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Students in the Reform Realgymnasium Philanthropin study foreign languages with the aid of a phonograph.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 56410

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    Students in the Reform Realgymnasium Philanthropin study foreign languages with the aid of a phonograph.
    Students in the Reform Realgymnasium Philanthropin study foreign languages with the aid of a phonograph.

Among those pictured is Walter Wolff (in the center).


    Students in the Reform Realgymnasium Philanthropin study foreign languages with the aid of a phonograph.

    Among those pictured is Walter Wolff (in the center).
    1934 - 1935
    Frankfurt-am-Main, [Hesse-Nassau; Hesse] Germany
    Variant Locale
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Walter Wolff

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Walter Wolff

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Walter Wolff is the son of Joseph and Bertha (Rosenthal) Wolff. He was born May 2, 1917 in Aachen and had one older brother, Bruno (b. ca. 1913). When Walter was only three years old, his father died from influenza. After his death the family moved to Frankfurt am Main to be closer to Bertha's parents, who ran a restaurant there. Walter attended the Reform Realgymnasium Philanthropin, a school run by the Frankfurt Jewish community, where he received both a Jewish and secular education. Since Jews were not allowed to attend college in Nazi Germany, Walter and Bruno applied for admission to Hebrew Theological College in Chicago, IL. Before they had a chance to hear back, the Kristallnacht pogrom took place and both boys were arrested. Bruno was sent to Buchenwald and Walter to Dachau. While they were in camp, their mother received a letter from the Hebrew Theological College granting them scholarships to the school and permits to enter Palestine at the end of three years. With these documents, Bertha secured the release of her sons in May 1939. They were released on condition that they leave Germany within six months. However, Walter and Bruno could not enter the college without American visas. When they went to the American consulate, their request was denied because there was no proof that they would leave America at the end of three years. The Wolffs then decided to go to Shanghai via Italy as the only remaining way out of Germany. They crossed the border into Italy only three days before German invasion of Poland. Once they came to Italy, complications prevented them from continuing on to China, so they stayed in Genoa and appealed to the Jewish community for help. Walter sold his violin to temporarily support the family until he became fluent enough in Italian to get a real job. In June 1940 Mussolini officially entered the war on side of Axis and immediately arrested all aliens. Each member of the family was interned separately: Bruno in Ferramonti, Bertha in Potenza and Walter in Campagna. A few months later the Italians decided to reunify families and Walter was sent to Ferramonti to join his brother and mother. Shortly thereafter, the Italian authorities announced that prisoners could choose to move to any of a number of designated internment towns where they could live freely provided they did not leave the town without police permission. The Wolffs decided to go to Casale Monferrato in northern Italy, which had an established Jewish community and synagogue. Walter got a job teaching English to Italian soldiers and then was hired to work as a scientific translator for an institute researching techniques of paper manufacturing. In September 1943, after the creation of the Fascist puppet republic in Italy, a local policeman warned the Wolff family of their impending arrest. Their landlord took them to a friend's shack in the woods. The family spent that autumn and winter hiding from the Nazis in the mountains in unheated huts and with little food. After several months on the run, Wolff spotted a notice proclaiming amnesty for AWOL soldiers. He decided to obtain false papers and apply as a returning soldier. A sympathetic priest put him in touch with a town clerk in San Giorgio Monferrato. Walter registered as Valter Monti and Bruno as Signor Volpi. With his new papers, Walter obtained a job at the General Gasoline Co. in Milan processing gasoline shipments for the Germans from Romania. He lived in Milan and returned to his mother's apartment on weekends until he had saved enough money to bring his family to Milan. To hide the fact that Bertha did not speak a fluent Italian, Walter told his neighbors she was a deaf and dumb cleaning woman. After the war Walter continued working for the gasoline company, where he was put in charge of obtaining petrol for the British and American armies. He met Vittoria Fubini at a Jewish social gathering in Milan. In June 1947, Bertha, Walter and Bruno received immigration visas to America. Before leaving for America Walter married Vittoria in a civil ceremony, and following her immigration to the United States a few months later, they remarried in a religious ceremony.

    [Source: Wolff, Walter; Bad Times, Good People; Long Beach, NY: Whittier Publications, 1999.]
    Record last modified:
    2008-08-19 00:00:00
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