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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:                     HENRY DRAKER

INTERVIEWERS:               JOHN KENT

                                       RUTH EINSTEIN

DATE:                               SEPTEMBER 1, 2004

LOCATION:                       ATLANTA, GEORGIA

Transcript (PDF)

BIOGRAPHY:

Henry Draker was born Hans Drucker in Flatow, Germany on September 24, 1912. Henry began his career working in his father’s grain business. When the Nazi Party came to power in 1933, his father, Max, was warned to leave Flatow. Henry, his older brother, and his father went to Berlin, Germany. The family’s home and business in Flatow were smashed up and confiscated by the Nazis. Henry's mother, Selma, and his grandmother had been hiding in the cellar; they joined the rest of the family in Berlin the next day.

In July 1933, Henry and Max were arrested by the Gestapo, taken back to Flatow, and put in jail. From Flatow, they were briefly taken to a concentration camp in Hammerstein and then one in Lichtenburg. Max was charged with sending money to Palestine, put on trial, convicted, and sentenced to 2 years in the Schneidemuhl prison. Henry was then transferred to a forced labor camp near Esterwegen, where he worked to clear swampland.

Henry was finally released on April 17, 1934, on the condition that he would emigrate from Germany. Within a week, he immigrated to Belgium, where he made a living selling material for suits. Henry’s brother had meanwhile immigrated to Palestine and was able to secure a visa for Henry. Henry worked in a series of jobs in Palestine and Egypt. He then decided to return to Europe and try to make his way to the United States. In 1938, he travelled from London, England to Cuba, then to Puerto Rico, and finally to the US. He settled in New York City, New York. In 1942, Henry learned that his father—who had been arrested again—had died in Sachsenhausen. In 1943, Henry was drafted into the US Army. Around that same time, Henry’s mother died in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

While in the army, Henry became a US citizen and changed his name. He was stationed in Texas until the end of the war. Henry met his wife, who was also a refugee from Nazi Germany, in New York after the war. The couple was married in 1951 and had two sons. Henry spent most of his career in the costume jewelry business. After he retired, the Drakers moved to Atlanta, Georgia to be closer to their sons. Henry passed away in 2007.

Scope of Interview:

Henry describes growing up in Flatow, Germany, where his family owned a grain business. He describes the hyperinflation of the 1920’s and the increase in antisemitism his family encountered. Henry recounts what happened when the Nazi Party came to power and he and his father were arrested. He outlines his detainment in a prison, two concentration camps, and a forced labor camp. He describes his release and subsequent immigration to Belgium and then Palestine. Henry recalls finally coming to the United States, joining the army, meeting his wife, and encountering antisemitism. He relays how he found out about the deaths of his parents. Henry describes moving to Atlanta, Georgia and travelling throughout Europe in his retirement. The interview closes with his impressions of the French and German people before and after the war.

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