That Shabbos morning, I awoke early. A pale sun had just
risen as I washed neigelwasser and said the
brochos. As I marched past the wohnzimmer I
heard Mutti: "Mendel, the child wants so much for you to go
ONE Shabbos to the Fromme Shul..."
I went back to my room knowing that I was not meant to
overhear this. For many months I had wished for Papa to join
our service on Shabbos morning but he preferred to
daven at the Adlerstrasse Shul with others who had
come from the East. It was a source of pride to them that in
their shul, people were learning from early morning
until late at night. It was customary for workers,
businessmen or visitors to stop in and join one of the groups
or find a chavrusa. So now I waited for a few minutes
and then joined my parents.
It was customary for men to have coffee before shul
and children had milk and cake. "Anni," Papa said, "this
morning I will accompany you to the Fromme Shul." I was
elated. Then I realized that if Papa would come with me, so
would my brothers.
Sholom, who was now eleven, had been going to the earliest
minyan every weekday since he was six years old. At
that age, he had insisted on being awakened when it was still
dark and also requested a house key. Often when Mutti had her
women friends over for coffee, one would remark, "How do you
have the heart to wake up a little boy so early, winter and
"Es wird ihm nicht shaden," Mutti would reply [It
won't hurt him.] So for Sholom to come would be fine; he was
known there. Osher, on the other hand, was used to running up
and down the aisles in the less formal Adlerstrasse Shul, but
here this would arouse unwelcome attention.
Just by looking at my pensive expression, Papa read my
thoughts. Smiling, he said, "Osher will sit quietly between
me and Sholom."
Looking down from the women's gallery, I saw Papa and my
brothers standing near the entrance. Immediately, Mr. Elias
Krotowsky, who owned a large electrical appliance company and
served as gabbai here, walked over to seat them. For a
moment, he spoke to Papa and then walked over to Dr. Wilhelm
Weil and Mr. Stern, spoke to them, and then returned to Papa.
I felt suffused with happiness. Papa would get an
aliya! The service began as Mr. Altmann's lyrical
tenor filled the shul. Now I needed to concentrate on
my prayers. We had a lot to pray for after two years of Nazi
When the Torah reading started, it was so quiet you could
hear a pin drop. How proud I was of Papa, his quick stride to
the bima after the call for Menachem Mendel haLevi,
how he pronounced the brochos the way the German-born
Jews did, how slowly and lingeringly he made his way back to
his seat, reluctant to leave the side of the Torah, yet
swiftly grabbing Osher who had made an attempt to run down
When the service was concluded, I did not go to the
children's Kiddush in the Chinuch Library as usual, but
stayed in the gallery to watch Papa and Sholom being greeted
by Mr. Stern of Bankhaus Ellern, the Altmann brothers, and
Rabbi Dr. Abraham Michalski shaking hands with Papa, smiling
at and talking to Sholom.
As I write this, I remember our visit to the Rabbi before we
left for America and how he kissed Sholom on his forehead
after blessing him, saying, "May you continue along the path
you have chosen." How proud I felt of Papa and Sholom. Alas,
my joy was short-lived.
As we came out on the Karl Friederichestrasse, we saw
hysterically crying women running, frantically flourishing
passports, followed by wailing children. Finally we heard and
During shacharis, the Gestapo had burst into the
Adlerstrasse Shul, shouting that all men present must show
their passports. A law had been passed that all non-German
citizens must carry passports at all times. Of course, on
Shabbos, observant Jews did not do this. Not a single man had
his passport. The Gestapo forced the men into trucks,
screaming at them and kicking the Jews who refused to
desecrate the Shabbos. The frail and venerable R' Boruch who
was said to spend most of his waking hours in the shul
studying Torah, put up a big fight, was beaten and forcibly
carred to the truck.
When they arrived at the police station, they were ordered to
stand with their arms raised high, and told that if they
dropped them, they would be shot. They were told that as soon
as they had their passports, they would be released.
This proved no simple matter. In the panic that ensued, some
women who had been at shul and were not
carrying/wearing keys, found themselves locked out of their
house and unable to get to the passports. Others, panic-
stricken, simply could not find them. In the police station,
elderly men fainted from fear.
Papa sent me and my brothers home, telling us not to mention
anything to Mutti, only that he was delayed. When we came
home, Mutti already knew. Papa returned an hour later with a
red wound on his cheek, and told us that all had been
released. Dr. Weil had gone to help those injured, first
stopping at the Jewish-owned pharmacy in the Kronenstrasse
whose Orthodox owners were used to Dr. Weil appearing on
Shabbos en route to or from one of his walking mercy sick
"How is R' Boruch?" Sholom asked. "Dr. Weil will see him
first," Papa replied. When I saw Papa's wound, I knew that he
had gone to the police station and how he had been greeted
there. When asked, Papa said,
"It's nothing. Let us concentrate on SHABBOS."