Thursday, June 19, 2014

Under and Up Again: Our Time with Edith Noordewier Foley

When we first arrived at the Foley household, we had expected to obtain an interview about a young girl who lived in Nazi Germany, and later wrote a book about her time in the country. Little did we know, we were actually walking into a soon friendship with Edith Noordewier Foley. As we were sitting down for the interview, Edith told us she was not sure she had anything to contribute to our Oral History project. In fact, she handed us her book “Under and Up Again” and told us to read the back and see what she could further contribute. We were more than ready to ask questions after reading the summary of her book, and wanted to immediately jump into growing up in Nazi Germany.

Edith started her story and grabbed our attention for the entire hour long interview. There was not a moment where we were not intertwined in what this woman had to say, from having different food stamps and being ostracized, to watching her father smuggle Jews away from Germany which she later learned was just one of his jobs during the war. Throughout the entire interview, one segment was stuck in my head and I do not think I will forget it, “war does not happen fast, you see it slowly take away everything you know.” This rang true in Edith’s story, she lost her father, her mother became ill, and eventually Edith was taken from Berlin to the Netherlands where she could continue schooling and try to achieve normalcy in a time of war.

While Edith was not German, she felt the repercussions of having a German accent when she went to attend a boarding school that was specific to war torn girls, many from Japanese concentration camps. She was talking in the school one day, when a Jewish girl came up to her and slapped her across the face when the girl heard Edith’s accent. There was no way to react, Edith just stood there, and she knew why the girl had hit her, just because she SOUNDED like a German.

After hearing about Edith’s long journey that eventually led her to America, we looked down at the tape and realized that we had over an hour of audio, and decided it was a good time to stop recording. The second we turned off the machine, Edith offered us a drink and told us about her family history, the inspiration for her book “Never Gone.” After around another hour of conversation just as people, not as the interviewer and the interviewee, it was actually sad to have to leave the Foley residence. I felt bonded to this woman, not because I knew her story, but because she took the time to learn ours, and let us into why she chose to write down all of her memories. Eventually, we had to say goodbye and Edith had told us that she was glad to have met us, but I think Brady and I were more honored to have the chance to meet Edith.

--Molli Cole and Brady Townsend

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