“Tolerance is what keeps humanity together, I believe.”
—Anne Willem Meijer, Member of the Dutch Resistance
On Friday, December 10, 2010, Holocaust survivor Carol Herman passed away. She was devoted to the work of CHHE and was proud to have some of her family’s objects inside the Mapping Our Tears exhibit.
Carol Ostertag Herman was born in 1922 in Munich, Germany. She grew up in an observant Jewish household with her beloved brother Bernie, and her dear mother and father. Her family was patriotic, and her father had served Germany in World War I. Mr. Ostertag owned a cigar shop and was friendly with both his Jewish and non-Jewish customers. Growing up, Carol had an equal number of Jewish and Christian friends, and often spent afternoons playing in the homes of her Christian friends. After Hitler’s rise to power, these friendships began to fade away. When Carol was 15, her teacher pulled her out of class, and with tears in her eyes, told Carol that due to the restrictions on the Jews, she was no longer permitted to come to school. Carol was devastated.
As the situation in Germany became more and more dire, the Ostertag family struggled to get visas to the United States. They were only able to secure one. Since Carol was the oldest, they thought it best she go first, with the belief that the rest of the family would meet her in America at a later date. Her mother packed Carol’s suitcase with some keepsakes of the family, and she boarded a train to Portugal. After arriving in Portugal, Carol took a ship to Cuba, and then to the U.S.
In April 1941, Carol arrived in New York City as a 19 year old Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany. She lived with her uncle in Manhatten, and wrote to her family daily. Sadly, her mother and father and Bernie were arrested and sent to Auschwitz shortly after Carol’s departure. The entire family perished.
In 1944, Carol married her husband Joseph, a refugee from Germany who arrived in America in 1938. They moved to Cincinnati, and had three little girls, Linda, Sandra, and Brenda. Carol enjoyed a long career as a travel agent, and happily toured the globe. Despite a life filled with much loss, Carol always remained optimistic, choosing to cherish the happy memories. She brought joy to everyone she met. May her memory be a blessing.
The following is an essay Carol wrote about her brother Bernie.
I treasure my memories of holidays with my family in pre-war Munich, Germany. I can picture it now: Friday evening, Shabbat, the home aglow with warmth and light, the four of us gathered around the dinner table, my father blessing my brother and myself, wonderful aromas drifting in from the kitchen. And I can see my adorable brother, Bernie, clutching his small Kiddush cup in his little hands.
One evening as he held this beloved cup, he proclaimed, “Mutti, Fati, when I grow up to be a rabbi, I will have a very big cup all my own. But until then, this is my kiddush cup and I will take it to school tomorrow to show my Hebrew teacher and tell him how grown up I feel drinking wine from this cup.”
My parents secured a place for me on one of the last Kindertransports, and I left for the United States in 1941. I was a teenager, and even though my parents tried to get Bernie out as well, he was too young. When I left, my mother packed my suitcase with many things from our pre-war life; one of these things was Bernie’s Kiddush cup. It’s almost as if she knew I would never see them again and this was her way of making sure I didn’t forget my family.
Bernie’s kiddish cup is displayed in CHHE’s Mapping Our Tears exhibit. For more information, please contact CHHE at firstname.lastname@example.org.