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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:                       HENRY STRAUSS


LOCATION:                        ATLANTA, GEORGIA

DATE:                                 OCTOBER 19, 2015

Transcript (PDF)


Henry Strauss was born Heinz Siegbert Strauss on July 14, 1928 in Alsfeld, Germany. He was the third child born to parents whose families had been part of the local community for generations. After the Nazi party came to power and antisemitic policies and incidents increased, Henry’s older brother was sent to the United States and Henry was sent to a Jewish boarding school. On Kristallnacht, Henry’s father was arrested and imprisoned in Buchenwald for three months. As a condition of his release, he was required to emigrate and Albert left for present-day Zambia. Henry and his mother followed soon after. Henry’s older sister remained in Germany, hoping to immigrate to the United States. However, World War II soon broke out and his sister was sent to a labor camp instead and later killed.

In Zambia, Henry’s parents lived and worked on an English plantation. Henry attended school in Zambia and then continued his education at a boarding school in present day Zimbabwe. After completing school at 16, he became an apprentice electrician in the copper mines. In 1948, Henry and his parents arrived in the United States. They were reunited with Henry’s brother and settled in Atlanta, Georgia. Henry soon enlisted in the United Stated Army and participated in the Allied occupation of Germany. After his discharge in 1950, Henry became a US citizen. He worked at the Ford Motor company plant in Atlanta until starting his own vending machine company. Henry married and raised three children. He has seven grandchildren.


Henry describes his family and childhood in Alsfeld, Germany. He recounts the antisemitism encountered after the Nazi party came to power in Germany. Henry discusses what he witnessed on Kristallnacht as a student at a boarding school. He describes returning home to learn his father had been imprisoned in Buchenwald. Upon his father’s release and immediate departure for Africa, Henry and his mother prepared to leave Germany. He recalls the pressure they felt to leave and the relief at finally being out of Germany. Henry describes the journey to Africa and the curious new country they encountered. He fondly recalls life on an English plantation, his time in school, and the relationships he forged with other German refugees and the native population. He describes his time as an apprentice electrician in the copper mines after graduating from school. Henry recounts sailing to the United States, joining the army, and what he encountered while stationed in Germany. After his discharge, Henry describes his job on the assembly line in the Ford Assembly Plant near Atlanta before starting his own vending machine company. Henry recalls more details from his youth, including the Nazi party’s parades and songs, his friends from Africa, and his encounters with a cobra and lions in Zambia. Finally, Henry talks about his wife, children, and grandchildren. He talks about their visit to Germany and ends the interview with an expression of immense pride in his family as his life’s greatest accomplishment.


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