George gives an account of the events in Germany which lead to him and his brother coming to Glasgow to settle.
Read the transcript:
INT: So you were here during the war years and thankfully you had a different experience from most of the Jews in Europe. What was it like being in Glasgow during the war?
G.T: My mother got my brother out. He came over the day the war started. He was twenty four and had just got married in Hanover. He too was supposed to have gone to Israel. His wife came from the same town where we had stayed. He was on a boat crossing the English Channel when war was declared. But it was a Dutch boat so it managed to cross; if it had been a German boat it would have gone back. So he came to Glasgow and got a job.
INT: What was his name?
G.T: He was Walter and he was my half- brother; his surname was Salomonsohn, my mother’s maiden name.
G.T: I never found out any details. You didn’t ask and they never spoke about it; neither my mother nor my brother said anything. In later years I didn’t ask what happened. My father couldn’t have been that far away in Germany and I often wonder why did he not come and see us. My brother was, by that time, a trained ladies’ and gents’ tailor. People like my brother and my friends who came over, were interned when the war started because the Germans sent through a lot of spies with the Yiddishe people. They were interned on the Isle of Man. My brother had been working at Levi in Queen Street, making British Army coats and they interned him.
Once you were in the camp on the Isle of Man you would be interrogated. But they decided, “Ok his grandfather, his uncle, his nephews and his cousins – they are all still over there. He’s not going to sabotage the British war effort.” They asked Walter to join the Pioneer Corps and he was in it all during the war. He was back in Germany during the war.
INT: So when you look back you’ve lived in two different countries and you must reflect a lot about how life has changed for you. You were fortunate weren’t you?
G.T: Very because … going back to Kristallnacht. Now, as I said on the 9th of November 1938 it was just my mother, my grandfather and I when she worked with the Jewish businessman.
And the Nazis came, around one o’clock or three o’clock whatever time it was, in the morning. There were about three or four in their brown uniforms. Now, my grandfather had an ulcer on his leg and it was an open wound; the man was in agony, there was nothing he could do about it. We didn’t have treatment; all he was getting was powder to put on his open wound. He was in his seventies. They took every Jewish man including my grandfather away. They were going to take me and my mother grabbed me and put me behind her back and she said, “You can’t take him; he’s going to school in the morning.” I was thirteen. The Nazis left me. If they had taken me away I would never have come back but my grandfather came back; he was no use to them. But none of the other Yiddishe men returned home again. That’s when they started moving them out.
G.T: Now the person my mother worked for in the big town was very religious. He had no family – I called him ‘uncle’. He owned property. We had rooms with him. She worked, doing the cooking and helped on a Friday when the Poles came to the shop on Friday, market day. The Poles used to come over on their horses and their wagons and sell their fruit and they used to go to my mother who bought the fruit for the next week. In the winter, instead of the Poles coming in their wagons round the water they used to come across the ice with their sledges.
G.T: The gentleman who owned all the property, was taken away by the Nazis and the very same time a Nazi in his thirties got the whole caboodle. I can’t remember if it was weeks or months later, the man who was only maybe between 45 and 50 came back in a sealed lead coffin. I don’t know if he was in there or not, you know. I always remember seeing that lead coffin. I don’t understand why people didn’t realise that there was going to be a war because just shortly before all this there had been a massive German manoeuvre at the Polish border. The Germans were sussing it all out.
G.T: Nobody ever thought that that they were sussing the place out to invade Poland.