Visit us At 5th and Market Streets on Independence Mall



It's Your Story

Admission

Members Free
Adults $12
Seniors (ages 65 & up) $11
Youth (ages 13-21) $11
Children (ages 12 & under) Free
Active military (with ID) Free*
 

Discounted admission rates are available to groups of 15 or more people. Group visits must be booked in advance through Group Sales to receive these discounts and other group options.  

 

*As a Blue Star Museum, we additionally offer free admission to up to 5 immediate family members (spouse or children) of active military personnel from Memorial Day through Labor Day.  

A Close Call in WWII Europe

The Story of My Birth And Escape from Vichy France during World War II My father, Arthur Allmayer, and his brother Kurt (Claude), left Germany and moved to France around 1933 (or 1934) shortly after my father dropped out of the University of Munich due to the rise of anti-semitism in that hotbed of Nazism.

 

At about the same time (give or take a year), my mother, Meta (nee Berg), moved her native Kirn, Germany to Holland to be near her brother Julius and his family. In Holland, she landed a job as an aide to a wealthy Jewish lady though I am not sure exactly what she did for her. Meanwhile, my parents (of course not married at the time) corresponded and occasionally visited each other in Paris and in The Hague.

 

The romance culminated in marriage in Paris around 1937. My parents, my uncle Kurt, and my grandmother (Sally) lived in an apartment in Paris while my father and uncle grew their bakery equipment business. Then, when Jews in Paris began being rounded up by the French police in 1940, they abandoned their business, put furniture, etc. in storage, and headed south to Vichy France ahead of the German advance. I was born in Périgueux (near the city of Bordeaux) and have no idea what my parents, uncle, and grandmother did there at the time. I assume they were put in touch with the French underground, which issued us false papers, train tickets, and other essentials for a trip to the Swiss border. There were some tense moments on the train when the conductor collected tickets since my grandmother knew only a few words of French. (Fortunately, she wasn't engaged by the conductor, and my parents and uncle were quite fluent in French by that time.) Near the Swiss border, the five of us linked up with an underground group at a pre-designated location near the edge of Lake Geneva where we were taken to a row boat for a midnight crossing to the Swiss side. At one point during the crossing, I (a baby at the time) began crying, and someone suggested that I be tossed overboard for fear of alerting the German collaborators operating in the area.

 

 At any rate, the suggestion was dismissed (fortunately) and we arrived at the Swiss dock and were all promptly arrested as illegal aliens. My father and uncle begged the custom officials for political asylum, which, for reasons that were never fully explained to me, was granted. (Some refugees were denied entry and their sad fate was then sealed.) My parents, uncle, and grandmother were then assigned to a government labor camp in the German-speaking segment of Switzerland near Zurich and interned for the duration of the war.

 

Since my father and uncle had extensive secondary education, they were assigned fairly responsible administrative duties. We are not sure what my mother and grandmother did during those four years (1941-45). I was assigned to a nursery during the week and my parents could see me only on weekends. At the conclusion of the war, our family left the camp and returned to Paris (actually a suburb of Paris) and tried to pick up the pieces, so to speak.

 

My father and uncle resumed their bakery distribution business and did exceptionally well. But my parents were stateless and feared the onslaught of communism in Europe. Moreover, my mother was intent on moving to Cleveland, Ohio and be near her family, which had left Germany in the late '30s. My father at first resisted but eventually agreed to leave France. We first visited Cleveland in the summer of 1947 and then arranged to obtain immigration papers. We moved permanently to the U.S. in 1948. My uncle and grandmother remained in Paris, which proved to be a very difficult separation for my father for many years. I obtained derivative U.S. citizenship in 1954.