Skip to main content
Skip to content Skip to navigation

Leib "Leo" Eimer

Familienphoto, 1949, Israel (© Jeff Eimer)
4 Stolpersteine für Familie Eimer in Alte Schönhauser Straße 4 (© Arndt Fehl)
Alte Schönhauser Straße 4

Mitte – Mitte

1921 in Berlin
1933 nach Palästina

In his later years Leo Eimer biographically described his experience as a 12-year-old in Berlin, the escape of the family and his later life.
The text has been provided by his son who lives in New York.

By: Leo Eimer

I was born in Berlin, where I lived with my parents, my brother and many relatives. My earliest recollection of Nazi Germany is an incident that happened one afternoon, in the beginning of 1933. That day I was coming home from school when I noticed a big crowd around a speaker. It was just in front of a large building, recently taken over by the Nazis from the communist party, and renamed the Horst Wessel House. The speaker was Adolf Hitler. Being a curious young boy I inched myself closer to the speaker to listen to his fiery tirade, extolling his party etc... I had on my school cap with the Jewish insignia. Somebody tapped me roughly on the shoulder yelling Jew boy take your cap off as I remember there were hundreds of cheering people around Hitler, who with his hypnotic eyes and powerful voice mesmerized the crowd. Looking at him, little did I know that this evil man will soon set the world on fire and destroy one third of our people. But at that time I was not interested in politics I lost interest in that spectacle and in his speech. All I had on my mind was how I can get out of this crowd and return home.

After Hitler became chancellor of Germany his hatred of Jews manifested itself in severe persecution and restrictions of any rights for the Jews.

My fathers' coal distribution license was cancelled, thus his means of making a living. This was the beginning of the end of our family's life in Germany. My parents decided to emigrate. My dad an ardent Zionist chose to go to Palestine. As we couldn't obtain a visa, we were compelled to smuggle through the border near Düsseldorf, to Holland. We stayed in Amsterdam for a few months. My father tutored me in German and Hebrew. Geography lessons I obtained during our wanderings through many Countries and many cultures. I missed my school friends, my cousins and the soccer games. What started as an exciting adventure became a tedious tiring life on the go. We went from Holland and subsequent countries, until we were able to obtain short term visas to reach Syria. Meanwhile I became Bar Mitzvah in a small synagogue in Belgrade-Yugoslavia. Finally from Syria we were smuggled in a small sailboat to Palestine. The shores were patrolled by the British M.P.S. Miraculously we were rescued by a few courageous Kibbutznicks and then hidden in a Kibbutz. As the long trip from Berlin took all our family's savings we arrived in Tel Aviv penniless...

My idealistic father turned to my mother and exclaimed:
"Although I have only a few piasters left in my pocket, look around you, we are home, in ERETZ ISRAEL!"

In 1934, 1935 life in Palestine was very hard, and the climate very harsh for Europeans. My parents had to struggle to eke out a living. Although my brother and I were still teenagers we tried our utmost to help, to alleviate their struggle.

Part of our family from Germany emigrated to the USA. From them I received a visa. I arrived in New York in 1939. After the attack on Pearl Harbor I was drafted into the army. Since I spoke fluent German, I was sent to a special military school to be trained as an interrogator. On completion of the course I was shipped to Southampton, England to await the forthcoming invasion of Normandy.

We landed there two days after D Day and were transported to Cherbourg, where we organized the first continental P.O.W. camp in France. We had about three hundred thousand German prisoners, among them some high ranking officers and generals. I was promoted to Staff Sergeant. Although we wielded some power over the prisoners, we were prevented by the international P.O.W. convention from taking any drastic measures of revenge as we whole heartedly desired. In those moments I remembered standing in front of Hitler and listening to his speech filled with hate and venom. And then being forced to leave my home...

Somehow we acquired a documentary film depicting the gruesome facts from the concentration camps. While I was in the army I was unaware of the extent of atrocities inflicted by the Germans on our people. I was stunned. I projected the film for the prisoners. There was no audible reaction from them, only silence.

Rumors came to our attention that they considered the film as propaganda measures...

For security reasons the staff was instructed not to mingle with the prisoners so I had very little contact with them. I only gave orders on the loudspeaker unless I had to interrogate them. Our main objective was to keep order in the camp, prevent escapes, sabotage and obtain any information useful to the war effort. This didn't include any investigation about the Nazi atrocities committed against the Jews...

After the end of the war, the major in charge of the camp offered me a new career. They would send me to a military administrative school in Germany. I would have to sign up for a few years to work in the American administration of West Germany.

It was a very lucrative offer but I refused, I was anxious to return to civilian life and also I had no intention to return to Germany...

Biographical Compilation

Leo Eimer