Sally Perel was an impressive storyteller. He was born in Peine in Lower Saxony in 1925, was expelled from school ten years later, the family business was destroyed, the family fled first to Lodz and then to the west of the country after the invasion of Poland. In 1941 he was captured there and presented himself to the Wehrmacht soldiers as an “ethnic German”.
He described the moment countless times, especially at the readings that he tirelessly gave at German schools well into old age: he had been rounded up with thousands of Jews by the Wehrmacht near Minsk, he slowly moved up the line towards the selection command, Shots could be heard in the forest. He buried his passport and claimed his name was Josef Perjell. In the “skin of the enemy”, as he put it, he survived National Socialism, hidden in a training center for the Hitler Youth and as an interpreter for the Wehrmacht.
He wrote his autobiography in German. “Jupp wanted out”
He kept the story to himself for four decades, his autobiography “Hitlerjunge Salomon” was only published in 1990, first in French, then in Hebrew, and finally in German in 1992. In 1990 it was filmed by the Polish director Agnieszka Holland and awarded a Golden Globe.
On the one hand, his time as a Hitler Youth was characterized by the constant fear of being exposed. He turned to the wall in the communal showers, the first love affair with a BDM girl couldn’t go beyond kissing. On the other hand, he reports that the indoctrination apparatus of the Hitler Youth also had an effect on him. “I didn’t play the theatre,” he told the Mirror in 1992, “when the Battle of Stalingrad was lost, I was really so desperate that I cried with my comrades”.
He once described his relationship with his ethnic German alias as ambivalent: Actually, he should hate him because he was a Nazi, but on the other hand he saved his life. When he started writing his autobiography decades later, he wrote in German: “Jupp wanted out.”
In 2018, Sally Perel warned of a shift to the right in Germany in the face of a strengthening AfD. He told him something like that Mirror, he experienced as a child in the Weimar Republic. He feels “like a guard who warns how dangerous it is if you remain indifferent again.” He was himself indoctrinated with the Volkish ideology and can say from his own experience how convincing it is. Sally Perel has died at his home in Israel at the age of 97.