'I was very much aware of being different. There were no Jews -or 'non-Aryans' as they were called- living in the country'

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'I was very much aware of being different. There were no Jews -or 'non-Aryans' as they were called- living in the country'


Peter recounts his family's move form Hamburg to the German countryside and the experience of being the only Jewish family there.


Peter Layton


Trinity College Dublin




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Peter Layton

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My Father returned in 1931or 1932 and bought the small estate in a village about half way between Hamburg and Lubeck. Our lives changed dramatically then I went to another secondary school in Bad Oldesloe where I was very much aware of being different. There were no Jews -or non-Aryans as they were called- living in the country. I certainly was a novelty at the school. The only non Christian. Of course we were brought up non religious,that means we celebrated Christmas,New Year and Easter,like anybody else,but of course the bulk of our family were Jewish,even if they never went to synagogue,or celebrated Jewish festivals. In the village too,we were different,some people were very abusive. Our small estate,which my father bought from the local Schloss owner (I suppose he needed the money) was about 2 hectare. It consisted of two workers homes made into one house,our own well with pump (very important!} a very large garden with fruit tree a small pine forest,a pine nursery,and a lot of mixed softwood as well as hardwood trees. The whole area was surrounded by a raised hedge. This was cut down in sections every seven years,providing firewood for the kitchen range. We also felled and cut up trees far logs to fire the Kaminoefen-tiled stoves up to almost ceiling height. The garden was large enough to provide most of our needs,with many fruit trees i.e. cherries,Apple,Pears and plums,as well as soft fruit bushes,gooseberries,currants,and raspberries. My life had changed completely. In summer it was usual to get up at four in the morning to work for two hours before breakfast. It was a healthy life,and I enjoyed it very much. What a change this was from the city Hamburg. We had to carry water from the pump in buckets to the kitchen. There was an enamel basin for washing,no bath every night,if I was lucky I got a bath once a week,after everyone else had been before me. There was a wash boiler in the bathroom,which had to be filled bucket by bucket,then the fire had to be lit to heat the water,which was then used to heat the tin bath,again bucket by bucket. Monday was washday. The boiler was filled the pervious night,the washing left to soak,and on 4 o'clock Monday morning,the fire had to be lit. By 6 o'clock the washing was ready to be hung on the line. Then breakfast and off to school. Milk had to be collected daily from the farmers in the afternoon,when they were milking (by hand,not machines) Everybody in the village wore wooden clogs,which were made to measure by the village clog-maker. We supplied our own wood for them. The toilet was across the yard in the former pig sty. A wooden seat with a hole,and a bucket underneath. After use one had to put a handful of peat on top. My father emptied it regularly on the compost heal. Hence our compost those days was really good. My brother,who was training as joiner,made a seat from some scrap wood he got at work. Ours was the only polished mahogany seat I have ever seen. The loft above the toilet come pig sty was used by some visitors (young Jewish people to spend week-ends 'camping with us '.


Irish Research Council for Arts,Humanities & Social Sciences (IRCHSS)

Research Coordinator/P.I.

Dr Kathleen McTiernan (Trinity College Dublin)

Senior Research Associate

Dr Deirdre O'Donnell (Trinity College Dublin)


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