Survivor shares his story with sailors
EVERETT Boys younger than I was were allowed to spit on me and kick me, said Everett resident Fred Taucher. I was not allowed to defend myself because I was a Jew and we were considered filthy and dirty, but we were not allowed to buy soap. The propaganda was indoctrinated at an early age.
Taucher, a Holocaust survivor, spoke to sailors and civilians at Naval Station Everett, April 12, about his experiences in Germany during World War II.
Taucher was born in Berlin in 1933, the same year Adolf Hitler came to power. In honor of this years Yom HaShoah April 15, the Holocaust remembrance day of the Hebrew calendar, he recalled the oppression that he and his family suffered under the Nazis.
Because German doctors and hospitals were discouraged from treating Jews, Taucher was delivered by Getrude Nolting, a midwife who would provide sanctuary to his family in later years, in spite of her close friendship with Hitler himself.
She was a lesbian, Taucher said. Homosexuality was outlawed in Germany. Lesbians were considered no threat, but they could not hold office or belong to the Nazi party. That was one reason she helped us, I think.
Taucher recalled how the Nazis stripped German Jews of their freedoms by revoking their drivers licenses and destroying their stores, houses and towns during the Kristallnacht of November 1938. Tauchers father was a tailor whose shop and home were ransacked, robbing him of his sewing machines and inventory.
There were a lot of Jewish truck and taxi drivers whose licenses were voided, Taucher said. Our living quarters were in the same house as our fathers shop, like a lot of families. It put a lot of people out of business.
Tauchers father was forced into slave labor until the Nazis arrested him and deported him to Auschwitz in 1943. Nolting was able to help Taucher, his mother and his older brother escape to her summer home on the outskirts of Berlin, where only high-ranking members of the Nazi party could hold ownership.
Our father had prepared clothes for us without the Star of David that all Jews were required to wear, Taucher said. We lived next door to an SS colonel with his wife and daughter. We took a picture of our families together and told them our father was fighting in Russia.
For their first six months the Tauchers lived in hiding, using the false identification and ration cards provided by Nolting. They always traveled separately and avoided public transportation. When the winter forced the family out of Noltings unheated summer home, they lived in subway tunnels because the shelters were full.
Nolting tipped off the Tauchers about the identification checks she knew about, but a surprise check at a Berlin street car caught Taucher. Nolting had not been able to obtain Hitler Youth identification cards, which were required for all boys 10 years and older.
They stripped me and found out I was Jewish, because no German men were circumcised, Taucher said. They threw me to the Gestapo, who kicked me and spit on me and said, Get rid of him.
After two days of interrogation, Taucher was shipped to Dachau on April 17, 1945, one of the only children and few Germans in a cramped cattle car mostly filled with Russian prisoners of war.
We were shoved together so tight that if you fell down, you would suffocate and never wake up, Taucher said. When we got to Dachau, we stayed in that car with nothing to eat or drink, and no sanitation.
U.S. armed forces liberated Dachau April 29, but Taucher and his fellow inmates made their escape during an air raid a few days before, when an SS guard opened the car door.
We could see the camp, but we never went inside, Taucher said. They were taking inmates into the forest and shooting them. Russian soldiers carried me out of the car, and we came across another camp where they were teaching Hitler Youth how to fire rifles. The Russians overpowered the Germans who werent really trying to defend themselves, and shot the Hitler Youth. They had no choice. The Russians took care of me for a few hours, but they wouldnt let me follow them. I understand now that a weak 12-year-old would have slowed them down.
Left on his own, Taucher put on the uniform of one of the Hitler Youth, walked to the nearest road, waved down the passing car of an SS officer, and said that he was the sole survivor of the Russian massacre at the camp.
Fortunately, they didnt undress me or ask for my ID, Taucher said. I got them to drop me off at my familys meeting place in Berlin. My mother was surprised to see me again, especially in a Hitler Youth uniform. By that time, they were taking 10-year-olds to defend the city, but I only looked seven or eight.
Tauchers mother was killed during the final days of fighting in Berlin when she ventured outside the subway tunnels to fetch water from a fire hydrant. Russian soldiers took control of the city two days later and the Taucher brothers became their tour guides.
We knew Berlin like a book and I already spoke some Russian, Taucher said. We lived with the midwife, in the American section of Berlin. We went to the Army camp and asked if we could go to America, but the guard at the gate didnt want to let us in. An Army truck driver was listening to us and laughing, though. He was an Orthodox Jewish soldier who helped us meet a Jewish chaplain and obtain visas to come to America.
The Taucher brothers arrived in the United States in 1946 and Taucher enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school in 1951. He served in Korea in 1952 where he worked with IBM equipment.
I was proud to serve my country, said Taucher, who went on to become chairman and chief executive officer of the Seattle-based Corporate Computer, Inc. My brother was drafted one year after me, served 22 years in the Army and retired a major. We both did our duty.
Taucher thanked the service members present for doing their duty and defending the freedoms that the Nazis denied the Jews. Capt. Eddie Gardiner, commanding officer of Naval Station Everett, echoed Tauchers sentiments,
Todays Navy embraces diversity on a day-to-day basis, Gardiner said. I hope hearing Mr. Tauchers story makes you understand what one person can do. Because this Army individual listened to these two brothers, they were able to come to this country. I suspect Mr. Taucher and his brother eventually would have made that happen anyway, but one person helped make a difference.
Our young troops have grown up with these freedoms, said Lt. Cmdr. Edwin Carroll, command chaplain of Naval Station Everett. Its important that we take a proactive role in educating them to appreciate those freedoms more fully. Were a changing society, and we cant sleep through those changes. Our military is a single unit, but its made up of a diversity of backgrounds, all of them fighting and dying next to each other, thinking of one another as shipmates.
You defend these freedoms, said Everett Rabbi Yossi Mandel, of the Chabad Jewish Center of Snohomish County, to the service members. You create a safe harbor for justice and religious diversity. You stand with courage against those who would stand against such freedoms.
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