BIO SKETCH for Jerry Nelson

Mom & I went to the beach while Dad went to World War II.  Radar had been invented, so his troop transport ship sailed to Casablanca ("Play it again, Sam") without destroyer escorts.  Radar was supposed to spot the U-boats in the distance, before they dove to attack.  Mom has a dim view of technology.  

Pepper w/Daddy
      click any photo to enlarge

After trying many jobs after the war, Dad signed up for a government job in 1952, and the family left Brooklyn for Germany.  Our Jewish friends and neighbors thought we were crazy.  Mom's friends Edith and Will Saller refused to set foot in Germany, so my parents had to rendezvous with them in France.   We had a nice apartment in Frankfurt.

Pepper w/Daddy
Photo: 1954, Frankfurt: David,  Florence,  Edward in the maid's arms, and myself, Jeremiah Nelson.
Our maid Solvay Marx was a survivor of the Hamburg fire-bombing.

Our dog was a Welsh Terrier named AKI, after the Aktualitaets Kino near the Hauptbahnhof -- a theater that showed newsreels and some documentaries to people with no TV sets.  My parents came home with Aki from a farewell cocktail party for a German diplomatic couple that had just been posted to Turkey and didn't want to take her.  Aki was very well trained when we first got her, but she adjusted.

The maid in the photo is Solvay Marx, bilingual in German and English and a Mormon who left the Church when she divorced. (I would be so happy if you could  find a record for her in the genealogy databases of the Church of Latter Day Saints -- Marx is the maiden name.)  One evening after the bedtime story had relaxed us both, something in the fairy tale provoked a fork in the conversation to bombing.  Boy, this was the real stuff and I wouldn't let her back out!  Eleven year olds know all about this stuff.  Or maybe not. 

The phosphorous bombs have delayed fuses so they get into the rooms through the roof before throwing phosphorous metal all over the place.  The metal burns furiously when it hits the water of human flesh (or water from any fireman).  People ran into the public fountains to try to get if off their bodies, some tearing their flesh with their own hands for relief. 

I remember asking the obvious questions: "Why did they do that?"  I remember her trying to give a child the obvious answers: "Because it was burning them so badly."  It became too much for her, and she left the room near tears, although I didn't grasp all that at the time, only that Bedtime Story had ended somewhat too abruptly.


What fairy tales did you have as a child?  Think of my fairy tale the next time you are looking at an image of the World Trade Center attack on 9/11/01.  Perhaps we can all show more bravery and a little less self-indulgence than some Americans do.   It will help us take a more honored place in the world. After all, the planes that dropped the phosphorous anti-personnel bombs were American.  

(Note to those who have written: the bombing Solvay Marx went through was in Hamburg, where civilians were targeted in Air Marshall Sir Arthur Harris's Operation Gomorrah in the summer of 1943.  So this first firestorm bombing in history was primarily run by the British, not Americans.  However, the firebombing of Dresden was a joint operation of the Royal Air Force with the United States Air Force.  Since by February 1945 the war was closer to victory,  perhaps the Dresden carnage was even more gratuitous than in Hamburg.)  

Pepper w/Daddy

Long story short, I married Robin Hannay, we came home from Australia when Robin fell pregnant with Lorrin, and, 8 years later,  I dragged Lorrin to Germany at the same age my father had moved there with me.  Dad was an international spy.  I was a college professor.  Absolutely, we had to have a Welsh Terrier.  We named her Pepper instead of Aki, and she lived up to the name.  Pepper is bilingual in German and English just like the rest of us.  My last appointment in neuroscience research was at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, and we still live in the Washington, DC area.  Lorrin is currently a programmer for


Jeremiah Nelson 
Borrowing my father's middle name, I publish as J.I.Nelson
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