The Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program

Fred Mann

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Born
February 28, 1926 Leipzig, Germany

Map of Mukacevo, Czechoslovakia

Immigrated
1947 Toronto, Ontario

Fred Mann’s incredible story traces his family’s long journey of exile from Germany through Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Jamaica and finally to a new home in Canada. A Drastic Turn of Destiny is also a lament for a brave boy who had to grow up far too fast.

About Fred

Fred Mann was born in 1926 in Leipzig, Germany. During his travels after the war, he met and married his wife in Salzburg, Austria, and the family immigrated to Toronto in 1952, where he had a long career as an international financier. He passed away in 2008.

Photos and Artifacts

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    Fred (left) with his brother, Heini. Leipzig, May 11, 1932.

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    Left to right: Fred’s father, Emanuel; his mother, Zelda; his paternal grandmother, Fannie (Feige); and his paternal grandfather, Ferdinand (Feiwel). Leipzig, date unknown.

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    Fred's Uncle Josziu (far right), Aunt Karolin (second from right) and others at Café Garai. Berlin, 1930s.

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    Fred's Aunt Karolin (left) and Uncle Josziu (right) in front of Café Garai with one of the waiters and their German shepherd.

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    Fred’s German identity card issued in Leipzig, July 11, 1939.

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    Fred's German birth certificate issued on February 27, 1941, with “Israel” added to his name.

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    Fred in his Boy Scout uniform.

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    Fred’s Aunt Rena (seated on the right) with her husband, Kurt Berliner (seated on the left), in Camp des Milles, France, 1941.

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    Fred’s French ration card issued just three days after France signed an armistice with Germany.

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    A page from the passport of Fred's father, Emanuel, showing visa stamps from Siam (Thailand), Portugal and Jamaica.

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    A page from the passport of Fred's father, Emanuel, showing transit visa stamps from the Spanish consulate in Marseilles and exit visa stamps from Vichy France.

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    Fred celebrating with family and friends on New Year’s Eve, Lisbon, 1941. Left to right: Tibor Braun; Trudy Braun; the count; Trudy’s mother, Antonine Mueller; Fred's mother, Zelda; Fred; and Fred's father, Emanuel .

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    The Jewish Refugee Committee canteen run by Fred’s mother. Lisbon, 1941–1942.

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    Fred’s identity card from the Jewish Refugee Committee in Lisbon showing that he was working for them.

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    Fred's family's travel papers showing consular notations and stamps that mark their journey from France to Jamaica, 1940–1942.

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    Zelda, Fred's mother, on her arrival in Jamaica. February 1942.

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    Playing cards at Gibraltar Camp in Jamaica. Fred is seated second from the right.

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    Fred and his parents at Gibraltar Camp, Jamaica. Left to right: his father, Emanuel; Fred; and his mother, Zelda.

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    Fred (centre) with friends in Jamaica.

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    Business card for the export business that Fred and his father, Emanuel, operated in Jamaica from 1944 to 1945.

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    Fred with his brother, Howard (Heini), in Toronto, 1950s.

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    Veronica, Fred’s wife, in Salzburg, Austria (date unknown).

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    Uncle Josziu in Canada (date unknown).

The Book

Cover of A Drastic Turn of Destiny

A Drastic Turn of Destiny

In Germany I was “Jewboy”; in Brussels I was “boche”; in France I was “undesirable”; in Portugal I was a “refugee”; and in Jamaica I was simply a non-entity… I was a pariah in an exploding world.

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A Drastic Turn of Destiny

Growing Up Under Hitler

My father was beholden to his Gestapo friend for extending a helping hand to us on three occasions. The first was in 1933, the second was during the Polish deportation in October 1938, and the third was just before Kristallnacht. In the early afternoon of November 9, 1938, he telephoned my father to warn him of what would be happening that evening. He suggested again that we seek refuge in the Polish consulate because he was sure that they would arrest my father and send him off to a concentration camp. This time, however, not only were there not as many people in the consulate but we only had to spend one night there. This was even more fortunate because we no longer had the good services of Uncle Dadek – he had already fled to Brussels, Belgium. The persecutions continued with Jews being rounded up. The elderly were most affected – in Leipzig the SS dragged them to a rivulet near the zoological garden and made them jump from one side to the other while the officers whipped the old people ferociously.27 Many of them couldn’t make it across and fell into the icy-cold water. Onlookers, mainly youngsters, stood on the bridge off Humboldtstrasse laughing, encouraging the SS as if this were a display of trained animals. Witnessing this was one of the most sickening memories that is indelibly engraved in my mind. Even today, I can still see this picture as vividly as if it happened yesterday. It was probably the first real exposure I had to seeing man’s cruelty to man. As Boy Scouts we had had fist and kicking fights with the Hitler Youth and during the last years of my attendance at the public school, we had been singled out by teachers and ridiculed, but I had never seen this type of barbarism displayed by fellow human beings.

Walking through the city it was incredible to discover the burned synagogues and the Jewish-owned stores smashed and plundered. The Jewish district of Leipzig, in the vicinity of the Gustav-Adolf-Strasse, Humboldtstrasse and Gerberstrasse, suffered the worst fate. There was hardly a Jewish store owner or wholesaler who did not lose all his or her assets that night. The destruction was not only total but systematic – one could see the old German edict of thoroughness in its execution. It was hard for me – a twelve-year-old boy – to grasp the logic or reason behind such intentional and planned wanton behaviour.

Were these the very same people whose culture had produced Schiller, Haydn, Schumann, and Goethe, who Lord Byron said was the greatest genius his age had produced? Or was this a new breed producing Hitler, Streicher, Goebbels, Heydrich? Was Goethe prophetic when he said, “The Germans should be transplanted and scattered all over the world, like the Jews, in order to bring to full development the good qualities that lie in them, and for the health of all nations?” Kristallnacht was not only the burning of synagogues and the destruction of Jewish property but a test that demonstrated the effectiveness of many years of anti-Jewish propaganda used to brainwash the population. The general population showed no reluctance to participate in the destruction and the photographs of German people’s faces taken during this unpunishable “freedom to destroy”speak volumes. We are frequently told that not everyone engaged in the horrendous events of that night, but when one looks at the spectators, one realizes that their facial expressions aren’t very different from those of the perpetrators. Nor can one excuse the rest of the world for not taking measures to challenge the Germans and to express the total unacceptability of these acts. When could we expect decent human beings to take a stand on matters of wilful and planned destruction and death? Ninety-one Jews were killed that night and 25,000 carted off to concentration camps to a fate worse than death. In those days the concentration camps were still located within Germany – Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen. But the world remained silent and the Germans realized that nobody from the outside world was concerned about the Jews.