Ursela Cowan

memories of a child

Ursela Cowan is too young to remember the terror of Kristallnacht (the “Night of Broken Glass”), the vicious pogrom that marked the intensification of the Nazis’ anti-Jewish policies in 1938. She was only an infant then, but after more than 70 years she still clearly remembers the aftermath.

Ursela was the only child of a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother. Following the rise of the Nazis, Jewish homes were ransacked and many people disappeared. This was the fate of her father, Carl. Fearing for her life, Ursela’s mother took her baby daughter and fled to the home of non-Jewish relatives living near the Russian border. Ursela and her mother hid there until the end of the war.

Children sometimes block unpleasant memories, but what Ursela remembers most about her years in hiding was the isolation that she felt. Unable to play outside or go to school for fear of being identified as a Jew, she felt like a captive of her beneficent hosts.

When the war ended Ursela and her mother returned to Bielefeld and were elated to find that her father had survived the war in Thereisenstadt concentration camp.

In 1950 the family settled in Duluth. At age 12 Ursela attended school for the first time in her life. She recalls the difficulty of learning a new culture and language. It was in Duluth that Ursela met and married Gary Cowan, her high school sweetheart.

“If I have one thought to leave to future generations I would say, ‘be courageous and do the right thing.'”