Bernard Suskind, a 93-year-old Atlantic Beach resident, recalls the date, Nov. 10, 1938, as though it were yesterday. It was the day his life changed forever. Bernard and his father, Alfred, were taken from their hometown of Furstenau, in northern Germany, to Buchenwald, one of the Nazi concentration camps.
They left behind his mother, Sophie, and sister, Adele. While there, father and son were crammed into barracks with 2,000 other men. They were beaten, and given little food or water.
Suskind recounts his story in a book he self-published this year, titled “We Were Fair Game.” The book was originally written in German and published in Germany last year. Its title refers to the treatment of Jews in Germany during Hitler’s regime.
At Buchenwald there was a separate camp for German political refugees, who received somewhat better treatment, Suskind recalled. It was cold, and he had only shorts and a T-shirt to wear. The political prisoners gave him warmer clothes.
“Here they got plenty of goods which had been sent by relatives of the prisoners but were never distributed,” he said. “They provided me with this clothing because they didn’t want me to freeze to death. And they said, ‘If you get released, tell the world that there are still some good Germans around.’ They brought me back to my barrack in a garbage container. These warm clothes saved my life at Buchenwald.”
Through an official process, Sophia applied for her husband’s and son’s releases, and they were granted. Alfred was freed in late December 1938, and Bernard a few weeks later. Alfred, Sophie and Adele were lucky enough to make it the U.S. in 1939. After being in Sweden and dealing with an expired visa, Bernard joined them later that year.