A Lebkuchen Story II
I left my parents in Nuernberg, Germany on August 24, 1939 at 13 years of age. My parents and I assumed that it was best for me to join with a Kindertransport to go to England. Their last wishes and hopes were two things:
1. Get off the train in Amsterdam your grandmother will be there to see you
2. We have packed the LEBKUCHEN recipe book into your suitcase. Be sure that you won’t loose it and always keep it in a safe place.
Those were the very last instructions from my parents as I boarded the train for Hook van Holland with the stopover in Amsterdam and on to Harwich by boat and on to London by train.
WHY, YOU ASK, would your parents let you go to a strange country? Only because Kristallnacht had occurred on the 8thof November, when my father was beaten by the Nazis and had to surrender a fictitious 1 million marks, which he “supposedly” kept in his desk. Unable to come up with the sum they ransacked our apartment and told us to report to the police department. Luckily, my father was wise enough not to go to the police department but proceeded to the Nurnberg Bahnhof (train station) to go to my grandfather’s house in Bamberg (63 km away from Nurnberg). My father walked out of the house in slippers and a shirt, hoping no one would see us. Luckily for me a storm trooper followed me in the apartment and said, “Dress warmly.” As my father and I walked to the train station, other Jewish homes were lit up and we passed a street where the synagogue was burning. We thought that this was only happening in Nurnberg and my grandfather’s town would have been protected.
IT WAS NOT. We arrived in Bamberg by train in our skimpy dress code and found destruction there too. All these events along with the Nuremberg laws of the 3rd Reich restricting Jews from earning a livelihood, to persecuting and restricting them from places and spaces where they were able to live, prompted my parents to see whether I could go on the Kinder Transport and then I did go on a kinder transport to England.
When aboard the train with my suitcase, I thought I was in a safe place. However, at the German/Holland border a storm trooper came into our compartment and I had to climb up to take down the suitcase for examination before we crossed the border for Holland. I remember my heart going faster and faster hoping that HE would not find the recipe book my parents entrusted to me. He made me open my suitcase and found the recipe book. Looking back I don’t know why I might have had such a heavy recipe book which also contained photos of cakes, cookies and pastries. Thank goodness he left it alone and permitted me to close the suitcase and put it in the overhead compartment. The recipe book and I arrived safely in England and then to the Group Home sponsored by the Quaker Community in Ilkley, Yorkshire after a 6 hour train ride.
Little did I realize that I came on one of the very last Kinder transports from Germany to England, since World War II broke out five days after my arrival.
My partner, the recipe book, was carefully packed in the bottom drawer of my dresser wrapped in underwear and covered with undershirts and shirts. NO ONE COULD POSSIBLY FIND THE BOOK…..I also did not talk about the book to anyone.
On April first 1940, the Recipe Book and I arrived safely in the United States. I contacted my brother who had come to the United States three years earlier to come and call for me at the Cunard White Star Port, on 56th Street where the Britannic was moored. Arrivals from England were not made public since they were at war. And then I was in my new home. My parents came to New York one month later when our whole family reunited.
Again, luckily my father had prepared himself in Germany by learning new trades in our home. He was originally a wine merchant and the family at one time had vineyards and a winery. While in Nuremberg he also learned to make liqueurs, lebkuchen and other baked goods. The United States had strict laws about liquor and who may enter that industry. You had to be a citizen. Making baked goods was not a restricted industry. After my father’s arrival he teamed up with another emigrant from Nuremberg and they created the Liberty Brand Cookie Company making Lebkuchen and cookies. Initially they occupied a section of a larger baked goods bakery before moving to their own premises in Jackson Heights, in New York City. A new beginning in a country that valued and nurtured people and supported their citizenship.
-Ed Klugman of Liberty Brand Cookie Company in Jackson Heights, New York