The Uprooted: A Hitler Legacy: Voices of Those Who Escaped Before “The Final Solution”


Roger Fredinburg – Host

30-Hour Series of Interviews broadcast on the Roger Fredinburg Radio Program


11-19-2007  Fourth Program in Series


Guest:   Dr. Dorit Bader-Whiteman

Clinical Psychologist

Website: www.DoritWhitem


The Uprooted: A Hitler Legacy: Voices of
Those Who Escaped Before “The Final Solution”


ISBN-10: 0738205796  and ISBN-13: 978-0738205793


Roger:    Hello, everyone!  I’m Roger Fredinburg, radio’s regular guy!  This evening we celebrate Part 4 of our continuing series, The Holocaust: We Must Remember.   We want to thank Chey Simonton and Kelleigh Nelson for all their labor and work in helping find the guests, getting the books to me and all the work they’ve done on the internet, the phone calls and the love they’ve put into this project.  Thank you very much, ladies!


We’ve talked to Michael Berenbaum and got a wonderful overview of the Holocaust Museum and the things depicted there; we’ve had a couple of weeks talking with James Pool talking about who financed Hitler.  The topic when you talk about the Hitler era always focuses on those who went through the camps and the hell of the Holocaust.  A quite different approach to the whole subject of the war and the Hitler Legacy is found in a book “The Uprooted: A Hitler Legacy” written by Dr. Dorit Bader-Whiteman.  Dr. Whiteman is an escapee from Hitler.  She arrived in with her family in New York via England in 1941.  She earned a PhD in clinical psychology from New York University, has a private practice in New York and serves as editorial consultant for the Journal of Psychotherapy, was president of the Nassau Psychological Association and was until recently the Director of the Psychology Department at Flushing Hospital Mental Health Clinic which she started.  She has more credentials than that; but, this book, “The Uprooted,” is what we’re going to talk about tonight!  Welcome to the program, Dr. Whiteman!  Hello!


Dr. Whiteman:  Thank you!  Hi!


Roger:  It’s a pleasure to have you here!  You take quite a different route in your historical documentary about what happened during Hitler’s reign.


Dr. Whiteman:  Yes. Over the years, most of the studies and the research dealt with those Jews who were either murdered or who managed by the slightest of margins to survive death camps.  But there were also a number of Jews who managed to escape from the Nazis, at least until World II started, and who under the most difficult circumstances reached countries of safety.  I will refer to these as “escapees.”  Some of these escapees had been in concentration camps, though not in death camps, where many died of starvation, beatings or gassing.  But some, both young and older, managed by various means to flee the German Reich.  It is that group on which I was focusing.


The reason why all attention centered on the death camp group is really quite clear.  The fate of the concentration camp victims was so horrendous, so ghastly, so inhuman that the fate of any other group paled beside it.  It had to be brought to light first before other discussions could follow.  Even the escapees themselves did not talk extensively about their own fate until much, and I can tell you why!  The escapees lived under Hitler a briefer time than the death camp or ghetto victims and did not suffer the same tortures.  Thus they felt it too immodest to say: “Let me tell you about all the horrible things that happened to me”…”Let me tell you about our tragedies”…. “Let me tell you about the disasters that befell us.”  No disaster could be as horrific as those as those which befell those in death camps and ghettos.


What Triggered the Study


I was a child when I fled Vienna with my parents and sister to England.  Later we made our way to the United States.  We were extremely fortunate that our whole nuclear family survived.  At the moment I am talking about, I was visiting my cousin in Manchester, England.  He had escaped Austria after having already been in a concentration camp.  He fled by disguising himself as a Hitler Youth, and crossed the border into Belgium in that uniform – a very dangerous undertaking, since he had a limp from infantile paralysis.  No one with a physical handicap was accepted into the Hitler Youth organization, and so he could have been easily recognized as an imposter.  Fortunately he was not noticed and through much machinations reached England. However his parents, my aunt and uncle, were murdered by the Nazis in Auschwitz.  My cousin’s wife’s whole family was also murdered in Auschwitz. As I was talking to my cousin, I thought to myself what I had said to myself  and what most escapees had said to themselves in the same situation over the years: “How lucky I have been.  Nothing happened to me or my family.  We managed to survive”.  Then I suddenly began to think about the horrors my family had faced -the fears, the terror, the relatives lost, the possessions lost, the professions lost, one’s language lost, going from country to country before finding a haven only after many years search until an ordinary way of life is finally reached again.  No, we were lucky only vis a vis the concentration camp survivors, not vis a vis people who lead normal lives, but our perspective had so changed over the years that we considered ourselves lucky simply because we were alive.


The Beginning of the Study


This gave me thought.  I wanted to know how escapees had managed to flee a Nazi occupied country, what problems they encountered in trying to resettle and what   the emotional consequences of these experiences were.  I decided that I would obtain the answer to my questions through a very long questionnaire sent to various continents by mail and through personal interviews of people I could contact.  I called my questionnaire “What Happened To Those To Whom “NOTHING HAPPENED AT ALL”?  The escapees immediately understood the title.  I didn’t have to explain!  The title caught their interest and they were eager to participate.  They think back about all the years they have missed.   Many were elderly now and wanted to leave their story to the world at large and to their children in particular.  That’s how this project got started!


Roger:   That’s wonderful!   I never had thought before reading your book that people would be kind of humble about their experiences because of the dire tragedies that occurred to others!


Dr. Whiteman: In any other century, the fate of the escapees would have been talked and written about long before I started to do that. But as I said, it was overshadowed by the experience of those in death camps.  Now there is a feeling: “We have a story to tell that every should hear.  Most of all our children.”


Roger:  Their pain and suffering just wasn’t significant?


Dr. Whiteman:  As compared to the others…. right!


Roger:   But, you found that it was significant?


Dr. Whiteman:  Oh, yes!  Yes!  I think that getting away didn’t mean: “Okay, today I am leaving.  It’s not nice here anymore.  I don’t like Nazis.  I’ll pack my trunk and go!”  The difficulties were endless!


Background of Jews in Germany and Austria


Roger:   Let’s identify…. first of all, Jews were a very important part of the German culture!


Dr. Whiteman:  Right!


Roger:   For hundreds of years, their family lineages go way back in German history!  They didn’t just come meandering into Germany six months before the war.  I think a lot of people don’t realize that these were German citizens, people who were Germans for generations!


Dr. Whiteman:  Yes!  Jewish families lived in middle Europe since the sixteen hundreds.  Jewish population identified itself very much with their countries of birth, just like American Jews identify themselves with the United States.  I was born into a Jewish family, but there is not the slightest doubt that my country is the United States.  In the same way, most Austrian or German Jews thought of themselves as being Jewish by religion, but considered themselves Austrians or Germans from a patriotic point of view.  My father, for instance, fought for Austria in WW I, like every other healthy male Austrian citizen.  He even received a medal for bravery. At the time nobody questioned who was Jewish or who was not when a recruit entered the army.  My father was Austrian and fought for his country.


Jews mostly lived in ghettoes until around 1848.  At that time these were dissolved, particularly in Austria and Germany.  In fact, life in those two countries was much more open minded for Jews than life for instance in Poland or Russia where Jews continued to be targets of pogroms and were heavily discriminated against. Many Jews from eastern European countries sent their children to German-speaking schools or even directly to German or Austria to give them a more cultured chance in life.  Because the Nazis gained power in 1933, we sometimes forget that Germany previous to that time was a highly cultured country and often referred to as a country of “poets and philosophers.”  The Jewish population identified itself with that culture!


The Clouded Crystal ball


Roger:   I think that’s important because I’m not sure everybody understands that.   I didn’t until I read your book, to be honest.  I didn’t occur to me that these are people who have great family histories, incredible legacies of their own!  Yet, because of this hatred that was fomented under Hitler, the fascism and anti-Semitism, because of your book we know some left Germany!  People must have suspected that things were not going to stay the same!


Dr. Whiteman:  To anticipate what was going to happen was a great deal harder than one might think.  Do you remember during the “Cold War” there was actually the danger that the Russians might bomb New York or Washington DC.  Let me give you a picture about that, because actually it was very hard to gauge what was going to happen.  Take, for instance, during the Cold War, there was always the possible threat that there might be a nuclear bombardment by Russia!  But hardly anyone packed their trunks and left!  Very few people said: “I am going to uproot myself.  Leave my job, my friends, my family and move to the Midwest because I might die in a bombardment.”  And that would have been a whole lot easier than fighting the Nazis to leave a Nazi occupied country.  Everybody is entrenched and a false feeling of confidence prevents one from making an enormous, emotionally costly move.


Let me describe very briefly the atmosphere in both German and Austria before Adolf  Hitler assumed the chancellorship.  You also have to consider the atmosphere before all this started.   Let me make clear the difference between Germany and Austria.  In 1933 after World War I, Germany was a defeated nation in a deep depression.  The government was almost dysfunctional.  Through brutal means by Hitler’s storm troopers and by political maneuvering, Hitler managed to have himself elected Chancellor.  Soon after that, he engineered to have the Reichstag (the parliament) burned down and his dictatorship began.


When Hitler took over in 1933, several other governments had preceded him, the last one being the Weimar Republic.  They had come and gone and it was general thought that this Hitler, this rabble-rouser was not going to last either.  England and France thought that too.  They did not want someone like Hitler in their backyard.  The feeling was that Hitler was just a passing fancy, as the other governments had been that had not lasted long, before him had been.  Even the Allies felt that Hitler was not a particular threat and would soon disappear.


But Hitler played his cards very craftily by instilling fear, combining violence and brutality with a hypocritical smooth front to the powerful and moneyed classes.  He started off with burning of books that were written by Jews or presented a philosophy contrary to fascism.  Fear began to spread.  People began to comfort themselves with the thought that the Nazis were just rabble and the world would never accept a culture that burned books.  But dread raised its head – what if it did last?


The Jews saw that their rights were being taken away.  They were being driven out of government jobs.  If they were employed in any government capacity, be it civil servant, bureaucrat, physician, etc. they were fired.  Non-Jews were advised not to buy anything from Jews and not to have any social contacts with them.  Jewish children were thrown out of public schools.  Arbitrary arrests began.  But, the Jews thought they might be able to survive by changing their way of life.  They reasoned: “ Maybe we can go into business for ourselves and just deal with each other.  Maybe if we are doctors or lawyers we can go into private practice.  Maybe we will re-establish ourselves on a narrower basis.  It can’t get any worse than it is now!  This is about the worst thing that has ever happened in Europe.  We will always survive.  We will make our society a little narrower, just deal with each other, and in that way we will prevail.”


But laws were slowly being passed one by one which would make prevailing impossible.  First the Nürnberg were passed which took away the rights of Jews as citizen. Different parts of Germany enforced the laws to a different degree of cruelty.  Strangely enough, Berlin was a little better. Nürnberg, where the Nazi rallies were being held, was ruthless!  Some Jewish people thought: “There are degrees of cruelty.  Maybe we can live in those pockets where conditions are better!”  It took some time for the true impact to emerge.  The Wahnsee Conference was held in 1942.  This was the place and the moment the decision was made to murder all the Jews.  No one could foresee such a plan.  It had never happened before in a civilized country.


Did you ever hear about the frog?  If you put a frog in hot water and heat the water slowly, the frog will not be aware that he is being boiled to death and won’t jump out of the pot.


Roger:    Gradualism or incrementalism.


Anti-Semitism in Austria


Dr. Whiteman: Right! Many Jews saw the situation for what it was.  But many thought optimistically: “Okay, we are living in a catastrophic situation; but, we can survive.”  Now in Austria the sequence was different.  Do you want me to tell you about Austria?


Roger:  Oh, yes!  Absolutely!


Dr. Whiteman: I must say that as a child, I did not experience anti-Semitism in Austria.  That does not mean it wasn’t there.  It was hidden quite well much of the time, as anti-Semitism was disguised in many countries.


Roger:   Well, we’re talking about two of the most civilized societies in the world at that time too.


Dr. Whiteman: Right!  If you lived in a lower socio-economic or in a very rural area you would likely have encountered anti-Semitism.  But, 90% of the Jewish population lived in Vienna where it was less prevalent and much more disguised.  Of course, there were limitations and unofficial restrictions.  High government positions and top professorships at the University of Vienna were not open to Jews, but it must be remembered that that kind of discrimination was extant at the time in most European countries.  Even in the United States Jews were unlikely to receive a professorship at Harvard or even be admitted as students.  I recall that in the early 1950’s when my father was established again as a physician in New York, my parents wanted to join a summer club to use the facilities for swimming and relaxation. The admission officer told them straight forward   that the club where my parents applied did not admit Jews and they should try to find one that did.  A certain amount of anti-Semitism was prevalent all over the world.  As long as the Jewish population had an opportunity to be part of the cultural, professional and business life of Vienna, anti-Semitism, at least to a certain degree, was taken for granted.


The shadow of the Nazis fell over Austria for the first time in 1934. Hitler’s storm troopers invaded the chancellery in Vienna and killed the Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss.  Hitler had wanted to annex Austria but Mussolini, the dictator of Italy was fearful of having Hitler so close by.  He threatened Hitler that if the latter marched into Austria from the North, Mussolini would invade Austria from the South.  Hitler was not yet ready to start a war and thus withdrew back to Germany.  The situation was saved, but no one knew for how long.


Austria at the time was ruled by a dictator –  Dr. Kurt Schuschnigg.  His party was the Christian Socialist party on the right and opposition was not permitted.  On the other hand, he was not a cruel dictator.  Those who obeyed his laws were not molested and he did not imprison or intern people in concentration camps at will.  Jews could live under his regime like the rest of the citizens.  In fact the Jewish population played an important part in every aspect of Austrian life. Proportionately, a large percentage of Jews were physicians and lawyers.  The Jews also contributed strongly to the famed Austrian musical life as musicians, composers and conductors. In the world of the theater they functioned as producers, directors and actors.  They worked as writers, critics and journalists.  In short, they formed an extremely active part of the Viennese cultural scene!


While the changes in Germany developed slowly from 1933 to 1938, the metamorphosis of Austria into a German fascist state took place practically overnight.  On March 13th 1938 Hitler announced that because both Austrians and Germans speak the same language, they should be one nation and therefore he was going to annex Austria.  Paralyzing fear spread throughout Vienna.  Night fell.  The streets had been filled during the day with people opposing the annexation.  They had tossed pamphlets expressing their aversion to the Nazis into the air and the wind carried them throughout the city.  With dreadful anticipation the populace now withdrew into their homes.  Chancellor Schuschnigg went on the air warning the people: “Do not offer any resistance. God Bless Austria.”  This was followed by a noise as if somebody was pulling his chair away from the microphone by force.  We knew that was the end of independent Austria.


Everyone stayed inside, waiting, waiting for the sound of the goose steps.  The Jewish population had no illusion that they were facing the darkest of futures.  But no one could foresee the nightmares that were to come because even what had happened so far in Germany was only a pale preface of what was to come.  I do recall that my parents and my sister ate dinner barely speaking.  Dark foreboding hung over the room.  A little while after we had finished the meal, my father, a physician, declared that the meat had been a  spoiled and we needed to take a pill.  Actually, he was giving us children a sleeping pill. He was so afraid that there would be fighting and he did not want us to hear it.


That night the German troops marched into Vienna.  The radio announced that everyone was to stay at home – a rule that was to be strictly enforced.  My father was in a quandary.  He had a dying patient and he felt it was his duty to aid him during his last hours.  He decided to walk out alone into the very dangerous night.  The only footsteps echoing through the dark night came from the invading Nazi soldiers.  He reached the patient’s house who lingered through the night.  At one point my father heard a crashing noise and looking out through the window saw a German truck loaded with German troops driving to the store right across the street. In a flash of a second they smashed the door in, pulled out all the goods, loaded them onto the truck, repeated the same thing in the next store and within minutes they were gone.  It was a horrible symbol of what was to take place in the future!  It happened in a fraction of a second but, it was an omen of what was to follow!


Roger:  Okay, Dr. Whiteman, we’ve got to take a break!




Roger:   All right, ladies and gentlemen!  Welcome back!  This is Part 4 of our ongoing series, The Holocaust: We Must Remember.  Our guest this evening is Dr. Dorit Bader-Whiteman.  Her book is, “The Uprooted: A Hitler Legacy,” about the people who escaped before The Final Solution.


We’re back with Dr. Whiteman.  It’s 1938.  Her father is standing there in that window watching the Nazis cruise through and take the goods from stores.  What’s going through his mind, Doctor?


Dr. Whiteman:  I think the thing that went through he mind was, “How am I going to save my family?”  The next morning this issue became quite clear.



The Nazis annex Austria


Let me tell you a little what it is like living under a totalitarian regime.  The next morning Vienna seemed to have changed 100%!  The streets were filled with thousands of people, either in Nazi uniforms or with swastikas on their lapels.  Most of them were the people who had been “Illegals,” namely those who had been secret Nazis who had kept their Nazi sympathies as well as their uniforms well hidden.  Some did it out of conviction, some gambled that if Hitler took over Austria, they would be in the “in crowd” and earn all the spoils that victors garnish and some were simply followers.  They had silently and greedily collected lists of addresses of Jews in order to take over their businesses, rob them of their possessions once the Nazis arrived or to aid the Gestapo in arresting them.  Others besides Jews were on the list as well, such as journalists and known anti-Nazis.  Having acquired these lists, the Nazis immediately began the arrests.  Here is a real life scenario:  A Jewish business owner entered his office the day after the Nazis occupied Vienna.  He found a strange man sitting behind his desk.  He asked the man: “Who are you?”  The man at the business owner’s desk replied” “I’m the new owner!  Get out of here!” And that was the end of the Jewish man’s business!


The round up of Jews started immediately.  Trucks cruised the streets and picked up Jewish men right and left.  At the beginning they targeted mostly men.  Soon women were included as well.  After some time even children were added to the list. To humiliate Jews, they were made to scrub sidewalks, frequently with toothbrushes. It served to entertain the public who stood around the elderly people, laughing and jeering.    I remember coming home, and seeing a crowd of people across the street from my house.  I realized they were taunting elderly Jewish people who were being made to scrub the sidewalk.  I remember being very frightened and running into my house!  On every street corner, specially printed newspaper were mounted on the wall which showed what were purported to be Jews with huge noses, filthy clothes and dirty finger nails lusting or raping beautiful, blond German girls.


All through the city and on the radio Hitler’s voice and those of the Nazi bigwigs were being broadcast night and day.  Threats about the new world order and the promised dreadful fate of the Jews echoed throughout the city. Living in a country without the protection of the law is a most fearsome condition.  It was clear to every Jewish person that there was no safety inside one’s house or outside.  The Gestapo could enter one’s home at will and arrest the owners without even pretending that there was a reason.  Neighbors, competitors or business associates who desired a Jew’s property only needed to denounce him to the Gestapo on any pretext to satisfy their envious desires and immediately, whatever they coveted, was theirs.  Walking down the street promised the possibility, even the likelihood, of being swept up in the next round up.  Children were no longer allowed to go to school.  They were afraid to leave their home because of the fear that upon their return their parents might have disappeared.  Adults came home and their friends and relatives were gone, never to be seen again.


A family described to me the day their eighteen year old son went out on an errant and disappeared.  This was a very common occurrence and they feared the worst.  Two or three weeks later they received a coffin with the instruction not to open it.  A note explained that the body inside was their son who had been shot while trying to escape.  The unofficial reason for nailing the coffin shut was that the slain person was usually so disfigured by torture or beatings that the Gestapo did not wish anyone to see it.  But because everything had to be done “legally,” the family was asked to sign a receipt that the body they received was in good condition.  When a business was requisitioned or even when Eichmann demanded an apartment from a Jewish family for himself, he asked them to sign that they were releasing their flat “willingly”.  It was striking, this need to have everything appear “legal.”


Attempting to leave the German Reich


One might think that since the Nazis despised the Jews, they would be eager for them to   leave.  Actually, the opposite was true.  The Nazis used every possible outlandish, torturous, sadistic barrier to prevent the Jews from emigrating.  It began with the Reichsfluchtsteuer, a tax imposed as a punishment for leaving the country.  It was a colossal tax, 25% on everything the person not only owned, but had ever owned.  There were innumerable other taxes, such as local taxes, water taxes, taxes on taxes and even a dog tax whether you owned a dog or not.  And if a petitioner was actually able to pay all these taxes, every obstacle was put in his way to prevent him from obtaining the document confirming that he no longer owed any money.  This made it impossible for him to pass through the official check points at railroad stations and airports.


How was such an enormous amount of money to be raised?  By this time most Jews were unemployed. If they had been employed, they had been fired.  If they had had businesses, these had been appropriated by Nazi officials or one of their followers.  Jews could not raise money by selling their possessions since anybody could walk into their homes and help themselves to whatever they desired.  Why then bother to buy it?


One of the most dangerous and tortuous barriers to leaving were the physical dangers the Jewish population faced when going into the streets to obtain the documents which had to be accumulated and presented to the authorities to get the desired exit visa.  Obtaining them meant lining up in front of government offices which opened and closed at undisclosed and variable hours.  What seemed like endless queues of Jews formed before dawn in the hope of being admitted, while the official might decide to come midday, close after an hour or two or not come at all.  The waiting was made more agonizing by the SA, an official arm of Hitler cohorts, which habitually drove by at intervals and yanked people out of line, beating them mercilessly and frequently arresting them which at times led to their death.  Even if the petitioner finally entered the office, he was subject to the mood of the expressionless official, who, sitting in a kind of wire cage could decide whether to release the desired document or under some pretense require the supplicant to return and repeat the procedure.


All these documents had to be acquired in a certain sequence with specific deadlines.  If one, even one, document expired after time-consuming attempts to get the additional ones, all the previous ones were declared null and void and all the efforts had to start from the beginning.


Usually my mother labored to obtain the documents by herself.  Since at that time men were more frequently arrested than women, she went by herself to protect my father.  My parents tried to shield their children but for the last document our presence was mandated.  I recall a dark building with peeling paint.  A circular staircase wound up several flights of stairs.  On each step stood one family, advancing one step each time a petitioner was dismissed from the office on top of the stairs.  They descended looking either jubilantly relieved or deadly crushed.  For hours, we mounted one step at a time in the dark building.  No one spoke.  An icy, fearsome silence pervaded the staircase.  Would we receive the document that could save our lives or would we be dismissed which could cause our death?  When we finally reached the cage, I saw stark fear on my parents’ face.  Since they were very strong people who as a rule did not show their anxieties to their children in order to protect them, I had never viewed such expressions before.  It frightened me.  After we received the necessary papers and reached the sidewalk again, I began to run as if I were running away from this nightmarish event.


Roger:   There’s one little paragraph in your book I’d like to read.  It’s where I ended up in the book that just shocked me!  It’s on Page 91.  I’ll just read two quick paragraphs.


” One morning my father called me into his study.  From the tense look on his face I knew something important was about to happen.  He started by saying he thought it would never be necessary to bring up the subject but circumstances now made it essential. “You were given birth by an American mother in Vienna and we adopted you when you were six weeks old.”  Slowly he added, “We don’t know what may happen to mother and myself; but, we can save you.  I’ve been told by the United States Embassy that you will soon be issued an American passport.”  He paused and studied the effect of this startling news.  I was and American citizen!  That made me feel more secure.  That I was adopted did not have much impact on be.  As far as I was concerned, I had a loving father and mother!


The first time the Brownshirts of the S.A. came it was evening.  They came like wolves!  While we watched helplessly, they tore the fixtures from the wall, the mantle piece from the fireplace and stripped the apartment bare!  Before they left, they gave us a receipt for everything taken.  That made everything legal.”


That shocked me when I read that!  I thought, boy, I can cite instances of modern society in America where they do this kind of thing in smaller proportions; but that must be frightening!


Dr. Whiteman:  Well, in the beginning before the death camps were built, it was sometimes possible for a prisoner to be released from a concentration camp.  At that point prisoners were compelled to sign that they had been treated well and that they had had no complaints.  The Nazis always insisted on the appearance of legality.


I want to give you an example of how much pleasure the Nazis took in torturing and killing people. After World War II I was once in Yugoslavia and I passed by what had been formerly a jail where the Nazis imprisoned local Yugoslavs.  The prison was located   on the main highway with the barred windows facing the street. When the prisoners were tortured the local residents could clearly hear their screams.  This was arranged on purpose.  The photographs taken by the SS of prisoners, men, women and children were proudly mounted on the walls.  This was their way of showing how efficient they had been and as a warning to the population as to what would happen to them if they did not obey.  There was a photo of a young man about to be shot tied to a stake.  His eyes looked into the distance but they had a triumphant look as if he were saying: “You can kill me, but in the end we will win.”  The pole had hundreds of bullet holes in it, demonstrating how many people had been shot while tied to it.  Another photograph of children was a heartbreaker.  They looked confused, as if they did not know what was expected of them.  Some smiled hesitatingly as they were wont to do when being photographed.  At the same time they looked extremely frightened.  Apparently some SS took pride in his arrest of children and wanted it remembered by taking this picture.  A large book with a hard cover, the kind of huge accounting book used in Dickens’ time, was displayed on a small table.  The dates of the prisoners’ entry into the prison were recorded as was the dates of their execution.  Lines, completely parallel were drawn through each name after their demise.  The neatness of the book was striking.  As long as things were accurately recorded, they were considered legal.


Roger:  I hate to cut in, but we have to take a break.  “The Uprooted: A Hitler Legacy” by Dr. Dorit Bader-Whiteman, an incredible combination of stories from 190 people who escaped The Final Solution and the trauma they incurred during and after the war. …. Relax, folks, we’ll be right back!






Overpowering difficulties in finding a country of safety.


Roger:   …made your escape. is that right?


Dr. Whiteman:  It made it possible for us to leave, yes.


Roger:  So, what was the process like?


Dr. Whiteman:  The process was very harrowing because, as I explained before, you needed a great many papers, permits and documents to leave.  But it was not only difficult to get out of the German Reich.  It was just as difficult to find a place to which escapees could go.


Every country required the immigrants to have a visa.  However, these visas were almost impossible to obtain.  No country on any continent wanted to be burdened with people who were paupers, devoid of any possessions, unable to speak the local language.  Many people reacted to the newcomers with a certain amount of xenophobia.  The fact that this group was practically one hundred percent Jewish certainly influenced the lack of welcome.  People with manual skills sometimes found a niche in some countries, but professionals like teachers, doctors, artists, lawyers were definitely seen as totally useless.


Let me correct my statement.  There were actually two places in the world that did not require visas. One was Tibet; but there was no access – no roads, no transportation.  The other was Shanghai.  At the time Shanghai seemed as removed as the moon.  It was terra incognita.  Passage took months and very few ships sailed there.  They other route was through Mongolia followed by a ship route to Japan from where another ship cold be taken to Shanghai.  Still, people desperately tried to raise money for the fare – a round trip ticket was required though the travel agency knew well that none of the Jews were planning to return.  But after a while, ships ceased to go to China and that route was cut off.


Our problem was solved in a strange way.  We hoped to get to the U.S. but had been unable to obtain an American visa.  My parents realized that it could take several years to do so which meant certain death if we were forced to remain in Vienna.  We needed a harbor until we could obtain that visa.   My mother learned that if she took the job of a chambermaid in England, she would be able to obtain an English visa for the whole family.  As a result, my mother, who was the owner and directress of a school and who has recently been honored for being one of the first women to receive a doctor degree in Chemistry at the University of Vienna, applied and managed to obtain a job as a maid.  We were thrilled.  Finally, a little light on the horizon!


Still, many obstacles remained of which I will mention two.  My parents lacked a certain stamp for our passports that was vital and no chance of obtaining.  The only hope in such a situation was the black market.  My parents hesitatingly gave our four passports to the usual source, somebody everyone knew had connections on the black market.  It was a wrenching decision.  What if the man sold the passports to someone for more money than my parents could pay him?  Many people had paid their last penny to such traders and had been betrayed.  If we lost the passports, we were lost because we could never obtain new ones.  But if my parents retrieved the passports, how would we get that essential stamp?  My mother woke up in the middle of the night and sobbed: “Oh, my God, he’s going to sell the passports!” My father went out into the dark streets searching in coffee houses for him where he was referred to a house of prostitution.  The man was willing to return the passports.  I do not know how my parents finally obtained the vital stamp.  These crises were daily events.


Another plight concerned our quota number for entering the United States. However our number was never called.  People who had registered much later and thus had much higher numbers passed us by.  Everyday my father went to the consulate and asked, “Please, what’s happened?  Can you check?  Our file must be misplaced!”  He was always told rather brusquely that he had to wait his turn.  But he knew we would not survive if our number failed to come up soon.


Roger:  All right.  I don’t want to pass over this point without asking you, when you say you knew you wouldn’t survive, you were afraid you were going to be killed.  Is that what you’re saying?


Dr. Whiteman:  Right.


Roger:  This is long before the Holocaust, really.


Dr. Whiteman:  Right.  Many people were killed just by going down the street, being arrested and never coming back!  Or by being beaten to death!  But regarding our quandary at the consulate, by good luck, my father had a patient who worked at the consulate.  She looked for our family’s file and found it in the wrong filing cabinet!  She took it from the wrong cabinet and put it into the right cabinet, and very soon after, we were called.  It was on little things like that your life depended on.  Other people tried just as hard but didn’t have the good fortune.


Roger:  Do you know how many people, about this time, were able to get out of the countries of Germany and….


Dr. Whiteman:  I don’t know the numbers about Germany; but in Austria about 80,000 made it.


Roger:  About half of the people?


Dr. Whiteman:  Less than half.


Roger:   Now when you were doing all these interviews, it must have taken a whole lot of time with 190 stories to tell, did the majority of those folks come out of Austria or Germany?


Dr. Whiteman:  They came out of Austria, Germany and Czechoslovakia.


Roger:  You’re talking about being in Austria.  What must this have been like in Nürnberg or Berlin?


Dr. Whiteman:  After Kristallnacht, it was the same everywhere.  Kristallnacht was a night in which the Nazis decided to burn all the synagogues and smash the Jewish apartment and shops. But ot was also a night in which they killed many Jews, arrested thousands more and sent them off to concentration camps.  They claimed it was a spontaneous outburst of the populace who were angry at the Jews and therefore, burned down their temples, went into their apartments and smashed them up.  Kristallnacht means “the night of the broken crystal”.


Actually, one of the people I interviewed for The Uprooted who at that time was already at the Buchenwald concentration camp told that for several weeks before Kristallnacht the prisoners were forced to prepare for the arrival of 20,000 new inmates.  Clearly, the event had been planned and was not spontaneous.  In great part it was done by the Nazis to enrich themselves at the cost of the Jews.  For instance, after Kristallnacht, Göering was very angry.  He commented to his underlings: “You smashed up all the stores and apartments.  You should have killed the Jews!  I want their things!  I could use what was in their apartments and I could use what was in the stores!  It would be much easier just to kill them!  Why did you bother to smash everything up?”  In Vienna alone, 70,000 apartments obtained by throwing Jews out of their homes were immediately given to Nazi members.  So, that was the atmosphere that prevailed.


The Kindertransports


I don’t know whether you want to hear about the Kindertransport?


Roger:  Absolutely!


Dr. Whiteman: By 1939 it became evident that war sooner or later war would break out and it was likely to be sooner.  It was also clear that those Jews who had not been able to leave the German Reich by then would be hopelessly lost.  There were hundred of thousands of Jews still left and among them   were thousands of children.  For instance, 35,000 children were still left in Germany.  The number does not include the children in Austria and Czechoslovakia.  It will be to Britain’s everlasting honor that they attempted to rescue some of these.  In the time left the number amounted only to about 10,000 children.  Not an enormous amount but more than any other country was willing to do.


The organizers of these Kindertransports worked ceaselessly against a fearsome deadline.  First Eichmann had to be approached to give his consent, a dangerous venture in itself.  He gave it because the leaders convinced that since he despised Jewish children, would it not be wise to get rid of them.  He decided that the first transport had to be ready to leave four days hence which fell on a Saturday.  This was typical of his sadistic scheming since he did not think that it would be possible to make arrangements for 600 children in so brief a time.  In addition, the departing date fell on a Saturday.  Eichmann knew that traveling on a Saturday would make the departure of the children even more painful to the orthodox parents.


The question arose how to locate 600 children so quickly.  It proved to be no problem. Word of mouth communicated the news so fast that within a few hours long lines formed of parents bringing children to register. The parents’ desperation can be gauged by the fact that they were surrendering their children without knowing where or to whom their children were going.  In addition, the parents sensed quite clearly that they were unlikely to ever see their children again.  They knew the parting was likely forever.  But their desire to save their children’s lives was their paramount thought and guide to action.


The parents were given the following directions:  The children had to be less than 16 years old.  This meant that siblings were split up with the older ones remaining in their homes and the younger ones leaving.  The children could only bring a very few pieces of clothes in a small overnight case that they were able to carry themselves.  The parents were not permitted on the train.  The children could not take any valuables or anything that could be sold overseas.  There would be only a very few adults on the train whose families served as hostages against their return.


The parents then took their children home and with whatever money they had left bought them fresh clothes which they hoped would last them a few years.  Most tried to remain cheerful and explained to their children that they hoped they would be reunited.  Some of the older children did not grasp the full extent of the situation and felt that being on the train was something like going to summer camp.  The younger children frequently did not really understand and tried to adjust to the whirlwind around them.  Some of babies were only a few months old and the parents had to purchase wicker baskets to load them on the train.  The parents tried to give their children some last minute advice.  Some urged the children to be “good” in their new homes, so that the new parents will love them.


Picture this situation.  The children on these trains were anywhere from a few months to sixteen years old.  The parents knew that the children were going to England but had no idea whether a family would receive them or whether they would be placed in an orphanage.  Particularly the smaller children who could not write letters would be entirely cut off from their families.  Different parents stressed different aspect of the coming journey.  For instance, one father took his little girl for a walk and explained that England was a democracy.  “You will be happy there,” he said, “and if something should happen to us, do not grieve for us because you will have a happy life.’   A mother took her daughter aside and in order to protect her, explained the “facts of life” to her.  She was afraid that when the child reached maturity, there would be no one there to enlighten her.


The setting for departure was ominous and ghostly.  The children were brought to a large railroad station as ordered at midnight.  The Nazis planned the late hour in order to avoid having the general population observe the children’s departure, which might arouse sympathy for the Jews.  While the station was dark, it was festooned with large flags emblazoned with swastikas.  Tall SS men in their black uniforms and tall black boots strode ominously up and down the platform and watched that no parent entered the train.


Some of the children who of course are adults now, remember the forced smiles on their parents’ faces, which the latter assumed in order not to upset their children.  One woman recalls her grandmother slipping behind a pole to hide her tears.  A man still has a clear picture of his mother smiling but seeing her faint just as the train began to pull out.  One agonized father could not bear to let his child leave and in the last minute, as the train started to move, pulled her out through the window.  Tragically they both ended up in concentration camps.  A boy describes his father climbing up on the side of the train to kiss him good by.  He remembers his father’s agonized face through the window.  That was the last time he ever saw his father!  Another of the older boys had at first taken the departure lightheartedly as an adventure, as if he were going on a holiday.  Suddenly, the insight struck him with despair: “ We’ll never see our parents again!  This is the end!”


The train made its way to the border of Holland where the SS searched the children who were terrified.  It then entered Holland and most children remember to this day the overpowering elation they felt at being out of the Nazis’ and of the eager reception by Dutch women who met them with motherly warmth as well as with treats.  They crossed the channel in stormy waters, which made them all sick and arrived exhausted and full of trepidations in England.  Most of them did not see their parents again.  In fact, most of the parents perished


Roger:   I can’t even imagine handing over any one of my children!


Dr. Whiteman: Can you imagine having to make such a decision?  Many of these children once they were adults realized what enormous love their parents bore them to make such an enormous sacrifice.  Particularly once they had their own children, they looked at their two year or four old and imagined handing them over to an unknown stranger in a far away land.  Many told me about the depth of their gratitude to their parents for their immense relinquishment and that they aimed to lead decent lives to make their parents’ sacrifice worthwhile.


Arrival in England


On arrival, the tired, anxious, slightly disoriented children debarked and one by one were picked up by strangers to whom they had been assigned. People out of the goodness of their hearts had declared themselves willing to take strange children into their homes. Placement was arbitrary.  A very mixed fate awaited them.   Some children were placed into loving homes.  Some were not so lucky.  Some landed with wealthy parents, some found refuge in marginal homes. Some foster parents encouraged the education of the little escapees.  Some insisted that they leave school at fourteen and go to work.   The war broke out shortly after their arrival and since contact was then broken with their home countries, the parents found that they had adopted children they had never planned to adopt. Many complications arose.  For instance, after the bombing of England by the German Luftwaffe started, many mothers moved with their children to towns, which were more likely to be safe.  With their husbands in the service, the burden of an additional child was not easy to handle.  In addition, some of these children had, besides the normal problems of growing up, additional problems caused by separation from their parents, realizing that their parents were in mortal danger, lacking a knowledge of English which prevented them from being accepted by their peers and adjusting to all kinds of different customs.


Roger:   How about rejection, isolation?


Dr. Whiteman: Isolation?


Roger:     Did they feel isolated?  Did they feel rejected when they went to these new countries?


Dr. Whiteman: Totally different cultures


For instance, when I came to England I received a scholarship from a boarding school.  I did not know one word of English and nobody knew one word of German.  I was at the dinner table and there was a girl sitting across from me.  She must have felt sorry for my isolation and so she winked at me!  You know, with one eye closed, she gave me a friendly wink!  But, I had never seen anybody wink before because nobody did this in Austria!


Roger:     Ha, ha, ha! (chuckles in amusement)


Dr. Whiteman: I thought she had a nervous tick so I tactfully looked away.   After I learned differently, I often wonder if she thought I was being unfriendly.  When you first arrive and for a long times after, you have such different habits that you are not like everybody else.


Problems of all kinds arose.  Sometimes the children whose home it was became jealous of the newcomers and did not want to accept them.  At other times serious illness occurred or a divorce was the offing and what to do with the strange child?  Sometimes a foster parent died or became impoverished. There were also people who had the goodness of heart to accept children into their homes but were simply not good at parenting.  These adults received very little help.  It was wartime.  Little transportation was available and all hands were working in the war effort.  There were no or very few social workers to spare to visit their children or advise the parents.  Everybody in England was just trying to survive.


But the majority of foster parents were extremely dedicated and did their best. Many of the relationships were kept for years even after the foster children had moved or even emigrated to other countries.  They kept in touch and even traveled to visit each other.  But still, even an excellent home did not necessarily feel like a real home.


To give you one example: Peter related to me that he was in an excellent home where he was treated almost like one of the family.  At first, it was hard to get used to it because he found English habits quite different.  Austrians tend to more relaxed, more spontaneous that the English who are more restrained.  But after a while, Peter got used to it.  He felt reasonably happy.  He also appreciated that the foster family paid for his education at a university so that he actually qualified as an officer in the English army during the war – a very rare occurrence. But something happened the day he was discharged that threw an entirely different light on the way he viewed his future.  The process of discharging him and his fellow soldiers took so many hours that it was not completed until two o’clock in the morning.  The moment it was finished, all the other soldiers stormed out of the building to find some way to get home.  But not Peter.  He reflected that he would not get to Oxford where he lived until about three AM.   It was not appropriate, not polite for him to barge into the house in the middle of the night and disturb the whole family.  And with that thought he realized that his home was not really a home even though he thought of it as home.  A home is a place where you can come any without any hesitation.  As a result he became aware that even though he had been treated like a son, he would have to build a home of his own.  I think many of the children experienced something of that nature.


The question of guilt


Roger:    As you tracked down all these folks.  You have some amazing stories in the book, doctor.  These folks, did they suffer from guilt because they survived this?  Is that ……


Dr. Whiteman: You know, it is kind of interesting that when I was working on the book, people very frequently commented:  “’I know what you will find in your  research.  You are going to find that all those who survived have “survivor syndrome.”  By that they meant that they believed the escapees would be filled with guilt for having survived.  This has generally been the assumption therefore I wanted to explore this question.  I asked many questions on this topic but surprisingly found that the great majority did not feel guilty.


The escapees feel deep grief about the loss of their families. After all, many lost the bulk of their relations, – old and young, parents, uncles, aunts, cousins and friends.  This leaves a feeling of sadness and desolation that will probably extent throughout their lives.  But there is a difference between a feeling of sadness and a feeling of guilt.  The escapees did everything they could to rescue their families.  Once the children were settle in England, some even went from door to door in their new neighborhoods asking if anyone needed a maid in the hope of saving their mothers.  But they were young themselves!  They had no connections.  They had no language.  They had no money.  When I asked them whether they feel guilty. the reply went along the following lines: “I don’t feel guilty.  Those who could help but did not should feel guilty!  The Nazis should feel guilty!  I feel devastated; but, I don’t feel guilty!”  What they do feel is represented by what one woman remarked: “I have to live a life which will mean that the sacrifice she made by sending me away, was not in vain.”


Roger:   It meant something!


Dr. Whiteman:  Yes!  It meant an enormous amount!  It expresses itself in the fact that many escapees, once they grew up became involved in altruistic or humanitarian causes.  They tend to give money to charities.  They frequently do volunteer work.  They are very conscientious about voting.  They feel compelled that whenever there is some disaster to extend aid in some way.  Many feel that if there had not been someone somewhere to help them they would not have survived.  Their conscience also says: “I survived.  I owe it to those who were not as lucky, to pay back.”   I think that is one reason the escapees tend not to feel guilty.



Roger:   Doctor, we’ve got to take a break and then I want to open up the phone line for the listeners’ questions.




Questions and Answers


Roger:      Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen!  We’re back with Dr. Whiteman!  Hello, Dorit!


Dr. Whiteman:  Hi, there!


Roger:   Are you ready?


Dr. Whiteman:  Yes, I am!


Roger:  Here it comes!  We’re going to start with Laura out in St. Louis, Missouri.  Hello, Laura!


Caller-Laura:   Roger, I love your show!  This particular one is really heartwarming!  Dr. Whiteman, this is just bringing back a flood of memories!  I grew up in South Africa.  I wonder if you know what a profound effect the German Jewish immigrants had in South Africa, in the countries of South Africa and Rhodesia?  I wish somebody would write a history about that.  They contributed enormously to the musical and art life in both countries.  I’m reminded of a friend whose mother was actually what you could consider a mail-order bride.  She was saved from Auschwitz!  She was brought out to Rhodesia by a man she never knew, never had met.  They married and are now celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary and have three wonderful children.  I just wish you could persuade someone to write a history about the German Jews who went to southern Africa because I think it’s a fascinating as those came to this country.


Dr. Whiteman:  It sounds like a good idea and I’ll certainly give it some thought.


Caller-Laura:   I know some Whitemans in South Africa and I wonder if you’re related?  They’re musicians!


Dr. Whiteman: I don’t think so because my husband was born in New York and my name, Whiteman, comes from the American side.


Caller-Laura:  Well, it’s just wonderful listening to you.  I’ll hang up so you can talk lots more!


Roger:  Thank you, Laura.  Gene in Eugene, Oregon is on the line.


Caller-Gene:  I’d like to ask Dr. Whiteman and take my answer off the air.  Doctor, do you see anything in our society now that would raise flags?  Do you ever look around…. you know how people say that it couldn’t happen here?  Can you look around and see that it may be starting to happen here, especially with Christians and so forth?  I’ll take my answer off the air.  Thank you.


Roger:   All right, Gene.  Go ahead Dr. Whiteman:


Dr. Whiteman: Let me put it this way: Personally, I don’t think it will ever happen here because there is a free press and a democratic tradition.  As a result when something goes too far down a negative route, there is always the ability to call it back.  I think it means we have to be alert at all times, that when we look at the skin heads, for instance, we can’t just say: “Oh well, forget about them because they’re just rabble-rousers.”  One can never drop one’s vigilance; but, personally, I have too much faith in the democratic system to think it would really happen.


Roger:  We see little tentacles in our society.  Do you know what civil forfeiture is, Dr. Whiteman?


Dr. Whiteman:  What?


Roger:  Are you aware of civil forfeiture laws?  The government now has what they call civil forfeiture laws where they can come in and take everything you own.  Then you have to sue them to get it back.  And, they don’t have to have a reason!  Then you have the IRS who come in with all these guys in ninja suits and take everything without ever having due process or going to court; but, they give you a receipt!  So, I see these things and think, ‘you don’t think it can happen’; but, in small scale these tendencies of government to absorb power and authority, you always have to be alert!  You’re right!


Dr. Whiteman:  Yes, you always have to be alert!  Fortunately, we can write letters to the editor, we can complain and make ourselves heard.


Roger:    But, your message of hope is so powerful because we do live in a different kind of country where if the people don’t like what’s happening, they can fix it.  That’s really the difference.  David in Grants Pass, Oregon, hello David!


Caller-David:  Hello, Dr. Whiteman and Roger!  I’m enjoying the show a lot.  I have a question.  I’ve always wondered…. I’ve heard a lot of the Jewish people got the heck out of Germany at the time they saw things were going to happen and a lot of them didn’t seem to have the wisdom to leave.  Was that really the case?  Was it that obvious that it was time to leave or were the people walking around in ignorance?


Dr. Whiteman: I think that for a long time it was not obvious that Hitler was going to last.  Once it became obvious, it was extremely difficult to leave.  As I mentioned before, even if it was possible to get out, you couldn’t get into other countries because most borders were closed.  Most countries did not want to accept immigrants.


I think that there is somewhat of a different feeling now.  Countries do seem to feel responsible if something ghastly is happening some place else.  At that time, the idea tended to be that you care only about what goes on in your country and you need not extend yourself for anyone in other countries.  By the time the situation was obvious, most people were unable to get out.  Most of those who did not survive made the same efforts than those who got out, but they just were not as lucky.


Caller-David:    I see.  Thank you very much!


Roger:  Thank you, David!   People need to realize that one day you were going to vote in Austria, the next day the vote was canceled and the next day the troops were there!  You didn’t have a lot of time to think it through!  Let’s go to Rita in Weed, California.
Hello, Rita!


Caller-Rita:   Hi!  I’m enjoying the show very much!  I have a question.  I didn’t quite understand… the people that lived there for generations and thought of themselves as Germans, not Jews?  Am I understanding that correctly?  Like I am an American; but, my heritage is Italian so I would be considered an Italian?  Is that what you meant?


Dr. Whiteman: Well, I meant that you, are American and, I don’t know how you personally feel…..


Caller-Rita:  No, I mean what the Jewish people, at that time, in Nazi Germany, felt.


Dr. Whiteman: Before the Nazis took over, the middle European Jews felt as patriotic about their country as we feel about America now, living here.  The feeling was: I am Jewish..  (Some were more observant, some were less observant.  There’s always a range to the extent to which people are religious.)  But the Jews considered themselves German citizens or Austrian citizens and they were as involved in the fate of their country as we are involved in America..


Caller-Rita:   So, you never felt threatened?


Dr. Whiteman: No, not threatened before Hitler.  Not feeling that something terrible would happen to us.


Roger:     These were patriotic German citizens for generations and generations!  Just like we are here in America.


Caller-Rita:   Right!  Oh, this is fascinating!  Thank you very much!


Roger:  We’ve got another caller, Kurt in Springfield, Illinois.  How are you?


Caller-Kurt:   I’m fine Roger!  It’s an excellent program.  Dr. Whiteman, I couldn’t help but get emotional listening to you tell the story of the parents giving up their children.  I was wondering if you would explain, how were with Germans, the Nazis I should say, able to demonize Jewish people in Austria and Germany?  How were they able to do that and get such willing compliance, if not compliance, at least no resistance on the part of the ethnic Germans… to rescue and save or assist Jews when they were being mistreated in such a way after they had given so much to those countries in terms of intelligence, intellect and talent?  Could you explain that to me please?  The other listeners and I would be fascinated with you answer.     And, God bless you for the work that you have done in keeping the holocaust memory alive in the hearts and minds of people!


Roger:    Thank you, Kurt!


Dr. Whiteman:  Thank you!  It’s an excellent question.   I think it is a question I cannot answer entirely.  Just to give you a picture: The day after Hitler came to Vienna, I was in elementary school and I had a teacher that I particularly loved.  We had a great deal of respect for our teachers.  These teachers had been with us year after year. Yet when the teachers came back to school after the Nazis took over  Vienna, they treated us with such hatred and contempt! For instance, they ordered all Jewish children to sit in the back rows and did not interfere if a non-Jewish boy beat up a Jewish girl.  It was totally astounding!  We couldn’t understand how they could possibly have been our friends, our role models, and then treat us in this terrible way.  In one day they changed.  The very people on the block, or in the stores we had frequented for years, put up signs saying:  “No Jews Allowed” and would not serve us any longer.


Part of the motivation, I’m afraid, was a very strong financial one because the non-Jews were at liberty to go into Jewish homes and businesses and steal whatever they wanted.  They could get rid of their competitors if the latter were Jewish.  If your boss or director was a Jew and you could denounce him, perhaps you could get his job.  There was a great deal to gain.  But many really believed the Nazi propaganda.  For instance, the Nazis always pictured Jews as being rapists, greedy extortionists with long noses and dirty grasping hands out to debase non Jewish girls!  But many of their neighbors who were Jewish were blond and blue-eyed and lived next door from them for years.  They had friendly, even social relations with them.  So how could they possible believe that all Jews looked and acted as the Nazis pictured them?


Roger:   Well, it was great propaganda.   Hold on just a moment, doctor.  We’ve got to take a break and we’ll be right back!




Roger:   We’re back, ladies and gentlemen!  Dr. Dorit Bader-Whiteman is our guest this evening!  We’re going to take a call from Jerry in Santa Maria, California.  Hello, Jerry!


Caller-Jerry:   Hello!  First of all let me say, Dr. Whiteman, that what happened in the Holocaust was a true tragedy.  I was wondering if you’ve ever read books by Saul Bellow or Phillip Roth?  Phillip Roth’s “Goodbye Columbus”, in particular?  He basically says that in a sense a lot of Jews bring problems upon themselves because they think of themselves as Jews first and Americans second.  You can kind of see how a lot of main stream America is getting a short fuse with black Americans in the same manner because a lot of African Americans think of themselves as blacks first and Americans second.  If this separatism continues, a lot of people say the spirit of assimilation is lost.  What are your thoughts on this?


Dr. Whiteman:  I feel very strongly that the group that I am talking about, the escapees, consider themselves American first and foremost.  My parents and I, the moment we learned to speak English, we spoke English in our home and we did not speak German anymore.  The first year we learned about Thanksgiving; it is not a European holiday—we  celebrated Thanksgiving.  When we became citizens it was one of the best days of our lives!  We all got dressed up and went down to be sworn in and then we celebrated!  I don’t have the feeling that I am Austrian or that I am Jewish.  I am an American!  I am also Jewish.  Basically I feel the melting pot was a wonderful idea!  When I first came here I had to take American history.  It was an eye-opener for me.  I think it should be required for every new American because it’s about democracy.  I didn’t learn about kings and when they had reigned, I learned about democracy!  I learned about the whole American system.  My feeling was just the way you are describing it, my identification was with my new country and I couldn’t have been prouder of it.  All people I knew felt the same way because being an American was just about the best….


Roger:   And this is why Dr. Whiteman, I wanted to make the point earlier, the folks in Germany and Austria did not think of themselves as Jews, they thought of themselves as Germans and Austrians.  That’s what is so bizarre about this very complex issue.    Doc in Roseburg, Oregon, you’re on the radio!


Caller-Doc:  I take very strong exception to this caller who thinks Jewish Americans don’t think of themselves as Americans first!  My uncle flew 54 missions in a B-24 in WW II!  I would like to take a strong exception to Dr. Bader-Whiteman’s presentation that it can’t happen here.  My uncle and my aunt, and my aunt held every single elected office in Hadassah except for one, said that absolutely it can happen in America!  America has a very violent history from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War to the Jayhawkers and to the constant riots in the cities to this day.  It was definitely, definitely taught to me that it can happen here!  There’s no doubt about it—that many Americans are possibly at risk in this country.  I was taught this as a child in the 1950s.


Roger:    It might happen to a different group.


Caller-Doc:    Of course!  This country has a very violent past.  Look at what’s happening in the cities!  Look at the terrible separation of all the groups.  I was always taught it could happen here.  Thank you very much!


Dr. Whiteman: I’d like to say this.  I can’t guarantee that it won’t happen here.  I hope I turn out to be right.  The big difference from Austria and Germany was the governments there were totally intent on repressing groups.  There was no way to talk back.  There was no newspaper.  There was no free speech.  My feeling is that as long as we have free speech, somebody may try to do similar things but they’re much less likely to succeed.


Roger:   It’s not going to be an easy task, that’s for sure!  William in Red Bluff, California, you’re on the radio!  Hello!


Caller-William: Roger, I’m a veteran of WW II.  I have a question that’s bothered me ever since the war which I haven’t had a satisfactory answer on.


Roger:  Let’s hear your question, William.


Caller-William:   When the war started, Britain and France declared war on Hitler.  Two weeks later when Poland was almost finished, Russia moved in and claimed half of Poland.  Why didn’t France and Britain declare war on Russia then?


Roger:    Boy, that’s a good question, William!  I don’t think anybody that could answer that!


Dr. Whiteman:  The only thing I could say is that I was in England at the time, and England was totally unarmed.  I remember seeing the soldiers in Hyde Park walking around with sticks, practicing with sticks because there were no guns in the country.  I don’t that they were in a position to declare war on anyone.


Roger:     That may very well be true.


Dr. Whiteman: If Hitler had tried to cross the channel at that point, he would have had no trouble invading, because England had no way of defending itself.


Roger:   Dr. Whiteman, we’ve run out of time.  I just want to thank you very, very much for being here!  Your book is an absolute creation inspired, I think, by The Creator Himself!  God Bless you so much!  I hope you continue your work.  Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll be back tomorrow evening!  God bless you all, God bless America!  Good night America!




(Transcription is from MP3 file converted from original cassette with minimal editing by Chey Simonton. Errors, if any, may be due to unintelligible sections of original 1997 audio technology.  Unknown/unintelligible words are spelled phonetically.)