Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Hurry Up and Wait

My Dad has said the expression “hurry up and wait” as long as I can remember.  He, being of German descent, was quite an expert at arriving someplace early and then waiting. Opa’s roller coaster ride to escape from Germany and then wait in his father’s house in Holland must have felt like he was hurrying up to wait. Let’s pick up where we left off, with Opa’s father driving the car behind him, giving Opa instant relief in recognition. All italicized quotes in this blog post are from Opa’s memoirs “From Nazi Germany to a Career in Freedom.”
A current google map of the house where August
lived and Opa stayed during this time.
We had a pleasant drive to Amsterdam, but my father told me I would have to stay hidden in his house for awhile, in order for him to apply for my temporary residence permit. (Dutch police were checking foreigners on the streets for papers. The German threat was already so great, that the Dutch wouldn’t take any chances: for all they knew, I might have been a “German spy.”)
This actually makes me think about the people who helped Opa escape. They did it for a hefty fee, but I wonder if they thought they were smuggling in a spy or a refugee? 
For a long time, we had no idea what happened in Opa's life during this time. When I originally finished this blog entry in Dec. of 2012, it covered his whole time in Holland since we had only a little information from his memoir. However, in July/August of 2013, we found two sources of new documents that give more information about that “transition” year when Opa lived in Holland before he emigrated to the USA. The first set of documents are from Opa’s friend, Gisela, who was in the Quaker youth group with him. Opa corresponded with her and her sister, Anni, and Gisela kept Opa’s letters for over 70 years (wow!). When I met with Gisela in Berlin, she was so generous in giving us copies of these letters. These letters are so fantastic because they are written by Opa to Gisela and Anni, in a time period where we had no details of his personal life and thoughts. Now we have insight! The second source of information has been the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) files that we were able to copy from the archives of the Holocaust Museum in D.C.. These files contain all the documents exchanged within the AFSC pertaining to Opa’s immigration case. This gives us a much better idea of just how Opa was able to successfully emigrate to the US.


  1. The risks that others took to secure his life and freedom are astonishing and inspiring. What a joy to read the story of one man, and how lovely to feel it so personally through your words, Sarah. I am so glad that your (not so) little life is here - thanks to Quakers and Einstein and strangers. Praise God :)


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