The Salomons were bakers in Cologne, Germany, descended from five generations of a proud German family. Young Arthur Salomon was a talented swimmer, one of Germany’s best, a contemporary of Johnny Weissmuller, who would go on to fame as Tarzan. But Arthur’s dreams of gold in the Berlin Olympics had evaporated when Jews were banned from competition.
Two years later in 1938, Arthur was a young husband and father, strolling along the banks of the river on an early fall evening. From the water, he heard a faint cry for help. Still a strong swimmer, he immediately jumped into the river and swam out to save the drowning man. He took the man home to his own mother, who provided hot tea and dry clothes. You may think Arthur is the hero of this story, but wait…
Just months later, Arthur would be detained and sent to Dachau, where an unknown number of Jews would perish. His wife, Paula, obtained papers granting them safe passage out of Germany, and everyone advised her to take little Otto and go. Her response was quite extraordinary. She simply refused. She would not go without doing everything in her power to save her husband. She was mocked as a fool, ridiculously naive. Everyone knew you couldn’t get a Jew out of Dachau.
Paula went to the headquarters of the Nazi division in Cologne and insisted on seeing the commander. Imagine the dread and fear she must have felt at facing this man who held the power of life and death. In short order, Arthur was released and the family secreted into Holland for an eventual trip to safety in America. How, you ask? Well, it seems that fate rewarded both Paula’s bravery that day and her husband’s heroism. You see, the fearful commander of the Cologne Nazi division had once almost drowned in the river and been saved by a young Jewish swimmer.