World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                                     Rolf Heymann

Kristallnacht and how the Kindertransport saved Rolf Heymann’s life Part 1 – Kristallnacht

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Rolf Heymann, Philipp Heymann, Herta Heymann
Location of story: Karpen, Cologne, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
Background to story: Civilian

 


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Rolf Heymann.
Kristallnacht and how the Kindertransport saved Rolf Heymann’s life Part 1 – Kristallnacht

Transcribed By
Roger Marsh

Introduction
I have had the privilege of transcribing this story from three tapes, provided by Rolf, of interviews that he has given on Radio Sheffield the story has been supplemented by additional information that Rolf as provided.

The interviews were:
- Interview with Rony Robinson 1997
- Two interviews with Jack Shaw on ‘The Sunday Breakfast’ programme, one of which was on Holocaust Sunday 2002

It is strange how history and fate has shaped one’s life.

My Jewish roots in Spain
I am a tiny bit Spanish. My Jewish roots in Europe date from the time when the Jews entered Spain with the Moors in about 800 A.D. The Jews had always got on well with the Moors and they formed a strong Jewish community in Southern Spain. This community flourished until the time when El Sid drove the Moors out of Spain in about 1400 A.D. This resulted in the Spanish kings coming back on the throne. The Spanish Kings were not happy with the Jews and the Jewish religion in Spain; they gave them four options:
1. Go back to Africa with the Moors
2. Become Catholic
3. Join the Spanish army
4. Or be killed

So my ancestors must have decided to join the Spanish army.

In those days Spain was always at war, fighting with France and Germany and my ancestors must have travelled with the Spanish army through France and then on to Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany stopping at Cologne (Köln) where it straddles the River Rhine before settling down to the Germanic way of life.

My father in the First World War:
My father Philipp Heymann was born on August 24 1894.

Like the Jewish people in Britain fought for the English against the Germans, in World War One, Jewish people in Germany including my father and grandfather fought against the British. They were proud of fighting for Germany. There was no Nazi movement at that time and it was like the other wars that they had in those days.

I still have my father’s ‘Dog Tag’. The information contained on it reads:
Philipp Heymann, Cöln a/Rhein, 24-8-94, 1.ERS. BATL. J.R.138, 4 KOMP. NR. 639.

The ‘Dog Tag’ is made from zinc and is oval in shape, perforated through the centre line so that it could be broken in half in the event that the soldier was killed. The information is duplicated on each half of the tag; half would remain with the body the other half being returned to the soldier’s family.

I did not find out until much later that my father had been a hero in the First World War and this was to have significant implications in my life. He had in fact won the Iron Cross 2nd Class, not the 1st Class that would have been the equivalent to a British VC.

He was blown up in the trenches, at Vimme Ridge in 1915, shrapnel hit him and God knows what else, but the doctors patched him up and sent him back to the Russian front.

I remember my father telling me that he was only 19 years of age when he had his foot shot off. He was lying in a shell crater for three days with everyone around him dead. He had lain there for three days with nothing to eat. The only thing that he had was a cigar butt that he chewed for three days over and over again. My father told me that his leg became rotten, in those days they all had axes, even British soldiers had axes; he actually chopped the bottom part of his leg off. Then the Russians found him, because the Russians fought the Germans in the 1914-18 war, and they took him to a Russian field hospital where he had his leg amputated below the knee.

In those days, even though the war was still continuing they had repatriation, my father was no good for fighting any more, so the Russians sent him back to Germany. By this time gangrene had set in so they had to amputate his leg above the knee and following that, he spent a year in German hospitals.

Karpen Village pre World War II:
The war was still on when my father was invalided out of the army, he was only 20 years of age at the time. He returned to the family home in the village of Kerpen, located 11 miles to the southwest of Cologne.

The family lived in a very large farmhouse, where I was to be born on November 11, Armistice Day, in 1928; it had 16 rooms and was located in the centre of the village.

My grandfather was a horse breeder not racing horses but horses for the farm. My father was his only son but due to the injuries that he had received in the war, was no good for carrying on the family business, so my grandfather sent him to Cologne and there he became an interpreter in the German Foreign Office.

By 1930, after my mother Herta had married my dad, and my granddad had died, the breading of horses had already finished. My mother opened a general sweet shop, that included a library, and she sold everything just like a village shop. As a result our family was well known in the village.

We went to kindergarten from 4 to 6 years of age, but I cannot remember that much about going to school prior to 1938. However, one of the other boys in our village that I did not take much notice of, was to become the grandfather of World Champion Formula One racing driver Michel Shoemaker.

From the age of five years onwards, I became aware that Jewish boys in Germany were different from the Christian German boys in our village. This became apparent to me when from six or seven years of age, I started getting beatings from the members of the Hitler Youth movement. I could not understand why, but I knew that I went to a special Jewish school for about 30 to 40 other Jewish children and the other kids from the village went to a Christian school. I knew that someway or other, Jews were not liked but I did not know why until I spoke to my mother and she explained why I was getting the beatings. So then I knew that together with all of the other Jewish children in the village, I was different.

In 1937 my father died from the wound that he received in the First World War. The gangrene that had resulted in the amputation of his knee had lain dormant and 20 odd years later had reactivated again and was the cause of his death.

In a way it was fortunate that my father had died before the main trouble so he missed what was to follow, and he did not have to suffer what we had to go through and at least he did not have to see our house being smashed up and everything else that happened. However this increased the responsibility for my mother, as a widow, to bring me up in circumstances like these.

Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) The November Pogrom:
I was eight years of age on November 10 1938, the day after was to be my ninth birthday and so we were looking forward to that. But in our little village just outside of Cologne, we knew that something was going to happening because we had had a warning from one of the neighbours.

I remember that next door to our farmhouse was the village Smithy. This Christian family of the Smithy were very good friends of ours, and the Smithy had come to our farmhouse to warn my mother that there would be some trouble that night as regards our house and all the other houses where Jewish people lived. He said, “Go into the farmhouse, put up the shutters to all the windows and hide in the cellar.”

When the Smithy had gone, my mother told me that we would have to go into the cellar and spend that night down there. My mother locked all the shutters to the windows and took me into the cellar. I was hiding in the cellar with my mum and my aunty. Being forewarned, my mother had anticipated the trouble but as a lad of eight years, you do not know much of what was going on, all I know is that I was absolutely scared stiff.

We sat down there and nothing happened for a few hours and I must have fallen asleep. It was some time during the night when all of a sudden, we heard this terrible noise of the shattering of wood and smashing of glass. Even though we had put the shutters over the windows an axe came smashing through each shutter and the noise was just terrible. Shutters had protected each window and although they did not break into the house every shutter and the glass in every window had been broken with their axes.

The thing that I remember is that I was so frightened; I honestly thought that they were going to come into our house and kill us. I could not remember but my mother told me afterwards that I had asked her at the time, “Are they going to come in and cut off our heads?” I was only eight years of age and I was absolutely terrified there in the cellar, just my aunty, my mum and me. I was so afraid in fact I have never been so frightened in my life before or since. There in the darkness of that cellar, the fear was just incredible to the extent that I defecated in my trousers. That is what I thought but after they had smashed all of the windows they left us alone and nothing further happened that night.

I will always remember the next day it was eight o’clock in the morning of November 11, 1938, which was my 9th birthday, when my mother took me to school.

The local Synagogue, with the school built on the side of it, had been burnt to the ground so that only the shell remained. So there was no school left. The roof had collapsed, the whole inside had gone, and they had thrown all the Hebrew Scrolls all over the place and everything was strewn in the street. As a little lad I just could not believe what I saw; it was so terrible to see.

Our Synagogue, was just one of 101 Synagogues that were destroyed that night, together with almost 7,500 Jewish businesses.

We then came away from the Synagogue and went to look for some of our Jewish friends and neighbours, in our little village there were 133 Jewish people in a population of about 2,000. We started going to the houses where all our Jewish friends lived, every door of every Jewish house that we went to was open and there was nobody there. The Hitler Youth must have gone through all their homes. There was only one other Jewish family that was still left in the village. That meant that there were only six of us left out of 133 Jewish people and we never saw the others again. They must have gone to the concentration camps. They did not start the mass killings so early but they had just taken them away and the houses were empty.

Even in 1938 the Nazis had taken them away. I found out afterwards that that there were only six of us from our village that had survived the war and that included my mother, my aunty and me. The other family that survived was a widow and two sons, their father who had lost his arm had also won the Iron Cross in World War One, and they went to the USA. That night Jews had been physically attacked and beaten resulting in 91 deaths and 26,000 Jews had been arrested and sent to concentration camps.

All of my school friends had disappeared and I never saw them again. After Kristallnacht I never had any contact with anyone from the village, and naturally with the Synagogue and school being burnt down, I had to go to school in Cologne.

All of the glass breaking and it being scattered all over the streets from our houses, businesses, schools and synagogue was probably where the name Kristallnacht came from. Kristallnacht turned out to be a crucial turning point in the policy of the German Nazi Party regarding the Jews and can be considered to be the actual start of what is now known as the Holocaust.

I am proud of my father’s bravery in World War One because it is my belief that the reason that the Nazis spared our two families and did not take us away from our village to the concentration camps, was for what he and the other family’s father had done for Germany. They had both fought for the Germans in the First World War 1914-18 and had both been awarded the Iron Cross. I still have the bullet that shot my father’s foot off.

So I have to thank my father for my being here today. It was almost the Nazis being decent, which they sometimes were at first, and you just cannot imagine that, but afterwards as the war progressed it did not matter what you or your family had done. If you were Jewish it would not save you.

In our little village there was no one that we could make a complaint to. In this little village where we lived there was just the nazi party and the local policeman who was there to maintain law and order. Each place had a nazi party and there were approximately a hundred in the Nazi party in our village, but we dare not say anything to them or things would be worse.

The local authorities told us to get out of Germany if we valued our lives and to get out as soon as we could.

The Kindertransport (Children’s Transport), my escape to Britain
My mother, Herta Heymann, had realised that there was no future left for us in Germany and she then tried to go to South Africa, and after Kristallnacht, she realised that we had to get out quick. She had heard about this Kindertransport and also this other Jewish Family that was there. I actually do not know how they got out but she managed to get me on the Kindertransport.

My cousin was already in Sheffield; he had got out of Germany in 1937 and my mother corresponded with him. He went to the Jewish community in Sheffield to see if he could get us out and he did.

It was following the dreadful experience of Kristallnacht that I first realised that my mother had plans for me to get out of Germany. My uncle who lived in Berlin had already left Germany in 1936 and had gone to live in South Africa.

My mother went to Cologne and she must have gone to some office and seen whom she had to see to make arrangements for us to get out of Germany. This was at the end of 1938 and I came to England in July 1939.

The Jewish underground and the churches were involved in the organisation of the Kindertransport, which was an attempt to get 10,000 mostly Jewish children out of Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia and give them asylum in Britain. I was very lucky to get on this, and when most of the parents waved goodbye to the children on their way to Britain, for most of them it was the last time that they would see them.

What I can remember of the Kindertransport is that my journey out of Germany started at the end of June 1939 with my mother having to take me to Cologne railway station. There was another aunt of mine there, Aunty Mally. She was not going to leave Germany because she had a gown business and she had built it up from nothing. There was no way that she was going to leave it and she was one of just under 40 of my relatives that perished.

My mother and my aunt took me to Cologne railway station and put me on the train that would take me directly to Rotterdam in The Netherlands. She said goodbye to me and I did not know if I would ever see my mother or my aunt again. However, I was very excited at the thought of going on a big ship to England.

I think that the train went to the Dutch border. I know that we sailed from Rotterdam, but then the Gestapo got on just before the Dutch border to see if we were all kids and that everything was all right. Then they let us through.

The only other thing that I remember was getting on the ship at Rotterdam to Harwich in England. It was very small, there was another boy with me whom I did not know, but we got in this very small cabin with a pair of bunk beds. He had the lower one and I had the upper. When I laid on the top bunk my head was within three inches of some duct work, I did not know what it was for but if I lifted my head up, I banged it on the duct work. I was not very happy about that. I remember going out of the cabin and going up on board ship as we were sailing to England, and some sailor grabbed me saying that I should not be there.

Sheffield
When we got to Harwich, my cousin, who had come to England in 1936 with my aunty and uncle, met me. They lived in the Embassy Court Flats on the bottom of Duke Street, Sheffield. He had managed to get out of Germany early and he had a job at Jessop's in the office there.

I arrived with my little suitcase that was about one foot high and one foot wide, which contained my underclothes, my other possession was a ten-shilling banknote and that is all that I came in with, ‘Ten Bob’ (50 pence).

I settled in Duke Street in Sheffield in the Embassy Court Flats, which have since been demolished

It was a very tough area, and I went to Park School, which was then a very rough school. The kids were so tough that if they did not have a football they would head a house brick, it was that sort of school. The men leaning over the public house bar did not have hair sticking out of their chests they had twigs.

I was only there a couple of months but the kids took to me because I was treated as an oddity and I did not get the beatings because I was Jewish, like the ones that I got in Germany. I could only speak German, all that I could say in English was 'yes' and 'no', and I sometimes said them in the wrong places.

I must have been a nervous wreck. I was still afraid and especially down Duke Street. Tram Cars used to run up and down Duke Street and when they used to stop outside Embassy Court flats, they used to put the sand down and the noise at night was terrible, I do not think that I slept for the first week that I stayed there. As I grew up, I acquired an inferiority complex that stayed with me until I married. I was very unsure of myself but life started all over again from the day that I got married, but that was later.

Fortunately, there was a schoolteacher at Park School called Mr. Fox who could speak a little bit of German.

I was also very fortunate that my mother and aunty had also escaped from Germany and had come to England just two weeks before the war started on September 3, 1939. I saw them for a short while, but then I was evacuated.

Evacuation:
On Saturday 02, September 1939 the day before war was declared, two hundred and fifty kids from Park School, together with Mr. Fox, were evacuated to a little village called Farnsfield, about half way between Mansfield and Newark-on-Trent. I was billeted, together with two other boys, in a farmhouse just outside Farnsfield, and on the first night, the three of us went up the stairs to a very large room and slept the night in a large bed.

The next morning, as soon as we woke up, we went down the stairs into a massive kitchen where a maid was cooking Sunday breakfast.

I had been brought up very strictly in the Jewish religion, and I mean really really very strict, and the thing that worried me most was that here were certain things that I knew that I should not eat.

I smelt what ever she was cooking and it was a smell that I had never smelt before. I became concerned hoping that it was not something that I should not eat. I went to the maid and I could see that there was some meat or something in the frying pan. I tried to converse with the maid, I asked her in German, “What is it that you are cooking in the pan?” but she could not make sense of what I was saying. She tried to explain to me, but I could not understand. There was nothing wrong with the smell, it was all right but I had never smelt it before. I kept on insisting that I wanted to know what was in the pan and eventually she must have realised what it was that I wanted to know. She took me by the hand and led me from the kitchen outside into the farmyard and showed me some pigs.

When I realised that she was cooking bacon, I actually heaved because I knew that I had almost eaten bacon and that I must not eat it, even though I had not eaten anything since four or five o’clock the previous afternoon. My religious upbringing in Germany had been so strict, that even the thought of a pig would make me sick, I had been brought up so strictly that I thought that if I had eaten bacon, God would have struck me dead.

I was heaving all morning and I could not eat breakfast, so I did not have any. I just had dry bread, I could not even eat the egg that had been cooked in the same pan. I had been so brainwashed in religion in Germany.

However, with regard to eating pork, this has not stayed with me. I do not think that it is a religious law; I believe that the religious regulations were more to do with hygiene in those days 2,000 years ago. In the Middle East, pork would have been the first thing to go off because there was no refrigeration and the only thing that they had to preserve the food was salt. In hot countries like Israel and Egypt, I should imagine that food poisoning was a big killer and there must have been so many people dying from it and that is why the religious leaders in those countries decided to forbid the eating of pork.

That morning, and every other morning, except weekends, it was to be a two-mile walk to school, and of course a two-mile walk back. I picked up English quite easily because as I recall, there were only 150 children alltogether attended at the Church of England School. There was no Jewish school or anything like that at Farnsfield, and if all you hear is English all day and you do not hear any German, then you have got to listen and you have got to learn. I think that I learned English well within six months.

The family at the farm where I was billeted were protestant and the lady of the farm had written to my mother to say that she thought that I should have some religious up bringing and could she take me to church. The thought of her little Jewish boy going to a Christian Church upset my mother very much. I know that the lady from the farm had only the best of intentions but my mother said, “No way,” and that, “I should study my bible and that was all.” That was my faith for four years until I came back to Sheffield.

My Family in War Time Germany:

I have two cousins who are twins, Inger and Ludwig. The Nazis sent them to Auschwitz Concentration Camp. There Dr. Josef Mengele, commonly referred to as the “Angel of Death”, had a special interest in twins. Being a twin, regardless of age, meant survival in 1944. He had selected 1,500 pairs of twins for experimentation. Of the children involved in these experiments, only about 200 were alive when the Soviet Army liberated the camp on January 27, 1945, and these included both of my cousins.

They had survived only because Dr. Josef Mengele had experimented on them. He had destroyed Inger’s ovaries and he had sterilised Ludwig, but they were still alive and the twins are only a year older than me.

They managed to travel to the United Sates of America and they still write to me, but from what they say they have not had a very happy life because of what happened to them in the camp.

After Farnsfield, I came back to Sheffield and I had lots of different jobs because I could not settle, and had about 17 jobs in six or seven years including butchering and farming.

Post War

I left school at 14 years of age and my first job was at The Builders' Centre on Suffolk Road. I went to work there on munitions, making magazines for rifles, which were still being made at the time. However at 19 shillings and sixpence (97.5 pence) per week, I was not very happy at that. So I changed jobs and moved across the road to Kennings Garage doing an apprenticeship there. I then went on to work at various different garages. I also went to work in the steelworks.

I was so fed up with life that I went to the Labour Exchange in West Street. The fellow there said to me, “Do you want to go on a farming course?” I thought, “What the Eck! Back to my roots with my granddad being a horse breeder.” I thought, “Back to the land might suit me.”

I went down to Yeovil in Somerset for an interview and they said, “You can start in a week.” So I went a week later but it was a very upsetting experience. It was October/November time and there must have been about twenty of us billeted in this beautiful old house that had been converted into a type of hostel. Originally, someone very rich must have lived in it. The routine was up at 6 o’clock in the morning to cycle to the farm. In this particular farm where I worked, they had 150 cows and there were just two lads, this other lad and me. We had to turn the cows out of the shed into the yard, but not into the field. Then we had to get all the cow muck out of the shed with big shovels and load it into a big skip that they had in those days. When all the muck had been loaded we would fasten the skip on to the tractor and we would go and spread the muck onto the fields. When that was done we would put the cows back into the shed and then we would cycle back to the hostel for our breakfast at 8 o’clock.

After that, we would be sugar beet pulling and all other farm work and at that time of year everything was covered in frost and our fingers would be freezing.

One morning we had turned the cows out and had got all of the cow dung into the skip ready for the muck spreading. I had a driving licence but the other lad was only learning to drive. This did not make any difference because we were only driving on the farm fields, and not on the public roads. Well this morning the lad said to me, “Can I have a go? Can I drive?” So I said, “Yes”. I was sitting on the edge of the skip and he got into the tractor to start it up and, he stalled it. All that I can remember was that I fell backwards into four feet deep cow dung! Everything went black but fortunately I kept my mouth shut, but I could not keep it shut that much longer because I had to breath. Then I could not remember any more. When I came round I was laid on the floor with everybody around me. They were cleaning me up with the hosepipe and were pumping my back to get the faeces out of my mouth. They took me to hospital and pumped my stomach out, and I thought, “That’s the end of farming for me.” The next day, I went back home to Sheffield.

When I came back to Sheffield, I went butchering at Bents Green.

I than worked for Hay & Sons, driving a wine and spirit lorry. They were located next to where the Crucible Theatre is now. They also used to have the Hay’s Wine Lodge.
It’s amazing that I am not an alcoholic working there.

My mother was very very grateful to the people of Britain for allowing us to settle in England and she used to express this gratitude in an unusual way. She used to write to Winston Churchill thanking him for letting us come to England, because she thought that it was Winston Churchill that had allowed us to settle in England. Every year on his birthday, she would send him a card congratulating him on his birthday and every year we would get a letter back from him, from 10 Downing Street, Whitehall, written in his own handwriting, thanking my mother for her good wishes.

An example being, “I am so much obliged to you for your very kind token of good luck on my birthday. Winston S. Churchill.”

My mother received two or three letters like that, and I was always in favour of my mother’s correspondence with Winston Churchill.

I only suffered from racial intolerance in England once, but never in Sheffield. I used to go to Liverpool to visit a family there whom my mother knew. This particular day, I went to a Jewish Youth Club with another boy named Geoffrey; he had a hole in his heart and was not very well, I was 16 years of age and I think that he was about 12. We came out of the youth club and were walking down the street to catch the bus in Liverpool at around eight or nine o’clock at night, when we saw three youths walking towards us. They were not much older, 17 or 18 years old, and I actually stepped into the gutter to walk round them. All of a sudden, one shouted back to me and I stopped. He came up to me and he must have been a half a head smaller than I, but he was very broad. He asked, “Have you come out of So and So?” I cannot remember the name of the club. I said, “Yes” and he grabbed hold of me by the lapels of my jacket and his forehead smashed into my face in what is known as a ‘Glasgow Kiss’. The next thing that I knew was that I was flying backwards over a front garden and that was it. He did not quite knock my teeth out but they were very loose afterwards, and that was the only racial incident that happened to me in England.

My life in England was very confused up to the time that I got married. I had quite a few girlfriends and really what changed me happened because I had some very nasty experiences with two Jewish girls in particular.

I went out with one Jewish girl who worked in the offices at Kenning's. She was only 15 years of age and I was only 16. I used to take her home to the bus and I took her to the pictures once or twice. Then she decided to take me home for Sunday tea and there I got the third degree from her parents. “What were my prospects?” “What was this?” “What was that?” I thought, “Do I need this grilling I am only a mechanic?”

Knowing my circumstances, where I had come from in Germany, and knowing that we were very wealthy and lived in a 16-roomed farmhouse with a thousand acres of land, because my grandparents were horse breeders, and here I am getting the third degree. To be grilled by this Jewish family as to what my prospects were, really upset me. When they found out that my prospects were nothing, because we had left everything behind in Germany, no one in the Jewish community would have me.

The same thing happened with another girl in Leeds and that is why I swore to myself that I was determined to marry a Christian Girl and I would never marry a Jewish girl, and I am not a practicing Jew any more.

I had been brought up so strictly religious, it’s just unbelievable. I mean, Hebrew is read from left to right. I could read it from right to left or upside down and I could recite it. The only trouble is that I can still read Hebrew but I have not got a clue what I am saying; I cannot understand it. If I were talking to an Israeli he would know exactly what it was that I was saying, but I do not know myself. I never learned the interpretation when I left Germany. They had just taught me to read Hebrew but I did not know what it was that it meant.

Religion disillusioned me a long time ago, first the Jewish religion. If it was a perfect world I think that there should be just one religion and it does not matter which one. I think that I believe in God, but I am certain that there is a devil because the devil must have invented the plurality of religions. But I am still a Jew. I was born a Jew and I shall die one, that does not change.

I worked for Hay & Son, which was a wine and spirit merchant, it was practically opposite the Crucible Theatre and later became The Ruskin Gallery.

Whilst I was working there, I think I was about 20 years of age; I used to go to the City Hall dancing, and that is where I met my future wife. My life changed I can tell you, when I met Jacqueline in the City Hall, a Christian girl from Sheffield; we hit it off straight away.

When Jacqueline took me home to meet her mother and father, I was out of work, but they could not have cared less if I was a dustman, road sweeper or what ever.

When Jacqueline and I became engaged to be married, my mother, Herta Heyman, was very very upset, in fact she even got me a one-way ticket on the Queen Mary to go to the United States of America, because I had an uncle there. The only thing that she had against Jacky was that she was not Jewish.

I left my mother’s house three days before we were to be married and my mother threatened to commit suicide if I married Jacky. She said, “If you get married I will commit suicide.” Now those were her words. I was 22 years old and so I said to myself, “Well it's my life, though I have to thank my mother for getting me out of Germany, but it's still my life.” Although I was hoping that my mother would not carry out her threat.

In fact she even came up to my future in-laws' house to speak to my future mother-in-law to ask her to stop me from marrying Jacky, only because of me marrying out.

In 1951 nine months after we had met, Jacqueline and I were married.

I was out of work at the time so we only had a three-day honeymoon because we only had £17:0s:0d between us.

When we got back to Sheffield, I went to my mother’s house not knowing what to expect. I still had the key to the house and I let myself in. My mother was very deaf, and there she was dressed all in black, sat on a stool saying the ‘Jewish Pray for the Dead’ for me. As far as she was concerned, I was dead. She had nothing against Jacqueline, it was what would our few remaining relations say because I had married out. I was the first one to do so, but I loved Jacqueline and my life changed from the day that we got married. From that day I became less religious; that is when my life changed. I had not eaten bacon up to that time.

Having married Jacqueline, I found that I had the most fantastic Mother-in-law and Father-in-law. I have said to Jacqueline many times that I should have married her mother, she was so good to me. I do not think that anyone could have been so good to a son-in-law as Ada was to me.

My mother-in-law was the most perfect person that I have ever known. I have said that when I came to England, that the only English that I knew was 'yes' and 'no', but in Germany, I had also learned gentleman and lady. I had learnt what a gentleman was but I did not know what a lady was. I can only say that about my mother-in-law, “She was a lady.”

When my mother-in-law died, my wife had to learn how to cook because Ada did the lot.

When we went to live in Bolsterstone, we lived in a four-roomed house, after living in Germany in a 16 roomed house. There was just a small bedroom and in the first six months of our married life, we slept in a single bed. Then Jacqueline became pregnant and we had to buy a three-quarter bed because the bedroom was not sufficiently large for a full sized double bed.

Jacqueline’s father was the manager of Bramall’s Scrap Merchants and he got me a job there, and after two years, I started up on my own. Now I have worked in the scrap business for a long time and I still do a little bit.

It was not until six months later, when we found out that Jacqueline was pregnant that my mother started slowly to come round. She had come round by the time that our daughter Nina had been born.

My daughter went to the Church of England school in Bolsterstone. Jacqueline said, “Shall we have her Christened?” and I said, “Yes, if you want to.” And so she was Christened.

They say that the Jews are God’s chosen people, but if you say that to anyone, their backs go up. Why should the Jews be the chosen people? I believe that the Jews are the chosen people for a load of grief and aggravation. They were chosen for people to vent their feelings on, that’s the only thing that they were chosen for. I do not know if God chose them, but that is my personal belief.

My mother lived to be 91 years of age and in the last four years of her life, she came to live with us. It was then that she told Jacqueline that she could not have had a better daughter-in-law.

When we go on holiday to Spain, we visit the little town of Sitges on the coast, north west of Barcelona, staying at a small hotel that is over a hundred years old, which we prefer to one of the modern blocks. We had been there a couple of days and we had noticed what looked like businessmen running around.

On the third day I had said to Jacqueline, “We must have an early night.” We had just got back to the hotel and as I asked for our room key at reception, two swarthy Spaniards approached us.
They said “Mr. Heymann?”
I said, “Yes”
They then said, “Could we have a word?”
The concierge nodded to tell me that the men were all right. They asked me, “Would you like to be in a film that we are making?” I looked at them, it was midnight, I said, “You are kidding?” They said “No”
They told me, “We have been watching you for two or three days.” They went on, “We have a problem with an actor who has become ill and we would like you to take his part.”

I had had quite a few drinks and must have been very inebriated, and I said, “Yes, why not?” because at the time, I thought that they were kidding.

They showed me a script and my part was to play an American Admiral, Admiral Dorty of American-Irish ancestry, and here was I, a Jewish fellow from Germany speaking English with a German accent.

After sixteen takes, I managed the part that they had given me, I had done it, and it was released; I have a copy of the film at home. There were quite some big film stars in the film: Fernando Ray and Robert Foster, Martin Sheen’s son.

Every year I go back to visit my dad’s grave. He was the next to last person to be buried there. His ashes are buried there and they must have come from Auschwitz Concentration Camp. It says on his gravestone that he was murdered, and I always think that but for the sake of a few months, that could have been me.

When I go back to Germany, I never speak to any German over 70 years of age. The other Germans, especially the young ones, they feel really embarrassed. I get on with all the Germans except when it is someone over 70 years of age; I think that they could have been in the Nazi Party of the Hitler Youth.

When I have been asked how I feel about Israel, my answer is that I have never been to Israel and do not have any feelings for that country.



Pr-BR