Sunday, January 17, 2021


My Coming to America

by Leo Goldberger


Leaving Scandinavia in 1947 for a new life across the Atlantic was quite a momentous experience. My father had decided that he had had enough of wars—not to mention the unspeakable Holocaust—having lost almost all of his family in the former Austria-Hungarian realms and then fearing the expanding Soviet hegemony. America beckoned as the most enticing destination to consider, if not also the safest for his four growing children, I at 17 among them.

Helen (Berkovic) Goldberger and Leo Goldberger onboard Drottningholm, 1947. 
Courtesy Leo Goldberger


My dad, an opera-trained singer-- and also a cantor-- in Copenhagen had received a 6-month fellowship to study “advances in liturgical music” in the USA in 1947. His only close contact in New York was the former organist at Jewish funerals Børge Rosenbaum. A totally unknown comedic pianist arriving in the USA in 1940 following the German occupation of Denmark, Rosenbaum was asked to change his name to Victor Borge when he quickly became a hit as the “warm-up” performer on the Bing Crosby Radio Show. (Borge had been on Hitler’s most wanted list because he poked fun of the Fuhrer in his many cabaret shows in Scandinavia.) It was Borge who helped arrange a Town Hall concert for my dad, after which he was offered an attractive position as Chief Cantor in Montreal, Canada. After transatlantic phone calls with my mother and an okay from his Danish congregation the decision was cemented. 

All I knew of Canada was from a couple of pages in my Danish Geography book. (My dad had jokingly referred to Canada’s name as “keiner dah,” meaning “none there!” in German. He was struck by Canada’s tiny population of just 10 million in a landmass much larger than the USA.) The extent of my knowledge was that Montreal was the second largest French-speaking city in the world and that Canada was a Dominion of the UK where one was required to sing God Save The King after the last movie.

In late 1947, my mother, two younger brothers, and I sailed to New York aboard the Swedish “Drottningholm” from Gothenburg. This was an unforgettable experience. We travelled first class as everything else was booked and thus we ate at the captain’s table, wearing the required formal attire, and hobnobbed with, among others, New York’s Major Dwyer’s sister and the celebrated Swedish film star, Edward Persson, who was working on a film sequence on the boat. Even Greta Garbo was aboard—though rarely seen as she wanted famously “to be alone” with her meals brought to her cabin.

In 1920 Swedish America Line bought Virginian, and renamed her Drottningholm, named after a small community near Stockholm. By the end of January 1940 Drottningholm was the only SAL passenger liner still operating between Gothenburg and New York. Post war service, Drottningholm started a Gothenburg – Liverpool – New York service in late August 1945 and was expected to reach Gothenburg from New York by this route for the first time on 6 September.

After a few days aboard, enjoying the pool and nightly dancing, a rather awkward situation occurred when my mother observed a young woman who seemed visibly anxious and ill at ease. The woman continually wore the same clothes and ill-fitting kerchief, and kept moving from one place to another. My mother approached her after several days and learned that she was an 18-year-old, orthodox Jewish, “displaced” Holocaust survivor—and a stowaway! She spoke only Hungarian, which my Hungarian-born mother did as well. At my dear mother’s suggestion, we began a routine to provide the young woman with daily food (hidden in a napkin from our luxurious dinners). My mother also suggested that she sleep on the floor near my bed, which was safer than roaming around at night, hiding here and there. Surely not my ideal bed-fellow!

And then … days later came the much anticipated, wonderful sight—the Statue of Liberty— as we rounded a corner along the Hudson River to dock on 56th Street. There, joyfully, we were met by my father after some nine months of separation. 

However, less joyful was the unfortunate fate of our young Hungarian stowaway. Walking down the gangplank and closely intermingled with us, she was nevertheless noticed by a guard at the base of the gangplank steps. She failed to produce the required landing pass. Thus the game was up for her! We notified the HIAS (Hebrew Immigration Aid Society) representative at the landing site to possibly help her. Yet she was taken to Ellis Island … and presumably deported back to the Displaced Persons camp in Vienna. 

Epilogue: Some 15 years later, the former stowaway appeared at our home in Montreal. She was married with a child and living happily in Brooklyn. She came to convey her thanks! Quite a wonderful ending! 

Saturday, January 25, 2020

(1927 - 2017)

Because of its neutrality, Sweden became a temporary haven for refugees during the pre and postwar exiles period. This would mark its national history with its thousands of personal desperate journeys and stories. Approximately 3000 Jews fled Germany in the early 1930s. David and Rosa Katz were among them.

Rosa Katz (b. Rosa Heine) was born in Odessa and died in Stockholm in 1976. In 1907 she started her studies in psychology at the University of Göttingen, Germany, with the acclaimed mentor David Katz (1884 - 1953) who received his first academic appointment at the Institute of Psychology when he was 23. He was to become her future husband. They married in 1919. She obtained a doctorate in psychology in 1913 (recognition and retroactive inhibition). 

In 1933 David Katz's academic employment at the University of Rostock ended with his dismissal by the Nazi regime. Katz was considered, by the Nazis, a "Jewish-Marxist professor" who should not be entrusted with the education of future Aryan academicians. David and Rosa Katz were able to immigrate via England to Sweden. 

Rosa Katz led research on psychology of children at the Psychological Institute of the University of Stockholm. In 1937, David Katz was appointed professor of education and psychology at the University of Stockholm and became the founder of psychology chair at this university.

When Jewish refugees arrived in Sweden in 1945 Inga Gottfarb (1913 – 2005), a social worker, stood at the harbor in Helsingborg to offer help. With goodwill and great intensity, she helped the suffering refugee women who arrived in Sweden on Count Bernadotte's White Buses. In her book The Perilous Oblivion, she wrote about her personal experiences interviewing survivors who had been liberated from concentration camps. 

"I remembered the arrival of the first Jewish refugees in Sweden in 1933. At that time, the refugees had no right to work and had to live on a small grant from the Jewish community and its members.

In 1945, the flow of refugees increased. The deepest impression on her life, however, was the arrival of concentration camp survivors in Sweden in April 1945, just before the end of the war. The small Jewish community in Malmö had called on her to come and help with their welcoming of refugees. She saw them coming to the harbor in southern Sweden in the White Buses as part of the Bernadotte expedition – all in all over twenty-one thousand refugees from twenty-seven different nationalities, of whom 5,000-6,000 thousand were Jews arrived on those buses.

"The White Buses" was a program undertaken by the Swedish Red Cross and the Danish government in the spring of 1945 to rescue concentration camp inmates and transport them to Sweden. The program was initially intended to rescuing citizens of Scandinavian countries but expanded to include citizens of other countries as well. The White Buses program resulted in rescuing more than 15,000 prisoners from concentration camps, 

Following the rescue, it was always on Inga Gottfarb’s mind to find out what happened to them following the rescue. She interviewed about sixty refugees who had arrived in Sweden from German camps during the spring and summer of 1945, after the Auschwitz camp was liberated by the Russian army in January 1945.

There were about 150 rescue centers in Sweden. Over 100 physicians were given the task to offer immediate care to the survivors. The refugees responded to the help and goodwill they were offered with gratitude. Women in particular, were very depressed, despondent, and felt degraded.

Among the refugees was Elisabeth Goldberger (1927-2017) or Tamar as she would later be called. Elisabeth was born in Hungary and spoke German fluently because she had studied German in school. After her survival from Auschwitz, with no surviving family, she was offered to stay with the German speaking Rosa and David Katz family in Stockholm. The Swedish authority however, required that Elisabeth pass a formal "German Culture Exam" in order to qualify for a family placement. The Katz family took her immediately and with that started a long process of recovery, and a return to normalcy. Her weight was only 27 kg upon arrival and had to struggle with various infections.

The time that followed was one of healing, growth, adjustment to normal life. Elisabeth detailed later several memorable events at the Katz' home, such as her birthday party with family friends, their two sons Gregory (b 1922) and Theodor (1920 – 1997) and traveling with them to Copenhagen. She was considered a permanent guest and lived with them from 1945-1947. She studied at a school nearby the home, and later found a job in the area. Elisabeth later recalled their kindness and the love that the family had given her. When the idea of adoption was suggested by the Katz family, she objected to it because of her sincere longing to immigrate to Israel. This path was, as it turned out, was not seen positively by her host family.

Then, Elisabeth Goldberger decided, like many in the refugee and Aliyah community, to change her first name to a Hebrew name, from Elisabeth to Tamar. Tamar decided to start her path to Palestine and had to do so illegally. 

The Haim Arlozoroff, an immigrant ship named after the Zionist leader during the British mandate of Palestine, was a decommissioned US Army boat, purchased in 1946 by the Jewish Agency and used for moving Jewish refugees from Europe to Palestine. The ship left Trelleborg, Sweden, on 27 January 1947 carrying 664 passengers mostly female survivors of the concentration and death camps, 18 to 25 years of age, waiting to go to Palestine. The ship arrived at Le Havre, France, to stock up on supplies, and by the end of February 1946 reached the port of Metaponto, in Italy, where 684 more survivors boarded the ship, totaling 1,348 passengers. 

Waiting to board the Haim Arlozoroff in Metaponto was Ervin Porat, born 1926 in Budapest, Hungary. Irwin had fled Budapest and was waiting to board along with 100 male refugees from Hungary. Ervin then changed his first name to Haim.

The journey of hope. began. Tamara meets Haim and falls in love. Arriving at the shores of Bat-Galim, Haifa, the ship with new immigrants was caught by the British and was sent back to British detention centers in Cyprus for 1 year in quarantine. This period was ironically considered a safe respite for the refugees. The following year was one of building morale, preparing to make aliyah, pursue the cultural bond by learning one language shared by all, to read and write Hebrew and sing the familiar Hebrew songs. 

At the beginning of 1948 before the Day of Independence Yom Haatzmaut, they arrived in Israel. Tamara and Haim had befriended many other Hungarians during this season and well prepared to embark on the unknown as pioneers and nationbuilders. They decided to start a kibbutz by the name Beit HaEmek (House of the Valley) in northern Israel, in the western Galilee where they ended up staying for 2 years. They received a certificate of Aliyah from the Jewish Agency upon arrival and with that were given a personal loan from the agency of 26 Israeli pound. The money was trusted to the kibbutz.

When they would eventually be leaving Galilee, the money was trusted to the kibbutz. When they, two years later decided to move on, they also left behind any contributions they had made to the kibbutz. They left for a moshav Beit Elazari House of Elazari in central Israel, located three miles south of the city of Rehovot.

Tamara’s relationship with the Katz family was by her own choice broken. Her journey into the wilderness, the pioneer work of building the land, became a too strong contrast to her past life in Sweden. She along with many of her landsmen pursued the building of a nation, a recent attained statehood, no longer exiles. But free. 

Tamara and Haim had two children Gadi and Dorit, both currently living in Israel.

In the passing of Tamara Goldberger last year, her children Gadi and Dorit have generously shared her story as well as private photos with us to document her story. And for that we are so very grateful!

With kind appreciation 

Monday, October 30, 2017


Af Hans Christian Hein, 
rektor for Løgumkloster Kirkemusikskole

Fremkomsten og udviklingen af det borgerlige samfund med dets institutioner i slutningen af 1700-tallet og op gennem 1800-tallet blev tillige en åndelig og filosofisk brydningstid med store ændringer til følge for kunsten og musikken i Europa. 

I den kristne vesteuropæiske kirkemusik kom det således til et brud med de ældre komponisters utvungne brug af samtidens stil. Komponister i 1800-tallet kom til at stå i et dilemma mellem den kompositionsmæssige udvikling i retning af større selvstændighed og de historiserende og arkaiserende træk inden for netop kirkemusikken. Denne dobbelte bundethed kan bl.a. ses i et citat fra et brev fra 1835 af den da 26-årige Felix Mendelssohn, der skriver: ”En virkelig kirkemusik, d.v.s. med plads i den evangeliske gudstjeneste, synes mig umulig, og dette ikke blot fordi jeg ikke kan se, hvor denne musik kan finde plads i gudstjenesten; men fordi jeg slet ikke kan forestille mig dette sted”.

En følge heraf blev for Mendelssohn og mange andre komponister at komponere kirkelig musik til koncertsalen, hvor kompositioner med kirkelige tekster til orkesterakkompagnement indgik. På denne måde kom koncertsalene til at fungere som et ”helligt” og sakralt-lignende rum som baggrund for værker, der kunne virke moralsk opbyggelige og religiøst ansporende. Som endog særdeles smukke eksempler herpå kan nævnes Mendelssohns psalmekompositioner og Brahms´ Requiem. 

Inden for den jødiske kultur skete der i denne periode ligeledes store forandringer i anvendelsen af musik til gudstjenester i synagogen. Dette skete som et resultat af den særlige sociale og politiske situation for jøder i Europa med begrænsede frihedsrettigheder samt oplysningstidens ideer, der fik stor betydning for den jødiske emancipation op igennem 1800-tallet i de forskellige lande. 

Den jødiske filosof Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786) – farfar til Felix Mendelssohn – var en central skikkelse i oplysningstiden i Tyskland, og han havde bl.a. et nært venskab med filosoffen Gotthold Lessing. Moses Mendelssohn advokerede for større sameksistens mellem jøder og kristne, og konkret tog han på det musikalske område skridt til en fornyelse af synagogemusikken under påvirkning af den kristne gudstjeneste. Hans tanker ledte til et opgør med den gamle, mundtligt overleverede, orientalsk-jødiske musikkultur og til en tilpasning til dele af den i Europa dominerende kristne musikkultur. Det førte især i Tyskland til reformer bl.a. med indførelse af enstemmig sang til akkompagnement, hvilket ikke tidligere var tilladt i synagogen, hvor instrumenter havde været bandlyst. 

Moses Mendelsohn (1729 - 1786)

Endvidere førte Moses Mendelssohns tanker til at man begyndte at anskaffe orgler i flere synagoger op gennem 1800-tallet. Musikalsk set var der her tale om et stærkt brud med den overleverede tradition, idet man nu fik indført dur/mol-tonal musik i synagogen, hvor der indtil da udelukkende havde været a cappella-udført kantorsang i jødisk-orientalsk stil. Synagogen i Dortmund med fritstående spillebord forrest i rummet

Reformerne i synagogegudstjenesterne skete ikke uden stor diskussion mellem konservative jødiske kredse og reformivrige kræfter, der gennem øget politisk-social assimilation samtidig overtog flertalskulturens normer og kulturelle værdier. Jødiske kunstneres engagement i den fælles kultur blev på alle planer mere almindeligt. Der var et overordentligt stort antal kunstnere af jødisk herkomst i Tyskland op gennem det 19. århundrede og i det 20. århundrede indtil 2. Verdenskrig. Bidraget til den fælles europæiske kultur er åbenbart på alle kulturelle områder. 

Den teologiske diskussion i jødiske kredse om ikke mindst indførelsen af det ”kristne instrument” orglet var ophedet igennem 1800-tallet. Rabbinere diskuterede spørgsmålet i flere skrifter, og i 1863 udgav David Deutsch, en rabbiner i Sorau (nu Polen), et længere skrift, hvori han ud fra sin Talmudforskning diskuterede: 1) Om indførelse af orgelspil i gudstjenesten var i strid med den traditionelle jødiske gudstjenestes karakter og en forbrydelse mod den bibelske lære og Talmud? og 2) 

Om orgelspil set som et arbejde på sabbaten var et brud på den bibelske lære og Talmud. Trods store overvejelser af ortodoks art nåede David Deutsch frem til et nej på begge spørgsmål – dog med den interessante modifikation, at det ville være bedst, hvis orglet i synagogen kunne blive trakteret af en ikke-jøde, da problemet med forbud mod at arbejde på sabbaten i så fald ville være mindre! Netop spørgsmålet om organisten måtte eller burde være en jødisk eller en ikke-jødisk musiker, kom helt frem til det 20. århundrede til at få en fremskudt plads i diskussionen. Uanset de teologiske og kulturelle diskussioner bevægede reformerne sig dog hastigt frem i Tyskland og i flere andre centraleuropæiske lande, hvor tysk-jødisk kultur var dominerende. De sefardiske jøder i Sydeuropa og i Rusland var overvejende imod reformerne, og her overlevede den traditionelle gudstjenesteform længere end i de øvrige områder. 

Som dokumenteret i en doktorafhandling af Tina Frühauf, ”Orgel und Orgelkultur in deutsch-jüdischer Kultur” fra 2005, blev der fra begyndelsen af 1800-tallet i stigende antal anskaffet orgler til synagoger i Tyskland og omgivende lande. Der var, som i kirkerne, tale om instrumenter af forskellig størrelse efter synagogens og menighedens størrelse. Dispositionsmæssigt er der ikke umiddelbare forskelle at spore i forhold til de instrumenter, orgelbyggerne leverede til kirker på samme tid. Førende orgelbyggerier som Buchholz, Ladegast, Walcker og Sauer leverede adskillige instrumenter på op til tre manualer og pedal til synagoger i de større tyske byer. 

Historien om orgler i tyske synagoger sluttede dramatisk i 1938, hvor stort set alle synagoger blev sat i brand i forbindelse med Krystalnatten d. 9.-10. november. Der blev ødelagt o. 200 synagoger overalt i Tyskland, og inventaret blev i de fleste tilfælde sat i brand eller ødelagt på anden vis, herunder også de fleste orgler. Enkelte steder forblev orglerne intakte, men de blev efterfølgende af magthaverne fjernet og indsat i kirker. 

En særlig dramatisk øjenvidneberetning fra en af synagogerne, der blev ødelagt i Krystalnatten, stammer fra Mannheim, hvor synagogen lå bygget klods op ad beboelseshuse. Samuel Adler, der var søn af den stedlige jødiske kantor, oplevede ødelæggelserne som barn og nedskrev senere sine oplevelser: 

“So they set two explosive charges: one in the arc which by the way contained the 122 Torah scrolls of all sizes, the other under the organ. The first explosion blew out the entire front walk, the second blew a huge hole in the choir loft floor, destroyed the balcony and blew the organ over the side so that it hung from a cable over the balcony about fifty feet from the main floor” 

Far og søn vovede sig alligevel ind i synagogen for at redde noget af musikbiblioteket, og Adler beretter videre: 

“Just then, since there was so much dust, I sneezed. Immediately we heard one of the officers downstairs command a man to go upstairs and to shoot anyone there on sight. He had hardly finished shouting when the cable of the organ gave way and the console crashed to the floor barring the entrance to the door leading upstairs. Confusion reigned down there while my father and I weighed down with books rushed down the stairs into the secret passage and safely reached the house across the street, and miraculously all in one piece we had accomplished an impossible deed.” 

I Berlin blev orglet i synagogen i Oranienburger Strasse på Krystalnatten reddet ved en snarrådig og heldig indsats fra en tilstedeværende politibetjent, der ganske enkelt tilkaldte brandvæsenet - men bygningen og orglet blev senere ødelagt ved et bombeangreb i 1943. 
I dag findes der kun to tyske synagoger i henh. Berlin og Frankfurt a.M., hvor der atter er bygget orgler.

Reformgudstjenesterne og orgelkulturen blomstrede i mange synagoger i USA fra o. 1900, og med de mange jøder, der kom til landet før, under og efter 2. Verdenskrig blev de amerikanske synagoger hjemsted for en stærk jødisk reformkultur. En af de førende musikere og forskere på området var Jacob Beimel (1875-1944). Han var opvokset nær Minsk i Hviderusland som søn af en jødisk kantor og havde således fra sin opvækst et indgående kendskab til den traditionelle jødiske musikkultur. 

Jacob Beimel (1875-1944)

Som ung kom han til Berlin, hvor han studerede ved musikkonservatoriet, og han fik derved som noget ret enestående en professionel og direkte tilgang til både jødisk og vesteuropæisk musikkultur. Han kom i øvrigt til København i 1911, hvor han blev kantor og ved synagogen grundlagde det jødiske kor Hasomir, der eksisterede frem til 1987. Beimel emigrerede til USA i 1915, hvor han blev en af de vigtigste lærere i kantorsang, grundet sin dybe forankring i den gamle stil og i kraft af et utrætteligt arbejde med at beskrive musikken og dens historie. Beimel udgav et væld af artikler i det tidsskrift, han selv grundlagde: ”Jewish Music Journal”.

Generelt medførte reformgudstjenesterne med udgangspunkt i Tyskland et traditionstab i forhold til den gamle mundtligt overleverede jødiske synagogesang. I starten af 1800-tallet begyndte man at nedskrive musikken, hvilket betød et fastere metrum og takt end den traditionelle frirytmiske og improvisatoriske kantorsang. Sange med akkompagnement af klaver, harmonium eller orgel blev mere almindelige, hvilket yderligere forstærkede en udvikling med tilpasning til den fremherskende europæiske musik og dens tonesystem. 

I begyndelsen af 1800-tallet var orgelmusikken i synagogerne stærkt præget af orgelmusikken i kirkerne, og en komponist som Johann Chr. Heinrich Rinck (1770-1846), der i kirkerne var i høj kurs, blev også spillet i synagogerne. Det var ikke overraskende den frie orgelmusik, der umiddelbart blev anvendt, hvorimod orgelkoraler ikke vandt indpas i jødisk sammenhæng. 

Organisten Moritz Deutsch (1818-1892) fra Breslau komponerede i 1864 en række præludier til brug ved forskellige jødiske helligdage med anvendelse af motiver fra de jødiske liturgiske sange. Her fremkom således en sammensmeltning af to oprindeligt meget forskellige musikkulturer, hvor en oprindelig modal melodik blev blandet med funktionsharmonikken og den jødiske sang blandet med kristen kirkemusik til en form for ”orgelkoral”. Kantoren og komponisten Louis Lewandowski (1821-1894) fra Berlin betragtes som den egentlige skaber af en ”jødisk orgelkoral”, og hans orgelværker vandt stor udbredelse.

Det tyske ”Merseburger Verlag” indledte for få år siden udgivelsen af værker af jødiske komponister fra slutningen af 1800-tallet under titlen ”Synagogalmusik”. Der er i denne serie bl.a. udgivet værker af M. Deutsch og L. Lewandowski. Serien påkalder sig især interesse set fra en almen musikkulturel og musikhistorisk synsvinkel.

I begyndelsen af det 20. århundrede og under Weimarrepublikken i 1920´erne blomstrede jødisk kultur på mange felter, og som noget nyt blev der ofte afholdt orgelkoncerter i synagogerne. Her kunne programmet som i kirkerne ofte bestå af ældre orgelmusik samt transskriptioner af nyere orkesterværker. Ved koncerterne blev der ofte spillet orgeltransskriptioner af Richard Wagners musik (!). Som et udslag af den assimilation, der havde fundet sted i det jødiske samfund, blev der jævnligt afholdt velgørenhedskoncerter til gavn for en særlig gruppe i samfundet. 

Således afholdt man en koncert i krigsåret 1916 i Königsbergs synagoge ”til gavn for de tilbageblevne underofficerer og mandskabet fra det 1. armékorps”, hvor der bl.a. blev spillet orgelmusik af Rheinberger. Et tegn på det utvungne kulturelle samarbejde, der fandt sted mellem jøder og kristne i starten af det 20. årh., var de mange koncerter, hvor orglerne i synagogerne blev spillet af kristne organister. Således uropførte komponisten Gerard Bunk en række af sine orgelværker i synagogen i Bielefeld. 

Hugo Chaim Adler komponerede i 1931 ”Toccata og fuga over et hebræisk tema”, der vandt betydelig genklang og fik flere opførelser, bl.a. ved en radiotransmitteret koncert fra domkirken i Köln i 1932 – altså kun omkring et år inden den nazistiske magtovertagelse.

Efter 1933 indførte det nazistiske styre snart store begrænsninger i udfoldelsen af jødisk kultur, og jødiske kunstnere blev fjernet fra offentlige hverv. Der indførtes et apartheidsystem, hvor jødiske kunstnere kun kunne fremføre kunst for andre jøder i de særlige ”jødiske kulturforeninger” – hvor fremførelse af værker af ”tyske” komponister blev forbudt. En del jøder har beskrevet, hvorledes de i 1930´erne kom til at føle sig mere ”jødiske” i takt med, at de ikke fik mulighed for at definere sig og udfolde sig som tyske statsborgere. Hvor de fleste jøder ikke tidligere havde defineret sig som ”jøder”, men udelukkende som ”tyskere”, blev de tvunget til at aflægge sig deres tyske identitet. 

Med Krystalnatten forsvandt de fleste orgler fra de jødiske synagoger i Tyskland. Desuden blev en væsentlig del af selve nodematerialet i synagogerne ødelagt. Kun i kraft af den jødiske emigration, der havde fundet sted både inden og i løbet af 1930´erne, overlevede en del af den jødiske orgelkultur i USA og enkelte andre steder. 

I Danmark var der allerede i slutningen af 1700-tallet en tæt forbindelse til de tysk-jødiske reformtanker, idet en svoger til Moses Mendelssohn boede i København. Han og andre forsøgte at indføre reformgudstjenester i den københavnske synagoge; men en stor del af menigheden og rabbineren var imod, og der blev derfor ikke foretaget ændringer i gudstjenesten. Senere forsøg op gennem 1800-tallet ledte til samme negative resultat for reformisterne, og der blev ikke indført et orgel i synagogen. Til gengæld indgik man et kompromis ved, at der blev sunget uakkompagnerede dansksprogede salmer både før og efter prædikenen i gudstjenesten. 

Fra 1814 fik jøderne i Danmark fulde borgerlige rettigheder. Loven krævede dog, at der blev afholdt konfirmation i synagogen efter forbillede i den kristne konfirmation. Til den første konfirmationstjeneste i 1817 havde præsten C.J. Boje tilrettelagt og gendigtet 21 Davidssalmer på dansk. To af tidens førende komponister, Frederik Kuhlau og C.E.F. Weyse komponerede melodierne, og ved konfirmationstjenesten i 1817 spillede Kuhlau selv på et til lejligheden lånt positivorgel. 

I midten af 1800-tallet var A.P. Berggreen i sin egenskab af sanginspektør i en periode også tilknyttet synagogen og underviste kordrenge. Han blev dog ivrigt modarbejdet i sit arbejde af kantoren, og Berggreen havde vel næppe heller nogen stor forståelse for den gamle jødiske sangkultur med tonesystemer væsensforskellige fra 1800-tallets europæiske musik. På et senere tidspunkt anskaffede man et harmonium til særlige tjenester, og som et kuriosum kan nævnes, at Børge Rosenbaum alias Victor Borge i 1920´erne og -30´erne for at supplere sine indtægter jævnligt betjente dette instrument ved begravelser! 

Litteratur bl.a.:

David Deutsch: Die Orgel in der Synagoge: Eine Erörterung, Breslau 1863
Tina Frühauf: Orgel und Orgelkultur in der deutsch-jüdischer Kultur, Hildesheim 2015

Jane Mink Rossen og Uri Sharvit: A fusion of traditions – Liturgical Music

Published with kind permission 

Published by Scandinavian Jewish Forum

Sunday, October 15, 2017

John Kolstad and Herman Becker on Karl Johan street, Oslo July 1941.
Photo: Courtesy Frode Sæland



by Frode Sæland

Part of Mosquito crew

A Rhodesian with the name Keith d’Alroy Taute, born in 1916 in Fort Victoria, and a veteran pilot in the Royal Air Force, chose Herman as his new navigator. Taute held the rank of Squadron Leader in No. 21 Squadron RAF. He had lost his navigator and needed a new one for The Big Show. Perhaps he saw a young navigator with some experience ready for new challenges. In the RAF, new navigators were usually crewed with experienced pilots.

No. 21 Squadron was one of three squadrons in No. 140 Wing; set up with de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito FB Mk VI. The unit was part of No. 2 Group of Second Tactical Air Force – a force established for tactical air support of the Allied Expeditionary Force under General Eisenhower, preparing for the campaign in North-west Europe. Taute insisted on Herman having officer’s rank and he got his promotion to Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Norwegian Navy Air Force from June 1, 1944. As he was without AFU and no experience with fast moving aircraft, he was sent to training course at the Group’s Ground Support Unit, a Mosquito Conversion Course as well as temporary flying duties at RAF Station Gravesend, Kent.

The aircrews’ tension increased as preparations for the invasion intensified. On the actual D-day, Keith and Herman trained for firing and bombing runs to be carried out after the landings. On June 7, they got a transfer note for another unit in the wing, No. 464 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force, where Taute would head the “A” flight. The operation order for the wing was to cause maximum delays of all movements by road and railway by enemy forces during night in specific areas beyond the beach heads. On June 9, the Australian squadron received three complete crews, including Taute and Becker, reaching full war establishment. Their first operational sortie on June 10, patrolling roads in Normandy, was unsuccessful, because the four 500 lbs. bombs stuck.

The period from June to October 1944 was a busy one. Depending on the weather conditions, Keith and Herman was on the wings at night, attacking roads, crossing points, railway junctions and marshalling areas with cannon fire, bombs or a combination of both, over places eventually known from the campaign: Cherbourg, Chartres, Mezidon, the Vire-area, the Falaise pocket, the Chagny Rail Yards and Rouen. In October, they carried out their first attacks in Germany, at Saarbrucken. At the end of October, 24 aircraft from the wing carried out a daylight raid against the Gestapo headquarters at Aarhus, Denmark. At the time, Herman enjoyed his long-term leave.

Herman finished a tour of 35 sorties on Mosquito (and over 300 flying hours). The intensity of operative sorties since D-day affected the crews in the form of psychic pressure, mental overload and accumulated unease. The loss of comrades was devastating. Taute left the squadron and Herman was without pilot. Enjoying a well-deserved rest period, his mind was not at peace. During leave in London, an air force colleague told him about recent developments in his hometown. He was informed that his family had been deported to Hitler-Germany. Years of doubt, concern and anxiety turned into certainty. He realised that the Nazis had murdered his family. He must have felt despair and desperation, as well as commitment and will power to go on. Meeting an acquaintance from Stavanger, offering him a rest period in Canada, he declined with the words: “I am going to get those bastards.”

Herman knew it was difficult to shun an obligatory rest period. Norwegian authorities declined his first request. However, he knew whom he had to speak to in order to get a new operational tour. Probably, he talked with the personnel officer of No. 140 Wing, who conferred with Wing Commander Bill Langdon of 464 Squadron. He met with Langdon, who granted him a second tour without any formality. A couple of days later Squadron Commander Langdon wrote a recommendation for the award Distinguished Flying Cross: “This Officer possesses a very high standard of Navigational ability which he employs to the utmost in his duties. His efforts have been a fine example of skill and devotion to duty. He has elected to return to this squadron for his second Operational tour and he will undoubtedly play an outstanding part in future operations carried out.”

King George V sanctioned the DFC for Sub-Lieutenant Herman Hirsch Becker in January 1945, and he could fix his first ribbon, alternating violet and white diagonal stripes, above the left breast pocket of his battle dress. The same month, the Norwegian Ministry of Defence followed suit by recommending him for The War Medal, number four of military awards for service during Second World War. He could add a ribbon with stripes of gold on red, the colours of the national banner.

Herman Becker, in the middle, during the Wings Parade in "Little Norway"

Photo: Courtesy Frode Sæland

As Herman started his second tour in November 1944, No.140 Wing was attacking communication targets in the Netherlands. He eventually crewed with an Australian, Flying Officer John Herbert Palmer. In December, their area of operations moved southwards to Luxembourg - Koblenz, due to the Ardennes Offensive. On Christmas Eve, their mission was to bomb German munitions transports in the Ardennes salient, in support of Patton’s III Corps, struggling to break through to Bastogne from the south against heavy resistance. After the turning point of the Battle of the Bulge, as the headquarters of Hodges’s First Army and Simpson’s Ninth Army celebrated New Year’s Eve with turkey and champagne, 18 fighter-bombers from Herman’s squadron attacked village and railway targets at the northern front, under atrocious weather conditions.

In February, the wing relocated to a provisional airfield at Rosières-en-Santerre south of Amiens. The squadrons were immediately involved in the launch of Operation Veritable, preparing for the crossing of the Rhine. The first sortie for Herman and John was bombing and strafing the usual targets in direct support of the Canadian First Army at the northern end of the front. At the end of the month, they participated in a massive large-scale daylight attack on communications network targets in the area Bremen – Hannover, as part of Operation Clarion.

Herman was the only Norwegian in an Australian squadron, consisting of mostly Australians, Britons, Canadians and New Zealanders – a typical Commonwealth unit. He distinguished himself by carrying his navy blue uniform with pride. How did he fit in? Some say he fitted in very well; he was well regarded and highly respected for his skills. Some say he was a quiet, self-contained person, who did not get close to anyone – a lone wolf. Some say he was “an absolutely delightful person”, first class, with a warm personality. All relevant aspects of what I would call an ordinary person, not extraordinarily ordinary, but a usual chap and a good bloke – admittedly of the quiet, sensitive and introvert kind. I suppose none of his brothers in arms had any idea of the anguish, pain and black sorrow he carried within him. However, he would be welcome in a unit where skill, competence and sense of duty were central criteria, where an egalitarian Aussie attitude ruled and where racial prejudice played no part. 

In March, as the Battle for the Rhine raged on the ground, they flew Intruder operations as usual ahead of the front. As frequency dropped, the crews had time to practice on pinpoint raids, specialised low-level daylight attacks on selected targets, for which No. 140 Wing became renowned. At the end of the month, the secret mission to attack the Gestapo Headquarters in Copenhagen was authorised. The next morning, seven Mosquitos of 464 Squadron took off for an airfield at Fersfield, East Anglia, to conduct the raid.  

First Pilot 5247 Herman H. Becker
Photo: Courtesy Frode Sæland

Operation Carthage

The Danish Resistance had requested an attack on the Gestapo HQ via Special Operations Executive (SOE) in London in order to gain some respite, to stop the break-up of resistance cells and free central cadres incarcerated at the top floor of the Shell building, in order to prepare for the Liberation. The briefing of the crews reflected the meticulous planning of the raid. They were shown photos, specially designed slides, film footage, and charts with flak positions marked, a system of fix points, specially designed models and several types of maps. All in order to carry out a surprise attack, to bomb only the lower floors of the office building situated in a densely populated area, and to avoid added flak capacity of a newly harboured German cruiser. The briefing was repeated thrice. After the briefing, Herman met the Danish SOE representative Major Truelsen in the officers’ mess, giving him photographs of his family in Norway, asking him to keep them safe for him. I see this as an expression of a fatalism typical of experienced warriors and Herman’s wish to leave a personal sign to his neighbours.

In the morning, March 21, 1945 18 Mosquito fighter-bombers from No. 140 Wing took off in three waves of six aircraft in clear but windy weather. 31 North American P-51 Mustang fighters from Fighter Command escorted the attack force. A two hours bumpy crossing of the North Sea at very low-level covered the windscreens with salt spray, reducing visibility. The first wave reached a gloomy Copenhagen on time, increasing speed to 300 mph. In the final run-in, the fourth aircraft hit a light tower, got out of course and crashed at some garages along a city boulevard, catching fire almost immediately as the ammunition exploded. The three first aircraft bombed the target building, the fifth hit as well, while the last missed due to an evasive manoeuvre.  

The second wave arrived over a minute later and black smoke from the fire made navigation difficult. The two first crews could not see the target and decided to do another turn; the first bombed the Shell house, while the other decided to bring their bombs back. The third aircraft got out of course, lost a bomb and sent the remaining bomb against the fire, hitting the Jeanne d’Arc convent school nearby. The crew in the fourth aircraft observed the confusion, made a turn and came behind the fifth (Palmer & Becker) and the sixth aircraft. They were both on course but a tiny distraction made them bomb a nearby building complex. The last aircraft hit a pillbox on the corner of the Shell house.

Herman in full uniform onboard Catalina aircraft that was involved
in almost every major operation in World War II
Photo: Courtesy Frode Sæland

The third wave arrived somewhat late due to navigational problems. On a northerly course, they were led directly to the roaring inferno of the crash. Smoke obscured final fix points and most of the crews mistook the smoke for the target. Five of the six aircraft released their bombs in the Frederiksberg area, as well as the last Film Production Unit Mosquito with incendiary bombs. The sixth aircraft realised the mistake and brought the bombs back.

The attack took about five minutes and the raiders set course for home, flying at low-level in small groups across Sealand. Five aircraft of the first wave made it to East Anglia after a five and a half hours trip. The two last aircraft of the second wave came too far north and were his by flak as they left the coastline. Palmer and Becker saw the sixth aircraft turn north and crash in the sea. Palmer tried to keep his aircraft steady with one engine, turning off the other engine to reduce the fire. After a distance, the aircraft crashed in the sea in flames. Herman opened the emergency hatch and got out on the fuselage, which was pulled down by the rough sea. The tailfin must have hit him on the head as the aircraft sank into the sea. Knocked unconscious, he drowned in the Samsoe belt. Alone. Thus Herman fell. 

Herman Becker August 1944
Photo: Courtesy Frode Sæland


At the base at Rosières-en-Senterre, France, the keeper of 464 Squadron’s Operation Record Book had difficulties in accepting the loss of veteran crews in the day’s raid, after receiving news from Fersfield in the evening. “Unfortunately, the day’s work has cost us four well tried veterans – F/O “Spike” Palmer and his Norwegian Navigator – S/Lt. Herman Becker, also F/O “Shorty” Dawson and his Navigator F/O “Fergie” Murray. All these chaps had been long with the Squadron and their loss is not only a shock to us all but a severe blow to the Squadron. There is a slight hope that they have “ditched” and got away – such is our hope.” Officially, the crews were missing in action. The keeper of the Operations Record Book of No. 2 Group, however, had no illusions, regardless of reports of Herman waving farewell as the aircraft ditched and a crewmember observed at the fuselage. A later entry stated shortly that Herman was “killed”.  Presumably, he got a wet grave just like his pilot.

Four days later a corpse was washed ashore on the island of Samsoe, east of Jutland. Local fishermen found nothing to identify the dead, but from the Navy battle dress, they assumed he was a British airman. They handed the corpse over to German authorities, who buried the corpse in secrecy at Tranebjerg cemetery, in order to avoid manifestations by the local population.

After exhumation in 1947, British authorities decided that the remains belonged to a British officer from Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy. Identification showed the rank of Sub-Lieutenant, an unknown pilot wing with the letter ‘S’ on a red circle, two ribbons, one of an unknown award, the other of DFC, and a small kangaroo emblem inscribed “Australia”. A simple headstone read “Unknown British Flyer”.

In the 1990s, Colonel Helge William Gram of the Danish Army pioneered an identification project of the 1.100 aviators from the Commonwealth countries and the USA that lie buried in Denmark. After eight years of work, 90 were still unidentified. Trying to identify an Allied pilot, Mr. Gram received a copy of the 1947 exhumation report at Samsoe that puzzled him. In 1994, a request originating from Mr. Gram started my quest for a family history. A reinterpretation identified the unknown pilot at Samsoe as Herman Hirsch Becker. Gold wing with an ‘S’ in centre was definitely a Norwegian navigator wing (S for speider). In consultation with Norwegian authorities, The Commonwealth War Graves Commission accepted the identification in the year 2000. The same year, a new head stone with his name was erected. In 2010, the Star of David was engraved on the stone. Finally, his grave got a name and a broader audience has to know of his war efforts.    

Published by Scandinavian Jewish Forum

Bilderesultat for hermans krig frode sæland



by Frode Sæland

This is a micro history within a general history. A tale of a Norwegian naval aviator and his efforts in the Second World War. A story of a named warrior, who rendered faithful service in the war. Nevertheless, he was cut off from the fruits of victory. This is the story of Herman Hirsch Becker.

Family background

Herman was born in a village south of Stavanger on the south-west coast of Norway. His parents were Russian Jews, fleeing from Russia at the start of the First Word War. His father, Hille, crossed the Baltic Sea at the age of 29, travelling via Sweden to Oslo in August 1914. In Russia, his 26 years old fiancé Judith Davidova Zemechmann had to wait for five months in order to join him. She had visited several European cities as a piano teacher, accompanying well off families from St. Petersburg on their educational journeys. She arrived at Oslo directly from St. Petersburg in January 1915.They married and rented a small flat down town. Hille worked in a watchmaker shop, while Judith stayed at home, as most women in immigrant families did. In May, Judith gave birth to her first-born son Israel Josef. The family did not settle in Oslo, as conditions were bleak. In August 1916, the family moved to the industrial town of Stavanger, hoping for better opportunities in a town where the canning industry was booming due to wartime conditions.

            The Becker family was part of a major emigration from the Pale of Settlement in the years between 1880 and 1920. Nearly 3 million Jews emigrated from Eastern Europe due to restriction of opportunities, increasing poverty, systematic discrimination and brutal harassment. The Becker’s escaped as Russia launched punitive measures against the Jewish population in the western parts of the empire after the attack by Imperial Germany. Tsarist Russia considered Jews in these areas to be pro-German. However, unlike the majority emigrating to North America, Europe and Palestine, a small minority settled in the peaceful corner of Scandinavia, a region with a historically low part of Jews in the population. By 1920, approximately 1.200 Jewish immigrants had come to Norway, primarily from Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, and Russia. They mainly settled in the two towns with Jewish communities, Oslo and Trondheim, but gradually some moved to other towns and rural regions as well.   

Herman Becker as a student at
Storhaug school Stavanger.
Photo: courtesy Frode Sæland

Childhood and youth

The family of three moved to the village of Bryne on the regional railway line in 1918. In four years, the family counted five. Herman Hirsch Becker was born on July 30, 1920. Their only daughter Ada Abigael Becker was born in Stavanger on January 20, 1922. At Bryne, Herman enjoyed a good and safe upbringing. Hille ran a small watchmaker shop on the main street, struggling to make ends meet. Judith sold candy in the shop in order to add to the income. She took on pupils learning to play the piano. She also played the piano at the local cinema screening silent movies of the day and provided live music at gatherings and celebrations at the regional college.  

            The Becker’s may have had limited social intercourse and a modest income, nevertheless, they were accepted and respected in the small community. Herman was a lively, talkative boy, making a lot of fun. He was allowed the keep his full, dark hair rather uncut, in a bohemian way, until he entered primary school in 1929. Considered an ordinary and proper schoolboy, he did not distinguish himself in any way. His musical talent, however, flourished as his father taught him to play the violin.

            In 1928, the family moved back to Stavanger. Hille established a watchmaker shop near the harbour, eventually renting a flat in a respectable part of town. Herman finished primary school in 1934 with top marks. His socialization into Norwegian customs and habits happened in a normal, self-evident way. The family ethos was to become good Norwegians. Like his brother and sister, Herman spent years in the Christian based Scout Movement. He was like any other boy in the street - active in play, outdoor activities and competitions. Of course, he learned to ski, becoming a competent skier. He liked to play football and was a prominent member of the local junior team. Herman, however, had temperament. He did not tolerate derogatory remarks on Jews or Jewishness. Whenever someone made a stupid remark or a joke at his expense, he sat the limit with his bare fists. 

           In his teens, football and sports gave way for more artistic and intellectual interests. He took regular lessons on the violin and played chess. Although Herman occasionally played the violin for his friends on outdoor gatherings, he was alone in his musical education. Friends regarded him as a quiet and pensive person. New interests, however, were not traded in good achievements at secondary school, where he performed mediocre. I suppose the age of puberty was difficult also with regard to identity. Classical music became his main field of interest, but not exclusively. He was stand-in for the town orchestra, played regularly in the orchestra of the local theatre and listened passionately to American big-band jazz music. His formidable performance on solo violin at a school-ending event in 1937, made a deep impression on many present.

            Herman finished his education with a two-year course at the commercial gymnasium of Stavanger, graduating in 1939 with good results. He obviously enjoyed the combination theoretical and practical subjects, preparing him for a job in trade and commerce. He was well liked and friendly, a cheerful and jovial fellow, with a friendly smile and a quick reply, usually in the centre of any group of youngsters, without being a leader type. He was not pious or interested in religion, although he received a basic religious education at home. Whether it was related to his elder brother Israel marrying Ida Goldman, sister’s daughter of the well-known factory owner and tradesman Moritz Rabinowitz, whether it was related to an improved financial situation for the Becker’s, making a relatively expensive membership affordable, or whether it was related to the international situation and increasing anti-Semitic pressure in Norway, we shall never know. Nevertheless, in September 1939 Mr. Becker applied for membership in The Mosaic Religious Community, Oslo for the rest of the family.

Herman starting working in his father’s shop, keeping the books and attending the shop, as his father grew ill of asthma. He started to earn his own money and perhaps he planned a career. In November, he reported relocation to Oslo, but he did not move. He stayed in his hometown, loyal to his family, working as a shop attendant. With a war on in Europe, times were marred with uncertainty and worry. Many of the immigrant families of the second wave had relatives in Central and Eastern Europe. The situation for the 500 Jewish refugees arriving in Norway until 1940 was more precarious, as they had no permanent resident permits.

            Herman was representative for the second generation of Jewish immigrants in Norway. He spoke the native language, as the families were eager to become Norwegians as quickly as possible. Most families adopted a particular strategy of adjustment, a form of self-adjustment, while resisting a strong pressure for assimilation. Families were largely integrated in society, adopting a Norwegian identity as well as maintaining their Jewish identity, within a position as a religious minority. Children of the families received what their parents did not get: social security, education and a good upbringing, forming a basis for social mobility. An entrenched, bureaucratic anti-Semitism was probably more of a problem for the immigrant families than bursts of a latent anti-Semitism in society as a whole. The authorities demanded 20 years of residence before granting citizenship, especially to Jews from Eastern Europe. The Becker family received their Norwegian citizenship in 1936. Many poor Jewish immigrants, however, did not. Both generations seem to have appreciated the protection given by a hard-earned citizenship, becoming most loyal citizens.

Grown-up under Nazi occupation    
The Nazi attack on Norway on April 9, 1940 came as a shock, to both officials and the people at large. German air-landing troops quickly occupied the airport, harbour and town of Stavanger, while Norwegian Army units established defence lines further inland. Neither Herman nor Ada were part of the panic evacuation by ships to hamlets at the inner fjords the next day. In town, ordinary life carried on under the parole “calm and order”. The town was of strategic importance and the Royal Air Force was on the wings several times. During a bombing raid, two aircrafts were hit by flak. One burning bomber crashed in the centre of town, causing a fire at the school attended by Israel, Herman and Ada. Due to requisitions by Wehrmacht, the Becker’s had to move to a new flat. The anti-Jewish policy of the occupation authorities became manifest as local police was ordered to confiscate radios owned by Jews.

            In the early summer of 1940, Herman met a young girl named Aslaug, five years his junior. They enjoyed each other’s company and soon fell in love. Herman’s mother did not approve of his choice. As culturally conservative, she insisted on finding a Jewish girl, to no avail. There were no suitable candidates for miles – Herman had found his girl. He insisted on deciding the issue himself – staying out by a rock, the whole night to mark his will adamantly. Reluctantly, Judith accepted Aslaug, involving her in cooking. Herman and Aslaug became a couple, meeting twice a week, staying with friends during week-ends and holidays, doing what young people used to do; go dancing, to the cinema, hiking, go bathing, visits at family cottage, skiing in the mountains, and arranging private dancing as public dancing was banned by the occupation authorities.

Aslaug and Herman, summer 1941. Photo courtesy Frode Sæland

            It is impossible to say how occupation affected the prospects of live for young people. On the outside, seemingly not. However, indications suggest that a major choice was under way. Herman was a man of integrity, displaying a strong sense of justice, valuing social equality and believing in national sovereignty. Parading German troops in his beloved hometown must have been a provoking and disheartening experience. It can be humiliating for a young man liable to military service to live in an occupied country. I can imagine his response to the bombastic music of a military band playing in the town square: although music seldom was completely free, freedom was an integral part of a nation.

Herman Becker in "Little Norway". Photo courtesy Frode Sæland


    In October 1940, the eldest son of the neighbour family Gilje suddenly left for Oslo. In fact, he crossed the border to Sweden and later joined the Royal Norwegian Air Force in Britain. He and Herman were of the same age, attending a session for compulsory military service half a year earlier. Appeals to report for duty by the government in exile may have reached the young men. The youngest of the Gilje brothers collected petrol for a crossing of the North Sea.

            One summer evening in 1940, while saying goodnight to Aslaug, Herman got agitated after an air battle over Stavanger. He declared his intention to participate in similar action as well. To the protests of Aslaug, not wanting him to leave her for war service, he muttered equivocally “Never …”. A year later Herman went on a business trip to Oslo, sending Aslaug a post card preparing her for business trips as an excuse for his absence.

            Herman may have understood the impact of the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. Advancing with terrifying speed, German troops conquered vast areas capturing prisoners of war by hundreds of thousands. Smolensk, the hometown of his father, fell on July 16. The strategic situation changed. Great Britain was no longer alone against the Nazi aggressor. The new phase of the war may have confirmed his earlier decision and helped him solve the dilemma on how to protect his family. As Herman celebrated his 21st birthday and the coming of age, his choice was to take responsibility for himself, to be a man of action, committed to the values of free nations and dedicated to the struggle against Nazi tyranny.

            One night in August, he left by boat to an island further north, where eight young men from Stavanger had arranged for a first mate to take them across the North Sea in an old fishing vessel. Last preparations were carried out in the open and in the evening people gathered on the quay to bid farewell to the westbound group. After 58 hours, at sea the group reached Kirkwall on the Orkneys on August 17. They had to sail the last part as the engine broke down. They were well received by security officers, representatives of Church of Scotland and the Norwegian Consulate, offering them clothing, a hot meal, cigarettes and whiskey. After interrogation by the security officers in Aberdeen, they went by train to London and the Royal Victoria Patriotic School for final clearance. Norwegian military authorities took over and within a week, the young men had their wishes for service granted. Herman joined the air force on September 1, on the day two years after war in Europe broke out. He was among 10 young Norwegians selected for an air training camp at Toronto, leaving Liverpool on a troopship across the Atlantic.

Back home, his father realised the gravity of the situation. Escaping occupation was an act of resistance. If arrested for preparing or trying to escape, the German Security Police would pass a death sentence. Hille went to the local police reporting his son missing, thus avoiding harassment by the security police and suspicion of complicity in leaving the country “illegally”.  

            Herman’s escape was part of the so-called England-traffic, young people using every kind of vessel to cross the North Sea in order to report for service in the armed forces or the Merchant Navy. This traffic lasted from the summer 1940 to spring 1942, when major losses put an end to it. A top was reached in August 1941 with 40 vessels crossing the sea. In September, over thousand individuals reached the British Isles. Altogether, 3.300 persons in nearly 300 civilian vessels made it. Escape was dangerous; one in ten lost their lives.  

            In general, considering the small size of the Jewish minority in Norway (about 2.100 in 1940), the part playing an active role during the Second World War was significant, nearly for percent.

Flying training

The new recruits arrived at Halifax, Nova Scotia, after a three days voyage. They went by train to Toronto, Ontario, where the Royal Norwegian Air Force Training Centre, also called “Little Norway”, had been established in the harbour area near Maple Leaf baseball stadium. Most of the aspirants entering the camp wanted to be pilots. The chiefs replied sobering. “For every man in the air we need ten men on the ground.” After finishing his recruit’s course, Herman had to wait for a flying course. Through a friend, he sent a letter to Aslaug in Norway via Chicago, thus avoiding Nazi censorship, informing her in code that he was all right. His highest wish was to return to her and Stavanger. He had bought himself a violin and asked her to take care of his parents. This was the only written message he managed to get through. A Sunday in December, news of the Japanese attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbour broke. Once again, the war took a new turn. It became global. As a fresh air cadet, Herman would hardly grasp the strategic implications of the attack. Although a stunning tactical success, it meant a strategic disaster for Japan. The greatest industrial power in the world had been challenged. United States of America was able to mobilise unprecedented resources in the battle against the Axis.

            Herman got into the fourth flying course among 31 hopeful. Training involved ground course with practical and theoretical subjects and elementary flying training school. His first flying lessons with instructor started April 9, 1942 at Island Airport. At No. 2 Elementary Flying Training School at Muskoga Airport, where the cadets learned to fly solo, his problems with landing an aircraft were evident. His tactile skills applied successfully on the violin did not serve him well at the yoke. He was excluded – or “washed out” – from the course, to bitter disappointment. His dream of becoming a pilot was smashed. He got over it, though. It was no shame being “washed out” – one-half of the aspirants were rejected as unfit. His talents in navigation however were obvious. He was transferred to a course for navigators, the first step of the education of flight navigators. Here he performed with excellence and a course of education, in accordance with the great Commonwealth Air Training Plan, was laid.  

Six Norwegian aspirants went to a course at No. 6 Air Observer School at Prince Albert. Next, they attended No. 1 Central Navigation School at Rivers, Manitoba, with over thousand participants. After a course at No. 7 Bombing and Gunnery School at Paulson, he earned his navigator/bomb aimer wing and the rank of sergeant. In his leave, Herman went with friends to New York. The impression of the metropole must have been overwhelming. He made a concert with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra at Carnegie Hall his priority. Back at Toronto, the navigators joined their bomber pilot comrades for a finishing course at No. 1 General Reconnaissance School RCAF at Summerside, Prince Edward Island, training in coast patrol duties. Back at “Little Norway”, he served in the camp’s training section.  

Herman plays chess with a Britisk offiser, most likely with Vagar on Shetland.
Photo:Courtesy Frode Sæland

            Herman had finished the first part of his training during 16 months in Canada. He was ready for duty, though not fully qualified. In March 1943, the same month as his sister Ada Abigail arrived at Auschwitz, the Royal Norwegian Air Force detailed Herman for overseas duties. Of a group of 28, he was the only navigator. The group was part of a troop transport by RMS Queen Elisabeth from Halifax to Liverpool. The high speeds of the world’s largest ocean liner made escort unnecessary.

In a maritime squadron

Back in Britain, meeting a people still showing resolve, resilience, restraint and national unity in the war effort gave inspiration for the new warriors. Herman was detailed to a new, small unit, No. 1477 Flight Royal Norwegian Naval Air Service, Woodhaven, at Dundee, Scotland, under Coastal Command, operating three Consolidated Catalina flying boats, doing anti-submarine search, artic patrols and convoy escort in the Battle of the Atlantic, as well as special duties along the Norwegian coast. He would have the required flying hours as well as the finishing courses in order to be an able navigator. He joined an Operational Training Unit course near Enniskillen in Northern Ireland in May. By July, he was flight navigator, participating in his first operational sortie as part of Crew 5.

            The rest of 1943, Herman flew anti-submarine search in the patrol area between the Faroes and Iceland. This was the route used by German U-boats into the Atlantic. Systematic patrolling by Coastal Command was the most important preventive measure in securing the Allied convoys across the Atlantic. A sortie would last from nine to nineteen hours. Usually, the entry in the Operation Record Book would read; “Nothing observed.” Members of the crews experienced sorties as futile, as a senseless waste of tiresome flying over desolate oceans, as boring, strenuous and exhausting routine. During his 18 sorties, Herman did not see any action at all.

            A career peak would be the special duty tour at Christmas 1943. No. 333 Squadron sent two Catalinas to the Norwegian coast to boost morale at home. Each aircraft dropped 50 bags full of scarce commodities like coffee, cigarettes, tobacco, sugar, candy, fish oil and season greetings from His Majesty King Haakon and the government in exile. As they flew low-level over islets and sounds on the coast of Nordland, the crew could see women and children on the ground picking up the bags. After returning to Woodhaven, a Christmas party was given for the personnel. Admiral attending opened his speech with the words: “Thoughts go straight across the North Sea tonight, in both directions.” Herman may have been silent and thoughtful by these words. He may have thought about his family at home at the opposite coast. He had not heard from his parents since he left. An official news bulletin on the persecution of Jews having reached Norway, referring to the arrest and deportation of Jewish women and children in Oslo, may have reached him, but no news about families in other parts of the country. I suppose he was worrying sick about his parents.

            In January 1944, Herman asked for a transfer. He was fed up with routine duties and wanted to see some action. The request was accepted at once. Although he was without an advanced flying unit course, he was available immediately in the pool of RAF personnel.

Published by Scandinavian Jewish Forum