David P. Boder Interviews Hildegarde Franz; September 20, 1946; Munich, Germany



German Jews living in mixed marriages with German Christians were among the last to be taken away. Hildegard Franz's fate was sealed when her Christian husband died during the war. A little more than two months later she was sent to Theresienstadt.

Her family lost its retail shop in Nuremberg to the Nazis in 1934, following which her two sons emigrated to the United States. She says nothing about her husband and herself trying to get out, although it seems probable that the elderly couple, already in their sixties, saw little hope of starting over someplace else. Her husband's failing health may also have slowed them down. Following his death in October 1943, Hildegard was deported to the "model ghetto" at Theresienstadt in the comparative luxury of a third-class passenger coach. She knows no good reason why she was spared subsequent transport to the killing fields of Poland. In the end her comment about being lucky is as good an explanation as any.

A particularly vivid memory of Theresienstadt was of SS attempts to intimidate Franz into renouncing her husband's will, which evidently benefited his relatives. Had she agreed, the Nazis could have declared his estate Hildegard's and then confiscated it upon her death. That she was able to resist their pressure demonstrates that the SS was not prepared to go too far where the property rights of purely German relatives were concerned. The facade of law and order had to be upheld.

Franz returned to her bombed-out apartment after the war to find its remaining contents looted by the couple, also intermarried, who had subletted from her. However, other property that she had left for safekeeping with a Christian friend was safely returned to her. Boder commented that he found many cases of Jews slated for deportation entrusting their valuables to Gentile friends and retrieving them satisfactorily after the war, especially in Czechoslovakia and Western Europe.

When interviewed at her temporary home in the Munich "Funkenkasernen" DP camp in September 1946, Franz had regained the weight she lost at Theresienstadt and looked younger than her seventy-five years. She was just days away from departure for Bremen and the sea voyage that would take her to live with her sons in America.

From FRESH WOUNDS: EARLY NARRATIVES OF HOLOCAUST SURVIVAL by Donald L. Niewyk. Copyright (c) 1998 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. www.uncpress.unc.edu