Mrs. Markus was interviewed at the Webster Junior High School in Webster, where she had previously given a talk about her experiences. It is the first time she had been interviewed. It occurred on June 13, 1991.
Mrs. Markus was born in Bad Pyrmont, Germany on June 19, 1921. Her mother's family had been in that area since the 18th century, and her father's family had lived there for several generations. She described the family as "Germans first and Jews second."They owned a resort hotel. The father was also a salesman The hotel was for orthodox Jews. Eventually they lost it sinceno Jews could vacation any longer.
Her father worked until 1937. Her first recollection of feeling "different" was around her 8th birthday when someone told her a mutual friend didn't like Jews. She didn't "understand it." The school she attended was primarily Gentile since there apparently were not very many Jewish families in the area.
By 1935 her father had placed their names on the quota to go the United States. They had relatives here who were willing to sponsor them. They were waiting their turn when both parents were arrested in the middle of the night on Kristallnacht (1938). The mother returned the next morning. The father was placed in Buchenwald for a month.
Somehow the mother arranged his release by proving that he had been a decorated veteran of World War I. When he returned after a hospital stay, he said that they could not wait for the quota but had to leave as soon as possible. He wrote to Swedish friends who helped them and eventually the whole family escaped to Sweden. The grandmother died there. The remainder of the family left Sweden via a Norwegian ship, the Bergen Fiord and arrived in New York City on April 10, 1940. It was the last ship to leave Norway before the German invasion. The crew asked for and received asylum. Later the ship was torpedoed and sunk.
The parents were very protective and never spoke to Mrs. Markus about their feelings and experiences. Nevertheless, she states that she was aware that they had to "get out". She describes feeling degraded and helpless. She participated in the book burning that her high school arranged with the "brown shirts." A few people tried to help her but even they "succumbed eventually." She says they had to submit. They were afraid not to do so.
Her experiences have affected her whole life, although she says she is not as bitter as she was. She had to quit a German chorus, because she couldn't be with them even though she knew they were not responsible for what happened to her and to her family.
Nevertheless, she and her sister both married German refugees. Her mother's family were all killed. Her husband's parents were gassed at Bergen Belsen.
Mrs. Markus is a very attractive, articulate woman who is speaking out now, because she wants her grandchildren to know what happened.
Interviewed by Jeanne Chase