Lore Jonas is the sole offspring of Siegfried and Toni Weissmann Wronker. Her father was a physician primarily serving patients in Moeckern and Wahren, two suburbs of Leipzig, Germany. The family lived in Moeckern occupying the second floor of a three-story building which also housed her father’s medical offices. She described her family’s financial position as good due to a moderate, steady income which her father received through the German healthcare system. He was allowed to practice medicine until 1938.
Mrs. Jonas was raised in a household practicing the Conservative Judaism common to Germany of that period. Initially she attended public school and believes she was the only Jew in her class. Her Jewish education was provided separately from her regular schooling. As anti-Jewish measures in Germany increased, she was transferred, by edict, to a Jewish school to which she had to travel by tram. Mrs. Jonas recalls one instance where she was sexually assaulted, but not raped by a German man, strictly because she was Jewish. Although this case of child abuse was reported to the police, the perpetrator was never apprehended.
During Kristallnacht, the government-organized mass riots against Jews on November 9 and 10, 1938, her family, then living in Wahren, was rounded up with all other Jews and marched to the police station. She recalls that a gun was held against her head as a threat to induce her to move faster. After interrogation at the police station, she and many others were released. Her father was put in a jail in downtown Leipzig because, she believes, the concentration camps were filled to capacity. He was in jail about 3 to 4 weeks and then released upon commitment to leave Germany.
Through the efforts of her mother’s cousins who lived in Guatemala, the family received a visa allowing them to immigrate to Guatemala. This happened even though Guatemala at that time was ruled by a pro-Germany, pro-Nazi dictator and had a very active pro-Nazi German community. They sailed for Guatemala at the end of March, 1938, on a freighter that needed a physician on board.
In Guatemala her family initially lived with relatives and had a hard time since her father was not allowed to practice medicine. Eventually he did receive a work permit, but only to perform physical therapy, not to practice medicine. Both Mrs. Jonas’ father and mother made a living administering physical therapy and body massages. Mrs. Jonas entered a private English/American school, since the local schools were very basic. Initially she felt very isolated and had great difficulties since she spoke neither English nor Spanish. Later she entered a school of commerce and at age 16 began work as a secretary.
Mrs. Jonas immigrated to the United States in 1947 at the age of 19 under the German quota and initially lived with refugee friends from Guatemala . She began work as a multi-lingual secretary: Spanish, English and later also German. She also continued her education and eventually graduated from a university, pursuing a career as a social worker. She was married and has two children and three grandchildren.
Her mother came to the United States in 1951, also under the German quota and, after having established residence, was able to bring her husband (Lore. Jonas’ father) to the United States in 1954. Her maternal grandparents were sent to Theresienstadt. Only her grandmother survived.
Mrs. Jonas has returned to Leipzig and its suburbs on three different occasions. On her first visit when Leipzig was part of East Germany under Communist rule, she returned to her former home which she found fully intact. Another physician was occupying that home and her father’s medical offices. She also attempted to return to her former school, but was denied entry because she was an American citizen. However a cousin, a Swedish citizen who was with her, was allowed to enter.
On her second visit she was involved in initiating a successful claim for her grandfather’s former porcelain factory. In general her trips were not pleasant.
Mrs. Jonas has uncertain feelings about her identity not being able to decide where “home” really is – Germany, Guatemala, or the United States.