Nahari tells the story of his family's murder at the hands of the Nazi party
Germany in the 1920s as Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party came to power was not a safe place for Jewish people. That included the family of Lt. Commander Joel Nahari, USN Ret. Nahari also is a former NJROTC instructor at Pendleton County High School. On the third Wednesday of each month, he shares his families trials and journey with visitors to the Museum of History at Union Terminal.
Nahari gives an ominous warning from Al Miller who is prominently mentioned in the History Museum’s display in the Holocaust exhibit featuring Cincinnatians who survived Germany during that time.
“The Holocaust didn’t start with bullets. It started with words,” said Al Miller who was from Berlin, Germany. Miller relocated to Cincinnati.
Nahari’s mother was Ruth Dresel Nahari. She was born in February 27, 1926. She lived in Kiel Germany and was just a baby as Germany tried to recover from the loss in WWI. Her father was a doctor who had served in the first war to end all wars. Her mother was a nurse.
His father was Hans Auerbach who was born on February 14, 1924 in Teplice, Czechoslovakial, a country which bordered Germany but was quickly overtaken by the military might of the Nazi party and was annexed as part of Germany in 1938. His father was a shop owner, and his mother able to stay home and take care of the household.
The Jewish people in Germany were bank and business owners, doctors, professions that leaned on the side of the wealthy. They were being scapegoated by the Germans for the problems of the middle and lower class. Nahari’s family was no different than most German Jews.
It harkens to Miller’s words that the Holocaust did not start with bullets as the Nazi party was looking for someone to blame for Germany’s ills.
They garnered 37 percent of the vote in 1932, and President Hindenburg appointed Hitler as chancellor. Hindenburg oversaw the military side while Hitler was in charge of the government. With Hindenburg’s death in 1934, Hitler declared himself President and was in complete charge of the country.
Soon, the Nuremburg Laws were passed and the German Jews began to face intense scrutiny and a tightening leash. They lost their German citizenship--no jobs, no voting, not allowed in public parks (even though dogs were allowed), no Jewish/non-Jewish marriage, public schools closed to Jewish children, no property ownership, and Jews were forced to sell their property at pennies on the dollar. Their identification papers had a big red J (for Jewish) on them. They had an 8 p.m. curfew and were not allowed on public transportation or even riding their own bikes. They also had to wear a Star of David, Nahari told his audience that included 12 retired Pendleton County teachers.
It was under this pressure that Nahari’s family received a warning that was detailed by in a letter from Walter Grunfield on February 26, 1972.
“Inevitably, there came a night when a friend, a member of the Nazi Party, warned him (Nahari’s maternal grandfather) that the dreaded black-uniformed Gestapo were on their way to arrest him...charges unknown and destination undoubtedly a concentration camp.”
His maternal family began the task of escaping to Palestine (which would become Israel in 1948), Chile, England, China and the United States. It included his uncle David who trekked across to the Czech border and, with the help of a shepherd tending his flock, madeit into a neighboring country with border troops just 100 yards away.
Eight members of the Dresel family did not escape, and Nahari lost four great uncles, two great-aunts and two cousins to the murders of the Holocaust.
His father’s family experienced it worse than Nahari’s mother’s family.
His father’s family sold a stamp collection to purchase a one-way ticket for him to Palestine. He tearfully left his parents, not knowing if he would ever see them again. He would not. Besides his parents, he would lose all four grandparents, all of his uncles and aunts, and all of his cousins except for himself and five other members.
Their last name proved to be a direct correlation to the family’s losses.
In Nahari’s research, he found out that ledgers (Germans were very good at documentation) indicated that his grandparents, Emil and Marketa Auerbach, were on the very first transport of Jews from Prague to Lodz Ghetto in Poland in October of 1941. It appears the Germans were simply going in alphabetical order.
Out of the 1,000 Jews on Transport A, records show that only 28 survived.
The Germans shipped 210,000 to Lodz Ghetto. Only 800 survived. Another 1.1 million were murdered in Auschwitz. The gas Zyklon, made to kill rats, was used to murder many of undesirables to the Nazi Party.
Recently, Nahari was told that his grandparents were shipped in railroad cars like ones used for cattle without food or water for three to four days to Chelmno. There they were known to use vans to transport Jews. The Jews were loaded into the backs of the vehicles, and exhaust was piped from the vans to the backs. Those who were carried died of carbon monoxide poisoning, and their bodies were dumped into a quarry.
While his father’s family carried the name of Auerbach, Nahari does not. After his father’s departure to Palestine, he was told to change his name because of the German Jewish ties.
Nahari, the retired U.S. Naval officer, told those who were assembled, riveted to his tale of his family’s story, that “Bach” means “river.” Nahari means river in the Jewish language. It was a name and a tie to his family that Nahari’s father seemed to have held onto.
On the third Wednesday of each month, he shares his families trials and journey with visitors to the Museum of History at Union Terminal. He welcomes all to attend to ask questions and to learn about one of the worst mass murders in history.
Tour the Holocaust exhibit with artifacts, letters, videos and other items to transport visitors back to that time.