Amid intensifying anti-Jewish measures and the 1938 Kristallnacht ("Night of Broken Glass") pogrom, Johanna's family decided to leave Germany. They obtained visas for Albania, crossed into Italy, and sailed in 1939. They remained in Albania under the Italian occupation and, after Italy surrendered in 1943, under German occupation. The family was liberated after a battle between the Germans and Albanian partisans in December 1944.
...it took place in August of 1938, and that was a decree by the government that all Jews, male and female, had to adopt a Jewish name. And you had to add [a] middle name to your name...a middle name. All women became Sara and all men became Israel. So that now my name became Johanna Jutta Sara Gerechter and my mother was Alice Sara Gerechter and my father was Siegbert Israel Gerechter. And it's interesting, only recently did I realize that even people like my own son and daughter-in-law never heard of this law that one can be forced to add a name to...to their existing name. And how come that people didn't become suspicious enough to just throw everything away, and leave Germany, but they didn't? I think it was a legitimate question on the part of my daughter-in-law. But, they didn't. My father had maintained that he had been a high officer during World War I. He had the Iron Cross. He had received in 1935 a cross from Hitler which was given only to all frontline fighters, meaning people who for four years of the First World War spent it on the front line, and how could the same men now deny him an existence or a livelihood and would throw him out? I mean that was something that you could not really believe.
We would like to thank Crown Family Philanthropies and the Abe and Ida Cooper Foundation for supporting the ongoing work to create content and resources for the Holocaust Encyclopedia. View the list of all donors.