inside
The employee magazine
of the Volkswagen brand

Company

The Work of Remembrance

Sally Perel has spent years traveling throughout Germany bearing witness to what he has experienced, 
telling young people how he survived the Holocaust in the Braunschweig plant as a Jew with two identities. 
The 93-year-old talks to 
 inside about  
why he has no plans to stop recounting his story of survival as “Salomon, the Hitler Youth.” Shortly beforehand, he participated in a ceremony in the Braunschweig district of Volkmarode.

A witness speaks – for more than 20 years, Sally Perel has spent a lot of time on the road helping to further the cause of remembrance and telling students and trainees around Germany about his eventful life.

How much does it mean to you that the high school 
in Braunschweig-Volkmarode will bear your name in future?
It is very special to me. The Sally Perel Award for Respect and Tolerance is the crowning achievement of all my endeavors. Having the school in Volkmarode renamed after me is really the icing on the cake.

At the Family Day held to celebrate the Braunschweig plant’s 80th birthday, young people received the Sally Perel Award for the fourth year running. What do you think about the award?
The award is a special honor for me, particularly as it is presented at a plant where I hid in plain sight as a member of the Hitler Youth and an apprentice living under the assumed name of Josef Perjell. And now an award is being presented there that bears my real name – it’s been quite an experience for me.

You are familiar with Wolfsburg’s Place of Remembrance of Forced Labor in the former air raid shelters and you maintain close contact with the Volkswagen Corporate Archives. What makes Volkswagen’s culture of remembrance so different?
The Place of Remembrance of Forced Labor represents  a real U-turn on Volkswagen’s part, and that’s something that I really appreciate. The same goes for the invitations to former forced laborers to come to Wolfsburg. 
It is important to keep the memory of these dark times alive and to pass it on 
to younger generations.

Between Sally and “Jupp” – The Exhibition

The exhibition “6xSally – Perspectives 
and Identities. A Synoptic Portrait of ‘Salomon, the Hitler Youth’” is still open and will be running until November 9. In video interviews, Sally Perel tells his story of survival in German, Hebrew and Polish, and switches between his identities as Sally and “Jupp.”

Location: Corporate Archives, Südstrasse, Wolfsburg Plant, Entrance 2, 2nd floor

Hours: Monday to Friday 
from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm

Please register in advance by phone at 
+49 (0)5361 925 667 or via email to history@volkswagen.de.

Are you noticing a trend at Volkswagen toward greater openness and honesty when it comes to dealing with such a difficult past?
Yes, a lot of companies in Germany kept silent on the topic of forced labor for a long time and swept it under the rug. Volkswagen was the first company to deal with this dark chapter of its history, and it still works to keep remembrance alive today.

"I was deperate to write down my story, partly to make the younger generation more resistant to burgeoning neo-Nazism."

You retired in 1985. Then, as you once said, the “unusual peace and quiet” caused experiences you had repressed to bubble to the surface. Can you explain that?
When you go to work every morning and have a family, your everyday life doesn’t leave you any time to think about the past. 
I had completely repressed it and, for 40 years, didn’t
tell my story. Not even my family knew anything about it. Everything resurfaced when I had a heart operation. That was the turning point. I was desperate to write down my story, partly to make the younger generation more resistant to burgeoning neo-Nazism. Seven years later, my book, Salomon, the Hitler Youth, was published in German (Hitlerjunge Salomon).

About Sally and „Jupp“

The life and survival of Salomon Perel

Sally Perel was born on April 21, 1925, the youngest child of a Jewish family in Peine, a good 60 kilometers southwest of Wolfsburg. When Sally was ten years old, his family of six moved to the Polish city of Łódź to escape anti-Semitic persecution. When the war broke out in 1939, their flight continued. Perel found refuge in an orphanage in Grodno, Belarus. When the German Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union, he was seized by soldiers. Luckily, he had had the presence of mind to bury his papers beforehand. He gave himself a false identity as an “ethnic German,” which allowed him to escape certain death: Sally Perel became Josef “Jupp” Perjell. He traveled as an interpreter with the soldiers as far 
as Estonia. 

The young man, barely 18 years old, arrived at the satellite plant of Volkswagenwerk GmbH in Braunschweig in the summer of 1943 and started an apprenticeship as a toolmaker. At the time, that apprenticeship was considered an elite course. “Jupp” also joined the Hitler Youth during his time there. The young men were housed in dorms on the plant campus. “Jupp” was liberated by the Americans in Braunschweig on April 22, 1945 – one day after his 20th birthday. “Jupp” slowly started becoming Sally again.

In Israel, Perel and his two brothers, who – unlike their parents and sister – also survived the Holocaust, started to build a new life for themselves. In 1959, he got married and had two sons with his wife, Dvora. Only decades later would he tell his family about surviving “in the role of the enemy.” In 1992, his book Ich war Hitlerjunge Salomon (“I was Salomon, the Hitler Youth”) was published in German. Since then, he has traveled around German schools to bear witness to this story and has held readings in front of audiences of young people.

Then you started traveling around German schools to bear witness to what you had seen and do readings. How did that happen?
When I did a reading at a bookstore in Berlin, I got my first invitation to embark on a book tour. Then it sort of snowballed from there and one event led to another. 
I think of these trips as a kind of self-therapy. My story, and all its inconsistencies, weighed heavily on me. The publication of my book and the book tours have allowed me to get this story out. That has been a colossal relief to me.

What do you think of these book tours?
They allow me to see the point of my having survived. My double life as a persecuted Jew and as a member of the Hitler Youth has bestowed upon me a responsibility to talk about it and use it to send a message. For me,  
that is all the motivation I need to hit the road time and again, even at 93.

What message do you mean?
I want to bear witness to what I experienced and encourage today’s young people 
to think critically, not to look away, and to act responsibly in helping to shape the world.

What memories do you associate with the Braunschweig plant?
When I walk through the gates of the plant today, 
I feel fear. That was 
where plant security was posted and, 
if I’d been exposed as a Jew, they would have arrested me. That’s something I still carry with me, deep down. Nevertheless, I am happy to 
come as a guest and I am always very warmly welcomed.

You survived the Second World War in the guise of an ethnic German, Josef Perjell, taking on an apprenticeship at the satellite plant in Braunschweig as a Jewish boy but also joining the Hitler Youth. How risky was your situation?
I was constantly afraid of being discovered. Every minute, every second. My fate was hanging by a thread. I realized the danger I was in and I had to slip into the role of someone who was a member of the Hitler Youth and play that role as perfectly as I could.

When the war ended, you returned 

to 
Israel. 
What did you leave behind?
Hatred, resentment. 
Both of those things lead you down the wrong path and 
toward crime. I always try to find the good in people 
so I’ve put a lot of effort into education andre conciliation. Reconciliation does not happen without education, however, and not without the truths that I put into my book.

“Working with eyewitnesses and survivors is very important to us because remembrance is part of our corporate culture
here at Volkswagen.”

Dieter Landenberger, Head of Heritage, Volkswagen

Sally Perel (center) with pupils from the Otto Bennemann School in Braunschweig who won this year’s Sally Perel Award.

The Sally Perel Award – Five 
Sites to Be Added in 2019

The Braunschweig plant has been awarding young people the 
Sally Perel Award since 2014 – now other plants in Germany will follow Braunschweig’s lead. The Wolfsburg, Salzgitter, Kassel, Emden and Hanover sites will also give out the 
Sally Perel Award in 2019. The heads of the apprenticeship and training academies at the five sites have been tasked with putting the award in place and, together with youth representatives, are preparing for the award to be presented. The award is bestowed with a 3,000-euro prize and is intended to support young people who stand up for respect and tolerance. You can download moreinformation here: https://www.volkswagenag.com/en/group/history.html

Exerpt from

“Sally Perel: The fear of detection looked 
like it would be with me forever”

“When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union on 21 June 1941, all the Jewish children in the orphanage fled further east with their caregivers. […] Suddenly, I found myself all alone somewhere near Minsk.  Other people were there, just no-one I knew. It was a nightmare.I found myself surrounded by death, fighting and destruction.I was only 16. Suddenly it was completely quiet. The dust settled and Germans stood before us. We all had to form lines in front of them.

People were sorted into groups and somehow word got out that Jews were being shot in the woods there and then. […] When my turn came, I knew if I told the truth I would be dead. 
“So I said I was not a Jew, but a ‘Volksdeutscher’. 
I knew that 
if it didn’t work I would be shot. But the solider believed me. All the others had to pull down their trousers so the soldiers could see if they had been circumcised. But he believed me without proof. Why me and not the others?”

“What happened in the field near Minsk [...]: Salomon Perel 
went into hiding and the ‘Volksdeutscher’ Josef ‘Jupp’ Perjell from Grodno was born. I was accepted into the German army 
and given a uniform. As part of the 12th Tank Division, I was now working as an interpreter for the Germans. I, the Jew, was now forced to help the Germans in order to survive. I had been fleeing from them since I was ten years old. 
The fear of detection looked like it would be with me forever.”