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Leaving Germany


The only Jewish boy in a Catholic school
Uri Avnery Social activist
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באותו זמן, שנת הלימודים הגרמנית מתחילה בפסח, היטלר הגיע לשלטון בינואר, ניצח בבחירות במארס. מארס-אפריל השלטון הנאצי התחיל להתבסס, ובאותו זמן בדיוק אני הייתי צריך לעבור מבית הספר היסודי לגימנסיה. הגימנסיה הגרמנית התחילה בכיתה ה״א. וכמובן הייתי צריך ללמוד בגימנסיה הומניסטית כנ”ל: לטינית, יוונית עתיקה וכוליי. והיו כאלה שלוש בעיר. ואבא שלי שקל והחליט לשלוח אותי לגימנסיה קתולית. למה קתולית? הקתולים היו מיעוט בהנובר. הנובר הייתה עיר פרוטסטנטית. והוא חשב שבהנובר הקתולים בתור מיעוט יהיו פחות אנטישמים. ואכן, באתי לכיתה, המורה-המחנך היה כומר קתולי, אני זוכר את היום הראשון. היה רוב קטן קתולי. היה מיעוט גדול פרוטסטנטי, ואני הייתי היהודי היחידי בכל הגימנסיה. וביום הראשון המחנך פותח את היומן, מתחיל לקרוא את השמות, ושם הרי כתוב גם דת, רואה "יהודי", אורו פניו והוא התחיל לקרוא: "בראשית ברא אלוהים את השמים והארץ”. לא ידעתי על מה הוא מדבר והתביישתי נורא. אבל הסתדרתי. הייתי תמיד התלמיד הכי טוב בכיתה. ולאט-לאט גרמניה השתנתה גם למראית עין. ראו את זה. פתאום יום אחד עשו חרם על חנויות יהודיות. למען האמת ההיסטורית, התחילו בזה היהודים באמריקה. הם התחילו חרם על גרמניה, ואז גבלס ארגן בתשובה חרם על היהודים בגרמניה. כמובן שבאותו יום אבא שלי לא שלח אותי לבית ספר. ויום אחד המחנך קרא לי אחרי השיעורים, ואמר לי: "אורי", לא "אורי", הלמוט היה שמי, "אם מישהו יתנכל לך על רקע זה שאתה יהודי, תבוא ישר אלי, אני אטפל בזה.” בכיתה היו שני בנים של סרן בצבא, שזה בכלל בגרמניה היה משהו לגמרי מיוחד, וכל מיני אנשים כאלה. והסתדרתי טוב בכיתה שלי. הייתי תמיד התלמיד הכי טוב, בייחוד בלטינית ובחשבון. מה קרה עם זה בחשבון אני לא יודע, אבל אני יכולתי, עוד לפני שהמורה אמר את השאלה, הייתה לי התשובה. ואני גם ספרות גרמנית למדתי טוב, וכל מיני דברים כאלה.‏

At that time, the German school year started at Passover. Hitler came to power in January, and won the election in March. In March and April the Nazi regime began to get established and at that time exactly I had to transfer from primary school to the gymnasium. The German gymnasia started in the fifth grade. Naturally I had to study the following subjects in the humanities gymnasium: Latin, Ancient Greek, and so forth. There were three such gymnasia in the city. My father deliberately decided to send me to the Catholic school. Why Catholic?  The Catholics were a minority in Hannover. Hannover was a Protestant city. He thought that as a minority the Catholics in Hannover would be less anti-Semitic. Indeed, when I arrived in the class I found that the form teacher was a Catholic priest, and I remember the first day. There was a small majority of Catholics, a large minority of Protestants, and I was the only Jew in the whole school. On the first day the teacher opened the class register and started to read the names; the register also stated the pupil's religion. He saw 'Jew', his face lit up and he began to read (in Hebrew), 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth'. I had no idea what he was talking about and I was terribly ashamed. But I managed. I was always the best student in the class.

Slowly Germany was also changing in appearance. It was quite evident. Suddenly one day they started boycotting the Jewish shops. For the sake of historical truth: that started with the Jews in America, who instigated a boycott against Germany. Then Goebbels organized a boycott against the Jews in Germany in response. Naturally, on that day, my father did not send me to school. One day the teacher called me after class and said: 'Uri'…  no, not 'Uri' – my name was Helmut. 'If anyone harasses you because you are Jewish, you come straight to me. I'll take care of it'.  There were two sons of an army captain in the class, and even in Germany this was something very special; and all sorts of people like that. I got along well in my class. I was always the best student, especially in Latin and arithmetic.  I really don't understand what happened in mathematics – but even before the teacher would ask the question I already had the answer. I also studied German literature well, and all sorts of things like that.

Uri Avnery (1923-2018) was an Israeli writer, journalist and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement. As a teenager, he joined the Zionist paramilitary group, Irgun. Later, Avnery was elected to the Knesset from 1965 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1981. He was also the editor-in-chief of the weekly news magazine, 'HaOlam HaZeh' from 1950 until it closed in 1993. He famously crossed the lines during the Siege of Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat on 3 July 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader ever met with an Israeli. Avnery was the author of several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including '1948: A Soldier's Tale, the Bloody Road to Jerusalem' (2008); 'Israel's Vicious Circle' (2008); and 'My Friend, the Enemy' (1986).

Listeners: Anat Saragusti

Anat Saragusti is a film-maker, book editor and a freelance journalist and writer. She was a senior staff member at the weekly news magazine Ha'olam Hazeh, where she was prominent in covering major events in Israel. Uri Avnery was the publisher and chief editor of the Magazine, and Saragusti worked closely with him for over a decade. With the closing of Ha'olam Hazeh in 1993, Anat Saragusti joined the group that established TV Channel 2 News Company and was appointed as its reporter in Gaza. She later became the chief editor of the evening news bulletin. Concurrently, she studied law and gained a Master's degree from Tel Aviv University.

Tags: Germany, Paul Joseph Goebbels

Duration: 4 minutes, 9 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 10 March 2017