Alfred Moritz was the son of Ludwig David Moritz and Klara Kaufman. He was born on June 13, 1930, in the small town of Becherbach, Germany, where his father’s family had lived for centuries. His father, born in 1884, was the eldest of eight children, a decorated veteran of World War I, and in charge of the family’s successful dry goods business and store. Before their marriage in 1929, Alfred’s mother had been a hat designer with her own shop in Gindorf, near Cologne. There was a second son, Ernst, born on July 21, 1932. They shared a home with Alfred’s paternal grandmother, Regina Wendel (d. 1938). They were prosperous, observant Jews in a predominately Lutheran town, but there was no ethnic strife and Alfred’s father was active in village life.
On January 30, 1933, Hitler was appointed Chancellor and, within a few months, the Nazi dictatorship was firmly established. Ludwig moved his family to Saarbruecken where he had a brother, Jakob, as it was then under French control. But soon afterwards, there was a plebiscite and the Saar region was reintegrated with Germany. The Moritz family returned to Beckerbach to be closer to family, especially Ludwig’s aged mother, and because they were not ready to leave Germany. Alfred attended public school though, as a Jew, he was not allowed to participate in most group activities. There were occasional government-organized boycotts of Jewish businesses and anti-Jewish rallies in the village; Alfred’s school friends would march by his house singing hate songs about killing all the Jews. The family began to plan to emigrate to the United States. The November 9-10 Kristallnacht pogrom in Bechberbach was carried out by thugs from a nearby village; the dry goods store was vandalized, but a non-Jewish friend of his father’s protected the Moritz’s home. Alfred’s father was arrested and sent first to a local prison, then to Dachau concentration camp.
A few days after Kristallnacht, Alfred’s paternal aunt and her husband, Antoinette and Hermann Wolf, sent their driver to pick up the two young boys and take them to their home in Luxembourg. Their home was very crowded so Alfred was sent to live in the Pension Grosser in St. Germain-en-Laye, near Paris, with his two French cousins, Alfred and Georges. He was reunited with his brother when the school term began in Esch in 1939. His father was released from Dachau after three months when he agreed to give his business and all other assets to the State or to Nazi Party members. He also had to promise to leave Germany. He and Klara joined their sons in Luxembourg on January 31, 1939.
In May 1940, Germany invaded Luxembourg and the Moritz family fled to France which was occupied by Germany that June. At one roadblock, Alfred’s father was detained as an enemy alien and interned in Camp Les Milles. Klara and her sons found refuge with two school mistresses, Helene and Marthe Forestier, in the village of Sainte Lizaigne. Klara soon received a summons to register them as foreign nationals. But at the courthouse, when she realized that only Jews had been summoned, the family snuck out of the courthouse with the help of the concierge. They never registered. On September 16, 1940, Ludwig was released from the camp with several other prisoners by the sympathetic camp commander, Captain Goruchon. It was not possible for a man to join them in the Forestier home, so they moved into an abandoned house in a nearby village. In 1942, the Vichy authorities which governed unoccupied France began to deport foreign-born Jews to concentration camps. Alfred’s mother and Ernst, along with a paternal aunt, Alma, left for the nearby town of Issoudun. Alfred and his father walked there by a different route. Alfred’s paternal uncle, Jakob (now Jacques), had moved his factory there after the annexation of the Saar in 1935. Alfred’s parents hid in a hayloft on his uncle’s property, while boys went to live with a seamstress in Les Bordes. His parents learned about a Jewish aid organization, Oeuvre Secours des Enfants [Children’s Aid Society] which rescued and cared for refugee children. Alfred and Ernst were sent to an OSE children’s home, Le Masgelier. Because of the danger of deportation, OSE decided to send the boys by train to Toulouse, and then by bus to Vernoux-en-Vivarais in the south. They were given false identity cards with the names Ricet and Renesse Mauricet. As the brothers had blue eyes and blond hair and were already fluent in French, they could pass as French children who had become separated from their parents. They were placed in the care of an indigent tenant farmer, Madame Aubert, who lived in a small two room house with no electricity or plumbing and shared with the farm animals. OSE paid her a stipend to shelter the children, but there was little food and they were made to work long hours at farm chores or rented out to neighboring farms. They were able to send notes to their paternal aunt, Alma, through the OSE social worker, Madame Sabatier, who came regularly to check on them and to pay Madame Aubert. In the summer of 1944, their landlady and a friend threatened to denounce Alfred and Ernst to the police, but the war ended before they took that action.
On August 25, 1944, the Germans in France surrendered. On October 12, 1944, the boys sent their first postcard via regular mail to their aunt in Issoudon. They had been told by Madame Aubert that their parents were never coming for them, but in late October, they heard from their parents. The OSE transferred them in stages to Chateauroux where, after an 18-month separation, they met their mother. She and their father had survived the war in France with false papers as Clare and Louis Meschler, citizens of Luxembourg. After an unsuccessful attempt to cross into Switzerland, they found refuge in an upper class insane asylum near Toulouse which welcomed many other refugees for a fee during the war.
They returned to Issoudon and began the readjustment to family life. The boys had to relearn German to talk with their parents. The majority of his family members who had stayed in Germany, including his maternal grandmother, aunt, uncles, and several cousins, perished during the Holocaust. The family stayed in Issoudon for five years until immigrating to the United States in March 1949. Alfred earned a degree in architectural design from the University of Illinois and served a term in the US Army. Ernest died on August 22, 2010, age 78, in Florida. Alfred passed away in Rockville, Maryland, on January 8, 2011, age 80.