Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Henry Bardach
BARDACH: Yes it was, but it came very gradually. It impacted on my sister who is four years older than I am somewhat more. By being four years older that already made a difference. When I was 12, she was 16, and of course sixteen year olds are more sensitive. I remember very definitely that early on it was clear that there became certain factions in the classes among some of the teachers. There were those early on who joined the Hitler Youth for example. It was initially of course a minority, but it grew, and then those who did not (obviously I did not). It became somewhat stressful, and also you could see the different attitudes of the teachers which by themselves were a very interesting contrast. One of the things I remember very vividly, even before gymnasium, from my early studies is that the German textbooks whispered about World War I in favor of making the student think that “Poor Germany. We didn't have anything to do with it, at least only in a limited way. The Kaiser was really not all that bad, and that the British had started the war.” I remember that very distinctly as an elementary school student. It was the British that started the war; we didn't start the war. This was before the Hitler time. It was just the way things were written. I don't doubt for a moment that similar things existed in other countries like France where they probably had things turned around the other way. This didn't make an impression on me. My family had been in the military. My father was a physician in the military on horseback I might say. He fell off once somewhere in Belgium and hurt his arm. They were all good members of the Reich's army. My uncle, my mother's brother, had also been an officer in the army and quite high ranking. He was Jewish. All of them naturally felt later on that the country was not being fair to them. After all, here we were just Germans before in the military etc. What I'm driving at I think my family certainly could see that the answer was not a cut and dried, yes, you were guilty. I think they tried to instill this feeling of balance into our thinking about the First World War. I think many of our friends and other families also felt very strongly that the results, the Versailles Treaty, which I think everyone agrees nowadays, in retrospect, was a terrible mistake. Economically speaking, certainly it was a ridiculous mistake. I think they felt that it was creating many problems. Political problems which I just caught during the end of the '20s. This intensifies, of course, once Hitler had taken over.
Q: With you though, in school, did you find your fairly liberal balanced outlook coming from your family; was this causing troubles for you in school?
BARDACH: No. Not in the earlier years. This certainly would have been troublesome after 1933. By then the teachers were told to take a very doctrinaire view that Germany was done in and had to recover and was stabbed in the back. We had to re establish ourselves in the world of nations. I remember also some of my teachers who made the point that maybe this new leader was going to rectify the situation. Oh yes, that was very definitely there. Of course, my schoolmates and my friends, I would say that most of my friends and most of my sister's friends in those years were Christian friends. We did have some in the family and some Jewish friends, but the majority were Christian friends. They were aghast when I think it was in about 1934 or '35 somewhere in that period when they began to catalogue the so called non Aryan people. Businesses, Jewish, non Aryan etc. There came the day, I think it was about '34 or '35.