- Local Survivor registry
- INGE EVE KATZENSTEIN
(1929 - PRESENT)
INGE EVA BERG
INGE EVA BERG
PLACE OF BIRTH:
DATE OF BIRTH:
MARCH 27, 1929
MARCH 27, 1929
LOCATION(s) BEFORE THE WAR:
LECHENICH, GERMANY; COLOGNE, GERMANY
LECHENICH, GERMANY; COLOGNE, GERMANY
LOCATION(s) DURING THE WAR:
LIMURU, KENYA; NAIROBI, KENYA
LIMURU, KENYA; NAIROBI, KENYA
CHILD SURVIVOR, REFUGEE
CHILD SURVIVOR, REFUGEE
WERNER KATZENSTEIN - Spouse (Deceased),
DAVID MARK KATZENSTEIN - Son,
MICHAEL L. KATZENSTEIN - Son,
DEBORAH KATZENSTEIN - Daughter,
9 Grandchildren ,
BIOGRAPHY BY NANCY GORRELL
Inge Eva Katzenstein, born on March 27, 1929 to Josef and Clara Berg, grew up in Lechenich (today Erfstadt), a small town outside of Cologne, Germany. Her parents, very observant orthodox Jews, raised her accordingly. Her grandfather, father, uncle and cousins were all cattle ranchers and dealers in a family business together. In 1935 Inge began schooling in public school, but a year and a half later, when Hitler’s edict came down that Jews couldn’t go to public schools, she went to Jewish school in Linnich and lived with her grandmother for an entire year. Then her relatives started to emigrate—her aunt and uncle to Holland and then her grandmother moved. She returned to her parents and continued Jewish day school in Cologne. She describes a sheltered time when her parents did not allow her younger sister out, kept her sister hidden and her parents speaking in hushed voices around them.
In her interview, Inge also describes her memories of Kristallnacht in extensive and vivid detail. Her family stayed in their house. Others who ran to the burning synagogues were picked up and sent to concentration camps. Her father and cousins fled to Holland after Kristallnacht. They were captured over the border and detained there from November 1938 to May 1939. Survival for Inge and her remaining family in Germany in that year was filled with hardship. Her mother was left to “clean-up” the remains and had to handle everything herself. How to get out of Germany safely was the main concern. One of the cousins, a lawyer who studied in England, was working for the Kenyan government. He acquired affidavits for 17 people (50 pounds per person).
Inge and her mother and sister arrived in Kenya on June 1, 1939 with just the clothes on their backs. Her father and uncles got there four weeks earlier. The extended family, reunited, settled in an area outside of Nairobi. When war broke out in September 1939, Inge and her family, Jewish refugees living in a British colony at war with Germany, took on the legal status of “enemy aliens.” Inge notes this irony in her interview. First they were “stateless refugees,” now they were again Germans”—enemy aliens. Her parents had just bought a large farm—a ranch—with money a clairvoyant cousin had taken out of Germany in May of 1933 and banked in Holland. They were interned on the property and could not leave without permission. But they were fortunate. Inge went to Limuru girls’ school and graduated from Nairobi girls’ high school. There was a small Jewish community in Nairobi that welcomed them and life was pleasant, but the family did not want to stay in Africa because there was basically no “yiddishkeit” there.
Inge emigrated with her family to America arriving first in Boston in February 1948, and then to New York. By 1950, her parents had bought a chicken farm in Vineland, New Jersey. Inge met her future husband, Werner Katzenstein in the fall of 1950 and they married in 1951. Inge worked as a legal secretary until David, her first child, was born. Inge considers herself very fortunate to be alive because she left Germany just before the war broke out and because she left Kenya just before the Mau Mau uprising began. In her oral testimony given to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum she concludes that she and her husband, Werner, feel fortunate to be able to live in freedom in America, to raise their children to be Orthodox Jews, and that she feels fortunate to be able to spend her later years as a translator and volunteer for the Museum.
UNITED STATES HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM INTERVIEW WITH INGE KATZENSTEIN
October 17, 2001
This is a United States Holocaust Memorial Museum volunteer collection interview with Inge Katzenstein, conducted by Esther Finder on October 17, 2001, in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Q When were you born? A: I was born on March 27th, 1929.
Q: And where? A: In Cologne, Germany.
Q: What was your father’s name? A: Josef Berg.
Q: And what did he do for a living? A: He was a cattle dealer.
Q: What was your mother’s name? A: Clara Berg.
Q: What work did she do? A: She was a housewife.
Q: Do you have any sibling A: Yes, one sister, Jill Pauly.
Q: She older or younger? A: Younger.
Q: Was your family religiously observant? A: Yes, very. Yes, they were. We observed all the Jewish laws. My grandfather was very, very Orthodox.
Q: Did you have a favorite holiday?A: Yes, it was Sukkot. We — I vividly remember that we had a wonderful sukkah built in the backyard and as children we loved to go there. And there’s a real big connection with us because when we went back to Germany in 1996 or seven, we were able to go into the backyard of a home where in — into the — our old home, and the present owner said, look, there’s a platform, a cement platform that you used for some kind of Jewish holiday. So after all these years, the cement platform of our Sukkot- sukkah, was still there. And as a matter of fact, we went back this past summer to show it to my oldest son, and there it still was.
Q: Did you live in a Jewish neighborhood?
A: We lived in a small town outside of Cologne that had many Jewish families, but they were interspersed in the town. There was no such thing as quote, Jewish neighborhood.
Q: And what was the name of the town?
A: At that time it was called Lechenich, but today it is called Erfstadt. And it ispart of a huge county. There was– there’s Erfstadt-Lechenich, Emstadt, all these little towns are now under Erfstadt, E-r-f-s-t-a-d-t.
Q: Do you have any memories of life before Hitler came to power? A: No.
Q: What are some of your earliest memories?
A: Basically they start with when I had to go to school. In the town that we lived in there was no Jewish day school. And I started school in 1935, and for the frrst year, the first six months I would say, I went to the public school. And then the edict came down that Jewish children were not allowed to go to school any more, and I had to go to school in the town where my grandmother lived, and I had to go andlive with my grandmother. Couldn’t live at home any more. In order to go to school, I moved there and went to school there.
Q: And the name of that town? A: That town is called Linnich, L-i-n-n-i-c-h. And it was a– maybe 45 minutes or an hour’s ride away. And I don’t think I was a happy camper, but being with my grandmother and not at home, it was all right. And I went to school there for a — for a year. And then my — my aunt and uncle also lived with my grandmother and theyemigrated to Holland. And my grandmother went to live with another daughter and I had to go home and I then went to school in Cologne, which was a half hour, 45 minute train ride or bus ride from where we lived. So I commuted every day as a eight, nine year old, by train or bus to Cologne to school, on my own.
Q: What kinds of things did you study? A: I was in a Jewish day school. I had– we had all Jewish studies and also all secular studies. And I went there through what you would call here, maybe fourth or fifth grade.
Q: When you were a child going to school, what did you want to be when you grew up? A: I really didn’t know, but I was always playing around with the thought of being a pediatrician, but it never went any further than that. But I do have to backtrack and tell you that I was a feisty little girl, and coming off the bus one day there was this snotty little kid that called me dirty Jew. And I went after him and beat him to a pulp. And after I had done that I got scared and I ran. And between the bus stop and where we lived, one of my father’s cousins lived. So I ran to his house to hide. But he got his dues for calling me dirty Jew. He never called me dirty Jew again. And I must have been eight or nine years old.
Q: Do you remember other episodes of anti-Semitism?A: Yes, very vividly after Kristallnacht in 1938, we had to leave our home and we moved into an apartment in the city of Cologne where three uncles and an aunt, brothers and sisters, all of whom were unmarried, lived. And it was like a two or three bedroom apartment and I don’t know how– remember how many people piled in there. But now I was supposed to walk to school. And I think most days I did, but the teachers thought my Hebrew education was sadly lack-lacking, and suggested that I have some extra lessons. And my mother arranged for me to have them after school. Inevitably the teacher would call and ask where I was. And my mother said, well isn’t she there? And no, she’s not here. I was roaming the city of Cologne and there were all these stores that had the signs in the window, Juden [indecipherable], meaning Jews not wanted. And that’s the line I would stand on, and they were selling coffee with an eighth of a pound. And my grandmother, mymother’s mother, was very ill.She had cancer, and her only joy was a cup of coffee. So many afternoons I would come — I would have stood on five, six lines and I would have come home with a pound of coffee. That’s where I was, standing online somewhere or taking the streetcar and going to a bakery and pick up a piece of cake for my grandmother. But I never told anybody where I was going. I was just roaming the city and I — I always got back home.
Q: Before Kristallnacht, did you experience any other anti-Semitic verbal or physical attacks on you?A: N-No. There was a lot of discussion at home between the adults, but they tried to shield the children from it, so really, no.
Q: When you say they tried to shield you, how did they shield you?A: By not talking about any of their problems in front of us. It was always hush hush. And that’s why I have so few memories.
Q: Were you aware that something was wrong?A: Yes, we always lived in fear. We didn’t have a normal life. We didn’t go on vacations, we didn’t go on picnics, we didn’t go to the movies. It was not a normal life as you would know it here.
Q: Did your family ever think of leaving Germany, even if– I’m talking about before Kristallnacht. A: Yes, my father very much wanted to leave Germany and he did have a visa application number — that everybody had to have, a quota number. But the quota numbers were very, very high for Germans at that time, and there was very little hope for us. We were working on it, but it didn’t go as fast as you think it would.
Q:In the time before Kristallnacht, do you remember any book burnings, or do you remember any of the–w– you’re shaking your head.A: Sorry. No, no, not at all. No. I was a little girl. No. We were sheltered. My parents sheltered us. My ister’s memeories are so different.She remembers that she was never allowed out. She was younger and they kept her hidden, they kept her indoors. I just went out on my own.
Q: Is there anything else that comes to your mind about the period of time before Kristallnacht?A: Very vague, small things that I really can’t put together to make any sense.
Q: Were you able to see or hear anything on Kristallnacht? A: Oh yes, defmitely. I –my parents, living outside Cologne, and I don’t think radios were very much in use at that time, sent me to school that day. And I went to school the way I usually did and when I got to the school, the –the Gestapo or police, I don’t remember, I ca –I still can’t tell the difference between one and the other, were standing in front of the school with German Shepherds. And they told us, children there is no school today, go home. And the school was right next door to a beautiful synagogue, and we could see that the roof of the synagogue was burnt out. And we went home — we got on the train, went home, and when I got home my mother said, well, what are you doing here? And I said, well, th-they sent us home. They said there was no school today. It must have been II – 12 o’clock in the morning. That time my uncle had a very good school friend who came to the house and said to my family, whatever you see or hear today, do not leave your home. Just don’t leave the house. In other words, he must have known what was going to happen and he told my uncle not to leave. So, around three, four o’clock in the afternoon we hear that the synagogue is burning, the fire engines ran. We saw the smoke from the home. My cr –grandfather had been president of the synagogue for over 20 years and th — his natural thing was to run to the synagogue to save the books, to save the Torahs. But my father and uncle would not let him leave. And we saw all this and we decided — my grandmother at that time had a broken ankle, so her leg was in a cast. So my parents decided it was time to get out. Every other Jewish male in the little town that we lived in, ran to the synagogue. They were all picked up and put in concentration camp. My parents and my uncle and three cousins who lived in the next town over, all decided to go to Cologne. These are all the people that filed into this apartment. And a non-Jewish man drove us, my grandparents, my sister and I, drove us to Cologne. We had to sit on the floor of the car, and we were sitting on my grandmother’s cast. We were not allowed to look out the window. And he drove us to Cologne and that’s how we left, my parents, uncle, went to the next town over to pick up another aunt and uncle and my grandmother, who was very ill. And we also came — they also came to Cologne. And when the man that drove us came back to the town where we lived, he was severely beaten for having driven us to Cologne. In that way there were many people that were very close to us. My grandfather was a very well-respected man. He did business in– all over. He helped many people, he loaned them money, he set them up in business, Jews and non-Jews, and he was very well respected, As a matter of fact, when we went back this past summer, we went to a castle, and I think the lady that lives in the castle now is the granddaughter of the man that ran my parent’s business from 1933 to ’39. He was, of course, a non-Jew. Jews weren’t allowed to do business, and turned over all the funds to my family. And this lady invited us for coffee, and she also has these vague memories of things that– my grandparents never spoke about it, a– because my family’s grazing lands abuttedthe castle’s property, and they must have been very, very good friends. Was trying to remember, there was something I wanted to say before and I forgot it of course.
Q: What kind of business was your grandfather in?A: Same business. What — the business consisted of my uncle and his — my father and his brother, my uncle; and three cousins that were also brothers, had the same bus — were in business together where my uncle would go to east Prussia tobuy cattle, have it transported by train to the Cologne area, put it in this pastureland or in the stables, and then sell the cattle to the dealers — to the farmers in the area. S — and my grandfather had that business and my father and uncles took it over. And the three brothers and the two brothers, were always in business together.
Q: After Kristallnacht, what was next for you and your family?A: Well, we piled into this apartment and my father, his brother and one of the cousins were terrified about being picked up and put into concentration camps. So for three or four nights they would sleep during the day and drive through Cologne at night in order not to be picked up. The only thing they did was stop for gas. They did this for — well, Kristallnacht was on a Thursday, they did it Friday during the day, Friday night was Shabbat and they stayed home shab — and they were hiding, because them– there were very few men around of their age. And they started doing this again Sunday, and I thinkMonday and Tuesday. And then they tried to go across the border into Holland, illegally. And of course they were caught and sent back. And tried — a day or so later they tried again and they managed to get across the border, but were picked up by Dutch police that were friendly to the Nazis. And they informed the Nazis and they put them in prison. They were imprisoned. And as I said earlier, my uncle and aunt had gone to Holland already.And with the assistance of highly prominent people in Holland, that had connections to the queen, etcetera, they were able to arrange that they were not being sent — that they would not be sent back. So — and they were put into a camp, which was kind of like restricted. They were not allowed out, but they were not in prison. And they were there from November ’38 to May 1939. We did not see my father in all that time, we had no contact with him. And my mother then handled — my mother and my aunts handled all the emigration things because after Kristallnacht, they m — the Jews were told that they had to go and clean up the mess. And my mother went back and she looked at it and she said, I’ll never do that. The Persian carpets were on the manure heap. The prayer books were full of eggs. We still have some of them. And it was very, very difficult, but many — not many, but several of the non-Jewish families came to her aid and helped her. And of course, food was very difficult to obtain at that time, and the people fromthe land would come with baskets to Cologne to bring us food. As a matter of fact, they knew we would only eat kosher chickens, one woman came every week with a live chicken on the bus, to Cologne. And two of my uncles were Shochten, theyhad learned that, so that way we had our kosher chickens. You see, we — we weren’t– we really did not any– have any deprivations in that way, because people helped us.
Q: You said your mother handled the emigration work, what kind of work was she doing at this point?A: Well, she didn’t do it alone, there was her sister, the two cousins, and one of my unc — two of rna — of the cousin — two of the three brothers that were cousins were still in Germany, so they all had– worked on it together. But you have to remember, we had a 17 room house. It was fully furnished, that you could find on the street. Linens, clothing, everything in that house was smashed. There wasn’t a single piece that was left together. And at that time my mother went and bought a complete ha — n-new furniture, dishes, pots, pans, housewares, linens. She bought everything new. She knew she was not allowed to take out any money when she left Germany. And everything she bought had to be paid to the store, had to be documented, and the same amount of money had to be paid to the German government for export tax. And I would say 75 percent of the stuff that she bought was on a boat to come to Africa when the British bombed it in the — in the port of Hamburg. And I think if you look at the bottom, you’ll still fmd it there. So Iwould say 75 percent of the stuff she bought never– never got to us.
Q: Why Africa?A: It’s a long story. America wouldn’t let us in and my– one of the cousins was married to a woman who had a cousin who had, I think studied law in England. And he was hired by the Kenya government as an attorney in Kenya. And he — and it was still relatively easy to get into Kenya. And he sent affidavit for 17 people. At the time, I think you had to deposit 50 pounds per person as an entry fee. And after the war started — we arrived in Kenya on June first, the war started September first. After the war started that fee was up to 250 pounds. But we were lucky, we got in. My father and uncles went — got there four weeks earlier. They went from Holland to England to Kenya. We went from Germany by train via Switzerland to Italy, and then we went to Kenya, on a German ship that served us kosher food. Talk about being ironic.
Q: What were you personally able to take with you when you left? A: My clothes. That’s about it. Clothing.
Q: No books or toys? A: No, they were all gone in Kristallnacht.
Q: Were you able to say goodbye?A: Yes. That was one of the saddest days of– the saddest things that I remember, because a — all the aunts and the uncles and any relatives and friends all came to the station in Cologne, the railroad station, to say goodbye. And we didn’t know thatwe wouldn’t see them again, but it was a very, very sad parting. Very sad. Cousins, uncles, aunts. It was really very traumatic. And of course, we never saw any ofthem again, except my uncle and aunt that lived in Holland. They were living in Holland and they got permission to come to Kenya, my parents worked on that. My parents arrived in 1939 and they wi — got onto a boat in Holland the day that Hitler walked into Holland. They were on a boat and they were able to come to Africa in 1940.
Q: Do you have any other memories of your life in Germany? Now that you’re about to leave Germany, anything else that comes to mind?A: No. In– you asked me ifl wast– able to take books or toys, I don’t even remember having them. Not because they weren’t available, but I just– I don’t remember playing.
Q: This is a continuation of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum volunteer collection interview with Inge Katzenstein. This is tape number one, side B, and we have you now leaving Germany.A: Right.
Q: What were your– what were your expectations about your new destination?A: As a nine year old, I don’t think I had any. I was happy that we would be together with my father again, and I think I was happy that we would be free to speak and run around again. But other — other than that, I personally had no expectations.
Q: Did you have any regrets about leaving Germany? A: Oh no, none. None whatsoever.
Q: What were your first impressions of your new home? A: Lovely. Strange, of course, with all the flowers and greenery all year round. Different people. Mricans and their living quarters and habits. Having to speak English, which we didn’t know a word about. Not being able to understand a single word. But that was very quickly rectified. I think after being there two days, we were in English schools. And that was very traumatic. New country, new school, no language. I was in fourth or fifth grade and I had to start again in first grade. And — but it wen — and that was very upsetting to me to be put back with the small children. But we learned English very rapidly. It wasn’t English as a second language. We were pushed into it, we learned. And every two weeks I was put up until I was with my grade level. And I remember that the first, second day, having to come home to learn a poem by heart. And not only couldn’t – I didn’t understand it, couldn’t read it. Ane my 70 year old grandmother said, come child I will learn it with you. She couldn’t read it. But between the two of us, we learned it by heart and by the time I got to school, I knew it by heart, but I couldn’t– I couldn’t say it because I couldn’t– I didn’t know how to pronounce it. I could read it. I knew it by heart, but I could — couldn’t pronounce it. But that– those things were very quickly rectified and we were very happy in schooL The children all wore uniforms so it was all — we were all the same. And it worked out very welLQ: What was your family’s legal status? A. We were enemy aliens. It was really ironic. We had left Germany– I have to think a minute. We had left Germany as stateless. Jews were no longer considered Germans, so we were stateless. And we arrived in Kenya, which at that time was a British colony, and I don’t know under what quota, under what auspices, but the day war broke out, we were considered enemy aliens. And it was rather strange, but that’s what we were and we were enemy alien– we were stateless until we came to America in 1947, when we came under the German quota. Again we were put– at that point considered Germans.
Q: What did it mean for you, for your family, to be enemy aliens?A: They laughed about it because it was so iro — ironic. The — the thing that it real –thatit meant physically was, my parents bought a very, very large farm in — a ranch in Kenya. And what it came down to was we were interned on the property. We were not allowed to leave the property without permission. Any time we wanted to go to town– every week we had to go to Nairobi, which was 20 miles away. We lived in the highlands in Limuru, we had to go buy groceries. We had to go to the police department and get permission to go to Nairobi and buy groceries. And- but otherwise it was not a problem. But in the beginning, when we- when war broke out, everybody was very upset and we were then declared enemy aliens and the British came with the A-African soldiers to arrest my — all the men that had now come to freedom in Kenya, were arrested, including my 80 year old grandfather. And they were taken to a place of internment for security. And my grandmother at that point said to the British whoever he was, police officer, she said, now I want you to know something. We fled Germany to safety, to come here. I have been married to this man for 45 years and where he goes, I go. So if you’re going to take my 80 year old husband, I’m going to go with him, he’s not going to be alone. He looked at my grandmother, he says, okay, we’llleave him here. And the men were there one or two nights and they came back. They realized what was going on and looked into their background and they were released. We were, at that time, still living in a house that my father had rented inNairobi, and that was before we had purchased the ranch. Afterwards, they made mandatory that the men help the war effort, and manage the ranches of the British that had gone to war. My uncle became a manager of a farm.
Q: For you as a young person, what kind of social life did you have in your new home?A: None. None whatsoever. First we lived on the farm, and my parents realized we needed to be educated, so they hired tutors for us.The tutors lived in, but we were much too rambunctious to stay with tutors. We did not– it did not work out. And another thing that happened was in Africa we grew pyrethrum, which– of which DDT is made. And that was a big business at that time because it was sold– it was needed for the war effort, because America used to get its DDT from Japan, and they couldn’t get it any more. And my mother was terribly, terribly allergic to it. Her face would break out and her skin would break. It was just awful. So she could not live on the farm, and the tutor business didn’t work out. So my mother and my sister and I moved to Nairobi to town so we –we could go to school. The first semester or so we moved to another place in Limuru, and we had to walk down a hill, cross the little river and up a hill to go to school.But we didn’t stay there too long. And my father, uncle and grandparents — on the ranch that we bought there were two large homes. The three brothers and families lived in one and my father and uncle and grandparents, and we lived in the other. That had been the quarters the –the laborers quarters before we bought the farm, and it was very, very dirty and it had no inside plumbing. And well, cleaned it up, and we moved in. And — but after awhile my mother couldn’t live there, and we moved away. My father would come to us on weekends. And we went to school. First we went to Limuru girls’ school as day students, which was one of the most exclusive boarding schools there was. Don’t forget, we were in a British colony, and they all had boarding schools. Then we went to Nairobi and we went to school there. We went to the Nairobigirls’ high school. Again, very exclusive school. And we stayed there until we gra — graduated from high school. And my father stayed on the farm and worked the farms and came to see us on weekends. In addition to that, money was not plentiful, so we had rented a home in Nairobi and my mother rented out rooms to augment her income. And that’s what we did for many, many years.
Q: Did you have to get special permission to –to– to move there and have your father come visit? A: This was after the war.A: Wait a minute. That’s not true. No, this was during the war. I’m sure they did. I’m sure they did, but I don’t think it became a– any trouble.
Q: Did anybody there ask you about your life in Germany?A: Yes, many in the Jewish community. There was a nice Jewish community in Nairobi and people that had been there 20 – 30 years, and yes they did ask us. But we were absorbed into the community, it was really — living in Nairobi was very, very pleasant.
Q: Did you experience any anti-Semitism there? A: No, not to my knowledge or memory.
Q: Did you expect to stay there indefmitely?
A: Not really. I don’t think my parents had that intention because there wasbasically no Yiddishkeit. There were no– there were no– I don’t think there were any other Orthodox Jews, except one or two families that had also come as immigrants. And again, it was very difficult to keep any of the observance. So after the war my father was anxious to leave, so that we — that the children could at least be integrated into an Orthodox community.
Q: So the Jewish community that was there– you said it was a– it was a lovely Jewish community, where were those people from and what kinds of traditions did they follow?A: Their traditions today would be con — considered Conservative Judaism. Where were they from? From Poland, from England, from all over the world. From Somalia, from all over the world. Some were refugees like we were, others wereolder residents that– I don’t know where they came from, but they had been there for years and years; they were well established. But most of them had Polish backgrounds, so I as — assumption at this stage loo — in retrospect is, maybe their parents left under the pogroms and settled wherever they could. That’s retrospect.
Q: How carefully did you follow what was going on in Germany and in Europe?A: My parents and uncle did as much as they could. While we were on the farm, we had no electricity, but we did have a radio that was battery run. it was only allowed to be used for the news, and my uncle and parents followed that very, very closely. They were very concerned about the people they had left behind. We did get some mail from them through the Red Cross. They did receive some packages that we had sent, but then after awhile all correspondence stopped, and they were very, very concerned, but there was nothing we could do.
Q: Did you have any idea what was happening to the Jews in Europe?A: We had an inkling that things were very, very bad, but really exactly what was going on, no. At least — as teenagers, we were off in another world. But my parents and uncles had ideas, but really didn’t know what was going on.A: My parents had ideas, possibly were able to read through the lines what was going on, but actually no, we did not know until after the war, what was going on.
Q: So when did you fmd out? A: What I remember — I think I was either 16 or 17 — the war was over in ’45, so I was 16, and at that time — and came here when I was 17, so when we left Kenya, someone gave my father a book of pictures of the camps. It was a very new book and it was horrendous. It was a horrendous book, he wouldn’t let us look at it. And Iremember he stood on the end of the ship, he threw it overboard. He could not see it, he could not live with those pictures.
Q: Before I have you leaving Africa, are there any other memories that you have that stand out, or any other experiences that you’d like to share?A: Well, we became much happier, we went to the movies. We met other young people of our age. It was a — it was a happier time, but cannot be compared to American teenagers life. And I had just graduated high school, my sister was still in school, and that’s about the time we left.
Q: And why did you leave at — at that moment, that time?
A: We got– at that time we had received our visas and it was time to go. Trip was very long, it was seven weeks on a cargo boat, and was a long trip. We stopped– we stopped in every port from Mombassa, which was Kenya, down to Cape Town. Itwas a cargo boat that took on– was a very interesting trip for us. We went ashore. Actually, I’ve been into every port from Cairo to Cape Town. Coming — coming from Germany we stopped in — up there, and went through the DamaIsle, and round — around Aden, we stopped in Aden and then came down, stopped in Somalia at that time, and then down to Kenya. And then seven years later we continued from Kenya to all the small ports. Port Elizabeth, Durbin, and then Cape Town, and then– that took four weeks. The trip fr-from –that –because they stopped so much. And then it was three weeks up the Atlantic without a stop, to Boston. And at the end of that trip there was such a horrendous storm, that we were walking on the walls of the boat. Wasn’t a dish left in thekitchen that was whole. The storm was so bad outside of Boston, that a-although our tickets were for New York, they wouldn’t take us to New York, they said you have to leave in Boston, and we took a train to New York. And for — for my sister and myself itwas a wonderful trip. We did everything on that boat. From keeping the logs, from steering the ship, from swabbing the decks. We did everything. We had a wonderful time. And no food. No kosher food. And we had taken some food along, and the funniest thing is, after the first day or two my mother refused to eat the bread. Why? The baker of the boat had a monkey that he dipped in the water every day andthen rolled him on the deck like bread. It was a toy — i-it was a pet. When my mother saw that, she got so disgusted she wouldn’t eat the bread.
Q: When did you arrive in the States? A: In February, 1948. Snow over the houses. No winter coats. Having lived in the tropics for seven years. Oh, it was cold. Very cold.
Q: Did you have any expectations about the United States?A: Not really. Not really, because you know, we just took it day by day. Whatever we had to do, we did. I started school.
Q: Where?A: Queen’s Plaza, went to stenography school to become a secretary, and after a few weeks I decided I knew enough and I wanted a job and the only job I wanted was on Fifth Avenue. And I took the “New York Times” and went from– and anything that was Fifth Avenue, I went in and applied for a job. I started way downtown and walked my way up. I think the first one I got was at 23rd Street, but I was so inexperienced, I didn’t last longer than a week there. So, took the “NewYork Times” again and started from 23rd Street up to 43rd Street. And finally found- washired in an attorney’s office, where there were two attorneys and an accountant. I knew nothing. Finally, one of the men that hired me– they must have felt sorry for me, said, do us a favor, go back to school, and learn. And I did. I went to night school in Queens, worked inManhattan and lived in Brooklyn. I could have switched schools, but I didn’t. I was too –too scared. I could have gone tocollege, because with the British education that we had, it was qui — equivalent tothe junior year in college. Didn’t do it. I had to work. We– and I had that job for a long time and I told them I observe the Sabbath, and the one attorney said — would come to me every –Friday afternoon, an hour before sunset and say, it’s time for you to go home. Which I enabled me to be home before sunset. I — finally I did learn shorthand and stenography and I was able to type. And I used to do spreadsheets for the accountant, who was terribly fussy. He would hold my work up to the light and say, you erased, do it over. I learned to erase, he couldn’t tell any more. I worked there– how long did I work there? A year, year and a half? Not– yeah, til 1950, two years m –year and a half, maybe. And by then my parents had bought a chicken farm in Vineland, New Jersey. And I was living with an aunt and uncle in Brooklyn. And we belonged to an– or– or to a congregation there, and I made friends there and met a lot of young people. And didn’t want to come — move to Vineland. And I somehow managed fmancially.I was on my own. When my parents left for New Jersey, my father– I was renting a room somewhere on the West Side, 96 Street, and my aunt and uncle had moved to Brooklyn. And my father left me with a hundred dollars and he said, when that’sfinished, it’s yours. And from that day on, I was independent. I got a job, I paid my room and board. Subway was a nickel one way, so all you need is a dollar a week for subway, and I was on my own until l950. I had met my husband in the fall of 1950 and moved — and then moved to Vineland and became engaged in January. And then I st-started to work in Vinelandfor an attorney who came to my parents’ house and said, I hear you’re a legal secretary, can you come to work for me? And I did. And I worked for him til my first child was born.
Q: Before I let you go any further, I have a few questions that I wanted to go back to. When you came to this country, did anybody help you? Any of the Jewish agencies or anything like that?A: To my knowledge, we went to HIAS to fill out citizen papers, period. We had an uncle that lived here and a cousin who owned arestaurant on 49th Street, his name was John Schwartz. He owned Headquarters restaurant. He was Eisenhower’s mess sergeant in World War II. He did the Berlin conference for Eisenhower and he was with Eisenhower through the entire campaign. And when he came back, he opened a restaurant in — on 49’h Street in New York City. So we had a lot of help from — from the cousins.
Q: When you came here, did anybody ask you about your experiences in Germany?A: No. No. People didn’t want to talk at that time, they didn’t want to know.
Q: And how did you meet your husband? A: It was a blind date in Brooklyn. He lived in– on the farm in New Jersey, and he would come ou –he had vacation, and somebody gave me father-in-law my telephone number and he gave it to Werner and he called me and we went out and we enjoyed it, and he– he was only in New York for a week, and he had just come out of the service. And he asked me for lunch the next day. Must have liked me, right? I went to lunch with him because to me it was a free lunch. I didn’t — and from then on he kept writing, he kept coming to New York. And by the– by the end of the year, the aunt and uncle that I lived with had also moved to Vineland, so I went to Vineland. And that’s when we be– got engaged.
Q: This is a continuation of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum volunteer collection interview with Inge Katzenstein. This is tape number two, side A. And you were talking about your husband courting you, but while I was flipping the tape you remembered something that you wanted to add, with respect to your experience in Africa.A: I just wanted to say that in general we were very fortunate to be alive, because we left Germany before World War II, in June of ’39, and we were able to leave Kenya right before the Mau Mau uprising, be — because had we stayed in Kenya we would have been right in the center ofMau Mau territory, and we– the ranch that my parents had bought was not sold at the time, it took several years to be able to sell it, and for us to be able to transfer the funds from Kenya to here.
Q: While you’re talking about the– the ranch and the funds, how was your family able to afford to buy a ranch in Kenya?A: Again, my family was very fortunate. On May 1,1933, one of my uncles took large sums of money to Holland and banked them in Holland, because after that it was more difficult to get money out. And that’s how we had funds in Holland, which were then transferred to Africa.
Q: As we finshed the last tape, you were telling me about your husband courting you, and can you tell me a little bit about his background? Is — was he born and raised in the United States?A: No, he was born in Germany, and he– he and his family [coughs] also left Germany in 1937 and lived in Holland until l939, and were then able to come to America. He will tell it in his story. And they purchased a farm outside of Camden, New Jersey, and he will elaborate on that. And in 19 — w-war broke out in 1942 for America, right? ’41 – ’42. He was inducted into the army in 1944, again, as an enemy alien and became a citizen in the army and then was sent back overseas to Germany, first as an infantry soldier. He was wounded, and after thewar ended he went into mini — military government as an interpreter. And I think he was discharged 40 — in 1946, I’m not sure.
Q: Just tell me his full name. A: Werner Katzenstein.
Q: When did the two of you decide to get married? A: We became engaged in February of 1951.
Q: And when did you get married? A: September 11, 1951.
Q: And you have children? A: Yes, we have three children. Our son Michael is a hospital administrator and lives in Beverly, Massachusetts, which is the outskirts of Boston. Our second son, David is an attorney and lives in Highland Park, New Jersey. His offices are in Princeton, New Jersey, and he’s the proud father of five children. Michael has two children. Our daughter, Debbie is a venture capitalist banker in Pittsburghworking for PNC, and she has two children. So we have nine grandchildren of which we are very proud.
Q: While you were raising them, did you also work outside the home?A: Oh yes. I worked as a legal secretary until David was born. My mother helped me take care of Michael. After that, I didn’t work for about I 0 years and had another child, third child, Debbie. And when she was four years olds!tarted to work to sell real estate. And for 32 years I sold real estate for, first [indecipherable] O’Reilly in Vineland, New Jersey which then later became Coldwell Banker.
Q: I wanted to ask you about some of the historical events that, you know, in the course of your late teens an-and — and adulthood. After the war, did you follow the Nuremberg trials?A: Not really, no.
Q: Did you follow the partition debates in the U.N. regarding Palestine? A: Vaguely, but not– not –not to an extent that I should have.
Q: Did you follow the Eichmann trial? A: Yes, yes, I think I did.
Q: What was your reaction, if you can remember, your reaction to the way it was presented to the people in the United States?
A: I can’t comment on that because I don’t remember enough.
Q: Did you feel that justice was done? A: Yes, definitely.
Q: You were in the United States during some of– some very dramatic changes here. What were your thoughts about the Civil Rights movement?A: I think everybody should have civil rights and have the freedom to do and work in a manner that America was envisioned. And thisshould be freedom for everyone, regardless of color, creed or nationality. But it has to be a safe freedom. It has to be the people that –just as a comparison that — what I can say now is that pre–World War II and during World War II, America would not let any immigrants in– or Jewish immigrants into the country. And looking at it today, which is ninet-– oh, 2001, after the terrorist attacks, God knows who’s running through America, and nobody checked. But a few harmless Jews were not allowed in, and I don’t know what to say any more.
Q: When did you move to Washington? A: 19– January 1998.
Q: Why? Why did you come here?A: My sister has lived in this area for 25 years. We were ready to retire. In addition to that, our mother was in a nursing home in Atlantic City, about which we were not too happy, and we were able to have her transferred to the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington. And it was quite a long trip to visit her. The trip from Vineland to Washington is about three hours. And we were retired, there was noreason for us to live in Vineland. Was more and more difficult to be observant Jews in Vineland, because the observant synagogues were closing. And this is what my husband and I wanted in our life, to have community that observes and be together with my sister and be able to see my mother, who died a year ago.
Q: When did you start working at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum? A: I think it was April of ’98. My brother-in-law and sister have volunteered at the museum from before it opened, and they thought that would be a good place for us to spend some time. So we went down and we do translations now.
Q: What special insights do you bring to your work? A: Insights. We were — we feel very good about being able to translate the letters, which are heart-wrenching at times. They are the gifts to the museum of mostlygrandchildren of people that have perished because they were not able to get out. And these — and this correspondence is the grandparents writing to the parents. And the parents saved these letters, and the grandchildren can’t read them any more. Some of them are in German script that both my husband and I can still read. Some of them are very difficult to decipher and terribly heart-wrenching to read.
Q: Have you had any unusual or dramatic experiences at the museum?A: No, not really, because we work behind the scenes. We don’t see the public. We go into the Ross building, have our little cubicle and spend our day there and go home.
Q: Do you ever speak publicly about your experiences?A: I used to speak to schoolchildren in — in New Jersey, and I have done it once here because one ofthe teachers asked me to come to a class. Now, I’ve not done no s — I have not done any s — public speaking.
Q: Have you ever return –well, you mentioned you returned to Germany since the war. A: Yeah. The first time we returned to Germany was at my sister’s urging because the city of Cologne invited us as their guests for a week. I did not want to go but my sister said, come on, let’s go. And we did. It was a good week, it was a structured week. It was planned by the city. We were treated royally. But I kept looking overmy shoulder to see who was following me. If l saw a German Shepherd, I ran. I was not a happy camper. This time we were in Europe for three weeks and we justspent four days in Germany because our son wanted to see, quote unquote, his roots. And he was able to fly over for four days, rent a car and we went to the town that my father was born in. We went to the town that my mother was born in, and we went to the town where our great-grandmother was buried. And after that we really had enough of the autobahn and we went on to Holland and he went home.
Q: On your second trip, the one that was not structured, ho-how did you — how were you treated by the people that you met?A: The only people that we really met in Germany were hotel personnel, and we hadn’t — th — and then of course we were treated ex — like royalty by the people that had the castle. We were also treated extremely well by the daughter of my aunt’s maid, who treated us like royalty. Very sweet, very nice and– extremely nice, but these people were nice to us before. We didn’t meet any new ones. I had a— I had an experience on the first trip which really shocked me. We were at a dinner planned by the city, with teachers, because at that time we had gone over and we spoke to classes in Germany. And one of the teachers sitting next to me, she says, I have to admit to you, my mother is a Nazi to this day. I was speechless. So anybody I saw that was my age or older, I considered to be a Nazi.
Q: I have to ask you about a Torah scroll. You have not mentioned it, but I would like you to tell me about it.A: Oh, okay. The two cousins that stayed behind to the very end were able to purchase a– that– a Torah scroll that was saved from one of the synagogues and they brought it to Kenya.In Kenya we used it because we had services on the holidays. The family had five adult males and during the war my mother ha-had many, many Jewish soldiers, from England, from Africa, from– from South Africa, from America, that would come for rest and recuperation to our farm. And so for the holidays they always kept — if they were still in Kenya, we’d always come back. And the Torah scroll was used in Kenya all the time. When we came to America, a Torah scroll was used in a small country synagogue outside of Vineland, called Brockmanville. And when we left the area, we took the Torah scroll with us again. It is not kosher any more, it cannot be used as as– Torah scroll. So not knowing what to do with it, not wanting to bury it, we donated it as a gift to KMS synagogue in Silver Spring, who gratefully accepted it and built a beautiful orann for it, and it s-stands in their bet-hamek in the small synagogue, and it is taken out once a year on Simchas Torah, when everybody dances with it. And I feel that is a beautiful placefor it because it’s still being used for what it was intended for.
Q: Is there anything that we have not covered that you would like to add before we conclude today? A: Yes. I have to say I don’t– did I say it before about not being survivors?
Q: Say whatever you’d like, it’s okay. A: I may have mentioned this before, that we feel very fortunate to be alive and to be able to live in freedom in America, to raise our children to be Orthodox Jews, and to be able to spend our later years of– being to some advantage to the museum of being able to do the translations, even though they are very, very difficult at times to do. And some Mondays we come home quite depressed. But then life goes on and things get better.
Q: Well, I’d like to thank you very much for speaking with me today and this concludes the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum interview with Inge Katzenstein. Thank you.
Also known as The Night of the Broken Glass. On this night, November 9, 1938, almost 200 synagogues were destroyed, over 8,000 Jewish shops were sacked and looted, and tens of thousands of Jews were removed to concentration camps. This pogrom received its name because of the great value of glass that was smashed during this anti-Jewish riot. Riots took place throughout Germany and Austria on that night.
Sources and Credits:
USHMM Benjamin and Vladka Meed Registry of Holocaust Survivors Interview by Esther Finder, October 17, 2001; Biography by Nancy Gorrell; Photographs and photo of trunk artifact by Nancy Gorrell and donated by Inge Katzenstein.
Credits: We gratefully acknowledge permission to use Inge Katzenstein’s interview from Inge katzenstein and the USHMM Benjamin and Vladka Meed Registry of Holocaust Survivors.