Ingeborg Jordan was born in Berlin, Germany in 1920. Her father was a German World War I veteran, who lost both his legs below the knee during battle. Ingeborg had no siblings, but she vividly remembers having a close family, full of many aunts, uncles, and cousins, most of whom did not survive the Holocaust. Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, just as Ingeborg was entering what would be called the equivalent of a German high school for girls. Upon Hitler’s accession to power, Ingeborg remembers how gradually Jews became discriminated against, not only in public, but also in German law. Ingeborg started to notice in school, that girls who she had once been friends with began avoiding her. Despite the isolation and ridicule from fellow German classmates, Ingeborg remembers her teachers treating her on an equal basis, because, as she recalls, she was such a good student.
During her high school years, Ingeborg recalls German legislation against Jews becoming ever more harsh and limiting. For example, Jews were no longer able to go to German movie theaters or belong to German youth organizations. Instead, the Jews in her Berlin community improvised by creating their own theater and youth organizations. Ingeborg joined up with one of these Jewish youth organizations, whose activities included going on hikes together; she quickly became intimate friends with many of the group members. She even recalls that the Jews in Berlin had their own designated bench to sit on at a local park, further segregating the German and Jewish communities.
Despite all the problems with discrimination, Ingeborg managed to graduate from her high school in 1936 at the age of sixteen, one year before Jews were permanently banned from attending German schools. Wishing to continue on with her education, Ingeborg applied to an all Jewish college that focused on home economics. Ingeborg had high hopes of becoming a teacher, since she loved being around children; she even spent some of her time earning money by looking after children while their parents were away at work.
In 1938, while home in Berlin, Ingeborg witnessed for the first time the harsh realities of how far the Anti-Semitism in Germany could be carried. She remembers fearing for her life the night of Kristallnacht, in which Germans began burning synagogues and breaking the windows of Jewish-owned stores. Afterwards, she became determined to leave Germany, after she was finished with her education. On August 8, 1939, only three weeks before the war in Europe broke out, Ingeborg immigrated to England, where an aunt of hers lived. She was able to emigrate easily, as she obtained a work permit to work as a domestic in English household, working as nanny and maid.
Unfortunately, Ingeborg had to leave behind her beloved parents, who would remain in Germany after the war started. She communicated with them by letter and postcard, usually via an aunt she had living in Switzerland. In 1942, she lost communication with her parents altogether, who were sent to Theresienstadt, mainly because her father had served in the German military in World War I; in this way, Ingeborg’s parents were spared being shipped off to far worse camps like Auschwitz. Thankfully for her, both of her parents were able to survive the ordeal.
In Theresienstadt, Ingeborg’s parents were not tortured, but, despite this, conditions were still harsh. The food was very meager, and illnesses such as typhoid fever and typhus were common. In Theresienstadt, Ingeborg’s mother worked as a seamstress, fixing other inmates clothes in exchange for rations of food. Some Czech Jews living in the camp were often allowed to receive parcels of food from friends in their home country, which is how her mother was often able to exchange her work for food. Theresienstadt also served as a stop for more unfortunate Jews who were being shipped to the East to camps such as Auschwitz. Her parents recall seeing their own relatives being transported in and out of the camp, relatives who were being sent to Auschwitz, never to be heard from again.
After Russian troops liberated the camp in 1945, Ingeborg’s parents were sent to recover in a DP camp in Deggendorf, Germany, near Munich. There, her parents met with British officers who were more than happy to send letters and postcards back to England, in order to tell Ingeborg that they were still alive. After the letters reached Ingeborg and her aunt, Ingeborg decided to sign up with the United States army, working as a civilian officer who censored letters coming in and out of Germany. She decided to do so, in order to get closer to her parents, for travel in and out of Germany was largely restricted during this period. After being stationed in Stuttgart, Ingeborg was able to travel to Deggendorf to be reunited with her parents.
Years later, Ingeborg moved to the United States in order to complete her education by receiving a Bachelors and Masters degree in nursing. She soon moved to Detroit, where she eventually retired.
Date: October 7, 1996
Interviewer: Harvey Rice
Length: 39 minutes
Format: Video Recording