Survivor Profiles: Ernest Fruehauf
I tell the story because I hope that I can influence at least a few kids to think about what can happen, and what kind of a world they are living in, and what kind of a world they could be living in if they're not careful. If I could just convince a couple of kids not to get involved in this hatred business, I’ll have accomplished something.
Ernest Freuhauf was born in 1929 in Kitzingen, Germany. His family owned a café located right below their second-floor apartment. Even as a child, Ernest noticed the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Germany. People who were long-time customers of his family café no longer wanted to be seen inside the café. One former customer even spat on Ernest’s grandfather one day as he was walking down the street.
When Ernest was eight years old, he would frequently see newspapers that featured Nazi propaganda that further incited harassment against Jews. Ernest’s parents tried to ease his worries by telling him not to think about what the papers were reporting, but the situation only escalated and became impossible to ignore. The Hitler Youth, children who were Ernest’s age, would not only shout anti-Semitic propaganda at Ernest, but they would even threaten to harm him and his family.
On the 9th of November in 1938, an angry mob ransacked the family café. That same night, now known as Kristallnacht, the SS came to the family apartment arrested Ernest’s father and grandfather. The SS eventually released Ernest’s grandfather due to his age, but his father was sent to Dachau concentration camp. Vulnerable and alone, the family proceeded to sleep in the attic while Ernest’s father was gone.
Ernest’s father would spend four weeks in Dachau. He did not reveal to his family what he went through in the camp, but he did immediately start making plans to leave Germany. He wrote a letter to Ernest’s mother’s aunt in Washington requesting help to get to America. In the letter, he made it very clear that the family would not survive if they stayed in Germany.
Family members in America were able to gather enough money to pay the State Department to approve the family’s eligibility for a visa. In May of 1941, two weeks before Roosevelt closed the consulates in Germany, the family received their visas in the city of Stuttgart. Later that same year, the family would arrive in New Haven, Connecticut.
Learn More:Coffee With A Survivor Facebook Live Session Podcast episode Chicago Tribune article USHMM Testimony
Photo credits: John Pregulman