Fred Floersheimer recalled a happy and “typical” childhood in Höchst im Odenwald, a suburb of Darmstadt, Germany. Together with his older brother, Justin, and his uncle, who was only two years his senior, Fred enjoyed playing outside and going to Mümling. Fred’s father Salli (Sol) owned a small clothing and fabrics business and the family was well respected in town.
Some Jews suffered immediately after Hitler assumed power, but anti-Jewish persecution was slow to reach Fred’s small town. By 1936, however, his family began to feel the sting of discrimination. After Sol received numerous threats, he fled to Frankfurt. Fred’s mother, Rose, followed with her sons. Fred explained: “In a small town you are very visible, everybody knows you, you can’t escape. And in a big city like Frankfurt you can hide.” Frankfurt offered relative anonymity, but only temporary safety.
On November 9, 1938, the Nazis initiated the cruel and destructive anti-Jewish pogrom known as Kristallnacht. Although Fred could not recall the horrific evening, he knew that everything his family owned was demolished that night. Sol was arrested and sent to Dachau and Rose took Fred and Justin to live with distant relatives. During the several weeks that Fred’s father was interned, his mother frantically worked the telephone, contacting everyone she knew in the United States. Finally, her efforts paid off; a relative in New York agreed to sponsor the Floersheimers. With the promise of his imminent departure, Sol was released from Dachau. Afterward, he rarely talked about his experiences there except to say, “Three weeks felt like three years.”
After staying briefly with their relatives in Manhattan, the Floersheimers settled in Astoria, Queens. Fred recalled bitterly that at nearly nine years old, he was placed in first grade because he did not speak English. “There was no compassion there for immigrants,” he reflected, “absolutely none in the school system.” He and his brother quickly learned English and moved ahead, but adjustment continued to be tremendously difficult for his parents. Fred’s father dedicated his energies to starting a synagogue for German émigrés, staying in the orbit of other new arrivals. He died when Fred was 15 never having become fluent in English or acclimating fully to American life.
After Sol’s death, Fred was more determined than ever to receive a good education. He enrolled in the competitive Brooklyn Tech High School, riding the subway for hours each day to get to school and back. After he graduated, Fred was drafted and served in Korea. While he was in the military, he married Francine Nadel. When he was honorably discharged in 1955, Francine was pregnant with their first child. Eventually, they had three more children. Fred worked full-time to support his growing family, completing college and law school at night.
Fred had a successful legal career. In the early 1980s he moved the family to Houston where he practiced real estate law. He continues as an active volunteer at Holocaust Museum Houston.
Salli (Sol) Floersheimer, survived
Rose Kahn Floersheimer, survived
Justin Joseph, survived