Oral History

Martin Strauss describes German soldiers searching his family at the German border with Italy

In 1938, Martin's father was imprisoned during Kristallnacht (the "Night of Broken Glass"). Upon the intervention of the family's chauffeur, a gentile, Martin's father was released after three days. The family obtained visas to immigrate to Palestine and left Germany in 1939. Martin aided "illegal" immigrants who defied British restrictions on immigration into Palestine. He was imprisoned by the British in 1947 and forbidden to live in Palestine. He then came to the United States.


We were waiting for either one of Shanghai, Israel, or England visas to give us permission to leave. And the Israel visa came first. Two days later, the England visa came, but fate wanted us to go to Israel--or Palestine, at that time. Uh...the chauffeur took us to railroad, dumped us into a car, got us to Italy where at the border line, the Germans knowing we had the passports, knowing that we were emigrating, took us apart. By...by taking us apart, I mean literally. They took my father's wooden leg off and searched it for money, contraband. But we knew better than that, because by that time we already had learned our lesson. Uh, they took and stripped my mother, totally naked, and checked in places you wouldn't dream of checking, and they took my little sister who at that time was an eight-year-old kid, and stripped her. I don't know exactly how much they checked her, but I know my mother told me that she was totally and utterly checked. And then they put us back together again, our luggage and so forth, and we got to Italy. From Italy, we got to then Palestine.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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