Rahel Mann pictured in 1939
By Allan Hall
They were the children of the damned – Jews who had no place in the New World Order of Adolf Hitler and his stormtroopers.
Their parents were rounded up and shipped off to die as the Nazi regime which came to power 80 years ago in Germany - set about the systematic 'cleansing' of the country.
But there were good people too; people who looked beyond the religion of an innocent child and risked death by guillotine to hide them from the round-up squads.
Survivor: Rahel Mann outside her outside her Berlin home earlier this year. She was among the many Jewish children hidden from the Nazis during the WWII
Now the heart-moving stories of 15 of these children are told for the first time in a book published this week in Berlin called 'You Don't Get Us.'
The book, by Tina Huettl and Alexander Meschnig will be released in English later this year.
The survivors include Rahel Renate Mann, 75, who still lives in Berlin where she was hidden all those years ago.
Thrown out of hospital in June 1937 hours after she was born because of her mother's Jewishness, her mother Edith later had her baptized in the hope that it would save her from the Holocaust to come.
They lived in a tiny apartment with a Jewish star pinned on the door by the local Gestapo thugs.
When her mother was at work little Rahel played with Frau Vater, who acted as the Nazi spy for the building on the other residents, but who nonetheless liked Rahel.
The Nazis came in 1941 and took her mother away but Rahel was saved by the Vater family and fostered to another Jewish family in the building.
Threat: Hitler pictured with a group of SA-soldiers. Many children were hidden away when the Nazi regime rounded up hundreds of thousands of Jews and shipped them off to concentration camps
Then the Nazis came the following year for them. 'Mr. Vater saved me by saying I was his niece,' she said.
After this she went underground, passing from family to family, from cellar to secret cellar, staying one step ahead of the death squads shipping all Jews off to be exterminated in the death camps in occupied Poland.
She remembers a pastor called Eitel-Friedrich von Rabenau of Apostle Paul Church. He tells her about Jesus, sings Hebrew songs with her in the darkness of her hiding place in the church crypt. 'For the first time,' she says, 'I felt loved.'
When she was seven, the Gestapo arrested the pastor and Rahel was given back to the Vater family. Frau Vater built a secret compartment in the family cellar.
Rahel Mann with her nursemaid when Jews were being persecuted just before the start of the Second World War
'I spent all day on a cold stone floor sitting on a mattress, just a sliver of light coming in through a nailed down, grimy window,' she said.
'I could not cry, talk, make any noise at all.' She taught herself to read using a children's book and a friend of the Vater family came to stay with her sometimes to pass the boredom.
'This was 1944 and the air raids were pummelling Berlin now,' she recalled. 'I was taken up after a particularly heavy one and breathed fresh air for the first time in a year.
'There was barely a house standing and there were dead bodies everywhere. The image has always haunted me.'
Then in 1945, after several more months in the cellar, the Russian soldiers arrive and haul her out of her hiding place. She is reunited with her mother shortly afterwards, but she is deathly ill with TB from a concentration camp.
'I felt so guilty as I grew up and learned about the Holocaust,' she said. 'I thought; 'Why did I live when so many had to die?' When I was 17 I tried to kill myself by throwing myself underneath a car, but the driver stopped and gave me a clip around the ear. It brought me to my senses.'
She went on to live for a decade in Israel before returning to her native Berlin where she now acts as a helper for the terminally ill in a hospice.
'My childhood taught me the value of living every second of your life,' she said. 'I survived the Nazis and that is the greatest gift of all.'
Eugen Herman-Friede had Jewish parents who separated early. His mother went on to marry a non-Jewish man, Julius Friede, and it is only after Eugen starts school that he learns of his roots.
He went to school but was booted out in 1936, aged 10, because he was branded a 'Jewish pig.' Later he was forced to wear the yellow star on his clothes - the Nazi branding of Jews as 'outsiders.'
In 1942, the Nazis closed all Jewish schools and he was sent to perform forced labour for the Reich. In 1943, weakened from lack of food, he decides to become a 'U-Boat' - the Nazi term for Jews, 6,000 in all, who went into hiding in Berlin.
He said goodbye to his girlfriend Helga Weissblut, 16. He would never see her again: she was shipped off to be murdered at the ultimate Nazi death factory of Auschwitz.
He lived in numerous hideouts, coalsheds, cellars until he reached the non-Jewish family Winkler whose son was in the Hitler Youth but who had come to detest the Nazis. 'They were warm hearted, courageous and unselfish,' says Eugem today.
'Ask yourself: would you be willing to put your neck on the block of the guillotine for people you didn't know?' He was even able to wear the Hitler Youth uniform to walk about in and was photographed in it.
Rahel Mann was thrown out of hospital in June 1937 hours after she was born because of her mother's Jewishness, her mother Edith later had her baptized in the hope that it would save her from the Holocaust to come
The Winklers founded a resistance group but it was informed upon and in December 1944, Eugen was arrested with his parents but they were not executed as the Gestapo wanted more information about the resistance group.
They were still in prison when the war ended. 'Now I make it my business to tell people I wasn't the hero, but those people who gave us food and shelter and hope,' he said.
'I was already doomed: they chose to defy doom when they could have looked the other way. That made them heroes.'
Rolf Joseph, now 92, says he had a normal childhood with his brother Alfred in Berlin's working class Wedding district - until the day in 1933 when the Nazis came to power and the teacher wore a 'brownshirt' uniform instead of a suit and tie.
'And he had a cane,' he said. 'And he liked to hit the Jewish children with it a lot.'
During his apprenticeship as a carpenter he recalls cycling home from school on November 9 1938 and seeing flames light up the sky. This was Kristallnacht, the Night of the Broken Glass when the Nazis instigated a statewide pogram against the Jews.
'When I saw our synagogues burn,' he said, 'I knew I had to go.' He tried to persuade his father to leave, but the stubborn WW1 veteran, who fought for the Kaiser in the trenches in France, said; 'Nothing will happen to us.'
On June 6 1942, Rolf and Alfred were on the corner of their street when they saw Gestapo men bundling and kicking their parents into a car to take them away. They never saw them again.
'Suddenly we were homeless,' says Rolf . 'Our apartment was sealed, we had only the things we carried on our backs.' They, too, went underground, first spending three weeks sleeping under leaves in the city's Tegel Forest before seeking more permanent help.
As a youngster, Rolf Joseph, 88, witnessed Kristallnacht when Nazi thugs ramaged through Germany attacking Jews and Jewish businesses
Alfred found shelter with the family of a former girlfriend, Rolf with a rag and bone woman. 'She was a strange woman with many quirks, but a good heart,' he recalled.
He was stuffed into a cellar in the Wedding district, not far from where he used to live, and ventured out cautiously once a week to meet his brother - 11.00am every Wednesday. But on one Autumn day in 1942, Alfred doesn't turn up.
'I was wondering what happened when suddenly there was this sharp voice at my shoulder,' said Rolf. 'I turned around and saw a soldier in uniform. 'Why aren't you in the Wehrmacht?' he barked. 'I told him I worked in the munitions industry.'
The soldier demanded his papers; Rolf produced a bad fake of an ID card bearing the name Paul Wagner. 'Well, Mr. Wagner, you had better come along with us,' said the soldier, motioning to a comrade sitting in a nearby car.
'Are you Jewish?' asked the soldier. Rolf nodded and his fate was sealed - he was delivered to the Burgstrasse Gestapo office in the centre of town.
Rolf went on; 'I was interrogated for hours. I was interrogated for hours. They wanted to know about where my brother is and where I hid.'
He said nothing, was moved to a basement cell and told to strip. 'We get everything in the end, you know' said a Gestapo torturer who proceeded to beat him with a bullwhip.
'You remember that address of your brother now?' he asked after administering 25 lashes. There came 25 more lashes. The silent Rolf was thrown into a cell known as Bunker Number One where he could not sit upright and he heard low voices outside saying; 'The transport to Auschwitz leaves tomorrow....'
The next morning, Rolf Joseph was chained together with five other young men and driven in a van like the one which had taken his parents away.
Above the driver's cab, Rolf saw a toolbox and he stole a pair of pliers with the aid of his fellow prisoners. They were in his pocket when he and the rest were deposited at the Pulitzstrasse train station.
A long freight train composed of cattle cars waits for them. 'They were bedecked with straw and bucket for the necessaries were in the corners.' Thousands were crammed into cars then the doors were shut and the whistle blew.
Terror: A pedestrian looks at the wreckage of a Jewish shop in Berlin on Nov. 10, 1938, or Kristallnacht, the Night of the Broken Glass when the Nazis instigated a statewide program against the Jews
The train rattled towards Auschwitz. Using the pliers he managed to free himself from his handcuffs and those of his fellow prisoners. All six of them then prised a plank loose from the wagon and jumped inot the night air as the train crossed into Poland.
But they were betrayed by a shepherd as they walked back to Berlin, arrested again by the Gestapo. And at Burgstrasse, Rolf is again severely beaten by the man with the bullwhip, beatings which have left him with epileptic seizures to this day.
In the Gestapo HQ he scratched his body all over, claiming he had scarlet fever.. 'That was a really good idea - the Germans were really scared of infections,' he said.
At the hospital, with a guard outside his door, he manages to jump out of the second floor window by squeezing past the bars. But he has broken bones in his back by the time he drags himself to the old hiding place with the rag and bone woman - to find his brother sheltering there.
The two survived in her cellar sanctuary until it was hit by an RAF incendiary and they had to move out to the suburbs near Bernau where the old lady owned some land and they built an underground bunker to live in.
One morning in late April 1945, Russian soldiers come face to face with Rolf and Alfred Joseph in their hideyhole. 'You SS? Nazi? ', they ask in broken German.
'No, no,' says Rolf Joseph. But they brought him to their CO who happened to be Jewish. 'He asked me to say a prayer in Hebrew and I did and he said we were free men.'
Now, as Berlin remembers the Nazis and their takeover of power 80 years ago, Rolf did not live to see the anniversary or the book; he died two months before it was published, but before he passed away he said: 'I remember every day. The dead, the hopeless and the heroic.
'People who gave us life because they found it in their hearts to act with dignity towards other human beings.'