Demant, Margaret R.

Demant, Margaret R.

Krefeld (Germany)

Margaret, originally Margot, Demant is the daughter of Walter and Erna Herz, who were conservative Jews.  She has a younger sister, Ellen.  Although born in Krefeld she lived most of her early years in Berlin, Germany where she attended public school until expelled because of her Jewish religion.  She then attended a Jewish school.  Her father was the importer of high style dress goods and they lived a comfortable life.  Her childhood friends, mostly non-Jewish, included the daughter of a German Army General.  This friendship ended at the General’s insistence because it was considered improper for his child to associate with a Jewish child.  She described her childhood in Germany as pleasant, but was taught to be independent due to the conditions in Germany.

Her father visited the United States in 1937, but decided to remain in Germany in the belief that the political climate there was short-lived.  However, after Kristallnacht it became evident that there was no future for him and his family in remaining.  Mrs. Demant and her sister were accepted on the Kindertransport to England, where Mrs. Demant was placed with a pre-arranged family near London that she believes was paid to keep her.  The foster parents had two girls of their own and treated her as an outsider.  Her sister arrived in England a week later and lived with another family.

Mrs. Demant’s parents were able to leave Germany for England in August, 1939.  They were able to obtain visas for the family for the United States, through family connections, and the entire family left Liverpool on a freighter in a convoy on Feb. 16, 1940, travelling to Halifax, Canada, and from there to Boston.

The family came to Detroit due to relatives here.  On the train from Boston her father met a man with whom he set up a business in textile and upholstering, Gross and Herz.  After a short while her father went independent and developed Herz Interiors, a very prominent and successful business.  After graduating from high school Mrs. Demant joined her father in the business, at his insistence.

Mrs. Demant married in 1947 and had two children.  She is now very active with the Detroit Art Institute and the Jewish Family Service.  She has returned to Germany twice.  The first trip was very uncomfortable for her, but the second much more pleasant.

Interview and synopsis by:  Hans R. Weinmann
Date of Interview:  Dec. 19, 2007
Length of Interview:  46 minutes