Arthur Menke

Arthur Menke

Born: February 23, 1927

Hamburg, Germany

Arthur was born to a Jewish family in Germany's largest port city, Hamburg. His father owned a small factory that manufactured rubber stamps. In the early 1930s, Hamburg was home to the fourth largest Jewish community in Germany, which had numerous social and cultural institutions.

1933-39: By 1935 conditions for Hamburg's Jews were bad. My family was moved to another part of town and in 1938, the Nazis seized my father's business. On national holidays many German citizens unfurled red, white and black Nazi flags to show patriotism. My sister and I made our own "Nazi" flag and hung it out of the window. But my parents got angry with us and reeled it back in. We didn't understand why we couldn't support our own country.

1940-44: In 1941 I was deported 800 miles east to Minsk ghetto in the USSR. The ghetto there was vast, with 85,000 people. I was put to work in a nearby German army base, cutting peat for fuel. The soldiers were regular army and didn't abuse the prisoners as badly as did the SS. Walking to and from our labor site, I'd push the guard's bicycle for him. Food was so scarce that one day he locked me in the potato cellar so I could steal potatoes for him. He let me take some for myself. We smuggled them back to camp on his bike.

After two years in Minsk, Arthur was deported to various camps in Poland where he was put to work welding planes. He was liberated while on a forced march to the Dachau camp in 1945.