LAKE STEVENS — Fred Taucher stood near a black and white photograph of a woman projected on a screen set inside Cavelero Mid High School.
The German woman, Gertrude Nolting, was wearing a sweater. Her hair was pulled back, and her mouth was open in a slight smile. She was a member of the Nazi Party, said Taucher, 79. She also was the midwife at his birth who helped him, his mother, Therese, and his older brother, Henry, hide in Berlin during World War II.
“I don’t find myself too amazing but I think the amazing thing is I was helped by a very, very high-ranking Nazi member all through the war and she saved my life and my brother’s life,” he said.
Taucher, a Holocaust survivor who lives in Everett, spoke to about 150 people at the school Friday morning. He is a speaker with the Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center.
Taucher told students he was born in Germany in January 1933, the same year Adolf Hitler appointed himself chancellor of the country. His Jewish family went into hiding after his father, Julius, a tailor who owned his own business in Berlin, was forced into slave labor. Julius died after he was taken in 1943 to Auschwitz, the largest of the German concentration camps established by the Nazi regime.
Taucher, along with his mother and brother, hid in different places, including a summer home in the outskirts of Berlin. Only high-ranking Nazi members could hold ownership over the home and they were able to hide there because Nolting was one, Taucher said. She also helped provide his family with soap, which Jewish people were not allowed to buy, and gave false identification cards to his family.
They needed new identification cards periodically and Taucher and his brother’s cards typically listed their ages as 9 or younger. That was because at the age of 10, children were required to join the Hitler Youth, the Nazi Party’s youth movement, and the midwife could not get them the uniforms for Hitler Youth members.
It was his turn to go pick up new identification cards for his family on April 15, 1945, when he was interrogated by the Gestapo on a streetcar, Taucher said. He was 12 but his card listed his age as 11 years old.
Taucher’s clothes were taken and he was driven to the Gestapo Headquarters in Berlin.
“At 12-years-old being stripped of your clothing in front of a streetcar full of people is something you never forget,” Taucher said. “They didn’t treat me very nicely.”
He was taken to Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Oranienburg, Germany. With the help of Russian soldiers who also were prisoners, he escaped and was reunited with his mother and brother in Berlin.
His mother died during the last days of the war, in May 1945, while she was trying to get water from a fire hydrant outside of a subway station. Taucher and his brother left Germany in 1946 for Missouri. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1951 and served during the Korean War.
After speaking Friday, Taucher signed the book, “Saved by the Enemy,” by Craig Ledbetter. The book tells the story of his family.
Peyton LeDuc, 15, and Emma Horn, 13, both bought copies and waited with other students to ask Taucher to sign them.
“The fact that the midwife was so close to Hitler and the Nazis and she was able to show her love for people she’d known for so long was touching to me,” Peyton said. “I told him thank you for sharing his story and that I appreciated it.”
Eighth graders at the school are learning about the Holocaust. English teacher Emily Dykstra’s classes are reading “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank while students in Tina Kinnard’s class are reading “Night” by Elie Wiesel.
Emma is reading “The Diary of a Young Girl” for the first time and said she is enjoying the book. Everyone in her family plans to read Taucher’s story, she said.
“When you’re learning about World War II and the Holocaust in class it’s just words on a page and you don’t really make a connection with it, but he told his story and I felt it was really nice to hear his perspective,” Emma said. “It makes it real.”
Taucher offered a simple response when asked why he shares his story.
“I feel the story needs to be told,” he said.
Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; firstname.lastname@example.org.