Joseph Leo Diamantstein was born in Heidelberg, Germany, on December 1, 1924, to Jewish parents. He was the youngest of four children. His family experienced antisemitism in Frankfurt, and ultimately decided to leave Germany.
Beginning in 1933, the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls had an important role to play in the new Nazi regime. Through these organizations, the Nazi regime planned to indoctrinate young people with Nazi ideology. This was part of the process of Nazifying German society. The aim of this process was to dismantle existing social structures and traditions. The Nazi youth groups were about imposing conformity. Youth throughout Germany wore the same uniforms, sang the same Nazi songs, and participated in similar activities.
I have uh some ... a few clear memories. One was once walking down the Bleichstrasse, a street in Frankfurt, and a group—I think I was with Maurice—with my father. A group of Nazi, Nazi uniform, they were, they were either brown shirts or black shirts at that time. These were the SS black shirt. And they marched as beautiful and orderly as they did, and they were singing a song. The song was "Köpfe rollen, Juden heulen," which translates "the heads are rolling, the Jews are crying." I have very vivid memory of that. A very vivid memory. Because I was shivering. How can anybody say something like that? I was still, I was at that point maybe 7 years old? But I remember that very distinctly. And things became worse, uh Jewish people were beaten, were mistreated. I think the only bright side of all that … a youngster from the Hitler Jugend befriended us as kids. We thought, well, if he’s a nice kid, why not? He seemed to know so much and he had this beautiful knife, hunting knife and so forth. Until one day he got mad at us and he started cursing us and said we all will be killed eventually and so on. So we got in a fight. And uh it was the only time that I had a physical confrontation. And he was 2 years older, much stronger than I am, but I did overpower him. And he was laying on the ground—it was the only good memory I had—and he jumped up and ran off and used all kinds of epithets about us, lying Jews and so forth. That incident didn’t repeat itself, but it was common practice when we saw a bunch of kids to go to the other side of the street because there was always a good chance they would attack us and there were always more of them than us. And they all were carrying their ... Hitler Jugend uniforms and so forth. So life became quite miserable.
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