My Sister’s Sex Appeal Hit The Wrong Target

by Paul Kuttner

Paul Kuttner, at the age of 5, and his sister Annemarie (1912-1964) in Berlin. This photo was taken around 1927. Annemarie was a dental assistant in Berlin and, later, in New York City. During World War II she was hidden underground by Frau Dora Klimmeck. After Frau Klimmeck had died, Annemarie helped to bring Frau Klimmeck’s son Joe (Joachim) to the Untied States, where they were married in the early 1950s. Joe became an IBM engineer in N.Y. and after Annemarie’s death at the age of 51 from bone cancer in 1964, Joe moved to work for IBM in San Rafael, California, where he is retired today. Paul Kuttner left Nazi Germany (Berlin) in 1939 for England with a Kindertransport. He is the author of 8 books, four of them novels, and lives in N.Y.

After my parents were divorced in 1933, my mother (Margarete), my sister (Annemarie) and I moved from Regensburger Strasse 14 (in Berlin) to Kaiser Allee (now Bundes Allee) 26 while my father Dr. Paul Kuttner and his new wife, Ida, settled on the Kurfuerstendamm 72.

It was the year Hitler had come to power and real trouble started in our apartment building within a year. We lived on the fourth floor and the fifth floor (the attic) had an occupant by the name of Hoffmann, a towering, blond SS Standartenfuehrer, who always wore his uniform in public. Like my sister Annemarie, he was in his early twenties but married to a rather plain and plump woman probably ten years older. My sister was a truly beautiful woman and he was always extremely polite to her and friendly to my mother and me when our paths crossed.

One summer Sunday afternoon he brought down a marzipan cake to us claiming that he had bought too much and since there were no refrigerators at the time he did not feel like wasting it and wanted to share it with us. All this happened before the Nazi racial Nuremberg Laws of 1935 and we did not feel any need to tell him at the time that we were not Aryan.

His visits became more frequent, his friendliness unmistakably chummy; we never talked politics but mostly about movies, books, my school, and just about the time of the 1935 Nuremberg Racial Laws he confided to us that he was going to divorce his wife. The whole house knew that in one of his fights with his wife he had grabbed her head (as she described it to other tenants later) and smashed it on the rim of the kitchen sink, knocking out most of her teeth.

He wondered now (over a Sunday coffee with my family ) whether my sister would be agreeable to go out with him after the divorce had become final.

My mother and sister were mortified, virtually tongue-tied by this proposal and scared stiff to reveal the truth about us to him, fearing his violent temper. Being young (12 years old) and immature, I piped up that the Fuehrer would not look favorably on him dating my sister since we were not arisch (Aryan).

The giant of an SS man turned crimson. He got up from the dining table trembling, then screamed at me that we were trying to destroy his future as one of Hitler’s elite SS troops. He then slapped me so hard that I was knocked out of my chair onto the floor. My mother and sister rushed to my aid, helping me up, and my sister, scared out of her wits, started to cry bitterly.

SS man Hoffmann, realizing the incongruity of the situation and not knowing whether to hit me again or apologize, clicked the heels of his jackboots, saluted us with a shaky “Heil Hitler,” and marched out of the apartment.

He never visited us again, but whenever we met in the apartment building or elevator, he averted his eyes and caused us no further trouble.

My sister told me after the war that he was killed near Stalingrad.