They were born in Trinidad, on the southern tip of the Caribbean, in 1933: identical twins, dual babies from the same fertilized egg, genetically matched.
There was trouble between their parents and a few months after the birth, their mother went away, back to her homeland. She took a daughter and the first-born twin. The boys never met, never wrote to one another as they grew.
One was raised a Nazi.
The other was raised a Jew.
Oscar Stohr: swimmer, track star, former admirer of the Fuehrer, diligent student of the Third Reich, nurtured by his Catholic grandmother in a house where the exhortations of Joseph Goebbels, propaganda expert of the Third Reich, crackled out over the radio all through the day.
Jack Yufe: white kid from Trinidad, champion seaman, flagship sergeant in the Israeli navy, married by a rabbi on a rooftop in Israel with the white lace huppa shielding his head from the Jerusalem sun.
They met last month, in the Minneapolis airport.
They came to take part in a study at the University of Minnesota -- a study that examined, in unprecedented detail, the psyches and contitutions and eerie similarities of long-separated twins.
Stohr flew from Germany, where he works as an industrial supervisor. And Yufe flew from San Diego, where he owns a retail clothing store.
They had met only once before, 25 years earlier, in a small German train station. An interpreter had stood between them. They had looked at each other quickly, and looked away. The interpreter said that Oscar Stohr's stepfather, the man who had married the twins' mother, did not know there were part-Jews in his family. He said Yufe must never mention his years in Israel, or his Jewish heritage. The meeting was not a success.
Yufe was not sure what his brother looked like. He saw a man in profile, standing near the airline gate.
"Oscar!" he shouted.
Stohr turned to look. He wore wire-rimmed glasses, rectangular, with rounded corners -- precisely like Yufe's.
They had both put on two-pocket shirts, with epaulets -- Yufe's was dark blue, Stohr's light blue. Both had short, clipped mustaches. Their hairlines had receded in perfect synchronization, baring the same expanses of high curved forehead.
They shook hands, and smiled.
There was no embrace.
And now, in the warm afternoon light slanting across Yufe's living room near San Diego, the brothers sit 10 feet apart and do not look at each others at all. It is a white-walled house with a Spanish Colonial feel, spacious, airy, green plants trailing up the walls. A kitchen cupboard holds a small silver menorah, and on the doors to the dish cabinets, faint patches in the wood stain mark the tape that used to seal off the non-kosher dishes during Passover.
Jack Yufe is crosslegged on the carpet.
He has been asked what he feels when he looks at his brother -- whether he thinks. That is one of them. That is part of the Third reich.
The front door is open and the breeze moves the wind chimes outside.
Yufe's voice is low.
"That's a hard -- kind of personal question," says Yufe. "I haven't -- quite -- I haven't decided yes or no. I haven't made a decision. It never occurred to me. I just see him as my brother and I don't want to get into any political beliefs. What his beliefs are, are his, and he's entitled to them. And I hope he gives me the same respect. And -- I don't even want to get into that."
Oscar Stohr remembers a newsreel, which he saw as a child.
"He remembers it was pictures of Jews, in the Polish ghetto," says Christine Peutch, the young Australian interpreter. "And they were gaunt, very thin. With beards. And the black yarmulke cap. And to (the children) they looked, in a sense, horrifying, or awful."
Stohr continues, in German.
"And in the course of this they were compared to rats," translates Peutch. "They were shown a picture --" Stohr speaks again.
"-- Rats running around -- "
Stohr's voice is quicker now, more urgent.
"-- and that they multiply like rats, and, uh -- and vermin. And he remembers having seen that."
Stohr says something more, still talking very fast.
"And that that, vermin," Peutch translates evenly, "has certainly to be eradicated."
Oscar Stohr grew up in a town of about 8,000, near the German -Czechoslovakian border, with mountains and forest close by. His mother lived in Italy during his childhood, and Oscar and his older sister were raised by their grandmother Stohr. She was a small woman, as he remembers -- blond, soft-voiced, devoutly religious, with a vegetable plot near the family house where she grew potatoes, strawberries, rhubarb, black currants.
Oscar had to chop wood, and help in the vegetable garden. He was sent without fail to church on Sunday -- the church was not heated, he remembers, so he sat through long winter services with his thoughts mostly on his lightly shod feet -- and when he was 9, wearing a special dark blue suit made from material his mother had sent from Italy, Oscar Stohr received his first communion.
When he was 10 he was summoned to the office of his school's principal.
The principal watched Oscar greet him, as per custom, with a "Heil, Hitler" salute.
The principal said Oscar's "Heil, Hitler" was shoddy. It ought to be crisper, with the heels snapped together, the principal said. He told Oscar to leave his office and then come in and try it again.
Oscar thought his "Heil, Hitler" was all right, but he did as the principal ordered. Then the principal asked about Oscar's sister, who had continued to use their father's name. "Yufe," Stohr remembers the principal saying. "It sounds as if it means Jude."
"It's French," Oscar said quickly. He had no idea whether the name was French. "There is an accent over the e," he said.
The principal asked where Oscar's father was. Oscar said he was in South America but that he did not know where. The principal asked Oscar whether he was related to another Stohr -- a Nazi stormtrooper and well-respected local athlete. The man was Oscar's uncle, and the principal seemed pleased to hear that.
Oscar went home to his grandmother. He told her what had happened, and his grandmother, for the first time, told Oscar that his father was a Jew.
"She told me," Stohr says, speaking without the interpreter in his own hesitant English, "but I never -- I should never tell them what she told me."
In broad daylight, when he was younger, stormtroopers had taken two whole families away from Oscar's street. The father of one of the families had come home at night. "Where is my family?" he had cried. The stormtroopers had hit the man with the butt end of a gun, and taken him away.
Oscar never told anyone what his grandmother had said.
He was a good student. Political education, during the war years, was immensely important in the schools. "He remembers that he was very good at learning things by heart," says Peutch, translating. "And he remembers one of the sets of instructions having to do with the Jewish race. He remembers that he was commended for having learned to say it so well.
. . . The connection, in this lesson, was made to the very dishonorable treaty of Versailles, and that the Jews had been the cause of it, had been behind it. And that Hitler had reversed that."
And when Oscar Stohr learned about Hitler, and learned about the Jews -- did he make the connection, to his father, to himself?
There is a long silence. Stohr looks away, and blinks, and opens his mouth, and closes his mouth. He puts his fingers to his forehead. He begins speaking to Peutch, slowly.
"The question," she translates, "is very difficult to answer. He supposes he probably never really thought about it. He believed it, but he didn't refer the whole thing to himself, because he didn't feel himself as a Jew. Because he was a Catholic. He always thought it referred to the religion -- that it was a question of religion, and not a question of race."
But he lived in a society where it was forced to be a question of race.
"But he did not think of himself that way," says Peutch, as Stohr continues talking. "He did not make the connection to himself."
Out of fear?
"That could have been the reason," Peutch translates. "And he says, 'Maybe the reason I learned those lessons so well was exactly because of my knowledge,'" says Peutch.
When the war was over, Russian soldiers marched into the town where Oscar lived.
"He remembers that all Germans had to congregate in a gym, and that was the beginning of the food stamp situation," Peutch translates.
Stohr speaks, and his voice is flat.
"And that's the first time he heard about the extermination," says Peutch.
Stohr's voice again.
"There was an exhibit in the gym --" says Peutch. " -- boxes -- " -- of bones -- " -- One box with human hair --
"And boxes with clothing." Even Peutch's voice is flat now, and soft. "And, uh, lots of pictures.The pictures from the concentration camps were exhibited there. And they all had to go . . . and everybody had to walk through corridors . . . all the Germans were forced to go there . . . and it was portrayed as if that fate was not only the fate of the Jews but also the fate of the Czechs . . . not only just the Czechs themselves, but any enemy of the Nazis . . ."
Jack Yufe, sitting opposite his brother, has his hands clasped behind his head. He is looking at the ceiling.
"And he remembers that some women wh o couldn't bear to look at this had screaming fits," says Peutch.
"He says it was absolutely awful," she says.
Did he think to himself, as he saw those boxes, my people did this?
Stohr nods. "Yes," says Peutch.
And how did that feel?
"He couldn't really grasp the thought," she translates. "Because on the one hand he realized it could have been his fate. But on the other hand it was also people who did that."
Yufe saw it, at first, in odd moments during the Minneapolis week. His brother fell asleep easily in front of the television set; so did Yufe. His brother absently stored rubber bands around his wrist. So did Yufe. His brother liked reading in restaurants, dipping his buttered toast into his coffee, leafing through magazines back to front, and flushing the toilet before using it.
So did Yufe.
It was spooky.
Yufe began making notes in a small green notebook he carried in his pocket. Stohr tended to become upset and shouted at his wife when he had misplaced something; Yufe used to do that too. In an Indian restaurant, figuring a German would not share a Trinidadian's love for spicy food, Yufe decided to shake up his brother by offering him some fiery hot sauce; Stohr loved it. "Gut, gut," he cried.
They attended a hypnotist's performance. The hypnotist was counting backward to induce his trance. It was a moment of high drama. "Nine . . . eight . . . seven . ."
Oscar Stohr, apparently feeling mischievous, sneezed for all he was worth.
Stohr smiled to himself. "He does that all the time," his wife whispered.
Yufe was astonished.
For many years, whenever he got into a crowded and quiet elevator, he used to let out of a huge sneeze just to watch everybody jump.
If someone had coaxed Jackie Yufe off the Copper Fin, his beloved Port of Spain rowboat, and asked him to label himself, he would have answered -- in heavily West Indian English -- "a white Trinidadian." He lived for the water. He wore short pants in school. He was a Sea Scout and a champion rower, and won a special royal commendation: "As a King's Scout you have prepared yourself for service to God and your fellowmen, and have shown yourself to be a worthy member of the great SCOUT BROTHERHOOD.Signed, George R.I."
He was a scrappy kid -- his face was scarred (from falling off his high chair and hitting a broken bottle, he says), and anybody who called him "scarface" was in serious trouble fast.
He never had a Bar Mitzvah ceremony. His father took him to temple, on high holy days, in whatever local building was serving as a temporary synagogue. "I knew I was Jewish, somehow, because I didn't go to church . . . Christian church," says Yufe. "My father was not an educated man. He was street-smart, if you know what I mean . . . the only religious education I got from him was, Jews don't believe in Jesus."
The war swelled off in the distance and Jackie Yufe watched the submarine nets go up outside Port of Spain harbor. Sailors, based in Trinidad, roamed the town on their off-time. Jack sang "God Save the King," fervently and often. The newsreels and papers taught him about a comic madman named Adolf Hitler -- "idiotic, especially the hairdo," says Yufe -- his pro-British neighbors kept a picture of the battleship H.M.S. Hood, which was sunk by the Germans, on their wall. The menace was distant, and it was not until Jack Yufe turned 16 that the war stories began to close in.
He moved to Venezuela, and lived for a year with his aunt. She was his father's sister. She was a Jew. And she was a survivor of the concentration camps. Every other European relative on Jack's father's side -- grandparents, three other aunts, and an uncle -- had died, in the camps or the cities where they tried to make their homes.
She spoke other languages, also, but around Jack she used Yiddish. Kalt deutsche. Toyt. Listening, sifting. Jack began to understand. Cold. Germans. Death. She had given birth in one of the camps, on the ground, alone. The child's father had been killed in the battle of Berlin. She was a handsome woman, dark-haired, white-skinned. Yufe knew her language after a while; he felt the pain, but no pull. "I was too far away from it. It had nothing to do with me."
His aunt suggested that he go to Israel. He did not want to go. His father thought Israel would do Jack good. There were a couple of cousins, left-learning Russian immigrants, in the shabby outskirts of Tel Aviv, and at the age of 16 -- protesting all the way -- Jack Yufe was sent to join them.
He was homesick. The music was Arabic-sounding and strange. He could not speak Hebrew, and the land seemed teeming, chaotic, impossible with immigrants. He spent some months on a kibbutz near Nazareth, working in the fields, furious at his father for having forced him into hard labor such a long way from home.
He moved to a new kibbutz, and this was better, because it was on the Sea of Galilee, and Yufe could take to the water to fish.
The nights were hot, and still.
The sardines came only when there was no moon.
Yufe would ride out into the black water in a sardine boat, towed by a motor boat. The engine would shut off and in the silence, gathering the nets, Yufe could watch the dark shape of the Golan Heights. Sometimes he heard rifle shots.
He imagined Arab's armed and furious, waiting.
And Jack Yufe was afraid.
"I knew now that there was an enemy," he says. "And my enemy was the Arabs."
If someone had stopped him, there in the night, on the Sea of Galilee, and asked Jack Yufe what he was, how would he have answered?
Yufe leans forward on his couch, knees apart, hands together.
He answers in Hebrew.
"Ani yehudi," he says.
I am a Jew.
Yufe lights a Tiparillo and watches the smoke curl from his mouth.
"I was curious," he says. His voice still syncopates in the Carribean way. "How he is as a person. Whether it's another Jack Yufe. Or is he completely different from me."
Six months ago, Yufe's wife showed him a magazine article about the "Jim Twins," a pair of identical twins from Ohio -- both named James by their adoptive parents -- who had found each other at the age of 39 after being separated in infancy. The twins, whose lives had followed unnerving parallels (each had married and divorced a Linda, worked in law enforcement, vacationed at the same Florida beach, developed hobbies of carpentry and mechanical drawing, and s uffered two confirmed or suspected heart attacks), were the first subjects of the University of Minnesota's remarkable new research project.
For many years, twins reared apart had provided rich study material in the effect of different environments on similar or identical genetic makeups, and now on the Minneapolis campus, a psychology professor had begun a series of elaborate medical and psychological tests designed to measure everything from palm prints to personal ethics.
Spurred by a newspaper account of the "Jim Twins," Thomas Bouchard Jr., who teaches differential psychology (the study of human differences) at the university, brought the Jims to Minneapolis for a week-long barrage of interviews and testing. "I am very slow at making up my mind -- true or false." "I'm afraid of deep water -- true or false." "I would prefer being chosen as a target for a knife-throwing attack, rather than being sick for 24 hours -- true or false."
Yufe was intrigued. "I said, 'Hey, maybe this is a good idea -- to meet my brother, perhaps in neutral territory," he says."'Enough time has gone by by being away.'"
He had emigrated to the United States in the early 1950s -- to San Diego, where his father was living. Jack Yufe had served two and a half years in the Israeli navy (once he steamed into New York harbor on the flagship Misgav, the blue-and-white Israeli flag flapping), but his wife was American, and the military life was too hard, too regimented. He had gone into business, quite successfully. He owned a clothing store near the Mexican border.
Once a year he heard from his brother. Around each Hanukah, the Yufes would receive a Christmas card, with its German postmark, from the Stohrs. Yufe's wife would send a Christmas card back. Yufe could not bring himself to do it.
He asked Bouchard whether Stohr could be flown from Germany to Minnesota.
"This was my excuse for us to get together," he says. "Because I don't think we could have done it any other way."
Stohr came, at the researchers' expense, and in November the brothers became the seventh pair of identical twins to enter the study. It will be some time -- perhaps a full year -- befor the 13 Minnesota researchers feel ready to analyze and publish their work, but already the stories are accumulating.
One pair of identical twin women in Britain found each other after one was interviewed by a local newspaper and the other opened her paper one morning to find her double gazing out from the newsprint.
One American twin had been told for years, by strangers he always assumed were a little crazy, "There's somebody in the next town who looks exactly like you." The year he joined the Navy, the man headed over to the next town and wandered around until somebody greeted him by another name. "That's not who I am," he said, "but would you tell me where he lives?" And he knocked on the door of his twin brother's house, startling the woman who answered the door -- she had just seen her adopted son off so he could join the Navy, and she could not figure out what he was doing home so fast.
The similarities in habit and happenstance are constant, and weird. The Jim twins, before they ever met, named their sons James Alan and James Allan. There was another pair with daughters named Kristen. One man named his son Andrew Richard and his daughter Catherine Louise; his identical twin, whom he had never met, had a boy named Richard Andrew and a daughter named Karen Louise -- and the name Karen had been chosen only to honor a certain aunt. The parents had wanted to name her Katherine.
How is this possible? Does the body carry child-naming genes, or sneezing-in-crowded-places genes, or some peculiar early infancy memory of reading magazines backward and flushing toilets twice?
No. Not exactly. "There are no genes for specific behavior," says Bouchard. Identical twins do share matched neurological systems which explains why they often behave and react the same way (something in the Stohr-Yufe metabolism may put them both to sleep in front of the television set, for example). But that alone does not explain the paired naming of children -- a spouse is generally involved in that decision. It does not explain in all the mysteries of brain and body chemistry, precisely how some particularly of structure -- some certain synapse or weakness of heart or corneal shape -- brings preference and habit to the human mind.
It does not explain why, after 47 years of cultural, geographic and emotional separation, two identical twins turn up wearing double-pocket shirts with matching epaulets.
If Jack Yufe, at the age of 10, had been summoned to the office of his Nazi school principal and asked about his name, what would he have done?
"Exactly the same Oscar did," says Fufe without hesitation. "I think kids have learned at an early age how to survive."
He says there were times when he told people the name Yufe was French. And once in a grammar school class, when religion was asked of each pupil, Yufe turned to the boy next to him and asked what religion he was.
"He said Anglican," says Yufe, "and so I said Anglican too."
It was not that Jews in Trinidad disappeared from their homes in the night but there were bad moments, like the day some schoolchildren invited Jack to come spit on the graves of the Jews. "It was safer not to be one," he says. "Put it that way."
He is asked what he was thinking earlier, as he gazed at the ceiling and listened to Stohr describe the display in the gymnasium.
"It was wrong of the Allies to do that," says Yufe. "A 13-year-old boy, or a 12-year-old boy, who had no political decisions to make . . . Were they given a choice? You want to be a German? You can be a German!" There was no choice given."
Children, young German wives being marched past the boxes of bones -- Yufe has clamped his cigar between his teeth and his voice is very angry. "If the husband did it, you can't blame the wife! The wife was home cooking, and wondering where the husband is. Her crime was to be born in Germany at the time. To have the stigma for their entire lives, seeing that...nobody ever talked about what the Americans or British were doing. either ...people are people, and people hate."
Jack Yufe has two daughters, both raised in Temple Beth Shalom, in Chula Vista. He speaks fluent Spanish, and most of the customers and employes at his store are Hispanic. The employes are not unionized, although Yufe says he thinks he would probably belong to a union if the were not an employer. He wears a Star of David, but does not consider himself a religious man -- his wife, from whom he is now separated, was more active in the temple. He is cynical about politics: he believes in majority rule, but says the majority is not well-enough educated to make intelligent decisions, "so therefore the ignorance is voting in the power." He is not registered to vote.
Oscar Stohr has two sons, both raised in the Catholic church. Stohr still identifies himself as Catholic, although he says he disapproves of the church's ban on birth control. He identifies his work as "a supervisory Democratic party, and believes it is important to become politically involved. d
He will not discuss the exact nature of his job, or the city in which he lives, because he is afraid the reports might reach Germany. He does not want it publicly known that his father was a Jew.
"There hasn't been any occasion to mention it," he says through the interpreter.
And: "Directly they won't be able to do anything, but indirectly they could."
And: "You never know."