Henry Nathan, the youngest child of Felix and Regina (Ina) Nathan, had two sisters, Helen and Greta. Under the Nazi regime, life for German Jewish children and teens was a very lonely one because non-Jewish children and others were not allowed to speak to them. They could not use public transportation, attend a theater, cinema or a public bath; gas and telephones were shut off; radios were given up; they could not have pets. They could shop only during certain hours and, if Jews were renters, they had to move. Jewish children could only attend Hebrew school, no public school.
On September 1, 1941 the Nazis began to make all Jews wear the “Jewish Star” on their clothing; they were even required to purchase it themselves. The Nazis did not allow Henry to complete high school.
In December 1936, Felix, believing that things would only get worse in Germany, sent Henry and Helen to the United States, and then on to Alabama. (Greta was already married when Henry and Helen left Germany. Greta and her husband, Rudy, did not arrive until 1937.) Lee Freibaum, their mother’s brother, took Helen and Henry in when they arrived in Anniston. Since Lee was president of Classe Ribbon, Henry’s first job in this country was at Classe Ribbon. Felix and Regina arrived in Alabama in 1937, just a few months after Helen and Henry got here. Henry also worked in the Nathan’s Lunch, his father’s business, and he and Helen lived in the back rooms.
Henry wanted to join the Army after Pearl Harbor, but Ina said no. He was drafted in 1943 and became a US citizen later that year. He served in Yugoslavia and Italy as a member of the Army Air Force, where he received three Good Conduct Medals, two Soldier’s Medals for Heroism, an Army of Occupation Medal (Germany), and a World War II victory medal, among others.
When he returned from the war, Henry worked at the family store until he married Sophie Nathan, also from Emmerich. He purchased a business in Jacksonville, Alabama and eventually worked as a salesman in the food and chemical fields. Henry and Sophie and their children moved to Birmingham in 1959, where Henry remained until his death. Henry is buried in the Temple Beth-El portion of Hillside Cemetery.
From: Survivors’ Stories: Anniston’s Temple Beth-El and the Holocaust by Sherry Blanton, 2010.