Aron didn’t fear much in life. He was a fighter by nature. As a kid, he often came home with scrapes and black eyes, dried blood on his face. “What happened?” mama would run up to him at first to ask. Answers were almost always the same. “Some kids were making fun of Solomon,” or “the kids were beating up Yehuda.” Soon she stopped asking.
While mama worried, pop sent his son to boxing classes. “The boy needs to learn how to fight,” pop told his wife.
Aron excelled in the ring. By seventeen, he stood six and a half feet tall and had won many bouts, rising in the ranks of German boxing. Most thought he would become the best boxer in Germany, maybe even the world. Then the Great War started, and Aron felt a duty to serve. He was in the trenches at eighteen years old. “War is horror, but I’m proud to serve my country,” he wrote his father.
Aron served over a year. Then military and boxing life ended together when a bullet shattered his tibia. He spent months in the hospital recovering and occasionally flirting with nurses. Handsome with a chiseled yet soft face, honest eyes, and an easy smile, many of the nurses were fond of him. But only one caught his eye. Her name was Bracha.
Bracha, like Aron, grew up in a reform Jewish community, where she observed some traditions. Petite in size, strong in character, her dedication and focus to work charmed Aron. They spent much time talking about life and goals, and soon Aron began asking her about being together. “I want to put my time into becoming a doctor,” she would reply. However, to friends, she admitted to being smitten.
Aron proposed to Bracha while still in the recovery ward. “You really want to be with someone like me?” After watching him respond with glee that “nothing in life would make me happier,” she gave him a slight smile, a long kiss, and said, “yes.” Then Bracha continued with patient rounds.
His tears came while standing outside embracing Bracha, well after guests left and wedding celebration adrenaline wore off. Bracha teased him; she wasn’t one to cry. But as life goes, tears came streaming down her cheeks a few minutes later. Aron caressed her hair and softly said, “I love you.”
They settled in a small apartment in a Jewish neighborhood of Berlin. Aron replaced fights in boxing rings with ones in courtrooms. He had struggled for some time with thoughts of what he would do for work after coming to terms with the end of his boxing career. Pop, always sensing a good next step for his son, gave him a biography of Abraham Lincoln. Other books of great lawyers and politicians soon followed. “I’m going to be a lawyer,” he told pop not long after. Pop just smiled back.
Life throughout the twenties had much joy and struggle. Bracha gave birth to twin girls in 1920 and a boy in 1924. And in 1928, she became a doctor. They celebrated the events by going dancing at one of the many new music clubs opening in Berlin.
Germany as a whole was making much progress in social life. Clubs and cafes were springing up, and social reforms were being enacted. Yet, an underlying tension ran through German society. Discord and disagreement about Germany’s direction dominated life. The aftereffects of the Great War left Germany to repent financially and feel humiliated emotionally. Both took a toll on society.
Jewish people, in particular, felt the unrest. Anti-Semitic grumbling had for years been the norm. But while unpleasant, it was never too threatening. As the twenties passed, temperament towards Jewish Germans also changed, with anti-Semitism on the rise. By the early 1930s, the Nazi party, known for Anti-Semitic rhetoric, was the largest in the German Reichstag, though not a majority. Still, none seemed too threatening for Aron until January 30th, 1933.
Aron couldn’t sleep the night Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. He could sense Jewish life was going to change. Hitler’s rhetoric had long been vile; he didn’t hide his anti-Semitism. But while some thought his words were only for political gain, Aron worried policy changes would soon come. Hitler had not mentioned anything about the Jewish community in his first speech to the nation. But that brought Aron little solace.
However, leaving home invoked feelings deeper than just unpleasantness for Aron. Aron and his family had deep German roots. While many Jewish people recently immigrated to Germany from Russia to escape pogroms, his family had been in the region for generations. Germany, while not always a welcoming home, was still home.
The family gathered soon to discuss. There was Aron and Bracha, both of their parents, and Aron’s sister, Chaya. After much discussion, they decided it was time for leaving home – they would all emigrate together to Palestine.
Note: “Leaving Home: A Time to Emigrate” is a work of historical fiction. The story, characters, and incidents are fictitious.