1922 Wiesbaden, Germany
Lore Haas Oppenheim was born in Wiesbaden, Germany into a middle class home.
Lore was in fifth grade when a new law came out that those Jewish children whose father was inducted into the army in World War I, but didn’t fight on the frontline could not attend that school. Lore was forced to drop out of school. With little options her parents sent Lore to a Jewish boarding school located in their home town. It was run by two Jewish women and a teacher that worked part time. There was a French woman who taught French, Ms. Goldstein who taught in English, and Mr. Haupt, who taught geography, foreign languages, math, and whatever else hadn’t been taught by the other two. The school consisted of Lore and one other girl.
When the other child left the school, the two female teachers were left to pay the mortgage, taxes and bills with only one student, which they couldn’t afford. Mr. Haupt taught Lore in his apartment because she lived close by. One morning, Lore found out that the last remaining teacher had committed suicide. After that, Mr. Haupt continued her education in his apartment as a private tutor. She would take private lessons with him in the morning, and then Hebrew and religious classes in the afternoons at another school.
April 1: Lore attended a Jewish school in Frankfurt and lived with a family there. The school was known to have a curriculum that was equivalent to Cambridge College. She stayed for tutoring in order to be up to date with the rest of the students. Two-thirds of the classes were taught in English instead of German. Lore adjusted to it with hard work.
November 10: On the day after Kristallnacht, when many businesses were destroyed, Lore attempted to make her way home from Frankfurt. Because the family had heard that Jewish people were being taken to concentration camps, she was afraid to travel on the subways, by bus, or even a train. She finally arrived to Wiesbaden, where she met her French teacher, who told her that her father was “not home, but he is not imprisoned.” Her mother told Lore that her father had gone out with some friends, but the truth was that he was avoiding arrest by the German police; he came back a few days later. Her paternal uncle, who lived with them, hid from the Nazis by going to the hospital to have an operation.
Lore’s parents had a wholesale food business, which was destroyed. Their synagogue was burned down. Lore decided to work at a children’s orphanage that would take teenage students and teach them how to take care of children. The students paid tuition for this practical education. Lore enjoyed the work and making friends with the other students.
Lore and her parents tried to get a visa, but they were denied because Lore had a rash on her leg, and because Lore’s father had a heart condition.
Lore left the orphanage to go with her family to the Dominican Republic. They were supposed to go through Lisbon and Italy, but only made it to Munich. Italy had entered the war with Germany as part of the Axis. “No more Jewish people may enter Italy; you have to go back to where you were.” Their money was in a Germany bank, but they didn’t have much with them. While in the train station she was stopped by a man from the Jewish Federation who offered them food and a place to stay, and then made arrangements for them to go back home. By the time they arrived two days later, there were two other families living in their apartment. They lived there with the two other families and her uncle in an apartment big enough for one family.
Lore worked at a doctor’s office to study to become an assistant, and then entered nurse’s training in the Jewish hospital in Berlin. The hospital knew that Lore was leaving, so they volunteered her to go to a forced labor camp, where she wound spools in a thread factory. Lore’s mother told her to come home and stay, so she did.
Ernest Oppenheim fled Wiesbaden to the United States in 1939 with his family. He and Lore had not yet met.
Lore’s family finally obtained a visa to the Dominican Republic, because Lore’s maternal uncle and his wife had immigrated there. They also needed a transit visa through the United States, because the boat went via New York, and they were having trouble getting it. Her aunt was a piano teacher who taught the president’s child. Her uncle was a specialist in fertilizer production. One day, while driving, he helped out a local foreigner whose car had broken down. This man was the assistant American consul in the Dominican Republic, and he helped to get a transit visa for Lore’s family.
August: The family traveled by train from Germany, pulling the shades down in the train so that nobody noticed the Jews leaving Germany. They went through France, Spain, and Portugal into Lisbon where they boarded a ship to leave for United States. They were on the last ship to leave Lisbon.
September 1: Lore and her family arrived in New York on Labor Day. They were not allowed to leave the ship until the next day. The political situation between the United States and Germany had changed, so they were sent to Ellis Island. Lore spent the next six weeks on Ellis Island helping to care for the babies of several families. After that they were forced to stay in New York with visitor permits, and disbanded their plans to go to the Dominican Republic. They managed to get work permits, and Lore worked as a baby nurse for a family, then another. She realized that the work she was doing didn’t allow her to socialize, so she asked advice from friends who worked in hospitals. She decided to study occupational therapy.
Lore finalized her high school credits.
Lore graduated from New York University with a degree in occupational therapy.
Lore registered with the American Occupational Therapy Association, and began to work for United Cerebral Palsy of Passaic in New Jersey. She worked there for a year and then decided to work in a children’s school in order to work with the children long term.
While living in New York, Lore had panic attacks riding on the subways. Remembering her train rides in Germany, she would have to rush out because of fright
Lore married Ernest Oppenheim, who worked in the jewelry business.
Lore’s daughter, Carol, was born.
Lore and her family moved to Nashville so that her husband could join his brother and sister-in-law’s business.
Lore began working in Tennessee Department of Public Health.
Lore took a job with the Tennessee School for the Blind and worked there for over 10 years.
Lore returned to Germany during a family reunion in Switzerland, and spent two days in Wiesbaden. She was full of anger. She went to the bank that kept her family’s money before the war and cashed a traveler’s check. She wanted to say “Who are you? You’re not supposed to be here. This is ours!” She went to her old house, which was renovated, but the woman who lived there slammed the door shut on her.
Ernest Oppenheim died June 21 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Lore Oppenheim died April 6 in Nashville, Tennessee.