The Story of P.L. (Germany, England, and Israel)
P.L. is an Israeli man, married, father of three and grandfather of five. He is 71 years old and was born in Berlin on the eve of the outbreak of World War II in 1938. He arrived in the Land of Israel (then the British Mandate of Palestine) from the Bergen Belsen camp as a 7 year old orphan among a group of other orphans and was absorbed with difficulty in a small kibbutz in the north of the country. He was "adopted" by a kibbutz member, also born in Germany, who acted as his father. After many years he left the kibbutz and established a family, won medals in one of the wars, and pushed his memories of Nazi Germany to the back of his mind. He did not forget; he just set the memories aside.
In an initial interview he told what he remembered and what he had heard about his 7 years in Berlin. He was in a Jewish orphanage in Berlin almost from birth. To his good fortune, he was "adopted" by the caretaker of the synagogue and survived most of the war at his home.
All the orphans from the orphanage and the staff were sent to their deaths. It is important to note that his adoptive family was during the whole war in the most exclusive quarter of Berlin surrounded on all sides by upper class Nazi families (a mystery that I was unable to solve) all of whom knew his German – Jewish name and the name of his Mother.
In addition to all this he had slivers of memory of "the good life" with much love and food ration coupons in profusion. He really was thankful to his adoptive family and saw them as Father and Mother. Near the end of the was a shell of the allied forces landed near him and his adoptive Mother and they were each sent to different hospitals and so they parted ways (in the 1950's the connection was renewed). After some time in an orphanage for Jewish children that was established after the war, he was located by soldiers of the Jewish Brigade and was sent to Bergen Belsen and from there to Israel. P.L. had dozens of letters written in German and English that were written from the end of the 1950's. They were from his adoptive family that had immigrated to the United States and their adopted son at the kibbutz.
The research began with massive translation of the letters, the checking of many dozens of sources of information, correspondence with organizations in Israel and around the world, and interviews with many persons that were part of P.L.'s life. The most surprising and sensational discovery of all was that his Mother had succeeded in fleeing Germany to England immediately after he was born and there she had been married and subsequently divorced.
She was descended from a very wealthy family that left considerable property in Germany and in Berlin. In 1980 his Mother had been invited to the wedding of her nephew in Israel (if the research had only been started 30 years earlier he might have met her in Israel), and in 1982 she died in London.
A year ago P.L. visited Berlin and toured the areas in which he lived as a child. It seems that the memories he had from his childhood were surprisingly accurate. P.L. was accompanied by an historian who escorted him and helped him make his various searches.
The research also discovered:
1. P.L. now has a full picture of his life for those first 7 years in Berlin.
2. He now has a family tree going back 4 generations.
3. A book has been written that tells his story.
4. He has received German citizenship.
5. Pictures of P.L. were discovered from the time he was in the orphanage at the end of the war and from Bergen Belsen.
6. An autobiography of a friend that grew up with him in the kibbutz, written in the United States, was discovered that described their traumatic absorption at the kibbutz.
7. P.L. participated in a seminar at which he met with the people who as children were with him at the orphanage and at Bergen Belsen.