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Peter's story

Memories of a German Jewish Schoolboy

Photograph of young Peter My family led an ordinary German Jewish middle class life in Munich. My father was a lawyer who, with his cousin, were senior partners in an eminent law firm founded in Munich in the 1890s by his uncle, a King's Counsel. The law firm was highly respected and had Jewish as well as many non-Jewish clients. My father's clients included members of the Royal Wittelsbach Family, who became personal friends. He was a typical German Jew, aware of being both a German and a Jew. He was a great optimist and in 1933 could not believe that Hitler was anything but a short-lived phenomenon, a view held by many German Jews at that time.

Even the events of the 10th March 1933 did not change his mind. On that day my father had made an appointment at the Munich Police HQ to intercede on behalf of a Jewish client, the owner of a large city-centre store. The windows of this well known store had been smashed by Nazi storm-troopers the previous day. The then Chief of Police was a notorious Nazi, who had recruited gangs from amongst the 'strong' men in the S.A.storm-troopers, euphemistically named 'auxiliary police' units ("Hilfspolizei").

When my father was shown into a room at the Police HQ, he was set upon and severely beaten up by a troop of these S.A. Nazi 'policemen'. He had several teeth knocked out and received a perforated ear-drum. He was then force marched through the streets of Munich, barefoot, bleeding and with his trouser legs cut-off at the knees. This procession was flanked by two lines of armed, brown-shirted and jack-booted S.A. Nazi escorts. He was made to carry a board around his neck with the words: 'Ich bin Jude aber ich will mich nie mehr bei der Polizei beschweren' [I am a Jew but I will never again complain to the Police].

Two photographs of the incident were taken at two locations near each other by a professional free-lance photo journalist. He was scared at what he had seen and photographed. Local newspapers would not publish these photographs on any account. The photographer therefore decided to get rid of the plates as quickly as possible, since they were obviously of great danger to him personally. He telephoned the Berlin agent of an American press agency, the "International News Photographic Service", to whom he sold and sent the 2 plates. He did not even dare to make prints. The photographic agency shipped the plates to Washington DC and the first time one of the photographs was published was on the front page of the "Washington Times" on 23rd March 1933. The photographs were subsequently published by the media for many years, throughout the world. They still appear from time to time, on TV, in newspapers, magazines, school text books and exhibitions.

Peter Sinclair
2nd October, 2000

Peter's story continues with his education and the events of KRISTALLNACHT
A more detailed version of his story (in German) can be found here.

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