Arthur Harf (left) on an excursion with Katharina and Leo Irlenborn
Among the four Jewish students of the Untersekunda 1921/22 of the Gymnasium Traben-Trarbach was Arthur Harf (front left).
Arthur Harf in the Irlenborn garden, spit roasting. Arthur Harf (2nd from right) holds a wine bottle in his hand.
Harf family / Bullay
Gustav Harf, born on 24.1.1872, came from Seibersbach in Hunsrück. His first wife belonged to the old Bullayer family Schömann. Gertrude Harf née Schömann died on 25 January 1896. After her death, Gustav Harf married Julie Weissmann from Altenmuhr and had three children with her: Erna *16.11.1897, Julius *19.11.1899, Arthur *20.11.1905. After the death of his second wife on 10.2.1916, he married Karolina (Lina) Bermann, born on 8.2.1884 in Weißenthurm.
Gustav Harf was a non-commissioned officer during World War I. He ran the first butcher’s shop in today’s Moselstraße. Opposite the shop was the slaughterhouse, which later, after the butcher’s shop was moved to Bahnhofstraße 118 (today no. 28), served as a store for hides and skins.
Erna married the cattle dealer Friedrich Jakob Baum from Dortmund on 26 June 1923. Her husband died in Goslar in 1931. Erna Baum emigrated to the USA before the war began. She died in Erie, Pennsylvania.
Julius Harf learned the butcher’s trade and also traded with hides and skins. He married Ida Gärtner, *15.5.1900 in Sohren. They had two children, Inge *2.2.1926 and Walter *28.12.1928, and lived in Kapellenstr. 88, today Alte Poststraße No. 3. Later they moved into the newly built house in Bahnhofstraße, today No. 24.
Arthur Harf left Bullay at the turn of the year 1935/1936 and built up a new existence in Sao Paulo, Brazil. After the war, he and his wife Rosa visited Bullay several times. Arthur Harf died two years after the death of his wife on 20.3.1995 in Sao Paulo.
Bullay´s NSDAP local group succeeded in the mid-30s in increasingly undermining the economic existence of the Jewish butchers. When Bullay´s Jews were publicly defamed as “enemies of the people” by a decision of the local council and at party events and called upon to “disappear”, and finally legal proceedings were initiated against Julius Harf, he emigrated with his family to the USA in 1937.
He resumed his profession in the USA. Julius and Ida Harf died in the USA. Their children Inge and Walter now live in Erie, USA.
The older Harf couple stayed in Bullay. Gustav Harf was the last head of the synagogue community in Zell. After the pogrom night he had to sell the synagogue for 1000 Reichsmark. The money was put into a blocked account. Gustav and Karolina Harf were deported on July 27, 1942, first to Theresienstadt and then to Minsk.
Walter Harf´s report / Life in Germany
I was born in Trier, Germany on December 28, 1928. My parents, Julius and Ida Harf lived in a small town of about 2500 people in western Germany called Bullay, on the Moselle River. It could be the typical small German town in any travelogue. It had a fine Catholic Church, a cobble stoned town square with restaurants and small shops, quaint brick, wood, and stucco houses. The surrounding hills were stepped and the earth and slate were ideal for growing high quality grapes for the area’s winemakers.
The Moselle area is beautiful. It originates in France and empties into the Rhein at “Drei Ecken” in Koblenz. The river is bordered by steep hills and occasional lush meadows. Cruise boats and freight barges ply the waters and vie with personal recreational crafts.
Because my father was an extremely hard worker, his businesses had a measure of success. In 1932, my father had sufficient self confidence that he decided to build a fine large home. It may have been the first new home built in Bullay in decades. My first real memories were watching the horses being used in the excavation for that home.
We have pictures of my sister and I sitting on the ferry that took us across the river to the town of AIf where there was a tailor shop and a store, which, for five pfenig, sold wonderful custard. High on a hill was Marienburg, a monastery that overlooked the area. From there we could see around the river’s bend to the town of Berenkastle.
We took walks beyond the town and went into the hills were the grapes were growing. Just beyond the town limits, my family had a vegetable garden. And like any youngster I enthusiastically took part. By a balancing act of swinging with one leg beneath the bar I rode a men’s adult bicycle on the streets of Bullay.
At the time I lived in Bullay, I believe that the railroad was an important part of the town’s economy. The nearby railroad station and adjacent post office had a fascination. The trains were always on time. I remember the smell of the black smoke that spewed out from the great engines as they approached the massive bridge that took them across the Moselle. For me, the railroad station and adjacent post office were fascinating buildings.
Close to our home was a photography store. The owner showed me the development and printing area. It had an unforgettable odor. I remember that each summer, there was a festival in the square. I rode horses on the merry-go-round. There were also early evenings when I was allowed to go
to the square. There was a beer garden. It had an outside arbor area, where a small orchestra played and I watched my parents dance.
My father was in several related businesses. From the large garage and basement of our home, he sold butcher supplies and equipment, and sharpened and repaired meat grinder knives. For deliveries he hitched had a trailer to his car. His sales area was about 100 kilometers . From those same customers he purchased hides and brought them to Bullay. He had curing vats and prepared the hides for sale to tanneries. I recall the smell that came from that curing area.
My father and mother were well respected in the community. Their leisure life included a bowling league, dancing often at the local pubs and the hotel, card playing, and much socializing with friends and family in the surrounding towns. My mother was an excellent homemaker and took pride in her cooking and delighted in entertaining guests.
My paternal grandfather, Gustav Harf and his third wife, Lena, also lived in the town of Bullay. Their house was about 100 feet from the house my family built. They lived above their butcher shop. Cattle and pigs were butchered in the rear of the building. His and the Kahn’s were two of the three butcher shops in town. His shop was filled with aromas coming from the hickory wood smoke house. The taste of frankfurters, straight out of the smoke house is not forgotten.
Gustav Harf’s home had been in Zweiversbach, and he had four brothers. Ernest was a doctor in Luxembourg, Theodore, Max, and Adolph had a shirt and tie manufacturing business in Krefeld. How he came to be a butcher in Bullay, I do not know. He was a very proud and staunch German. He had served in the German army from 1916 to 1918.
There were only two other Jewish families in the town of Bullay. There were no Jewish children our age in Bullay. I do not recall the name of the family that lived across the street. The Kahns had three sons, Walter, Ernest and Hans. Mrs. Kahn was widowed and Norbert Voss helped her with her business and was a like a father to the sons. I went to a elementary school about 2 blocks new home. My sister, 3 years older than me, was sent to a fine girl’s school in Cochem, a town about 20 miles away and went back and forth by train each day.
On some Saturdays we took the five kilometer ride on the “Traben Trabach” train to a community called Zell, home of the famous Zeller Schwartz Katz wine. The Wolf family lived in Zell and operated a jewelry store. The Wolfs were my mother’s and father’s best friends and they shared the same March 9th wedding anniversary date. My sister, Inga, was best friends with the youngest daughter, Lotte. Ruth, their older daughter was a real beauty (and married well). Manfred Wolf, their son was well liked. They all came to the United States and settled in the New York area.
The areas only synagogue was located in Zell. I remember walking to Zeil on a Rosh Hashanah and sitting on the second floor area with my mother and seeing my father in a white shroud worshipping on the first floor. After dinner with the Wolfs, we took the train back to Bullay.
During the summer, my sister and I spent several weeks with my Mother’s family, Sigmund and Karolina Gartner. They lived in Sohren, a farm community about an hour distant from Bullay. I believe that my grandfather’s business was dealing in milk cows. Typical of the area, they had a combination house and barn building, where the smells of barn and cooking intertwined. Following the kneading of dough, I accompanied my grandmother to bake the breads in the large the community bakery. There were huge spatulas that one used to place and retrieve the wonderful smelling( and tasting) bread. These times I remember best.
A bit of chocolate, that my grandmother ( that for some reason) called the “Schreir,” was an evening treat as I went under a huge down blanket. One day, I hammered many nails into the chopping block in the front yard. My grandfather was very angry, and that night there was no chocolate.
My grandfather was one of the learned Jews in the community. He was the Torah reader at the synagogue, was the schoket for killing chickens, and taught Hebrew to his children and some others.
There were Sunday car outings in the summer. I do not know the make or model of the car. There were picnic outings and visits near Koblenz and Cochem, where there was a Disney like castle. I remember visiting with my cousins Arthur and Margot Kallmann. I also remember going to Dortmund where my father’s widowed sister, Erna Baum resided with her children , Irmgard and Werner. My mother’s favorite aunt, Selma Sternberg, lived in the same apartment house as the Baums. To me this was a huge city and the bleak cement apartment houses did not appeal to me.
I remember an itinerant rabbi who monthly came to teach my sister and me about Judaism, it is easy to recall sitting at the dining room table while he patiently tried to teach us script Hebrew. With me, he was not successful.
As the only Jewish child in the elementary school, in my first two year at school, I did not know that I was different from anyone else. Each morning, I went to school with my leather knapsack over my shoulders. At 7:30 everyone participated in the calisthenics in the school yard. I learned to read quickly and was good in arithmetic. Before the afternoon classes I came home for my favorite lunch of fried potatoes and eggs. After school my schoolmates and I played in our large backyard. There were trees on which to climb, a chicken coop in which to hide, and a hard surface court yard for ball playing.
At the beginning of my third grade a new teacher came to town. He lived in a loft several houses away , and was able to see into the back yard of our home. This teacher was an ardent Nazi and my life changed. Suddenly the morning calisthenics in the school yard were for everyone, but me. In class, I was never called upon to answer any questions. My seat was moved to the rear of the class, where my seat mate had severe learning disabilities.
I was no longer a part of the school youth group. The teacher decreed that none was to talkto me, no one was to play with me, no one was to call me by my name, the Jew was not a regular person. I was to be called “Jude” by my classmates.
Only one classmate disobeyed the teacher. As school let out, he would walk some distance behind me. I would enter our house, open the side garage door, and he would sneak in and we played in our large garage until dark and then he would go across the street to his home. A brand new glass enclosed, street level bulletin board suddenly appeared in the town square. Like any curious child, I viewed the paste ups. There grotesque cartoon pictures of the Jew the vulture, the Jew money grabber, the Jew that caused all of Germany’s problems were depicted in the weekly issued of The Stuermer. There were no other announcements on the bulletin board. As the school was near the square, on my way to and from school I had to pass that bulletin board four times each day.
What is interesting, I cannot recall my parents talking about it to me. I knew I was Jewish, but those pictures showed people that I had never seen. People with huge hooked noses, wearing black hats, with raunchy looking unshaven faces. Those weren’t the Jews I knew.
At about this same time, my sister had some terrible experiences. On the train to her class on Cochem she was spat upon and physically attacked. When the train was going through railroad tunnels, it was especially horrible for her. At school there were constant taunts. I do not remember learning about any of this as a child in Germany.
I know that my Uncle Arthur Harf came to Bullay to say goodbye. He and Arthur Schuster were leaving for Brazil. At the time, I was not aware of his motivations. He was correct in foretelling that the Nazi threats were real and that Germany was becoming a dangerous place for Jews to reside.
Many years later I learned about the circumstances that led to my family leaving Germany.
Almost overnight our lives were changed.
Anti-Semitism, the hatred of Jews had come to Builay. The only policeman in town, a friend of the family, warned my Mother and Father, that he was under orders. What orders?? The orders to comply with the Nuremberg laws.
Now, that which had been distant and far removed came to Builay. Forbidden was the hiring of a Christian German woman under the age of 35 to come to our house. My father’s business was restricted. He could only deal with factories owned by “approved” Germans. His list of customers was limited. Every purchase and sale had to be registered. His territorial travel was restricted. But wait, my father was a decorated soldier with the high honors of the Iron Cross. Certainly, he thought, there was some leeway for him.
In my teacher, the town now had a fervent believer of Hitler’s message. The Jews were at fault for all the ills of Germany. The Jews caused Germany to lose the War in 1918. The Jews caused the inflation, the Jews caused the depression, the Jews caused unemployment. “Die Juden sindt unser Unglück” (translated “the Jews are our misfortune”) The teacher had taken a room in a house that overlooked our back yard so he was able to monitor our family’s activities.
And then it happened. My father was taken away to a jail a hundred kilometers from Builay. He had defied the Nuremberg laws. He had continued doing business as before. But how could that be. My father had won the Iron Cross because of his heroism in the first World War. After two weeks…Ah yes, he truly had received the Iron Cross, and that gave him a special exemption, “You may return home. Julius Harf.”
Within the month, he was taken away again, this time for a shorter time. It was because the cleaning woman was single and under 35 years of age. It was no longer a political situation that would somehow go away with an uprising against Hitler. It was time to make some decisions. With the elimination of the Iron Cross exemptions, my father’s business license was taken away. My mother and father decided that for their children’s sake it was time to get the family out. We had relatives living in the United States, in Erie, Pennsylvania, perhaps they can help us.
One had to prove financial security as part of the application. No one with so much as a small skin blemish could pass the required medical test given by the U.S. consulate in Stuttgart Germany. One had to have have official permission to leave Germany. You had to have proof passage and paid ticket in a German approved ocean steamer. Money could not be taken. There was permission to ship certain possessions in an approved shipping container. To overcome all those difficulties, that process for us to leave Germany would take several months. With the assistance of Ernest Harf, the doctor to the royal family in Luxembourg, my parents were able to obtain the necessary papers.
Because the depression was still deep, and there were not enough jobs around, the United States would only take 30,000 immigrants. So the rules to come to the United States were stringent. First, visas issued by the U.S. Stae Department were needed. To obtain a visa a sponsor residing in the the United States had to supply an affidavit that the immigrants involved would never become a burden to the United States government.
With all the credentials in order my family went to the United States consulate in Stuttgart, Germany. Again, paid passage on a ship had to be proven along with documented permission to leave Germany. There, after passing the very stringent health examinations, we were approved to come to the United States.
Several months prior to this the home and butcher shop of my grandparents was confiscated by the Nazis. Believing that Hiler would be overthrown politically, my grandparents decided not to leave Germany.
My grandparents moved to our house. A third floor maid´s quarters had been built into our new home and they occupied them. Sometimes I would go upstairs to have meals with them.
Before leaving, my father had arranged to have one of his customers take over te house and, if needed, look after my grandparents. (After World War II my parents sold them the house). The grandparents remained in the house until 1941. First they were taken to Theresienstadt concentration camp, from there we actually received a postcard. The message included, that he had met his brother Theodore at the camp. Records at the Holocaust memorial Museum in Washington D.C. showed, that they were exterminated to Auschwitz.
On the first of October 1937, my sister and I were sent off to a fine children´s home. We were sent there to spare us the trauma of seeig our possessions being boxed or left behind. The place as like a spa. I believe, that this was tuberculosis cure retreat. My memories include seeing streams of water cascading over willow walls an each morning I was subjected to a rectal thermostatic reading.
On the 12th of October our parents came to pick us up. We were on our way to Hamburg, Germany. On the 13th of Otober, the U.S. Steamship Theodore Roosevelt left for America. We were second class passengers, which meant that we had nice staterooms and had our meals in the formal dining room. It also meant we did not have to be processed at Ellis Island.
Most of the way across the ocean, my mother and Inga suffered from seasickness (and maybe trauma)and were cabin bound much of the time.
I had a good time roaming about aboard ship and eating fruits and vegetables that were new to me. As an eight years old I was not aware of its impact, but my father and mother took my sister and I on deck. In the early foggy morning of October 25th, the Statue of Liberty appeared.
We were met at the dock by the Joint Distribution Committee and soon were on a train to Erie. The first few days we stayed with my uncle Ernest Gartner and his wife Margaret and their little girl, Carol at 2828 Holland Street.
I shall never forget my first day. My uncle told me to go to the store next door and buy him a pack of Chesterfield cigarettes. I could say the word cigarettes, as it was similar in german. Chesterfield could not come out of my mouth and I stood there and cried. I was determined, that something like this was never going to happen again.
On October 28th, 1937, I met the principal, Mr. Herman Miller, when my uncle Arthur enrolled me at Jefferson School.