Baum, Henry (Heinz Salomon)



Henry (Heinz Salomon) Baum was born in Cologne, Germany on July 21, 1927, to Elimelech (Max) Baum and Bronia (Brocha) Blumenstein Baum. Their first-born child, Wolfgang, did not survive and their daughter, Margot (m. Munk) was born in 1925.

Elimelech was born in Warsaw, Poland, and escaped to Germany at a very dangerous time, passing off to the SS guard as identification “a white card, the only thing on that card was printed when Shabbos was.” He came to Cologne to an uncle and aunt and became a shoe salesman. Then he attended the Gertznisch Music School in Cologne. In 1933, he received an offer from the Cologne Opera which was withdrawn immediately. He had a beautiful tenor voice, a heldentenor, and became a chazan, cantor, at the Glockengasse Shul in Cologne.

Bronia was born in Wloclawek, Poland, one of ten children and the daughter of a shochet. Bronia came to Cologne and met and married Elimelech in the Glockengasse Shul.

“My father was sort of a strict person but lovingly. He was absolutely German punctual and my mother was always German 25 minutes late. And he accepted that. They were beautiful together and we had a beautiful home together…. I was not a very well boy and had quite a number of illnesses – diphtheria,  scarlet fever, measles. When I had diphtheria, I was close to dying and there was a medicine that had just come out and it was given to me on a trial and I was able to breathe and thank God I lived.

“The first few years of my schooling were in the Lisserstrasse School, a general elementary school for Jewish people. From there I went to the Yavne (Jawne) School for the sexte and the quinte, the first two classes. What I did learn mainly was English grammar, and that was the basis of my being able to learn English once I was in England very, very quickly.”

Henry felt antisemitism as a child in Cologne. “I was never attacked fortunately while we were walking to school, but there were many times that kids called us Jew, dirty Jew, dreckische Jude…. We moved several times and the last one was a four-story house on Judenstrasse. We were one of the first in our family to have a hot water heater, a bronze heating unit that came with a bathtub, and everybody came and took a hot bath, friends and neighbors…. It must have been ‘35, ‘36. We had good neighbors. We were on the third floor. There was somebody living on the fourth floor and one day he came to my father and said, ‘I hope that you will understand that I will not be able to say hello to you anymore because my son is in the Hitler Youth and he will report me and I will be in trouble. So, please forgive me.’

“In the summertime, we went to Belgium, to the beaches. We had very good times and we were free to go…. We also went to Poland to visit my grandparents. In Poland, we were met by antisemitism again. The kids were there yelling dirty Jew or whatever in Polish, I didn’t understand it but the message got through.”

“There was an agreement during WWI that no army could cross into the Rhineland and Cologne is in the Rhineland. In March 1936, Hitler took his troops and broke that agreement. We were standing at the time in the corner and the army marched through in uniform. My father was not crying but was close to it and he said to me, ‘This is where the German people lost the First World War’ and so it was. He took over. That was the end of that.

“At first, we lived a normal life to the best of our ability…. Then my father was deported to Poland on October 28, 1938, in the Polenaktion, when they took all the Polish males and sent them off….

“Kristallnacht was the 10th of November. A non-Jewish person came and warned us, ‘I was listening for a bomb. Don’t send your children to school this morning, keep them at home’ and that’s where we were…. They came to our street and destroyed a lot of things in our apartment. By six o’clock it stopped and we didn’t suffer very much…. Our beautiful, gold-domed synagogue, the Glockengasse, was totally annihilated…. The other shul, Roonstrasse, a reform synagogue, they couldn’t blast out everything because it was in the middle between two buildings. So, they blasted out the organ and destroyed the inside. They took out the sefer Torahs and burnt those as well….

“The Yavne school was not touched. We went back to school, but we had to keep very quiet. Next door to us was a Gestapo headquarters. So, they complained, but didn’t do anything about it, when the kids were playing in the yard.”

There was no discussion about leaving “until there was finally an opportunity to do that which occurred because the Chief Rabbi of England, Rabbi Joseph Hertz, went to the Foreign Minister Baron, who did not particularly favor Jews, and said we have to help our Jewish people in Europe. They finally gave in, but they said they have to be under 18 years of age. They gave 10,000 visas for kids from Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Germany to come over to England which was more than any other country did.

“The head of Yavne, Dr. Erich Klibansky, got the opportunity to lead children to England. I was chosen as one of them to be able to go…. My mother went to my uncle, who already had a visa to come to America, and she asked him, ‘What shall I do? I have the opportunity to register them to go to England under the 10,000 deal. Shall I send them or not?’ And he said, ‘Without question send them.’ And she did. She listened. I was on one of the first transports; it must have been right after Pesach in April 1939.

“On the day that I left, my mother took me to the rail station and we went devious ways so the Hitler Youth couldn’t see us…. We went on the transport to Hook of Holland where the Nazis left the train and we were welcomed by Jewish people. They gave us cookies and lots of stuff. They knew that we were hungry on the train. From there we went across the channel to England.

“My father was able to come back to Cologne after I had left. They were able to put their businesses together and maybe about a month or so, maybe a little longer, my mother and father both were deported back to Poland…. I never heard from them again. No, that was not to be.

“We arrived in England. I did not get into a home. I got into a hostel in Brighton, England. There were 27 boys from different areas. The headmaster was Jonas Plaut and his wife Selma Plaut. He was not religious. He was anti-religious, pushing you away from religion. We were kids, we had learned to daven, say my prayers in the morning. And he used to say to us, ‘What are you doing, you’re saying aa-aa-aa, you’re making a lot of noise, you’re not doing anything.’ So, we davened quietly…. We had kosher food coming into the hostel. It was kosher until it crossed the threshold and then it became treif…. Because of the pressure, we changed. Most of the other kids weren’t religious in the first place, but I changed…. At the hostel, my duties were interesting. I ironed 27 shirts and pressed 27 pants every week.

“I became part of the choir in the Middle Street Shul in Brighton. The chazan was Phillip Brummer and he had a gorgeous, gorgeous voice. I had a very good alto voice. When Mr. Klein who led the choir got a better job, as a little kid, I took over the choir…. Cantor Brummer taught me my portion of the Bar Mitzvah. He said I have a very high voice so he gave me a high tone to start and when I came to the end my voice cracked up…. Rabbi Unterman [Frabricant?] compared me to the prophet of Jeremiah on the basis that I had red hair. And apparently, this Jeramiah did too…. And then somebody handed me a fountain pen, a Mont Blanc, on Shabbos and I took it. That was the situation that was.

“I went to the Boy’s Senior School until 14 years of age, I was put in the top class because we had learned a little English in Cologne. I didn’t learn much, but I usually had a book on the desk open and I read. That’s where I started to read a lot of books, mainly the classics in English. Very slowly but I learned English. I gave the graduation speech after nine months of being there.

“School ended at 14. I couldn’t sit for the 11+ exam which put you into a private school, I was too old. So, at 14 years of age, when we left the school, we were put into an apprenticeship, and they chose it for us. I was put into the fur trade which I didn’t want and I was placed there as a furrier and learned the trade there.

Margot also came to England on a later transport. “My sister was first with a private family and then she lived in a hostel together with friends. That’s where I met my wife, Roselind Berlinger, Rosi. She was there playing ping pong. And she always says she let me win. Actually, I beat her 21-19. We got along and one day I asked her to marry me and she said, ‘Why not, we’ve got nowhere else to go but up.’ And she was 100% right.

“I was there eight or nine years until I was about age 18 or 19, when my uncle gave me an affidavit to go to the United States. I came on the Henry Kaiser…. When I got to New York, I stayed with my brother-in-law and sister and I tried to get a job in the fur trade. I had to get a union card. And the union said you have to have a job to get a union card and the people who had the fur place said you had to have a union card in order to work. So, I was between a rock and a hard place.

“I arrived in America when Rosi left England. She came to New York and stayed with distant family in Astoria. We met and we went out. After I moved to Detroit, where I had an uncle and aunt, I came back and we were married.” Rosi got a job at Crowley’s Department Store because she was a manager in a bookstore in England and had experience. Henry first worked for Argo Oil, owned by Charlie and Frank Feinberg, and then got a job at William H. Miller who did all of the fur repair work for J. L. Hudson.

Then he got a job as a teacher at a Hebrew School and taught Bar Mitzvah private lessons. A relative of Rosi’s, Dr. Mandelbaum, and a professor of geology at Wayne State University in Detroit, introduced him to an admissions officer “who hemmed and hawed because I had no high school experience, nothing at all. And he finally said, ‘Okay we’ll give you an entrance exam and if you get all A’s and B’s for the first year, you get to continue your education.’ I passed the exam and I got into Wayne State University. I did my undergraduate. I got my master’s. With a lot of hard work, after 6½ years I got my Ph.D.”

Henry started as a teacher in the Detroit Public School, was promoted as a counselor, became an assistant principal at Central High School, and ended as the principal at Cody High School. Just before retiring, he opened up a high school in the Yeshiva Gedolah in Oak Park, Michigan, and after retiring, he started a Jewish school, Bais Yaacov, in San Diego, California.

Henry and Roselind Baum have three children, Michael Elimelech Baum, Deborah “Devorah Basia” Jacobs, and Yoel Osher Baum, 20 grandchildren and multiple great-great-grandchildren. “To  make my story very short, I say my grandson is a grandfather.”

Dr. Baum shares a message with his family and generations of students: “What you learn in the first years of your life with your parents, your education is something that sticks with you no matter where you go or what you do. Wherever you’ve been and you had the choices to make afterward in your life, chances are you will come back to what you learned there. Being in the first years of your life with your parents and education is the most precious thing that you get from your parents and it is also the most permanent one that is with you for the rest of your life.”

Interview Information:
Date: July 25, 2023
Interview and Synopsis: Zieva Konvisser
Interview Length: 77 minutes
Videographer: Mark Einhaus
Editorial Comments: Roselind Baum, Michael Baum, Deborah Jacobs