Antisemitism in the classroom
Henry initially attends German schools. Within a few years, the persecution of Jewish students has become commonplace, not only perpetrated by fellow classmates, but sanctioned and encouraged by teachers as well. In 1933, strict quotas are imposed on the number of Jewish students allowed to enroll in schools. By 1938, Jewish students are banned from attending public schools entirely.
Henry Lowenstein: When I switched to the Gymnasium, which is the title for a school that follows the grade school—I think it would have been in 1936. That was a whole different story. […] I can remember that we – being kids on the way to school—the Jewish kids would be set upon by Hitler Youth and frequently I had to fight my way to school. In the school, the whole Nazi thing became very much a part of everyday activity. We would have to stand in the courtyard and sing the Horst Wessel song, the Nazi songs. And, you know, all the kids would. One of my teachers—the gym teacher—was a real evil son of a bitch. He would come to class in an SS uniform, and say, ‘Well I don’t have time to change, I’m going to an SS meeting after this.’ And he would clearly pick on the Jewish kids. To demonstrate how ‘incompetent’ we were, [that we] couldn’t do what they wanted us to do and find ways of humiliating us. There was one kid who was kind of fat and not very athletically inclined, and they really picked on that poor kid all the time. I was relatively lucky, because while I was no great athlete, I could handle what came along and I was able to stand up for myself.
I’m not particularly proud of the fact that I did not—there were times when, on the way home from school, in retrospect it would have been nice if I had been braver and stuck up for my fellow Jewish kids. But quite frankly, it became more of a matter of survival and I’d run like hell or fight my own way, but I didn’t go to the aid of the others. None of us did, I think. We all each went our way and it was not—in retrospect I wish we had put up more of a united front but, you know, at the time, it didn’t seem like the thing to do. Because they were really rough on us. And I lasted for two years in that school. And it was a horrible time, I mean it we were really picked on. And it’s very hard to do any kind of learning when you are the butt of everybody, and you sit in a class and the teachers will talk like the Nazi propaganda. And of course everything is the fault of the Jews.
“In the school, the whole Nazi thing became very much a part of everyday activity.”
USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive, Interview 11470