I grew up in Berlin, Germany, where I spent the first ten years of my life as a happy child, having loving parents and a brother two years younger. The summer vacations we spent at the ocean, where I learned swimming in the waves of the Baltic Sea. In the fall and for Easter we went to Braunschweig to see our grandmother and in the winter we went ice-skating on one of the many lakes around Berlin. My father worked as a research scientist at the Siemens company. In 1933, my mother, being Jewish, became a target of Hitler’s mortifying anti-Jewish laws.
This meant that our family underwent a lot of limitations. l was allowed to finish high school, though, which was closed to Jews in 1942. Thanks to the influence of my father I found work as an electrical assistant at Siemens. My brother at 17 was taken to a hard labor camp, from which he escaped shortly before the war ended. In 1936 my father had built a house for us with our own bomb shelter as a safe haven from our Nazi neighborhood who would have not shared their shelters with us. Somehow we survived the bombing of the city, the closeness of Hitler’s final solution to kill all Jews and last but not least the Russian occupation of the city that lasted three terrifying months.
Shortly after the war I received an invitation from American friends to study at the University of Arkansas, their alma mater, in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I was only too happy to leave Germany, the city being half destroyed and universities still closed. I cannot describe my exuberance at being in a new world. I spent two wonderful years in America, an amazing experience for me after being regarded an outsider of humanity during the Nazi era.
In 1954, shortly before getting my teachers’ degree, I got married to my cousin Carlos Bernhard, who, being Jewish, had found a place to live in El Salvador at the age of 15. I spent 25 years in El Salvador with him, where he was working in the coffee business. He also was honorary consul of Israel. In 1979 a terror war forced us to leave the country. We found refuge in Israel. Seven years after my husband had died I decided to move to America where my children, David and Ariela, are living, both in Fairfax, Virginia. I am living in a senior residents’ home called the Woodlands.