antisemitism , or hatred of Jews, was growing rapidly throughout Nazi Germany. At least, Albert and his family thought, they were safe with their friends at the Undine boat club. They enjoyed leaving the center of Berlin every once in a while for the more relaxing area of their boat club, where the boys played with other Jewish friends and Mr. Friedlander basked in his popularity as a fine sportsman. In 1937, however, when Albert was 10, there was a terrifying mob attack on the club.
TESTIMONY: “TERROR IN THE UNDINE BOAT CLUB”
“Do you have any weapons in your apartment?”
With a growing concern about the safety of their everyday life, Albert’s father went to the American Embassy to ask for an immigration quota number for the family. Because the Americans only permitted a certain number of immigrants each year, the number Mr. Friedlander obtained was not supposed to come up until 1943. They would have to wait at least six years to leave!
Not only was Mr. Friedlander unsuccessful at getting a quota number for his family to leave immediately, but soon all the students at the Theodore Herzl School were told not to return. The school was ironically located on a square known as Adolf Hitler Platz, and the neighbors despised having a Jewish institution in the area. The neighbors managed to close down the school, and from that time on, the Friedlanders were taught at home.
In November 1938, the Friedlanders heard a rumor about the threat of even more violence, all across Germany. The family decided to visit friends in the suburbs of Berlin. They hid there, together with a group of about 20 other Jews, having been warned to stay there until the violence of what came to be known as Kristallnacht was over.
TESTIMONY: “Kristallnacht ”
“Why aren’t you kids wearing your Hitler Youth uniforms?”
The night of November 10, the family decided it would be safe to go home. They were still cautious, though. Albert and his father went first, and the others came half an hour later. They walked down the city streets over broken glass, passing their burned synagogue, which was still smoking.
As they finally walked up the steps to their apartment, they heard noises inside. They could smell cigars and beer, and hear laughter. They realized that Nazi officers must be sitting inside, waiting for them. The Nazis would arrest the heads of the household as a form of blackmail, in order to make the Jews pay for the return of their relatives.
Albert and his father waited at the corner until the other members of the family arrived. They returned to the hiding place and stayed there for two more days.
At this point the family, quite desperate to leave, discovered that Cuba was still giving out visas. They quickly got their passports and bought tickets to Havana on a steamship. The passports listed Albert’s name as “Albert Israel Friedlander” and his sister as “Dorrit Sara Friedlander.” By forcefully adding these middle names, the Nazis could clearly identify Jews.
As they embarked on the ship, the officials noticed that Albert was a Jew and gave him “special attention.” They inspected his belongings, to make sure he wasn’t taking any valuables. They poked his stuffed toy animal with sharp instruments to make sure there was no jewelry hidden inside, and they confiscated his beloved stamp collection.
There was no farewell party for the Friedlanders, because Jews were not allowed to assemble in groups. People just packed up quietly and escaped.