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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:                       JOEL HECHT


DATE:                                  NOVEMBER 15, 1995

LOCATION:                          ATLANTA, GEORGIA

Transcript (PDF)

Joel Hecht was born in Berlin, Germany in 1915. His parents were Richard and Edith Hecht. Joel’s father owned several furniture factories. Joel and his sister, Amy, enjoyed a very comfortable childhood. The family was upper class and spent vacations at their beautiful country house on a lake near Berlin. 
When Joel was 18, Jews were banned from public school education and he was unable to attend university, where he had intended to study law. He joined his father's firm and worked in it until 1938 when it was 'Aryanized' and the family lost it. After Kristallnacht occurred on November 9 and 10, 1938 the family knew they had to leave Germany. They fled to The Netherlands and settled in Amsterdam.
In 1939, Joel and Amy's quota number came up and they immigrated to the United States. In the United States, Joel and Amy devoted themselves to trying to get their parents visas, but were unsuccessful. In 1940, the Germans invaded The Netherlands. Joel’s parents were arrested, sent to Westerbork transit camp, and then to Bergen-Belsen where both perished of disease and starvation.
Meanwhile, Joel and Amy had settled in Chicago, Illinois. Joel worked in the antiques business before volunteering for the United States armed forces in World War II. After the war, Joel married and had 2 daughters. He retired to Atlanta, Georgia and died in 2008. 

Scope of Interview:
Joel introduces his family. He explains how his family enjoyed an upper class life-style and considered themselves more German than Jewish. Joel recalls the impact of anti-Jewish laws on his education and family’s business. He outlines how the Nazi party’s antisemitism gradually permeated the entire German culture. Joel shares how his family was able to immigrate to Holland after Kristallnacht in 1938. He recounts how, after four years, he and his sister got visas for the United States and immigrated in 1939 but his parents were not allowed to immigrate. Joel shares the fates of his family— the majority of whom died although a few were also able to leave Europe in time. He recounts how his parents died in Bergen-Belsen. Joel closes with the reflection of how mistaken his family and so many others were in thinking they were safe and the Nazi party’s power would not last.

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