Research

Alexander, Alfred

Emigre
Lechenich (Germany)

Alexander was born in 1921 in a little town called Lechenich which was located near Cologne, Germany. Lechenich had a population of about 4,000 of which perhaps ten families were Jewish. During the interview Alexander presents a book that was written about those Jewish families in his hometown. He lived together with his parents and his younger sister and describes his family as fully assimilated Jews who were not particularly religious. Nevertheless Alexander attended shul on Saturdays and Hebrew school on Sundays. He states that he did not feel any different from any other citizen in Lechenich and that he did not experience any anti-Semitism until the Nazis came into power in 1933. Alexander's father was a well respected man who owned a wholesale meat business and had served in the German army in World War I. Alexander states that his father said that they were Germans first and then Jews. The family had a good relation with most of the non-Jews in Lechenich.

In 1935 at the age of fourteen, Alexander started to work in a sausage factory in Cologne which was owned by a Jew. When this business was closed down by the Nazis, Alexander started to attend a school for accounting in Cologne. During the interview he describes an incident which took place in 1937, when Nazi brown shirts threatened and humiliated him while going shopping.

In 1938 Alexander's parents decided to send him to his aunt who lived in Detroit. This aunt was disposed of enough money to prove to the immigration officials that Alexander would not be a financial burden to the United States. Alexander's parents and his sister intended to follow him soon but unfortunately they did not manage to get out of Germany before Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass. During this pogrom in November 1938, Alexander's father was arrested and taken to the Dachau concentration camp but was released a few days later. The family's situation worsened when his father lost his business. Alexander learned after the war that a non-Jewish butcher helped his parents by hiding jewelry in sausages which he sold to them. In this way they were able to make a living for a certain period of time. In early 1939 Alexander's parents and his younger sister were picked up by the Nazis never to be seen again. Alexander believes that they were sent to a concentration camp where they lost their lives.

In 1943, still living in Detroit with his aunt, Alexander was drafted into the American army. He served until the end of World War II in the Pacific. After his release from the army he returned to Detroit where he opened a meat business.

In 1972 Alexander visited Lechenich. He says that he was welcomed by his former neighbors as though he had never been away. He also states that all the people in his hometown told him that they had nothing to do with the crimes of the Nazis. This he doubts.

Interview Information:
Interviewer: Diane Savin
Date: July 17, 1997
Length: 55 minutes
Format: Video recording