Henry and Anita Schuster oral history interview, 2011 March 01 to 2011 April 25. OH-01647. [Audio recording]. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada. http://n2t.net/ark:/62930/d1cr5r433
I want to get started with your early life. Talk about where you were born, when you were born, let me know the date as well, and tell me about your early family. Okay. I'll start telling you about the town where I was born. It is part of the province of Hesse. It was strictly a farming community. There were 1300 people, population in the town, of which a hundred were Jews. We all had a wonderful life, as life goes. I was born in 1926. I was a spoiled brat. My mother and my two sisters treated me as if I were a doll. But I was adventurous. I did a lot of things that children do, and I did some mighty dangerous things. We had a horse, we had a cow, and we had chickens, and we had the hayloft where we kept the hay. Our father could care less what was in the house, but his farm and his stables had to be spick and span. He would polish the horses' hooves. We had a beautiful carriage and a beautiful sleigh. My father traveled some with the horse in the neighboring towns to sell his wares. Many times he went further and he took a train, a local train that would stop in the town of Sterbfritz (Germany). I know he went as far as around 25 miles where he had customers. My mother operated a grocery store. It was typical like the country store, so was our country store. My mother was the most wonderful woman, just a wonderful person. I am fortunate now that I have one sister that survived the Holocaust. My other sister and my mother perished in the Holocaust. My sister that is living lives in Santa Rosa, California. She thought I was her doll. I know that because she got a hernia and everybody attributed it to the fact that she carried me around when I was a little bitty baby. So give me their names. Okay. My oldest sister's name is Bertel, B-E-R-T-E-L. She changed it to Betty once she came to this country. My other sister was Margot, M-A-R-G-O-T. She was my protector. When the 1 Nazis came into power, even a year before they came into power, the little towns were hurt the most. So was the town of Sterbfritz where I was born. We children were being stoned and beaten by the non-Jewish children. Until 1933, we had a Jewish parochial school. It was a one room schoolhouse. Once the Nazis took power they absolutely cut off all assistance for the Jews of Germany. Also, in 1935, the edict came out from the headquarters of the Nazi that no one that owes money to Jews is no longer obligated to pay them. And also the teacher in public school, for some reason or another, took it out on me. Why, I don't know. But there wasn't a day that I was not punished, being hit with his stick that he would carry around. He encouraged the rest of the children to really act against us Jewish children. I, again, feel like I was singled out because ? my sister Margot was my protector. She was three years older than I was, but she was a very brave young child. She would definitely protect me from all the punishment that was doled out by our classmates. The usual thing after World War I, it was, I would say ? what's the word I want to use? ... Anita Schuster: When people got together? Is that what you want to say? Yeah. The usual thing was that they got together, they played cards, they visited with one another, the community. So this was the way it was before. Before Hitler. And everybody in the village are friends, Jewish people and everyone? Absolutely. And also, before that we had Jewish friends, the playmates, and we had non-Jewish playmates. But once the Nazi Party came into power, things completely changed. Before that it used to be an election. The governors, the mayors, and all were national. After Hitler came and they took over, it was now a dictatorship and the individual towns were granted positions of the German government. So was the town of Sterbfritz where I was born. Hermann Goring, who was the number three man in the Nazi hierarchy, he went on a hunting trip in our area. There were a lot of wild boars. Goring came with his whole group. They were staying at an inn in a little larger town than Sterbfritz, which was about 30 miles from Sterbfritz, and they needed a weapons carrier and someone who knew the area. Well, the 2 innkeeper's son was 22 or 23 years old. They chose him to be the guide. Now, this particular young man became the mayor of the town of Sterbfritz and he had full power to do whatever he wanted to. So that's when life with the Jews completely changed. We Jewish children were forced to participate in the horrible inhumane stories - I've got to stop. This young man of 23 got the appointment of being the mayor of Sterbfritz. He was a Hitler Youth to start off with, and he was a typical Nazi. It was his privilege to punish. Anything possible, they had the Jews do. One of the things that stands out in my mind ~ one person of each and every Jewish family had to report to a certain street, which was a dirt street. They brought in a load of rocks. And the Jewish men and women were forced to spread that. I went along with my mother because my father had passed away. It was very hard work, difficult work. But at the same time, people laughed and joked about it and made the best do. Now, this mayor would encourage the teacher to punish us Jewish children. My father passed away in 1935. Before he died, fortunately he found someone who wanted to buy the grocery store. This man occupied the lower part of the building of our house, which, by the way, our house was one of the nicest in the town. My father built it in 1919. It was a three-story building. This man by the name of Kirst bought the grocery store, not living in the house yet. Maybe three or four months later he decided he wanted to take over the rest of the house. So he forced, actually with the help of the biirgermeister, forced us to move up into the third floor, which was more like an attic than anything else.