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Herta Adler

Tennessee Holocaust Commission -

Memphis, Tennessee
Born: 1915 Diez, Germany
Refugee : Portugal; United States

“'There are some people who say that Jews are human beings. Wrong. A Jew is a human like a flea is an animal!'“ Herta Adler remembers words like this from Nazi radio propaganda. “All the Nazi speeches encouraged people to look down upon the Jew and dehumanize him. People any time can be manipulated to hate and kill out of fear - fear that makes them not stand up against it - fear for any reason. It has to stop.“

Because her father had served in the German military during World War I, Herta had permission to stay in public schools longer than other Jewish children. “It was lucky, I suppose, but just before I could graduate, I was asked to leave.“ At the next school, she says, “No one would talk to me because I was Jewish and they forced me to attend on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.“

Herta was twenty-four on November 9, 1938, when Kristallnacht erupted. “One of my neighbors knocked frantically at our door yelling that the synagogue was burning. My heart began to bleed.“ She remembers that the Nazis closed a large orphanage for Jewish boys and “transported them to places unknown.“ The school's directors died in concentration camps.

Because Herta's brother did business in Portugal, where the government granted residency to family members, Herta and her parents were able to go there from Germany. From Portugal she went to the United States: “Since Portugal was more lenient with refugees, it was easy to get documents to go to America.“