restricted access 9 Thea, Arthur, and Manfred Peter
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58 GROWING UP JEWISH IN PREWAR LATVIA My aunt Thea was the baby in Grandmother Emma’s family. She died in 1977, having retained her childlike innocence and sweetness until the end. She once told us that even as an old person she still felt like a young girl. Thea was the only one of Emma’s children whose marriage plans Emma was able to influence. The others were independent-minded and would not even consider Emma’s suggestions in this important matter. As Thea became of marriageable age, Emma began looking for a suitable husband. It was important that Thea’s future husband have a German background. Accordingly , after World War I Emma took Thea—a pretty, petite woman with a good dowry—to Berlin in the hope of finding a suitable match. Arthur Percy Sommerfeld met all the conditions Emma thought important: he was tall and handsome and, above all, of German Jewish background. His prospects were exceptional. Thea and Arthur were married in Berlin in 1921. Her mission accomplished, Emma returned to Riga to resume her place as the family matriarch. Arthur was born to German Jewish parents in Melbourne, Australia. He had graduated from the Technische Hochschule (technical college) in Berlin in 1907 with the degree Diplom-Ingeneur in machine design. A specialist in the new, rapidly developing field of plastics, Arthur was the plant manager of a plastics factory in Berlin. In 1920 Arthur moved to Freiburg am Breisgau in southwest Germany, where he became the managing director of a factory that produced plastic insulators for electric power circuits. He held a number of patents, authored two books on plastics, and was recognized as an authority on injection molding. The Sommerfelds lived in Freiburg, a beautiful area on the Rhine close to the Black Forest. Here their only child, Manfred Peter, was born. Arthur’s mother, Bertha (or Mutti, as she was called), lived with them. They had a beautiful house with servants, and they lived in comfortable circumstances 9 Thea, Arthur, and Manfred Peter  THEA, ARTHUR, AND MANFRED PETER 59 surrounded by a congenial community .Thea’s letters from Freiburg tell of a busy social life: visits to friends and excursions and longer trips with friends. The Sommerfelds did not belong to a synagogue or observe Jewish holidays. Although they moved mostly in Jewish circles, like most of their friends they observed Christmas. Peter was not Bar Mitzvah. My grandmother Emma visited them occasionally, but during the summer holidays Thea and Peter would regularly come to Jurmala, where they usually spent six to eight weeks. Arthur often came with them but was able to stay only a couple of weeks. My cousin Manfred, or Peter as he was called after the family moved to England, was eighteen months my senior. We liked each other and got along well, and I viewed Peter as virtually an older brother. Peter was not only older; he lived in the technologically and culturally more advanced Western Europe and was more sophisticated and traveled than I, who had never been out of Latvia. During our summer vacations at the beach we were continually together and got to know each other. We had a wonderful time, free to come and go and roam as we pleased with little supervision and no interference from our elders. I think we both looked forward to these vacations. On rainy days we would spend hours sitting on the porch and drawing pictures. Peter was particularly adept at elaborate futuristic drawings of ships, cars, and trains. Peter was always stylishly dressed. Thea clearly paid a great deal of attention to his clothes and took obvious delight in his neatness and good looks. Once he had outgrown them, I received the fancy sailor suits and other attractive outfits as hand-me-downs. By contrast, my mother took a very casual attitude regarding my wardrobe. Every spring she bought me a sturdy pair of blue cotton shorts and a few shirts, and I was outfitted for the season. I do not recall my shorts being washed during the entire summer , and I felt very comfortable in my old, rumpled clothes. A snapshot of Peter and me taken at Jurmala in 1930 is characteristic of the differences in our wardrobes. Peter is wearing an elegant knitted suit, socks, and shined shoes. Everything is spotless and neatly pressed. I am in a pair of Thea and Arthur, Freiburg, ca. 1926. 60 GROWING UP JEWISH IN PREWAR LATVIA rumpled shorts...