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Rudolph Sabor

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
Born:
1 August 1939
Experiences:
Interview number:
144

Interview Summary:

Rudolph Sabor, nee Rudolf Cohn, was born 1914 in Berlin. His father owned the ‘Rosa Lindenbaum’ Ladies Hat shop. Rudolph went to the Prinz Heinrich Gymnasium and later trained to be a teacher at the Juedische Lehrbildungsanstalt (1934-1936). He worked as a teacher at the Auguststrasse School (1934-1936). While his parents and his brother had emigrated to South Africa, he decided to stay in Germany. His future wife came to the UK early in 1939 and arranged a visa for him. He arrived in the UK on the 1. August 1939. He was interned in the Lingfield Race Course and in York for six months. He later became a music teacher, writer, and lecturer and is an eminent Wagner scholar. He lives near London and has two children. 

As years went by, I was firmly convinced that my place was in Germany and that the Nazi hordes were there on ‘auf Abruf’ [on call]. That any day Mr. Chamberlain would march in at the head of his troop with his umbrella and chase the Nazis away. That was what I thought, and it was very foolish, but there it was. And that made me stay as long as possible.

[about Kristallnacht] I was up in the night and I went to the Babelsberger Strasse [Synagogue], and I saw what happened. And that strengthened my belief: this cannot be forever. The people who produced Dürer, Goethe, Kleist, a cultured people like the Germans would wake up any day. It was total delusion. The only thing I can say to make it explicable is that my love for everything German was greater than my common sense.

We had a lovely time in York [internment camp]. It was away from the war, very understanding people who were in charge of us. One was the father of an M.P. today, Janner, a Liberal M.P, I believe. And he kept us there no longer than he could. He made it easy for us to find reasons for leaving. One of the main reasons was bad health. And we had in our company a man with diabetes, and he would sell his urine to people, which we took ourselves to the camp doctor, one by one, and every day one of us was released for suffering from diabetes, except the man himself, who stayed till the end, of course, because it was a marvelous revenue for him. He was the last one to leave the camp. So we stayed for a total of about six months or so.

[Kristallnacht] I was up in the night and I went to the Babelsberger Strasse; it was after midnight, and I saw it, what happened. And that strengthened my belief: this cannot be forever. The people who produced Dürer, Goethe, Kleist, a cultured people like the Germans would wake up any day. It was total delusion. The only thing I can say to make it explicable is that my love for everything German was greater than my common sense.

Ten minutes [to leave his flat]. Really. I got a telegram from my wife that the visa is on its way. And that night I had a phone call – I don’t remember the time, but it was somewhere between two and three at night – from a former class mate of mine who was in the SS then, who said a few words, something like “Rudi, hau ab! We come and fetch you in half an hour.” And Rudi hau’d ab. I took ten minutes. I packed willy nilly things. I packed all my photos, books, and my guitar. And made my way – the only thing that ran then on the way was the Stadt- und Rundfahrt / Stadtbahn. It’s our U-Bahn, which in those days was underground and above ground, and that was a thing that went round the city, and then it went round again, and then it went round again, always stopped at the stops, but never stopped for longer than to admit people to get off and on. And I sat on this. In the morning I went out to the lavatory and to buy some subsistence and phoned my Herr Silberstein, who was the owner of the flat I had then hired, and told him what had happened, and I asked him: ‘Has the visa come?’ Nothing had come, so I continued the travel for another day and night. And on the third morning I phoned Herr Silberstein again, and he said: ‘Yes, it has come.’ And I asked him to come to the station – I think it was the Zoological Garden, but I’m not quite sure. There I wanted to pay him for my outstanding rent and receive the visa from him. And I did the two things. I found I had an hour and a half before my train to Hook van Holland left with the visa in my pocket. I went to the restaurant, which was above the station I remember. No, it was apart from the station, but very, very close to it, and somewhere one had to climb a stairs, and there was the restaurant. It said: ‘Juden unerwünscht’ and I went in, idiot that I was. It only took one person to recognize me and that would have been it. And there I had my favourite dish, which was Leberknödel, and I ordered another because I had another half hour to go, and I had a Weisse mit ‘nem Schuss. That is white beer, a very big beer Seidl and a Schuss of alcohol in it. And suddenly, I noticed from a tree which was above me rain drops fell into me beer. But I looked round and it wasn’t raining, and I looked again in the tree and there was a cat sitting in the tree and tending to its business. And that somehow sealed my leaving Berlin when the cat piddled in my beer. That was of significance.

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