You’ve no doubt read about the false Holocaust love story that’s caused Oprah such anguish. I have a real story for you. I knew the players and can speak to their veracity.
Harry’s parents were able to get him out of Germany during the late 1930s. By that time, he’d already suffered mild brain damage from being beaten by a gang of Hitler youths, but while it impaired his speech, it affected neither his intelligence nor his moral sense. Harry spent the early war years in England and then joined the British military, spending the later war years fighting the Nazis.
At the end of the war, Harry returned to Germany to find his parents. He learned that, shortly after the war started, they’d been snatched from their home and taken first to Dachau, where they survived long beyond what anyone would have expected from two middle-aged, middle-class Jews, and then to Auschwitz, where they died in the gas chambers.
Their survival in Dachau was because of their shop girl. When they were arrested, Lotte, a German girl who loved them dearly, moved to the town nearest Dachau and found work there. Every day, she gathered together food and, at extraordinary risk to herself, smuggled it to Harry’s parents.
When Harry learned what Lotte did for his parents, he vowed to care for her. Since he was young, healthy and a skilled mechanic, there was every reason to believe he could fulfill this vow.
Harry finally located Lotte living in some distress in the chaos that was post-war Germany. Although she was a good decade older than he was, and he remembered her only vaguely from his childhood, he married her immediately and cared for her to the end of her days.
When I met them, they were in their 50s, and presented at first as a rather typical, ponderous German couple. There was nothing to distinguish them from any other older Germans you might meet touring America. The only truly noticeable things about them were (a) how much older she was and (b) how solicitous he was. It was only later, when I Iearned their true story, that I realized I’d been in the presence of moral greatness, his and hers both.