Nazi's visit in 1938 altered course of her 92 years CARROLL COUNTY SENIORS

April 28, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

In 1938, a Gestapo agent appeared at the door of Eva and Hermann Salomon, a Berlin physician and his wife.

Mrs. Salomon, 92, who now lives in Sykesville, said she knew the Nazi had come for one reason: to find some pretense to send the Jewish couple to their deaths.

A car waited outside.

"I knew that car was to take us to a concentration camp," Mrs. Salomon said.

The Gestapo officer produced a file containing information on all the Salomons' financial dealings.

"I tried to take care of our finances," she said, "but that man knew much more about them than I did."

This was just before Kristallnacht, the night when Germany erupted in an orgy of destruction of Jewish homes, businesses ** and places of worship.

Mrs. Salomon said the Gestapo wanted to establish that the couple had committed some offense that would allow the government to confiscate their belongings and send them to a death camp.

But her husband was a doctor who believed it was wrong to profit from his healing, she said. Often, he worked for no pay.

He cared little about money and understood less. His financial naivete saved them.

The Gestapo agent grilled the Salomons about their financial affairs, then asked about their mortgage.

At that point, Mrs. Salomon said, "My husband turned and whispered audibly to me, 'What is a mortgage?' "

She said his question completely disarmed the Gestapo man, who had been taught to believe that "the Jew was moneyed, greedy, dishonest, everything bad . . . and here he saw an almost-saint."

Finally, the Nazi sent the car away. "Go to the next place," he told the driver. "There is really nothing here."

Mrs. Salomon said, "It was like a miracle."

She said she tells the story now because, "I like for people to remember that all these things happened, and that people were caught in it."

At first, she said, she and her husband had not taken Nazism seriously.

"We thought, 'That will blow over,' and we stayed much too long," she said.

"We belonged to the Jewish aristocracy, and it was unthinkable to us that we could be a persecuted minority."

They thought of themselves as patriotic Germans.

"I knew that I was German before I learned that I was Jewish," Mrs. Salomon said.

The incident with the Gestapo agent was not the end of the Salomons' troubles.

Mrs. Salomon said the Nazis allowed them to flee the country, but only after they had surrendered most of their possessions.

DTC Also, she said, "It was as difficult to get an American visa as it was to get permission to leave the country."

In the end, she said, the couple bribed their way to America. German friends helped them get some of their furniture and possessions to the United States.

"We finally arrived in America, but without money," she said. "I peddled aprons and stockings."

In Germany, she had been a woman of leisure, she said. She had never learned to cook or take care of a house.

A New York woman who had lost her own wealth in the Depression took Mrs. Salomon under her wing and taught her how to cook and shop.

"For me, the new life was an adventure, to which I took," she said. "I grew into a person who could do things."

When America entered World War II, Mrs. Salomon became a practical nurse. She worked for refugee doctors in New York.

There, the Salomons heard that Springfield Hospital in Sykesville was desperate for doctors -- even foreign-trained ones. Dr. Salomon got a position at the hospital.

Mrs. Salomon worked there also, and she discovered that she had a gift for helping the mentally ill.

When a superior suggested that Mrs. Salomon train in social work, she said, "I jumped at the word 'training' because I wanted to improve myself."

Studying two days a week and working three, Mrs. Salomon earned a master's degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work.

"At age 52 I started on a professional career," she said.

Soon, she was director of social work at Springfield, a position she held until she was forced to retire in 1970, at the age of 70, after 22 years at the hospital.

In 1987, a building at the hospital was named the Eva Salomon Building. A letter signed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer praised her "fortitude in the wake of war and hatred" and her contributions to Springfield Hospital Center.

Mrs. Salomon said the past week, with the opening of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and commemorations of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, has been "very emotional for me."

In addition, she said, "I am very worried about the problems of our times."

Nonetheless, she still has faith in humankind.

She said, "Basically, I am an optimist. I feel that it will be overcome. . . . I believe in the capacity of people to change."

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