I was born in Vienna, Austria on January 8, 1932. I was thus six years old at the time of the Anschluss (annexation of Austria by Germany).
We left Vienna on an overnight train to Venice from Sudbahnhof (South Station) at 10 P.M. on September 8, 1938. We continued on to Milan. Once my father had arranged passage, we went on to Genoa, whence we traveled on the “Conte Bianca Mano” (see James R. Ross, “Escape to Shanghai. A Jewish Community in China”, The Free Press, New York, 1994, facing page 142) to Bombay, where we arrived on October 3, 1938. We left India on the “S.S. President Grant” on April 27, 1941, reaching New York on June 3. Our wandereings came to and end, I would say, when my mother, brother, and I joined my father in Springfield, MA in May 1943.
Two incidents stick in my mind from Vienna from after the Anschluss:
I was with my mother, my aunt, and my cousin, who was about eight years old. We were standing on the sidewalk not far from the apartment house where we lived, but on the other side of a fairly major street. My cousin’s family lived about two blocks away from us. My mother and aunt were talking long and seriously. My cousin and I became impatient at the length of time that they were talking, paying no attention to us. Finally the two of us ran across the street. This was a contravention of very strict standing instructions, even if we did dutifully look for traffic first to the right and then to the left. What seriously upset me about the incident at the time was that our mothers did not even scold us. Looking back on the incident from more than 60 years later, it is evident that they had more serious worries.
The other was when my father once came home (I cannot place it in time relative to the incident above, but it must have been relatively early, since my father was still driving. The Germans confiscated his car eventually.) and told my mother, within my hearing, that a policeman had shot at him. I understood the words, but was unable to fit a plausible mental picture to the statement because it did not occur to me that my father meant the words literally. One of my mother’s most difficult tasks was to make me understand that a policeman was no longer someone to turn to if I got lost or was otherwise in trouble. In everything that she said to me, she was very much conscious of the fact that a six?year?old is likely to repeat anything said to him, and that had suddenly become dangerous.
What affected my mother the most — and she commented on it repeatedly — was the scattering of our extended family all over the globe. From our family people emigrated to India (we), Palestine, Dominican Republic, Switzerland, England, Dutch East Indies, China, and Colombia. Several managed to make their way, like us, to the United States, and after the war there were further moves: from China to Colombia, U. S., and Canada; from the Dutch East Indies to Brazil and, via the Netherlands, back to Austria. In Austria we had been a very close family, with a great deal of visiting and telephoning back and forth.
My immediate family (parents and brother) all survived. My maternal grandparents, my parents’ siblings and their families, and most of their cousins survived. They managed to get out while the getting out was possible. If I remember correctly, a brother and two sisters?in?law of my maternal grandmother and two siblings of my paternal grandfather and their spouses were murdered by the Germans. My wife’s family fared much worse. Thirty-odd relatives of my mother-in-law were murdered.