By Suzanne Pollak
Ann Loeb had slammed the door shut on the first 13 years of her life, vowing never to have anything to do with Germany and its people who had killed so many of her relatives, kept her out of school for two years and forced her to visit friends on the sly, only getting together when their parents were not around.
“All my relatives, they were taken to concentration camps,” said Loeb, who lives in White Oak. Both her grandmother and her aunt were killed.
So when she learned that three German high school students wanted to speak with her for a class project, her every instinct was to say no. But a fellow congregant at Shaare Tefila in Olney, who also survived the Holocaust, urged her to speak with the teenagers, pointing out that those who lived through the Holocaust won’t always be around to tell their stories.
Wolf reluctantly agreed. The result was a two-hour Zoom discussion in which both she and the students learned and shared much and formed a bond.
The students were working on a local history project in which they were asked to identify Jews who lived in Germany before the Holocaust. In that way, the names of those deported or killed could be immortalized on stones, called stolpersteine, placed in front of their former homes.
“We know that we cannot undo these crimes that happened to those millions of people, but we are very concerned not to forget these people who suffered from these criminal deeds and who were persecuted and murdered,” explained their teacher, Sandra Glanzmann. “That’s why we are involved in this project.”
Using Google, the students connected with her synagogue, which then put them in contact with Loeb.
In a mixture of German and English, Wolf told the students how she “had a very good childhood,” growing up on a farm in a small village near Luxembourg. Her father built the house they lived in and used their land for a winery and to raise cattle, chicken, fruits and vegetables.
Everything changed one morning at 6 a.m., when two SS guards knocked on the door. “My grandmother had to let them in,” she told the students. “They picked up my father out of bed, and my brother and I had to stand there and watch while they took him, and he didn’t know where he was going. Later we found out they put him in a concentration camp.”
As he was taken away, her father said he would be back that afternoon. She and her brother went to the railroad station constantly awaiting his return.
Her father did finally return — four months later. “They told him never to talk about it. He never talked about it. He was afraid to say something,” Wolf recalled. In fact, when a historian later asked him for information, her father misinformed him on purpose.
The only thing she really knew was that the Nazis beat him, and he didn’t have water to drink.
“I have no idea how he got out. He never would tell us,” she said. However, she believes it was connected to the fact that he served in the German cavalry during World War I.
When he returned home, he quickly gathered the family into the car and drove into the woods. One night, nuns fed them and let them sleep at their place, but told them they would have to leave by 4 a.m.
They proceeded to move between relatives, ending up in France. There, her father was sent to a French concentration camp.
During that time, her brother was taken in by a rich family. She went to an orphanage, where she took care of younger children. She wasn’t permitted to attend school since she could only speak German and the French schools didn’t want that.
Eventually, her father was offered a chance to work at the Van Eeden settlement, an experimental farm community in North Carolina. Life was hard, she said. “We were very comfortable in Germany. We came to America. We had to start over.”
She studied bookkeeping, and found work at a bakery in Connecticut, where another worker at the farm, the late Manfred (Freddy) Loeb, apprenticed as a baker. They married in 1948 and soon opened their own bakery in Norwich, Conn.
They moved to the Washington area in 1952, opening up DeLuxe Bake Shop, a kosher bakery in the White Oak Shopping Center.
When the students asked if Loeb knew about the Nazis and what was happening as it was going on, she replied, “You knew there were horrible people, and they were after the Jews, but there was nothing you could do about it.”
And when the girls asked for some life advice, Loeb replied, “If you want to get married, marry somebody of your own religion, and somebody who thinks the way you think. Marry somebody who grew up more or less like you.”