b. Vienna, Austria, 1918
It was April 13, 1938—my parents' twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. We sat around the sparsely set dinner table to “celebrate.” Though it was early afternoon, our dining room with its beautiful cordovan mahogany furniture was dim, and the mood was somber. The curtains were drawn because one could never be sure what neighbors would see and report.
Only a month ago, the day after Hitler marched into Vienna, my father was told that he need not return to his place of business. He was the second largest painting and decorating contractor in the city. Yet his life's work was now in the hands of his employees, those who had clandestinely joined the Nazi party years before the Anschluss. His most senior foreman was in charge, telling my father what he was allowed to do or not do.
But this was not the time to bemoan the situation. There were plans to be made. First, schedules had to be prepared for Dad's “underground school” to help people with their emigration plans. There were many doctors, lawyers, accountants, and other professionals who realized that their knowledge, so useful at home, would be of no help in any foreign country to which they emigrated. Dad offered to teach them a skill—something they could do with their hands—to tide them over until they could reenter their profession.
Next we talked quietly about our emigration plans. We had received assurance from relatives in New York that affidavits for the whole family were on the way. Now it was time to arrange for exit permits, visas, passports. My mother's mother was not covered by the affidavits and my mother would not leave without her. So it was decided that my older brother Bruno and I would leave as soon as possible. My twelve-year-old younger brother, Walter, was to stay behind with my parents “till things blow over.”
With tears in my eyes and the words choking in my throat, I lifted my glass of water to toast my parents, to thank them for all they had done for us three boys: for the wonderful home they had provided; and that I would never forget the advice from my Dad, “Alles sollst du können, nichts sollst du brauchen.” (“You should have the skill to do anything, but you shouldn't need it.”)
I left Vienna August 18. My parents and Walter saw me off at the Westbahnhof.
It was the last time I saw my parents.