The StoryListener: April 2006

In this excerpt, Roberto tells us about his schooldays and the Jewish community of the 1930s. *************** Four years after I was born, in 1931, my sister Martita was born. Yes, before I was born.

(Before) I was born in the 1920s, when they moved to this new house. you were born.)

Yeah. As a matter of-fact I was born, literally, in the new house.

Yeah. In those days they did not go to a hospital.

p> No. The reason for him to have gone from Germany to El Salvador was because of his cousin's business. He had, let's see, 1913-the cousin had come from a different town of Germany than my father, but the same general area, Upper Silesia.


Saul Mugdan. (pause) And in the notes I gave you some time ago, the ones I sent via email, you must have spent hours loading that down! There are many who had to do with the Mugdans, who were very prominent family Posen. That is now called Poznan, in Poland.

(My grandmother was born in Posen, so I'm a little familiar with it.)

Wilma was born in Posen! I did not realize that. OKAY. That was the real metropolis, a very important metropolis.

(Yes, and a cultural center as well.

The business has entered, not as a partner, at first , was importing items that were not manufactured in El Salvador. Textiles. The basic things. Textiles (pause) -anything having to do with construction, from nails-except lumber. But nails, and tools, hammers and everything, that was all imported.

From the US?

No, mostly from Europe. Cement.

(So in 1931, your sister Martita is born, and a few years later, I assume, you'll start going to school. they think to send you and your brother?)

Well, for grade school we went to (chuckles) a school that was the school for the people who wanted to better education, who could afford a better education for their children. So who was the person in San Salvador who had children grade-school-age, they sent them to-what is the name? Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Guadalupe

(So a Catholic school?)

It was a lay school which was owned and operated by two sisters with the last name of Padilla. Doña Isabel, who was the chief, and the sister, Girl, Girl-Thin! Josefina. The school was housed in a large rental home in the Colonia Dueñas. Have you heard about the people? OKAY. Those same people had their chateaux right next to the Campo de Marte, a big park which has everything from horseracing to tennis courts. It had a stand, for any special occasions they used the Field of Mars, for observing marches and things. It became very popular for younger people to go and walk around there and for the boys to see the girls and the girls to see the boys. The Field of Mars. That school was right next to it. And there I was from kindergarten through fourth grade.

(And then where did you go?)

(And who were your classmates?)

(Was it elite or -?)

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(laughs) It's interesting. Elite, not necessarily, because the elite would probably have their children to one of the Catholic schools, of which there were many. Garcia Flamenco was an exception of being a very good school and it was lay, absolutely lay school. (chuckles) Who came out of the -body who became somebody notorious for good (laughs), and also some of the people of the worst cases of notoriety for bad. It produced all sorts of people. (chuckles)

Yes, you can give me some examples of who your classmates were? The children of the owner of The Graphic Press, the newspaper, all good. The children of the owner of the best pharmacy in town also all good. Very large family, they had oodles of children. (pause) People- (pause) Let me see. Foreigners who came to Salvador, not necessarily Jewish, sent their children there. Like who? (pause) The person who-I'll think of it. Who- (pause) an American who married Salvadoran, which was very common- (pause) I hope to come back later.

An American who was a tremendous entrepreneur who made fortunes and lost fortunes over which- in his life he had developed gold mines and became very, very wealthy. And then I lost it all I think putting money into -

-an airline, what later became TACA. I have started that. OKAY.

(Were there any Jews in this school besides the Freunds?)

Yes, yes. Because the Jews did not want to send their children to the Catholic school, and this was the best school that lay.

(Who were the other Jews in your school?)

(pause) The Frankels, the Liebes, but they came later, although they were were there long before that. The Liebes, Eugenio Liebes, had two daughters. One of them is Margo, and Chita Lima, married to Chico Lima. They were-they imported a governess, Mrs. Ilse whatever her maiden name was, who married Max Levine. But the Liebes' daughters did not stay long in Salvador. I did not remember them when I was young. They were older than I was, but they were sent to Germany, I would guess.

(They were for their education.

Mugdan had no children.

DeSolas, they really kept to themselves.

(Anyone else you can think of?)

Yeah, with DeSola goes Henríquez. The old man, Mario Henríquez, his official name in Salvador was Mario C. Henríquez. The C was for "Cohn," but he did not want to appear with that. He did not want to have -

With a Z at the end.

(And then DeSola, p>

They were not observant, no.

(And they would not even identify the Jewish?)

(At this time did you experience anti-Semitism at school , in your life? Never?)

(Did you know you were Jewish, or did not you just tell people?)

There was no anti-Semitism as it is known today We were just foreigners. I look like one, yes. I have a bright red head, red hair. I did not look like an Indian.

(Just they marked you as a "foreigner"?)

Transcription by Sandy Adler, Adler Enterprises LLC

  • Adam Floyd