got very bad for our people in Germany. We were not allowed to go to any movies or theaters or sit on park benches. We all had to register at the post office and received-m1W, middle names. The women all had to add the name Sara to their given names and the men added the name Israel.

On November 9, 1938, the Nazi's destroyed all the Jewish stores and synagogues. When we  went outside we couldn't believe it. There was glass and smoke all over. We saw our beautiful synagogue burning. Men were rounded up and sent by truckloads to the concentration camps. We were very lucky they did not take my father. We tried very hard to leave Germany.


Hella Luft, 6 years old, 1st day of school 1928