Edith Rechter Levy
b. Vienna, Austria,1930
In the long, cold Vienna winter, it was often barely daylight when we got up for school. Nevertheless, I did not mind, for even as a first grader I was an avid learner and loved school. I was also an early riser, so I was always eager to start the day.
Yet this time when my mother came to wake me, I had difficulty opening my eyes. I remember rubbing them groggily and peering at the window. It was pitch-black outside, not a glimpse of dawn. I pointed this out to my mother:
“Mutti, ” I said, “are you sure it's already time to get up for school? It's still so dark outside!”
“Get dressed quickly, ” my mother replied in a soothing voice, and she started to help me dress. This was unusual and, sleepy or not, it caught my attention. Mom as a rule did not believe in pampering her children when it came to routine chores such as dressing for school. Becoming more alert, I noticed that Mom was somehow different, more subdued, less matter-of-fact than she usually was in the morning. I now saw some light filtering in from the side and base of the kitchen door, which was slightly ajar. My sleepy mind registered this as being normal. But then I heard voices, male voices, and this once more was out of the ordinary. I knew something was definitely amiss when I distinguished my father's voice for, as a rule, Father left for work long before we children were awakened.
I finished dressing as fast as I could. When I went into the kitchen, my older brother was already there, fully clad. My father and two Austrian policemen were engaged in what seemed a friendly conversation. The clock said 2:00A.M.
My mother helped me with my coat and hat, and we all left together. Outside a storm was raging. The wind howled, the rain came down in sheets, drenching my face in seconds. One policeman took me by the hand and helped me along, shielding me with his body when one of the heavier wind gusts nearly lifted me off the ground. I felt a sense of security under the protection of this strong officer of the law, and I bravely tried to keep pace and march into the howling wind. The officer, however, had a less cheerful attitude.
“How cruel!” Addressing my father, he attempted to overshout the wind: “I wouldn't even force a dog out into this weather, ” he proclaimed angrily, “much less women and children!”