Hitler’s Photo Did The Trick

by Paul Kuttner

Paul Kuttner in Berlin at the age of 8, in the summer of 1931

About half a year before Crystal Night (Kristallnacht of November 1938), I fell sick with the flu and had to stay home from my Berlin school. To make ends meet, my mother had to rent out rooms and one of our lodgers was a Fraulein Muller, a woman in her 30’s who worked next door to us at Kaiser Allee 25, the HQ of the German Nazi Labor Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront), which all German laborers had to join.

Around noon the front-door bell rang and seconds later my mother entered my room, white as a sheet. She was accompanied by two men in civvies and Fraulein Muller. The men introduced themselves to me as members of the police (Gestapo) and informed me that Frl. Muller had overheard me the previous day saying nasty things about the Fuhrer, and since Frl. Muller was Aryan and I was not, they knew that she spoke the truth. Of course, I was scared to death and stammered that Frl. Muller must have misunderstood (They assured me she had not) when I became aware of a picture hanging on the wall behind the Gestapo officers. It was a photo of three members of the SA, SS and Hitler Youth. I had hung the photo in my room because the SA man on it happened to be my Latin and Greek teacher and the Ministry of Propaganda had selected him for this portrait because of his Aryan profile. Without giving the Gestapo officers the true reason for my hanging the picture on the wall, I asked them whether an anti-Nazi would want to hang a Nazi picture in his bedroom. The two Gestapo officers nodded in agreement after studying the photo of the three Nordic-type men. But the so-far silent plainclothesman now told me that even if I liked Nordic types, I could still have criticized the Fuhrer.

And this time God and Hitler must have come to my rescue. I told the two men that I worshiped the Fuhrer. Prove it, they challenged me, and I pointed to my study desk. A week earlier my class had been given an assignment to make up a picture essay of the Fuhrer’s life, and since newspapers and magazines in Nazi Berlin always showed photos of Hitler I had cut out between 30 and 40 Fuhrer photos and explained to the Gestapo officers that Hitler’s pictures always inspired me and I could never have spoken ill of such a man. The two men studied the pictures, whispered to each other, and then told my mother that it would be best if she gave notice to Frl. Muller to avoid future misunderstandings, and before leaving, one of the Gestapo officers wished me a speedy recovery. By week’s end, my mother had rented out Frl. Muller’s room to a hunchback who designed Nazi governmental letterheads.