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© Dudley Students' Union 2019

The Power of Words

Eve Kugler

2018

Eve was born in 1931 in Halle, a medium sized German city where her father owned a small department store. She grew up alongside her sisters, Ruth and Lea, in a period of ever increasing repression against Jews, terrified by uniformed Nazis who seemed to her to be everywhere. Though her father applied for a visa to Palestine in 1935, the family was repeatedly passed over by Jewish officials in favour of others in imminent danger of arrest. “Nothing will happen to you,” they said to Eve’s father. “You’re just a businessman.”

In October 1938 Eve’s 79-year-old grandfather was arrested along with thousands of other Polish Jews living in Germany and returned to Poland in the first ever Nazi deportation. Ten days later came Kristallnacht. Six Nazis rampaged through the family home, destroying household possessions and her grandfather’s sacred Jewish books before marching Eve’s father out of the family home as she and her sister watched. During that night the Nazis smashed the windows of her father’s store, and the next day her mother was forced to spend hours sweeping up the broken glass. Their synagogue, founded by Eve’s grandfather, burned to the ground while the fire brigade stood by. Miraculously, Eve’s mother was able to secure her father’s release from Buchenwald. He then left for France and the family was evicted from their home. They went to live with Eve’s maternal grandfather in cramped conditions. In June 1939 the family fled to France on a forged visa.

When World War II broke out, the French interned her father because he was a German citizen. Her mother then placed the girls in a home for Jewish children outside of Paris where she became a cook. As the Nazis neared Paris in June 1940, the home survived heavy Nazi bombardment. With the fall of Paris and the French surrender, the children were evacuated to central France, where they lived under Nazi occupation. In 1941 the home received a visa for America for a small number of children. Mainly orphan children were chosen, but when at the last minute two lost their place due to illness, Eve and Ruth took their place, leaving her parents and Lea behind. For the next five years Eve lived in New York City in three different foster homes, sometimes separated from her sister.

In the Nazi roundup of Jews in 1942 the French Resistance hid Lea then aged 5 ½ in a Catholic convent, while her parents survived the war in French concentration camps. The family was reunited in New York in 1946. Eve worked as a journalist until she moved to London in 1990.

She speaks regularly at schools sharing her family’s history.