Betty Wohlgemuth stays behind

Three generations of Wohlgemuths. From left, Betty, Helga and Elly. 

First we go to Betty Wohlgemuth, saying goodbye to her daughter and granddaughter, who are carrying only two small bags as if leaving on a weekend trip. Knowing they could be watched, they give each other just an ordinary hug and kiss goodbye, not the kind you give to someone you will never see again.

Betty made her own choice to remain behind. She was sixty-three years old and had seen the terrible excesses of the Nazi regime. But she still regarded herself as a German as well as a Jew. She had lived her life in Kolberg, Elbing, Danzig and Berlin. She had seen the best of enlightened Jewish culture. Her concept of herself as both German and Jewish remained unshaken. 

Perhaps she thought the Nazi era was an aberration and would eventually pass. Or perhaps she thought she was too old to run for her life in hopes of starting over in another place. You have to wonder, though, what she was thinking two months later when synagogues were burned and businesses looted in the nationwide pogrom called Kristallnacht.

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