So tell me more about what you did after you finished this school.
After I finished school I went to Frankfurt, Frankfurt-am-Main, for two years as an apprentice in a wholesale drapery business, very big wholesale drapery business called “Allman and Rapp”
I went to Frankfurt in 1926, by that time I was 17 years of age, and by that time, going away from home wasn’t much of a problem any more, one… one was a semi, semi-adult, and just accepted that you have to go away from home. I had a lot of, of, became really friendly with, with the other Jewish people who were in that school.
We had, not school, in that business we had a football team, a private football team, but we played football every Sunday, or went out, by that time, we owned bicycles, we went out cycling on a Sunday, or we went swimming, so my time in Frankfurt was really very pleasantly spent. I had plenty of Jewish company, boys as well as girls, and well, it all, it all went very pleasant I think.
There was only, one of the things I can remember but that wasn’t an anti-Semitic affair, was they had, the people, the packers who were in the packing room, most of them were non-Jewish, but I don’t think that had anything to do with it, they had the habit that every new apprentice who joined the Firm, had to be initiate, so one day, somebody sent me with a fictitious message to the packing room, of course, I was, at that time, I hadn’t been there more for about six weeks or so, I didn’t suspect anything, but they sent me there with a message.
As I was in the packing room, one of the packers shut the door, and they were going to give me a hiding, which is, was the initiation ceremony. However, I, never in all my life, have I taken things lying down. I jumped on top of some boxes, I fought like a lion, and I smashed the spectacles of the senior packer, who, who, afterwards, wanted me to pay for it, and I said, “Not on your so and so life. You started it, and you got what you were looking for.” So it took them a long time to get used to the fact that I had not allowed myself to be initiated without hitting out.
So I was there, as I say, from l926 to l928, after I had served my apprenticeship I, my parents and I decided that I would go home and join my father in his business in Leutershausen. I learnt to drive and later on, I had a motor car, when I went out calling on customers.
Then I, in Leutershausen, yes, we had a football club which I joined, which, at that time, was partly, half of the members were young Jewish lads like myself, and some of the others were non-Jewish. We got on very well, and, for a while, we managed to politically influence the football club, to be anti-Nazi, but the pressure grew gradually. By that time, based on my experience, probably of the school in Ansbach, I had become very politically minded, and I joined the so-called “Reichsbanner Schwartz” called, which was a para-military organisation, which based itself on the Democratic Weimark Constitution, which was in no way communist influenced, and the Reichsbanner Schwartz would go through it’s members from the Social Democratic Party in Germany, from the Democratic Party, and from the Catholic Centre Party, which means it was the centre of the German political spectrum.
As I was the most active, I became the leader of our “Orts Gruppe”, local group, and we, and I was fairly active. So a lot of my business travel took me through the town of Ansbach, which had a very strong Social Democratic Group, and a very strong Reichsbanner Gruppe, and I regularly popped in at, at the Office of the, of the man who led the group in Ansbach, he was, he had, he was the local reporter for a Socialist newspaper in Nürnburg, so very often, driving, passing through Ansbach, I would pop in and we would discuss political things and so on.
The “Reichsbanner Schwartz” called, by the way, did wear, we were para-military, we did wear some sort of uniform, which was a green shirt, black trousers, shoulder strap and a navy blue cap, and I felt very proud and very important wearing it. Jewish people felt you should keep your head down and not draw attention to your self, it wasn’t my idea. So one day, I had organised a Reichsbanner District Meeting, in our own town, in Leutershausen, and we had uniformed groups from three or four other places in Mittelfranken, who all came to Leuteshausen, and we marched through Leutershausen, with the “Schwarz Rot Gold” flags flying, and I was marching at the head of the column.
My father, I can never, I will never forget my father’s face when he saw me walking in the front. It, I will admit that there was quite a lot of trouble afterwards in Leutershausen, my parents regularly had stones and bricks thrown through the window, they, occasionally, they tried to beat me up, which they weren’t terribly successful, but I have, I had before mentioned my good friend, my best friend, Otto Gutmann, who really, or who was with me in the Reichsbanner, Otto was one of these people, if you got into a fight, you could rely on Otto, he wouldn’t leave your side, and you could hear.
I wasn’t bad, but, at taking care of myself, but Otto could take on two or three, so Otto and I became very, very firm friends, and the political situation in Leutershausen became worse and worse. In the end, our football club joined with a local “Association” and they didn’t allow Jewish youngsters to play any more. In fact, all the people who had been in the Football Club with us, they all, most of them turned anti-Semitic.
And that was what year?
That was l930/3l. You see, I came back home in l928, so by that time, the political situation in Leutershausen grew worse. I build up on a new area for our business, where previously we had no customers, in the area between Ansbach and Nürnburg, but I had, through the anti-semitic experiences which I had made both at, at the high school and I had become very political interested. Apart from being the local leader of the republican defence organisation, which was called “Reichsbanner Schwartz Rot Gold”, I also did a little bit of journalistic work, writing articles for a Republican paper which, the Republican weekly, which I would say, was a very hard-hitting paper.
It wasn’t a very high standard journalistic type of publication, but it was very strong, it had no, no other news except the defence and the attack, the defence of the Weimar Republic, and attacks on the Nazi Party. And the paper was called The Alarm, and whenever I had an article in it, I signed it with my full name, which always produced bricks being thrown through, through our window at home. Right, which wasn’t also, my parents weren’t terribly pleased with me, being so, so active, and obviously, being older, they were not used to being, they didn’t like it being attacked.
My life in Leutershausen went on for a couple of years, it, in l931, I, my parents and I decided that I would better not stay at home, I, I wasn’t prepared to stop my political activities, and they weren’t terribly keen on being the target for stone throwing and so on at their house, so I decided I would go to Berlin. I had my father’s older brother, lived in Berlin, and he had an export office in Berlin, and he was mainly a buying agent for the Great Universal Stores in Great Britain, In l9, early l93l, when I went to Berlin, and took up a very minor office job in my uncle’s office, my uncle, by the way, was called Max Ansbacher.
I, of course, rejoined the Reichsbanner in Berlin and I lived in digs in the district of Shalottenburg which is one of the part of Berlin, on the West of Berlin, I became very closely associated with Dr. Helmut Klotz, I spent much time in his company. Whenever he went out making speeches in any part of Berlin, to other units of the Reichsbanner, he, I would come along with him, in uniform, so I gradually, the, I suppose gradually, the Nazi Party got hold of my name as well, and occasionally I got telephone calls threatening me that the same thing would happen to my friend, to me as to my friend, Dr. Klotz.
Now, it happened at some time in 19, early in 1932, when Dr. Klotz was in his correspondent’s position, in position as a reporter, in the German parliament, in the Reichstag, that three or four Nazi members of parliament attacked him, and were trying to kill him, but some other people intervened, and he got very badly beaten up, but not badly hurt, but he had to go to hospital. I read that as I went for lunch, and saw the headlines of the newspapers being sold in the street, I read about that attack which had taken place on him, I phoned Dr. Klotz’ wife, and asked her, did she know anything about what had happened to Helmut.
She said, “I don’t know anything else, except what’s in the paper”
So I got in touch with the unit of the Reichsbanner to which I belonged, I will talk to that in a few minutes, and organised half a dozen youngsters to meet me at, at Tempelhof subway station to take up the protection of Dr. Klotz’ house, because he was coming back out of hospital that afternoon, which we did. He, he was quite a, although he was very pleased that we would do all that for him, he was a very courageous man, the Reichsbanner was formed as an organisation of former active soldiers, to protect the republican government, and people like us, who were too young to have been in the First World War, were in a unit called the “Jungbanner”.
The leader of the local Shallotenburg group of the Jungbanner, a very nice Jewish lad, who lived in the street next to me, next to mine, in Berlin, so I became very friendly with him, and I joined, I joined a special Organisation, a special group in the Jungbanner, which got a kind of, we were trained by, partly trained by the Berlin Police in street fighting techniques, and the use of arms, and we were some kind of, well, commando group when we went out on various actions, all we carried was a card with our, with our number. We all had a number, and a photograph, and that was all, we never carried anything with our names. But it was good fun, I liked it.
so there was plenty political activity, so we would either, at night, we often went out putting a poster, sticking posters on the walls, putting our sign, our logo on the walls, and at the same time, if we met any Nazis who were out doing the same, obviously we would try to tear theirs down, or we would get into, into fights at street corners.
In the middle of l932, I cannot remember exactly when it was, but it must have been in June or July, the whole political order in Germany changed, one knew that this change of Government, which was, in a way, illegal, would be the people who would even, or prepare the way for Hitler to come to power, so we, in the Reichsbanner, felt we had been trained just for a situation like that, and most of us expected that, together with the trade unions, and the Prussian police, which, at that time, was definitely friendly to the, and supportive of the democratic government, that we would have to fight a civil war against the Nazi Party, against the Storm Troopers.
However, our leaders were either too much of a coward, or maybe they knew better, maybe they were pacifists, whatever, they decided that no, there was no sense in having a civil war. We had all gathered in our, in our, in the various headquarters which had been assigned to us, where we had our regular meetings, and we were waiting for the word to pick up arms somewhere and go out.
Instead of that, we got what?
We should go home, we would not fight, that we would regain the, the republican government would regain power at the next parliamentary elections, which, of course, never, the parliamentary elections took place, but everybody knew that there was no future for the republican government, if they didn’t stand up to this test.
In fact, most of our youngsters were very disappointed at not being given the fight. Many of us might not have survived it, but if we had been allowed to fight, we might have avoided the Second World War, by not allowing a Nazi gover nment to come to power. But this, the last opportunity to save the republican government was missed, and from then on, it was a gradual slide into the Nazi dictatorship.
As my last word about the Reichsbanner, may I say that one of the main functions we also had, was protecting any political meeting organised by the Social Democratic Party, by the Democratic Party, or by the Catholic Centre Party. These were the three parties which, which fought the backbone of the government, and of the Weimar Republic, and it had, for a long time, been the aim, both of the communists, with their, with their active organisation, and the Nazi Storm Troopers, to make it impossible for democratic parties to hold proper election meetings, because if the one or the other would make trouble at a political meeting, the police would have to intervene, and for the sake of public order, would have to close the meeting, and say to the people to go home.
It was our job, at those meetings, if there were any groups of communists or Storm Troopers there, that we took charge of the situation, we would bundle them up, get them out of the meeting, so that the meeting could go on, and the Police would not need to intervene. That was one of the jobs also, which we had to do, which we did quite successfully.
By the late autumn of 1932, my parents and a distant cousin of mine, of us, of my father’s, a second degree cousin, who also lived in Leutershausen, both families decided to move away from Leutershausen, and move down to a place, to a town called Landshut, which was in Niederbayern, which was the area north of Munich, between Munich and Regensburg. This was a Catholic area, I think I mentioned it earlier on in my remarks, that it was the, the Lutheran Protestant areas and population of Germany, which were the first to fall victim, or to follow the Hitler doctrine, whereas the Catholics did not, so this area was a Catholic area, it was a town of about 30,000 people.
… so you moved to ….
Yeh, well, our, both my father, my mother and those cousins of ours, Fritz and Selma Ansbacher, I was the only child, they had three children, and the elder son, was, the eldest son was Wilhelm, and the plan was that Wilhelm and I would, together, open a drapers shop in Landshut, and that Wilhelm and I would be the sole Partners, although our two fathers did support us first of all, they provided the capital to open the business, and they also helped in the running of the business, although they were officially retired, but they helped us, so I moved down to Landshut, in, I think, in October l932, and by that time, had completely stopped political activity, I didn’t think there was any sense any longer, and we opened that business, which existed and I may almost say, blossomed, until the end of 1938, at the time of the Reichs Kristallnacht.
In fact, we had rented premises in the middle of the town, and the owners of that property were two very respectable retired old German army Colonels, and we had, and they had let that, the shop part, on the ground floor of the building to us, and gradually, but that is, actually that happened later. In 1934 or ’35, the local Nazi Party in Landshut, forced those two old gentlemen to come to us one day, almost with tears in their eyes, confessing to us that they had to break their word, and cancel the shop contract, the rent contract, which was still, had still quite a number of years to run.
They told us that they had been threatened, that they would see to it that their war pension would be withdrawn, or cancelled, if they would show themselves as being supporters of the Jews, and they were really terrorised, that they couldn’t do anything else. But we did have a chance to get another property, whose owner was somebody who was also retired, but somebody of independent means, whom the Nazi Party could not put under pressure, and we carried on business in those new, in those new premises, until the end of 1938.
Yes, well, Hitler came to power in January l933, and at the, by April l933, it was somewhere around ll or l2 o’clock, during the day, the Storm Troopers appeared in our business, declared all of us, my father, our relative Fritz Ansbacher, my cousin Wilhelm, my business partner, and myself as being, having to be taken into what they called “schutzhaft” or protective custody, which normally should be that somebody is being taken into, in the police protection for his own safety, but they turned, the Nazi Party who, who run the country on very much on the lines of the Weimar, on the letter of the Weimar Republic, but not in the spirit of the Weimar Republic Constitution, turned that round and people all over Germany got arrested and taken into schutzhaft, not for their protection, but for the protection of the public from their interest.
So, right, the funny thing was that I had owned a revolver, and my, and Fritz Ansbacher had owned a revolver, and we were always going to work with the revolvers in our pocket, but that morning, for some reason or other, he had a premonition, and I had a premonition that something was going to happen. And he, without telling me, and I, without telling him, took the revolver out of my pocket, and hid it in the business, and so did he, and the first thing that happened when the Storm Troopers came into the business, they searched us for weapons, because at that time, it was, the Jewish people were arrested, and had weapons in their pocket, that made the situation considerably worse, because, by that time, the Nazi Party had issued a law that no Jew was allowed to own firearms.
However, as I say, with some premonition, we had both taken those revolvers out of our pocket and hidden them in the business, so that they came in, they took us to the local Police Station, we were there, in that local police station, for about five weeks. I cannot say that we were mal-treated, because once you were in the police station, in, or actually, from the police station, taken to the local prison, you were in the hands of prison warders, who were not Storm Troopers, who were people who were prison warders by, by profession, and so we were not really badly treated. We were kept there for a purpose. One day, my, Wilhelm Ansbacher, my cousin, my business partner, and I, were released from, from the prison, from the protective custody.
How long were you there?
That was about five, after five weeks, but our fathers were still kept, and somehow or other, I cannot remember the exact details, we were told we should get in touch with a certain Nazi Party solicitor, who might be able to arrange the release of our fathers as well. Now, this Nazi solicitor, he was quite a decent man personally, really, had his offices in Regensburg, which was the county town for the district of Niederbayern, and my cousin and I went there to have a talk with him, and he said he would come to Landshut and undertake to consult with the local Nazi Party, and see what could be done. Of course, he probably knew already what could be done. And, amazingly, he stayed and slept in our private house while he was there, for two or three days.
He came, after his meeting with the Nazi Party, he came back and said, “Yes, it was a question of money”, but somehow or other, we have offended the law, the “Volkstimme”, the “Volkstimmer the peoples’ opinion in this town, and that if we made a considerable financial donation, this could all be smoothed out. He went to Munich to see the, the Nazi Chief of Police, who was Heidrich who later on became one of the heads of the German, of the Gestapo, and was killed in Czechoslovakia.
Because he was the Chief of Police Czechoslovakia, or was it the “Reichs Stadthalter” “Reichs Gaulauter ” ( ??) of Czechoslovakia, so Mr. Heidrich seems to have agreed to that move, and that solicitor came back to us, quoted a sum, which I think was somewhere in the neighbourhood of 50,000 Deutschmark, plus, plus Fritz Ansbacher’s motor car, which was a kind of a sporty car, and the local Nazi Party, the leader of the local Storm Troopers, had taken a fancy to that car, and he was going to run it himself, so, after financial arrangements were made, to hand this amount of money over to the local Nazi Party leaders, our fathers were released from protective custody, without any further trouble.
So after this release from schutzhaft, we carried on, we reopened our business, and we carried on the business as before, and I must say that our customers, in spite of attempts by the Nazi Party to boycott Jewish businesses, our customers kept on coming, in fact, very often, people said to us, “Going to a Jewish shop was the only way where the population could oppose Hitler’s ideas”, and our turnover, in the business, went up, year after year, right until the end, when our business was forcibly closed down, at the time of the Reichs Kristallnacht in l938.
So I lived in Landshut, I had a lot of, Landshut a very very small Jewish population, there were only about 9 or l0 Jewish families, and there was no Jewish community, so, on Yomtovim (Jewish Religious Festivals) people would either go to Munich or somewhere else for the services.
I had a lot of friends in Landshut, all non-Jewish, and I also played football in a non-Jewish football team, but gradually the pressure grew, then one day the Nazi Party notified the football team that they would have to exclude me from their team, because Jews shouldn’t play in a football team any more, and if they refused to exclude me, and throw me out, that they would close down the team, so all my friends there, in the, in that football team, said, “We’re refusing to exclude Martin from the team. He’s a nice chap, have nothing against him. Close down the football team, we are not going to exclude him.” And this is what happened, they closed, they closed down the team.
Well, we, I continued to meet a lot of those, a lot of the people who used to be in that football team, were also very personal friends of mine, but it gradually became more and more difficult for them to openly associate privately. One of the last few was the son of one of the local bakers, he had a motor cycle, and I had a motor cycle, we were very keen motorcyclists, and to avoid any trouble for him, we would meet outside our town, on Sundays, we would make arrangements where we would meet with our bikes, and then drive off to the mountains, and at some point or other, somewhere or other, people who knew us, must have seen us, because one day his father got a visit from one of the local Nazi leaders and said, “Your son is still keeping friends with Jews.
Either he is going to stop that, or you will no longer deliver bread to the local barracks.”
That man had a contract for the German army barracks, to supply so many hundred loaves of bread a day, and the fellow phoned me, and said, “Martin, this is the case. I could stand up to them, but it’s my father’s business.” So I could understand that as well.
So that was the last of my friends I openly associated with, and at this point, I think I also ought to make, mention a former girlfriend of mine, a non-Jewish girlfriend, in Landshut, she was a sales girl in the business, in a business, not in ours, and we, whenever we went away for the weekend, we had made plans we, we would meet in Munich or somewhere else, and go away. Now, one day, she, she was employed with a national company who had branches all over Germany, something like a small supermarket, in those days, supermarkets were smaller, and she was moved to another town in Bavaria, in Upper Bavaria, which was the other side of Munich, which was the side nearer and on, nearer the mountains, in the upland of the mountains, the Alps, and I had warned her,
“Never have my photograph on your bedside table.”
Well, she made a mistake, she had it on her bedside table, and one day, another girl was transferred to that branch, who had also been to Landshut, and who saw my photograph, and she said, “That’s one of the Ansbacher boys.” She said, “Yes.” So, she must have notified the head office of that, of the Nazi district, because within a couple of days of that girl seeing my photograph, the area manager, area personnel manager of that company, appears in that business, he calls out the girl I was friendly with, and told her,
“You have two choices. You can either leave your job immediately, without compensation, or any other wages, or anything, you leave your job today, and go home. Or, or Martin, or I see to it that he is taken to Dachau concentration camp.”
So the girl was decent enough to leave her job and go home, and saved my life. The funny thing is, by the time this happened, we had more or less decided that it was getting too dangerous to keep up that friendship, and I knew nothing of what had happened until about a year or two later, a year later, when I happened to be on the same train coming home from Munich. She lived in a place half way between Munich and Landshut, and she was on that train, and I happened to say hello to her, but I walked past, and I sat another carriage, and she came through to my carriage, and then told me that whole story. I said, “What did your father say, when you had to, when you came home?” She said, “My father said, ‘Did you steal?’ I said ‘No.’ I told him what, why I had to quit my job. And he said, ‘Well, I’m not telling you off.'” So I really probably have to thank her readiness to sacrifice her job for my life, which I’ve never forgotten the girl.
In l935, or ’36, of course, the Nazis introduced the so-called “Nuremburg Laws”, when it became socially impossible for Jewish people to be in any sport, to socially anything whatsoever, I joined the Jewish sports club in Augsburg, we had a Jewish football team, a tennis team, God knows what, and this is where I got to know my wife, because she was a member of that, of that club, because she came, she came from Augsburg, she and her parents lived in Augsburg, so from then on, I travelled more or less every Sunday, we played against other Jewish clubs, in Bavaria, in Nuremburg, and so on, so I lived quite a nice social life within the Jewish, within the Jewish population of Bavaria, until the, the 9th of November, l938.