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Walter Sommers

Meet Walter

Walter Sommers


Walter Sommers was born to a Jewish family on December 29, 1920 was born in Frankfurt, Germany. During the time, Germany was in a deep depression, due to having lost World War I, and many people were left starving, including Walter's family; therefore, the Sommers family had to keep a cow and a few chickens in order to provide sufficient amount of food to get by. Despite their struggles, Walter's parents had the foresight that he would need to learn foreign languages. While being in school six days a week, Walter was learning English, French, and Spanish. When the Nazi Party took over through the election of Adolf Hitler in 1933, more jobs were provided to the German people; however, the Jews were blamed for the nation's debt. With this being said, Jewish people faced persecution from the Nazis and were dehumanized through Nazi laws and Nazi propaganda. Though persecution of the Jews started as outlawing them from hiring Christian German citizens and discrimination, the Nazi government decided to take the persecution a step further after a Nazi Embassy official was shot by a Jewish man in Paris, France. At the time, Walter had been working as an apprentice in a small export and import company in Hamburg, Germany as a way to better his knowledge over foreign languages in hopes to one day leave Germany. On the night of December 9, 1938, when Walter and another apprentice was on their way home, they saw many synagogues being burned, Jewish businesses being vandalized and destroyed, homes were ransacked, and many people were forced out of their houses and were beaten and arrested by German Stormtroopers.

After that night, which will be known as Kristallnacht, the Nazi government had released a notice that all Jews would have the opportunity to leave the country. Walter managed to convince his family to leave Germany and to move to the United States; however, the United States immigration policy at the time stated that in order to immigrate, the Sommers family had to prove that they had a living relative currently residing within the country. After getting in contact with a distant relative over their situation, Walter was successfully able to move him and his family to the United States and escape the impending Holocaust. He now resides in Terre Haute, Indiana, where he has volunteered in the CANDLES Holocaust Museum as a docent and has educated people on how Hitler rose to power and the events that happened during Kristallnacht.  

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