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Claude Brunswic

Heidelberg, Germany

Claude was one of five children born to Jewish parents in the university city of Heidelberg. His father, a physician specializing in internal medicine, had his practice on the first floor of the apartment building in which the family lived. Claude was an avid swimmer until November 1932, when local Nazi party edictsforbad Jews to use the city pool where he swam.

1933-39: In January 1933, just after Hitler became chancellor of Germany, hoodlums attacked Jewish-owned businesses in Heidelberg. They broke my father's office windows and destroyed his X-ray machine. My family decided then to leave Germany. We relocated to the Netherlands, and then, in 1937, moved to Paris. I worked at a piano factory there until I enlisted in the French army in September 1939. My basic training took place in Orleans.

1940-45: Germany invaded France in May 1940. I was taken prisoner with thousands of other French soldiers and held in a POW camp in Trier, Germany. Over the next few years, I was aslave laborer, working on farms and repairing bombed-out train tracks. In 1943 I escaped to France, but was caught and returned to Trier. I was sentenced to solitary confinement and given little food. Fortunately, Soviet POWs in the barracks above my cell kept me alive by passing me food and cigarettes through the floor boards.

Claude was liberated by Americans in January 1945. After the war, he first returned to Germany to assist Jewish refugees. In 1946 he emigrated to the United States.

 

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