What Life Was Like

Compare and Contrast article By: Ella Orengo

Life at Home and Life in a New Country

In 1938, Edith Westerfeld was a twelve year old Jewish girl when her parents sent her to America so she could escape the Nazis. For months, she never knew what would happen to her family back in Germany and why she had to leave. Her parents had hoped that her way of living would change dramatically. However, she felt like an alien enemy in the U.S. Edith thought that living with her uncle would be easier than living in Germany. But not everything was easier in Chicago. In school, she had to attend a first grade class even though she was twelve years old because she didn’t know a lot of English. She was called names like Dirty Kraut and Dirty Jew. Goldilocks was probably her favorite. It wasn’t because of the color of her hair, but because she couldn’t find a desk that fit her “just right”. They don’t make desks for 12 year olds in a first grade classroom. Non Jews in Germany would have called her names too or treated her even worse. Edith was lucky to live in a safe home in both Germany and the United States. In Germany, she had a big house where she lived with her parents, grandparents and sister. The apartment she shared with her uncle was much smaller and she felt like she did not have anyone to talk to. In both countries, Edith felt like an alien. Because she was Jewish, she lost friends in Germany. And, because of her accent and her religion, she had a hard time making friends in Chicago. At least in Germany, Edith felt she could be more like herself because she had more in common, like language, with other kids. Fortunately for Edith, both her parents and her uncle were always trying to do the best for her.


Without this experience, Edith wouldn’t be the person she is today. She wouldn’t be telling her story to schools around the country, teaching them what life was like as a child. Being through the loss of her parents and learning a new language, in a short amount of time, showed her that even when things were difficult, she could handle the adversities. The experiences that Edith went through as a child helped her raise her daughter Fern, the author of Motherland and Is It Night or Day.


Information from The book Motherland and Is It Night Or Day by : Fern Schumer Chapman