Growing up in Memel in the 1930's, in retrospect, brings back the stories of Hans Christian Andersen of the beautiful port by the sea. And so it was, only the ending was so different - almost unspeakable

        It was easy to think of ourselves as princesses. We were four children; Fanny, Sarah (called "Tutti"), Gisela (called "Gisa"), and Misha (called "Butzer"). Our father, Leo Fleischmann, was a distributor of textiles for Lithuania. He spent the mornings at his store and the afternoons at the bridge club or a café. He spent the summers in Czechoslovakia, either Karlesbad, or Marienbad for the "Kuhr." We were transported to a peninsula on the Baltic Sea, a place called Schwartzort. It was a short boat ride across the bay to our summer home, the Villa Lieselotte.

        My mother, we called her Mama, the former Judith Golden, was very busy. She supervised a cook, a Freulein, sort of a nursemaid and housemaid combined. A laundress came in once a week and a seamstress twice a year. We also had a car, a black Standart, and, of course, a chauffeur to go with it. We rarely rode in it. We could run through the city in no time at all. It seemed Mama was always running with a large shopping net from the fish market. Being a seaport, the fish market was large and exciting. Long, wood tables lined the wharf; live fish jumped on the planks. No respectable housewife would buy a dead fish. Many trades-people came to the door; the butter-and-egg woman, the vegetable farmer, etc. I think she went to the shoichet (butcher) with her big net for the chicken and other meat. She picked a live chicken. We watched with queasy fascination as the Shoichet slaughtered the chicken according to Jewish law, and handed it to the "chicken flicker", who was covered with feathers. He plucked the chicken by hand with feathers flying in all directions. I always managed to get a nice large feather for my collection.

        Let's start with my grandfather, Moses Golden, an Irish Jew. He moved from Ireland to Lithuania to give his sons a good Jewish education. Lithuania was the seat of Jewish culture. Jews had lived in Lithuania since the middle of the 18th Century. Moses and Kende had eight children; David, Max, Rachel, Leo, Judith (Mama), Nacham (called "Nahnny"), Lena, and Nathan.

        He established the Schwartzen Adler Hotel. He was a tall, strong Irishman, who, nevertheless, got pneumonia and died young. His son, David, had another business that was well- established. Max went to South Africa. Rachel was married to Robert Domont and moved to America, Leo had a thriving shoe store. So, Judith, a beautiful girl with many suitors in her twenties, assumed the management of the Hotel.

        Leo Fleischmann was the youngest of his four siblings. He was born in Riga, Latvia. He had a brother, Robert. Nothing is known of him. He had three sisters: Mary, Charlotte, and Johanna. His mother, Ella Birkholtz, was a scribe. A handsome, brilliant woman; Leo was the apple of her eye. He was very handsome, spoke six languages, had a photographic mind, and, above all, was a charmer. The ladies adored him.         He fled Riga from the conscription of the Russian Army to Lithuania. In the middle of the night he knocked at the door of the Schwartzen Adler. Judith admitted him. There was no room at the Inn filled to capacity with all the escapees from the war and tradespeople. However, she took one look at this handsome stranger and made him a bed in the dining room on the table, or so the story goes. They fell in love instantly.

        Judith reluctantly gave up all her suitors and married Leo after a short courtship. Judith was 30 years old, and Leo was 23. Her mother cried, "Judith is so young." This secret was kept so well that Leo never knew of the age difference. We found out, when she applied for Social Security after Leo's death.

        Leo had gone into business with Judith's financial assistance and soon became successful. Lithuania had textile mills and Leo became a textile distributor. He also imported textiles from England and lace from Belgium. Leo and Judith moved into a spacious apartment in a fashionable part of town and raised a family.

        The Schwartzen Adler ceased to exist as a hotel and was converted into apartments. Nahnny occupied one apartment and continued to operate the tavern. David lived in another with his wife, Rebecca, two sons Beno and Siegfried, and a daughter, Betty. Another apartment housed Uncle Leo, his wife Resi, and four children: Morris, Sigmund (called "Peeps"), Edith, and Lacka. Their age range was the same as ours. Our parents must have planned our coexistence. The last apartment belonged to my grandmother, Kende, who lived there with her youngest son, Natan.

        The Schwartzen Adler had a large L-shaped courtyard. The apartments lined the L. Opposite one side, away from the rooms, was a horse stable. My grandmother also had a cow and goats. Mama often spoke of the goat's milk and cheese they were raised on; she attributed her good health and longevity to them. She lived to be 104.

         The front of the hotel was on Friedrich Strasse. On the corner was the Tavern. Diagonally across from the Tavern was a large marketplace, the Friedrichmark, where the farmers and tradespeople conducted their business and frequented the tavern. The surrounding area consisted of little, narrow streets with small, congested houses. It was called Old Town; mostly orthodox Jews from Poland, Russia, and eastern Europe lived there. The rest of the town started at the canal, which flowed into the bay and into the Baltic Sea. The canal separated the old town from the newer city of tree-lined, broad streets, buildings with ornate facades housed apartments, stores, and cafes. German Jews had settled there and flourished in a climate of acceptance and tolerance. They were prosperous. They owned banks, lumber and textile mills. They were professionals: doctors, lawyers, and merchants.

        We lived in a large apartment on Liebauer Strasse. The building had a large bay window. We had full view of the street in both directions. We lived on the second floor. A wide staircase led to our apartment. The entrance had a wide glass door, and to the right 22 built-in closets ran the length of the long hall leading to the kitchen. Butzer loved to ride his tricycle down that hall. Opposite the closets were bedrooms followed by small rooms, for the help, and the bathroom, which held a hot water heater. The living room was to the left of the front door. The bay window had a step that created a small stage. Fanny considered herself an actress. I was a dancer and Gisa, the singer. Butzer would heckle us while sitting on top of the armoire, out of sight, behind a large clock. My parents' friends had to suffer through many of our performances. My father thought we were perfect children and could do no wrong.

        A large courtyard was in the rear of the building. The laundry was housed in a corner of the yard. A laundress came in once a week and with the help of the cook and Freulein, would heat water in huge tubs, wash the clothes, and hang the sheets on rods to dry. They pressed them by placing them on large, wooden rollers and turning a wheel, rolling them through. I guess this was a hand press. Clothing that could not be washed, like wool dresses and suits, were dipped in kerosene and hung out to dry until the fumes evaporated.

        We liked playing in the court with the janitor's and other chidren in the building. During the week of Pesach[Passover] all of the children disappeared. I once knocked on the janitor's door to ask if his children could come out. I was told that Jews kill little children for their blood ritual on Pesach. This form of anti-Semitism was prevalent in Europe, going back to the Crusades. It was especially common with Lithuanian peasants, who were also very superstitious. When I told Papa, he forbade us to go near those "ignorant, superstitious peasants."

        In the canal were many boats, small ships, and a large ferry. The ferry crossed the bay on regular schedules. A resort called Sandkrug was a fifteen minute ride across the bay. It sat on a peninsula called the Kuhrishe Nehrung on the Baltic Sea. The narrow peninsula ran along the bay, separating the bay from the sea. At one end it was attached to land, Germany. The other side opened into the Baltic Sea at the port of Memel.

        Restaurants, lemonade, and ice cream stands lined the landing pier, where the ferry docked. As one walked away from the pier, the road went through a magnificent pine forest. Past the pier were cafes with very chic people and music, mostly violins. There were also tennis courts. People watched men in white flannel slacks play tennis. Croquet was also very fashionable. A building up on the hill housed a casino. As the road continued the forest became thicker and the air more pungent with pine. Gradually, a large, very sandy hill came into view and, as we reached the peak, we saw the Baltic Sea. A panorama of dunes covered with some sea grass, and the sparkling sea were breath-taking beautiful. People were bathing and gathering Bernstein (Amber). In front of the dunes were small cabanas that one could rent by the day for changing.

        In the summer before we moved to Schwartzort, my cousins and I would often take the ferry and go to the beach. We were allowed to go without supervision as it was not considered dangerous. The woods were filled with wild blueberries, strawberries, huckleberries, raspberries, and mushrooms. We would fill our small buckets to take home, or just lie under a bush and stuff ourselves.

        In the winter it was cold. The windows were frosted over. I would scratch a hole to see through. Ice castles, flowers, and fairies were visible on the window panes with a little imagination. Through the small hole we could see chimney sweepers dressed in black with high hats carrying long ladders. Sometimes I could spot a stork in his nest on a roof. I wore long wool stocking held up by garter belts. Many days we went ice skating. Even with my wool stocking I got frostbitten. Mama put goose fat on my thighs. I guess it worked, since I still have my legs. The winter days were short and it got dark very early, but in the summer it stayed light until 11 PM. Sometimes, for a special treat my father, we called him "Papa", would hire a large horse- drawn sleigh. The sleigh had thick blankets inside. My parents and the small children would be tucked in. My boy cousins and I would tie our small sleds to the back of the large sleigh with bells. We rode through the beautiful forest and stopped at a café for hot chocolate and pastries. We had to be very careful not to fall off, since we were going pretty fast. I can't believe my parent let us do this.

        Once Papa agreed to go ice skating with me, and the whole town turned out to watch. I was not a very good skater; my ankles always turned in. I tripped him. He fell and cracked his rib on my skate. So much for winter sports.

My School Years

        When I was six, my Mama tried to register me for school. I was weighed in my gray Persian lamb coat and boots and was rejected since I only weighed 18 kilos. Mama immediately enrolled me in a gymnastic class to build me up. A group of us puny kids had to play with a large medicine ball. I hated it and ducked when the ball came my way. I didn't last there very long. The instructor found me uncooperative. I joined Bar Kochba and the Maccabees. My uncle, Natan Golden, was very involved with them and promised to keep an eye on me. I liked the gymnastics and was soon swinging from the bars. We wore blue shorts and white tops. When we were told to appear for a group photo, I forgot and wore a black leotard and really stood out in the picture. Ping-Pong was my favorite game. I played until I left Memel in 1938. When I was twelve, I became junior Ping-Pong champion { I am not sure of what }. I played against all of the boys. Mama had the dining room table opened for me and my friends, all boys, and we played every day.

        I finally got into school. They had to take me - it was the law. My sister Fanny and I went to a German school. In elementary school we were taught embroidery and knitting. Once I entered the Lyceum I spent a lot of time dissecting sentences. We also spent much time on Geography, studying what once was Germany. After school I had to go to an apartment where two old, smelly, genteel ladies, fallen on hard times, helped children of all ages with their homework. I guess German schools were hard. We memorized Goethe and Schiller. We sang song by Heinrich Heine. At home I had to take piano lessons. I am tone deaf and have punctured eardrums. I played the same piece at my recital for two years before I was allowed to quit. Papa always sent me flowers.

        Memel belonged to Germany before World War I since it was part of East Prussia. It was given to Lithuania, after they carved up Germany, at Versailles. The population was divided, mostly German, under Lithuanian rule. A great portion of Jews identified with the Germans and their culture. There were also the Ostjuden, eastern European Jews. Lithuania encouraged them to settle in Memel, to help establish a more eastern European climate. They did not attend the German schools; we did not mix. I think the Jews invented snobbery.

        The German Jews were very assimilated. They were educated at the universities and moved with ease in the main stream of European politics, arts, and commerce. They were fluent in several languages and dressed in the latest fashions. They found the eastern European Jews to be an embarrassment. Jews from Poland and Russia, who were barred from secular education and many professions in their home lands, clung to their "Schtettel" ways. Most went to the Yeshiva [school for Jewish studies] and continued to wear the traditional garb of long black coats and hats, fringed undergarments and sidelocks. They spoke Yiddish at home and among each other. They observed Jewish law to the letter and kept to themselves. They considered themselves the elite. After all, Lithuania was considered the seat of Jewish culture. The most famous Yeshiva was in Vilna. Their Yiddish dialect was different. They used the letter U instead of I. They said "tunkle" while Jews in Galizia said "tinkle" {dark}. They looked down on the Galizianier Jews from southern Russia, the Balkans to the Black Sea. The Galitzianers, in turn, looked down on the Romanians and called them Gypsies. Hitler did not care where they came from. He burned them all in the same ovens.

        We were Orthodox and many of our friend were Reformed. In our synagogue women sat behind a partition. We children went inside only to say "hello" to our parents and then played in the fenced-in yard for the rest of the service.

        Our kitchen was glatt kosher [in observance with the dietary laws]. There was no refrigeration. We had two small food chambers lined with shelves and each containing a small window - one for meat and one for dairy. It was always cool inside the small cambers.

        Before the new year, Rosh Hashanah, a rabbi would come to the house with a live chicken and wave it over our heads, to cast away our sins. Mama always wore black to Synagogue. Papa blessed us each and kissed us before he went to services and Mama cried. On Yom Kippur she also wore the same black silk suit with a handkerchief tied around her wrist. We were not allowed to touch her. We called it "the don't touch me dress." During the part of the service where one reads, "it will be decreed, who shall live and who shall die," the wailing and crying from the women's section, coming through the open windows, was terrifying.

        Succoth was a fun holiday. Uncle Nahnny built a Succah in the yard of the Schwartzen Adler and we all helped decorate. We covered the roof with branches and hung flowers and berries on the walls. We all lived in apartments, so during Succoth we would hang out at Grandma's. All the aunts made goodies and the kids were on their best behavior. Nobody wanted to be barred from eating in the Succah. Papa brought home a "lulav," a palm stalk, and an "esrog," a citron resembling a lemon, in a beautiful box, three myrtle twigs, "hadassim," and two willow branches, "aravos." We were allowed to shake the "esrog". We proudly marched after him to synagogue.

        On Simchas Torah, we all went to synagogue and got treats, but only the boys were allowed to join their fathers in the dancing and singing and in the procession carrying all of the Torahs. We received flags, apples, and candy much like the current Simchas Torah celebrations in America.

        On Hanukah, after lighting the candles the first night, we received Hanukah gelt [money]. Nobody received presents every night for eight days, an American innovation. We played a lot of dreidel for hazelnuts and sang all the traditional Hanukah songs in Hebrew. The cousins came and the cook made lots of potato latkes with sour cream.

        Pesach preparations began weeks before. Dishes were unpacked. Glasses were "koshered" for Passover by soaking them in tubs of water for days. The kitchen was scoured, including the stove. We burned the "chomitz" the night before. Little pieces of bread were placed around the apartment. Papa, holding a large wooden spoon and a feather, followed us leading the way with a lit candle to the little pieces of bread we had scattered. He brushed the bread into the spoon with the feather, then placed the feather on the spoon and wrapped the whole thing in white cotton and burned it in the stove.

        We had large Seders. There were always guests and some unfortunates at our table. Papa sat on big pillows and conducted the whole thing except for the "Four Questions." He read the Haggadah, retelling the story of Moses leading the children of Israel out of Egypt, out of slavery. He never skipped a line. I thought it was endless. Naturally we fought over the "afikomen," [a Matzo hidden by Papa to be found by us and held for ransom. It was needed to conclude the Seder]. We usually ended up sharing the money. Mama used to tell a story about one seder at the Schwartzen Adler when her father was still alive. When they opened the door for Elijah, one of their goats walked in. Her brothers had been the culprits and were punished for disrupting the Seder. We were allowed to drink a little wine and would fall asleep at the table only to wake up in time to sing a lusty "Chad Gadya."

        I played Delilah in a Purim play and seriously considered the stage. We dressed up in costumes and had parties. The grownups had a Purim Ball. They dressed in formal attire and danced to German and American dance music and Viennese waltzes. They also raised money for Palestine.

        On Shavuos we were allowed to take off our wool stockings and put on short socks. It was spring. Gisa and I had new dresses with matching coats. We were allowed to eat ice-cream again. Papa had very strict dietary rules: no ice-cream in the winter. Wienies{hot dogs}, salami, and all cold cuts were poison. We only ate them when he was out of town or at friends.

        I had a group of little friends. We had a "kranzchen," literally a wreath or better-translated as round circle for our circle of friends. Freulein served us hot chocolate and pastries in Meissen cups and we worked on our cross stitch embroideries. Our parents were all friends. We all went to the German schools and spoke German at home. There were Yiddish speaking girls in the Jewish section but we did not mix with the Ostjuden. My friends and I were embarrassed by their provincial looks, their clothes, and what we considered odd behavior. How vain and self- important we were. When I was out walking with Freulein one day and stopped to talk to a little girl, Freulein insisted that "those" people were dirty and examined my head for lice.

        I was six when my brother was born. Since children were born at home, when my Mama went into labor, my father took my sisters and me to Schwartzort. He felt we were too delicate for this event. He took very good care of us. I stepped on a rake and my foot became infected. He soaked Mama's silk nightgown in 4711 cologne and wrapped it around my foot. When I had a fever, he did the same thing. This time he soaked a wash cloth in 4711 cologne and put it on my head, it worked. To this day I think of 4711 as medicinal.

        The doctor expected the baby to be stillborn, Mama was in her mid-forties and he didn't hear the heart beat. Mama did not believe him, nor would she allow such nonsense. She gave birth to a boy, just as she said. He became her favorite, and could do no wrong. We didn't care. She was so wrapped up in him, we got away with a lot.

        The event almost closed the town. The crown prince was born! The day of his briss [circumcision] my father fed all the town's poor. They were sitting on the wide staircase leading to our apartment. They were sitting on the street. I remember thinking every beggar in the world must be here. My father was very proud. He finally had a son. He ordered a miniature bicycle from England. It had very wide wheels like a motorcycle. Eventually my brother grew into it. It was said that my father walked around with a rail ticket in his pocket, to leave town if Mama presented him with another daughter. He lived to regret these words. In later years, he considered his daughters his diamonds and lamented he only had three.

        When I was four years old, my father often took me to cafes in the afternoon. His friends fussed over me and filled me with so many sweets that I invariably came home sick. Many times there were black entertainers, singers and tap dancers. We did not have any blacks in our town so it was very exiting. Some of my father's friends brought their dogs to the café. They sat on chairs at the table just like people and were fussed over like children. This was very acceptable. One friend came with his mistress and that was also acceptable.

        One night my parents were entertaining. I was sick with a fever and a sore throat. A scrumptious buffet was prepared, including my favorite pickled herring. I was not allowed to eat herring with a fever, another of Papa's dietary laws. I pleaded to be able to just smell it. Nobody believed me when I cried. I had sniffed a peppercorn into me nose. It must have been midnight, I was still crying, I was taken to the hospital. The surgeon removed the peppercorn to everybody's shock. When I was seven and Gisa was four, I was replaced as the apple of my father's eye. I really did not blame him. I was always getting into trouble, and she was very sweet.

        The best of times were the summers in Schwartzort. Children in Europe do not get a two-and-a-half month vacation. I think we got six weeks. So when the family moved to the Villa Lieselotte, my sister Fanny and I commuted by boat. We went every weekend.

        A little steamer would run up the bay along the Kuhrish Nehrung between the Mainland and Schwartzort, which was about 40 miles above Sandkrug, about a two-hour ride. The small tugboat was propelled by a wheel. It took about 30 passengers and a small cargo. It ran on a regular schedule.

        The Villa sat back off the dirt road in the woods, with a large iron fence around it. In front were plum trees. The back of the house had a large vegetable garden and an outhouse, since there was no plumbing - no running water. The water pump was outside too. Cook and Freulein pumped water for the household several times a day. The kitchen was in the basement and each bedroom had wash basins and pitchers. There were also chamber pots for the children, since it was too dark outside to go to the outhouse. We bathed in the ocean. They cooked on a "primus," small burners fueled with propane gas. There was no oven, therefore no baking. Cakes had to be bought from the mainland. All the berries we gathered in the woods were used to make a lot of jellies and preserves. We had a large brass kettle used only for this. We had no electricity, but it did not get dark until 11 PM. Tante Yetta came to stay with us. I think she was supposed to help keep an eye on all of the children.

        Tante Yetta was Papa's aunt from Latvia. She was short and round and wore a long, black dress with lots of petticoats and a white lace collar, even in the summer. She was sweet and we all liked her. She looked as if she was out of a storybook. She had a handsome son, Leo Fleischmann, our cousin. He was very grown-up, maybe 20. He had a motorcycle and a gun. He wore a hair net at night. We thought he was very glamorous. They lived in Old Town. The young Leo worked for Papa and did not talk much. Papa brought them from Latvia to live near us and he looked after them. Tante Yette walked with a limp. Her son was very devoted to her.

        As soon as we were settled at the Villa, Papa left for Karlsbad, Czechoslovakia for the Kuhr. As soon as he left, Mama started moving in the relatives. She believed all of our cousins to be underprivileged, since they stayed summers in the city. They took turns visiting us, one or two at a time. Bathing in the sea was considered very beneficial. It kept you from getting sick in the winter. Mama had a man with a cart bring up barrels of salt water from the sea, which were heated to bathe baby Butzer. We also had large barrels to catch rain water for washing our hair. It made our hair nice and soft.

        Every morning our caravan went to the beach - Mama led, next Freulein, then all of the children and cousins. It was a major event. They pulled a wagon with towels, clothing, food, and Butzer. It was a half-hour walk, through the forest and over the hill. Most often it was cold and windy, so we sat behind the dunes or gathered amber on the beach and jumped the waves. The temperature was usually around 80 in Memel, higher was considered a heat wave. The afternoons were casual. I had time to explore the woods, gather berries, or seek hideouts in the lush foliage of the forest. When my cousins were there, we became more adventurous. We acted out stories. "Hansel and Gretel" was great in the dense woods and so were "The Three Bears." Sometimes we would sneak down to the fishing village.

        To the left of the pier was the old fishing village composed of small, weather-beaten houses with tiny yards and small dirt roads. The local fishermen were old Germans, who had lived there for generations. They sold to the summer people and to the Mainland. They were not overly friendly and we were told to stay away, but of course, that never stopped us. Old men with leathery, sun-baked, wrinkled faces sat in front of their small cottages mending their nets. Old women stared at us with open hostility and shooed us away. The younger people worked in the hotel and guest houses. They appeared to be friendlier.

        The rest of the peninsula was a resort, a tourist paradise. There were no cars since Schwartzort could only be reached by boat. Regularly-scheduled ships arrived from Memel several times a day. Every evening a large steamship, the "Bremen" arrived from Germany. The peninsula was attached to and had belonged to Germany until 1923, so Schwartzort remained a popular German vacation spot. I believe it originated in Danzig, currently Gedansk, Poland. Every night everyone went to the pier, which was quite large. Both sides of the pier had fruit and sweets stands in the back like an outside market. They sold locally-grown fruit, candy and cakes from the main land, and small smoked fish, caught and smoked in the village. Watching the large white steamships dock in the front of the pier was the event of the day. Germans waved while many vacationers debarked. Porters from various hotels and guest houses pushed huge hand carts, loaded high with their belongings, to their destinations.

        A large, wide dirt road led straight to the Kuhrhouse, the largest hotel in Schwartzort. The road had many guest houses and large wooden structures with carved facades. They looked to be right out of picture books. They took in vacationers, primarily German. The forest and private homes were tucked away behind the hotel. Many summer rentals were Jews from Memel. The hotel was a huge, winding wooden structure with verandahs and porches. On the front lawn were tables, chairs, and chaise lounges for informal dining. The formal dining room was also used for afternoon "tea dances," and formal evening dining and dancing.

        In the back of the hotel were rows of long wood sidewalks lined with numbered doors. It was considered to be a very luxurious hotel. Each room had its own outhouse with keys and attendants. Around the hotel were small shops - several boutiques and stores selling magazines and sundries, but the main attraction was the amber stores. Amber was plentiful on the beaches and we would gather it instead of shells. We tested it by rubbing the amber on our clothes and holding it over small bits of paper, like a magnet. If it lifted the paper, it was genuine; if not, we threw it away. The Baltic Sea is world-renown for it's amber. The shops with amber jewelry attract many tourists.

        Nightly, there were dances and entertainment. Many of my parents' friends stayed there. After we had gone to bed, we sneaked out through the back. We watched through the windows as all of those beautiful people danced and had fun. The men did a lot of heel clicking, and hand kissing, but not their wives'.

        Some nights, there were excursions to the elk preserve. Horse drawn, plush-upholstered benches in wagons, took people to a part of the Nehrung where large cribs had been erected. They were filled with hay to feed the elks and reindeer. It was a beautiful sight to watch these graceful animals and their young feed by the midnight light at the Baltic Sea. The twilight gave an unearthly feeling to the scene. We encountered the same light on the ship in the North Sea some years later.

        Another excursion consisted of a short boat ride to the wandering dunes, high as the pyramids. There were museums and excavations of villages that had been completely buried under the sand of these drifting dunes. There were small houses with tables set for dinner, plates and cutlery still intact. The people had had to flee for their lives from the sand storms that covered their village. We loved these trips and climbed to the top of the sand pyramids and, to my Mama's horror, slid down.

        Papa returned at the end of the summer loaded with presents: exotic fruits - peaches wrapped in tissue paper, and his silk shirts, Jaffa oranges, and dresses for Mama from Prague. He brought us beautiful, embroidered blouses from Czechoslovakia. He never bought by size. If it didn't fit one, it would fit the others. We loved to unpack for him. His friends came out for Bridge and Mama would take the boat to Memel to shop for cakes and goodies. It took her a whole day.

        In 1936, I was eleven. My sister Fanny was fourteen and very grown up, in my eyes. Papa took her to Brussels. She came back with store-bought clothes and an imitation leopard coat. He also took her to Kovno, the capital of Lithuania at that time. She had a mind of her own. She stamped her foot and got whatever she wanted. I think Mama was intimidated by her. Mama was very busy with Butzer and gave him her undivided attention. Gisa was still the apple of my father's eye, so I was able to pursue my own interests.

        The 1936 Olympics were very much in the news. I started to notice that the girls in my class were very blond and athletic. There was much marching and singing of German songs about the "Heimat" or Homeland. I was not invited to non-Jewish outings, which was not really unusual. We had religion in school - Lutheran. The Jewish children were excused, which made us different. There was a joke to describe someone stupid. We would say "Religion -ausgezeichnet, Aufmergsamkeit - genugent" as our reportc cards read (Religion - outstanding, Attention – adequate).

        In 1936 a Palestinian Art Show came to Memel. Papa bought a beautiful, large painting of a Rabbi. Mama belonged to the Zionist organization WIZO. Fanny belonged to Betar and she took me along. We wore blue shirts. Uniforms were definitely "in" that year. One morning she made me get up at 5 AM. Our leader Jabotinsky was passing through. We stood shivering on the station platform, our arms outstretched in a salute much like the Nazis, singing a song about Trumpledor [a Zionist leader].

        A young women moved into our home. We were to learn to speak Hebrew. She was a chalutz (pioneer) working her way to Palestine. She spoke only Hebrew to us and we tormented her. She really earned her money. Many young people from Poland came to Memel to work for a few months, to earn enough money to continue their journey. Memel was a seaport and an exit. The Jewish community would help them find some way to earn the money they needed. An English governess came primarily to teach Fanny to speak English. I don't believe she learned much. She was too busy with her boyfriends. Keren Kayemet boxes [money for Palestine] appeared in our home. Papa went to England to meet my Aunt Rachel from America. He asked her to sponsor us for immigration, just in case. He felt war was going to engulf Europe. Hitler demanded the return of Memelland. Lithuania had annexed Memel in 1923. The young Germans kept marching and singing.

        I developed a following of about six boys. My two cousins, Peeps and Bubi were a year older than I. They each wanted to be my boyfriend and had fist fights to see who would walk next to me. There were also Norbert, Izzi, Manfred, and several more, I don't remember their names. They went to Gymnasium and girls went to Lyceum. German high schools had the highest academic standards amd tuition. Upon graduation, one had the equivalent of two years of college. Everyone was expected to go on to a university.

        These boys were friends of my cousins, so we were all friends. We started a club. Because I had the best ideas, I was elected president. I was also the only girl. We called it the "Black Hand." It was a secret organization. We wrote each other letters in invisible ink, played pranks on people, and did harmless mischief. We made stink bombs, and left them in the movie house. One Friday I stole the chicken legs from our Shabat chicken, dipped them into chicken blood, and stamped some writing paper with them. We had a meeting the same afternoon and wrote letters of warning to some people signed "The Black Hand" under the imprints of the bloody chicken claws and "Tutti Fleischmann, president." We mailed the letters to people at random. We had no stamps, so the post office opened them and called the police.

        One afternoon, while Mama was at the fish market again and Papa at the bridge club, two men came to our door and showed Freulein their secret police badges. They wanted to talk to Miss Tutti Fleischmann. A trembling Freulein produced me and sent the rest of the household for my parents. They took me into the living room, closed the door, and began to interrogate me. They must have felt pretty ridiculous at the sight of me, a puny eleven year old. If they did, they did not let on. They wanted to know the names of the members of my gang, but I stood my ground - I was not talking. My brother Butzer was hiding on top of the armoire behind the clock, again. Suddenly he piped up, "I know!" and proceeded to name all of my friends. My terrified parents burst into the room. I think the police dropped the case. Nobody else was picked up. The story spread like wildfire through the town. I was labeled a wild tomboy. The girls were not allowed to play with me, including my cousin, Edith, Peep's sister. We were all severely lectured about drawing the attention of the secret police. I was an outcast until soon after, when I became seriously ill and was redeemed.

        I came down with diphtheria. Before immunization was available, this was one of the most life threatening childhood diseases. I was quarantined, the board of health sealed my room. They stuffed cotton all around my door, even the keyhole. Mama and Freulein took turns sitting by my bed. They put on white nurses coats and covered their hair upon entering my room. At the door was a basin with disinfectant, something to sterilize their hands. The doctor came every few days to swab everybody's throat for cultures. I remained positive for a long time, maybe a month. After a week, my high fever subsided and I started to feel better and got bored. I had to remain in quarantine until my culture became negative. Papa ordered a beautiful bicycle for me from England. I spent hours sitting on it in my room, waiting for my culture to become negative. Mama brought me little pillows to embroider. I still have one. I have not been able to look at an embroidery needle since. When I was allowed to join the family again, everyone was so happy to see me. The "Black Hand" was not mentioned again. My brother, Butzer, and I proudly rode our bicycles up the street and through the forest.

        The Germans started to take over. In 1937, Hitler said Memel belonged to Germany and he was going to unite it. There was not much the Lithuanian government could do. The whole town was German, even the Jews. My Uncle Nahnny, who fought for the Kaiser and earned the Iron Cross, said that they wouldn't bother us and were only after the Ostjuden. Everybody seemed to agree, except my Papa.

        He returned from England, after meeting Aunt Rachel from America, and announced papers were being prepared for us. In order to obtain permission to immigrate to the United States, an American citizen had to file an affidavit stating that they would be financially responsible for the immigrants. Further documents had to be processed by the American consulate in Lithuania. Papa explained, we would be taking a long trip to see America until this blew over. Most people agreed that there was nothing to worry about and life went on. I began to notice grown ups faces looking serious with a lot of whispering when children were around.

        One day Mama announced that Uncle Nahnny was in jail and we were all going to visit him. We walked over to the jail. A lot of people were standing on the sidewalk waving to Uncle Nahnny behind the little jail window with bars. His wife, Aunt Frieda, was crying; so was Mama and Aunt Resi. I asked Bubi, "What did your father do?" He told me that his father was caught forging passports and visas for people trying to leave. In Lithuania exit visas were required with all kinds of taxes attached. Many people did not have the money. Uncle Nonny owned a tavern and knew a lot of people. He was kind and sympathetic. He tried to help some people get out, got caught, and was sent to jail. Our Jewish doctor was also arrested on trumped-up charges of performing illegal operations - abortions.

        In 1937, a law was passed forbidding Jews to work in professions. The Lithuania governor vetoed it. Suddenly our German friends turned into Nazis. Clashes between the Lithuanian government, the German population, and Jews increased. Synagogues were vandalized. The Germans slowly started to take over and the Lithuanian government, being outnumbered by the German population, stood by helplessly. Memel was declared a "Frei Stadt," or free city. That meant the Nazis could demonstrate openly and do as they pleased. Legally we were still under Lithuanian jurisdiction and our property could not be confiscated.

        One night, we were told not to go out or near the windows. A German ship was in port and a demonstration was expected. Papa, who had many friends in high places, had been warned. We did not turn the lights on and sat in the dark. We did not have to wait long. We heard loud singing and marching. Hundreds of boots on the cobblestone street and hundreds of voices were singing the "Horstwessel," a Nazi song, with verses: "Jewish blood will spill from our sharp knifes" and the German national anthem. As they came to our building they raised their fists and shouted "Sieg Heil," the Nazi salute. We trembled as we peaked behind the closed drapes. They obviously knew where Jews lived. No police appeared. The band of storm troopers were allowed to roam the city, attack Jews and their properties, without any interference.

        The next morning Fanny and I went to school as usual. The teacher entered the class with the Nazi salute, "Heil Hitler!". The class jumped to their feet with arms raised and returned the salute. "Heil Hitler!" echoed through the school. The Jewish children trembled. Nothing further needed to be said nor was anything ever explained to us. We just knew that we no longer belonged there. On the way home, I was attacked by several classmates. I was beaten and spit on. They called me "Dirty Jew," but I was not seriously hurt.

        Papa was home and we were told we would not be returning to school. Fanny and I would be going to Riga, Latvia to stay with Papa's sister, Aunt Mary. He would take us soon. Then he would return to Memel to liquidate his assets. He needed to raise as much cash as he could and arrange for our journey. The whole family would join us in Riga and continue to America.

        A few days later we all went to Kovno, the capital of Lithuania. We all had to appear at the U.S. Consulate in order to receive our immigration papers and visas. There was a problem with Gisa's eyes. We were advised that she needed surgery and might not be permitted to enter the United States. One eye crossed and needed to be corrected. The United States had strict health laws.

        Fanny and I went around to say goodbye to everybody. Aunt Henrie cried and said to tell Aunt Rachel to send them papers. But how could she when Uncle Nahnny was in jail. Uncle David had British passports because of his father. He was the oldest, and born in Ireland. He, Aunt Rebecca, and his sons, Beno and Siegfried, moved to Dublin, Ireland soon after we left. His daughter, Betty was married and pregnant and couldn't go with them. Uncle Leo, Aunt Resi, and our four cousins: Morris, Peeps, Edith, and Lacka, were to move to Rhodesia, South Africa, currently Zimbabwe. Aunt Resi had relatives there and they sent papers. They almost waited too long. March 23,1939, as the Nazis entered the city, they quietly walked out the back door with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They walked all night, and finally made their way to Warsaw, and on to South Africa. My grandmother had died the year before, so Uncle Natan was left with Uncle Nahnny and his family. He was sure nothing was going to happen. Mama's sister, Lena, lived in Riga. She was married to a violinist, named Volia, and had a daughter, Marianne.

        Jews with wealth started to leave Memel. Most went to Kovno, the Lithuania Capital. Others went deeper into Lithuania, taking their money, estimated at 100 million Lits, with them.

        In 1938 there were 6000 Jews in Memel. When Hitler entered Memel on March 23 1939, less than half remained.

         We cried bitterly at the train station. All our friend and relatives came to see us off when Papa took Fanny and me to Riga. It was an overnight trip by train. I was thirteen and I was scared.

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