- Local Survivor registry
- KARL KISSINGER
(1898 - 1988)
PLACE OF BIRTH:
DATE OF BIRTH:
AUGUST 5, 1898
AUGUST 5, 1898
LOCATION(s) BEFORE THE WAR:
LOCATION(s) DURING THE WAR:
PAULA FRIEDMANN KISSINGER - Spouse (Deceased),
HERBERT KISSINGER - Son,
MARGOT KISSINGER - Daughter,
ERWIN KISSINGER - Son,
DORON STEGER - Grandson,
KARIN STEGER STERN - Granddaughter
BIOGRAPHY BY DORON STEGER, GRANDSON
My grandfather, Karl Kissinger, had an incredibly varied life, from the prestige and good life of post WW I Germany, to the depth of a concentration camp, to a new life in Israel and finally to a comfortable station in NYC and ultimately, Florida. He was a very handsome man, whose life and survival was punctuated by lots of luck. For instance, as a successful business man, he was sent to a concentration camp early during the Nazi era, which made his release from camp possible, something that would not have happened a few years later. The nature of his release, as described in the survivor interview (Refer to interview below), was also a stroke of luck.
Opa, as we called him, was a quiet man. He was deeply interested in politics and the news in general. He never talked about his past, finding it too difficult after the untimely death of his son prior to the war, and the loss of a great deal of his family during the Holocaust, including 4 siblings. These tragic events shaped his demeanor throughout is life. He carried the burden that at times weighed heavily on his shoulders with dignity and resolve.
SURVIVOR INTERVIEW WITH DORON STEGER, GRANDSON
KARL KISSINGER INTERVIEW WITH DORON STEGER, GRANDSON
Date: October 19, 2017
Location: Steger Residence (phone interview)
Interviewer: Nancy Gorrell
Q: Describe your grandfather’s family background.
My grandfather, Karl Kissinger, my mother, Margot’s father, was one of seven siblings. He came from a middle class family of teachers living and working in Ermershausen, Germany. His father, David, was a rabbi and teacher in the Jewish community. My grandfather studied to become a teacher, and then he became a shoe merchant and factory owner. He owned a leather goods factory prior to WWII with about 70 employees.
Q: Did your grandfather talk about his growing up years? His schooling? His town?
He was a very quiet guy. He did not talk much about growing up. Not in the prewar years. He fought in World War I. He was a decorated German veteran. He had the iron cross.
Q: Did he talk about his early war experiences?
No, not much.
Q: How did he meet your grandmother?
He met and married Paula Friedmann, but I’m not sure when or how but the fact that they were second cousins might be a clue. Their first child was Margot, my mother, born April 26, 1925. Their second child was Herbert Kissinger, born in 1928 and died at the age of 11 from pneumonia. My uncle Erwin was born in Ingolstadt, April 24, 1930.
Q: Did your grandfather ever talk about experiencing anti-Semitism?
He didn’t talk about that experience, but as a factory owner, he was a target of the Nazis. In June, 1934 he was arrested for being a Jewish business owner and sent for Dachau and he was there for 6 months.
Q: What happened to him in Dachau?
One of the stories my grandmother told was about a time she was walking on the streets. I guess it was December, 1934, and she’s just walking and talking to neighbors and one of the neighbors approaches her and asks, “Where’s Karl?” My grandmother answered, “He was arrested and he’s in Dachau.” The woman was shocked. “Such an upstanding guy. I’m going to talk to my son.” Her son was an SS guy. So she went to him and said, “I want Karl out of the camp by Christmas or don’t come home.” Her son answered, “ I can’t do it.” She insisted, “You are going to do it. Karl is a wonderful German.” So the SS guy pulls some strings and a few weeks later my grandfather is released. I have the release documents (Refer to photo of document in Related Media). But the condition was he had to leave the country within one week, and his wife and children had to leave within six months. The SS guy who got him released was Heinrich Himmler.
Q: Where did your grandfather go upon his release from Dachau?
My grandfather went to Haifa in December 1934. He worked as a cab driver; his specialty was rides from Haifa to Beirut.
Q: Did your grandmother and the children join him?
Six months later the rest of the family came too. They lived in Haifa—my grandmother and the two children, Erwin and Margot, my mother. I think my grandmother melted silver and took it in her suitcases. You couldn’t take money out of the country. We have six pieces of her original furniture.
Q: How and where did your mother and father meet?
My father, Eli Steger was from Poland. In 1933 he went to Israel when he was 19. He joined the British police force because it allowed him to study, and he wanted to be an attorney. Ten years later, he met my mother in Haifa. She was 19 and he was 30 at the time. They got married in 1944 and lived in Haifa by the sea. That’s where I was born, in 1946.
Q: Did your grandparents spend their lives in Israel?
No. My grandfather and grandmother left Israel in 1951 after the War of Independence and came to the United States. They settled in Washington Heights. He moved near his brother, Louis Kissinger, and that’s where Henry and his brother Walter grew up. My grandparents lived in New York until my grandfather retired. He worked in insurance and then moved to Miami in the 1960s. When he retired, he had four grandchildren: from Margot, myself and my sister, Karin, and from Erwin, Ronnie and Jackie.
Q: Who survived in the maternal side of your family?
Arno Kissinger went to Sweden; Louis Kissinger (Henry and Walter’s father) escaped, but his four other siblings all died in the Holocaust. In my grandfather’s immediate family, 15 people perished.
Q: Did Karl or your family ever go back to visit Germany?
We had a Kissinger reunion, in June 2-5, 2005, in Bad Kissingen. We have a family genealogy book that goes back to the 1700’s called the Kissinger Family. It traces our family tree which started in Bad Kissingen (thus the family name). While we were there, it was big news at the time (it’s near Nuremberg). My family had four generations there and were featured in the local paper. We were also interviewed by the Leo Baeck Institute, and I spoke and my father spoke as well.
Sources and Credits:
SSBJCC Survivor Registry Interview with Doron Steger, October 18, 2017, Interviewer: Nancy Gorrell; Biography by Doron Steger; Digital historic and family photographs and documents donated by Doron Steger.