In 1938, Ino Wolff’s family owned a restaurant in Breslau, Germany, serving delicious continental food, 150-plates a day. But it was a difficult time for Jews. During a city festival, Ino remembers the government would post a soldier at the door stopping non-Jews from entering the restaurant.
Then on November 9 the Nazis unleashed the unimaginable, a series of violent riots against Jews in Germany and Austria. In the space of a few hours, thousands of synagogues and Jewish businesses and homes were destroyed. For the first time, tens of thousands of Jews were sent to concentration camps simply because they were Jewish. This night of terror came to be called Kristallnacht (“Night of the Broken Glass”) for the shattered store windowpanes that carpeted the streets.
Ino’s family’s restaurant was destroyed. Nevertheless, shortly after the horrific night they received a letter from the Gestapo demanding the restaurant building be repaired at the family’s expense. The Gestapo decided they would use the building as SS offices. The family watched their business and dreams swept away. Ino remembers watching the SS and Gestapo inspecting the restored building smug in their trim uniforms and shiny shoes.
Yet, Ino’s family was one of the few lucky ones. With the help of the Ecuadorian Consulate, they received visas and immigrated to Ecuador. With this new start, Ino’s family again ended up in the food and beverage business, first in Ecuador and later in America.
Ino’s story reflects a glimpse into the inhumanity of the not-so-distant past of the Holocaust. The impact changed millions and millions of lives forever in directions that could not be foretold.
It is also a story of survivorship and a celebration of life.
This many years later, volunteers from the Merage Jewish Community Center’s JCC Cares celebrated Ino and threw him a 90th birthday party. JCC Cares, a social action committee, regularly volunteers with Café Europa, a local social group of Holocaust survivors and a project of the Jewish Federation and Family Services Orange County. At one such event between JCC Cares and Café Europa, volunteers Marlene Beach and Julie Shulman, befriended Ino and six years later their friendship has flourished over many meals and laughs. The restauranteur has shown a strong preference for McDonald’s hamburgers and milkshakes, which he enjoyed on his birthday, as well as an authentic German beer.
Friends with the owners and operators of the local Foothill Ranch McDonald’s, Marlene and Julie gathered their support along with the enthusiasm and help of JCC Cares and the Café Europa support team. “You’re never too old to enjoy your birthday at McDonald’s. And this is certainly a birthday worthy of celebrating!”