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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:            HERMAN CRANMAN

INTERVIEWER:       HARRIET MEYERHOFF

DATE:                      NOVEMBER 20, 1998

LOCATION:             SAVANNAH, GA

Transcript (PDF)

Biography

            Herman Cranman was born March 14, 1924 to Philip and Jeane Litman Cranman in Savannah, Georgia. Herman’s father, Philip began work at a young age, first as an office boy and later went into the insurance business for himself. Both of Herman’s parents were born in Russia and made their way to the United States during their childhoods. His paternal grandparents, Jacob and Dora Cranman, came from Odessa, Russia, and they traveled with their children from Russia by foot to France, and later to Canada and then New York. Herman’s paternal grandfather owned a small grocery store in Savannah and their family lived in an adjoining apartment. Herman’s maternal grandparents, Isaac and Anna Litman, lived near Odessa, Russia. They migrated to the United States through Ellis Island in New York. Herman’s maternal grandfather owned a shoe shop, and later began whole selling leather for shoes once he had to give up his store.

            Herman grew up in the Savannah area, attending local schools like Charles Ellis Grammar School, Richard Arnold Junior High School, Savannah High School, and Benedictine Military School. Growing up, Herman’s social group spent time at Tybee Beach and the Tybrisa Pavilion in Savannah. Herman was also an active member of the local Aleph Zadik Alpeh (AZA) organization in Savannah. Herman first met his wife, Helen Small (formerly Schmalheiser) when he was a young boy, and later reunited with her in high school. They dated on an off, and later got engaged while Herman was away at war.

            Herman joined the United States Air Force during World War II. While serving in the Air Force, Herman’s plane crashed and he was captured in Hungary. He was a prisoner of war for ten months following his capture by Hungarian farmers, and he experienced poor conditions during his time in various POW camps. Once Herman and his fellow American POWs were liberated, he returned safely home on a troop ship that took him to Boston, Massachusetts.

Scope of the Interview

            In this interview, Herman discusses his family’s origins and the route they took to immigrate to the United States. He also discusses their lives in America and his experiences growing up in Savannah, Georgia. Herman attended high school at a Catholic Military school, and his interview explores his time there and his experiences with any anti-Semitism within the private Catholic school.

            Herman also talks about the social groups he was involved in as a teen and what teens would typically do during the summers. Herman briefly talks about his involvement in the local AZA chapter and their time at the Jewish Educational Alliance (JEA) in Savannah.

            Herman also delves into his experiences in the Air Force and as a POW during World War II. Herman discusses what the conditions were like for him as a POW and what the conditions within the POW camps were like.

            Herman concludes his interview telling the story of how he got engaged to his wife by proxy while he was away at war.

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