Memories of my last months in Vienna
By Relly Natt, written July 21st,
It is now 8 weeks that I arrived in America.
America ! what this means. At times I can not even comprehend it as yet. I would like so
much to put on paper the happenings of the recent past, but I doubt that I'll succeed.
Well, I'll try.
On February 12th, 1938 I went to
a dance which I enjoyed very much. But when I danced with a fellow and I asked him why he
was so sad all evening, he said: "Don't you remember - today it is just 4 years that
the Social Democrats were defeated so badly". The next day I read in the newspaper
that Schuschnigg (Chancellor of Austria in 1938) met with Hitler on Feb. 12th. I don't
know why, but I became very scared. This day, after the nice memories of the day before,
seemed terrible to me. It was said that everything would remain as it had been - but it
surely did not. Every day one saw more Nazis in the streets.
Zeiss-Inquart (who later became governor of
Austria under Hitler) now addressed the people in his speeches "Dear
National-Socialists". On Sunday, February 24th, Hitler spoke on the radio to the
people of Austria. On this day Jim, my friend Trude and I made a beautiful trip to Sopron
in Hungary. To-day all this seems to me like a glimpse into the future. Trude said:
"Now I use my passport for the first time - to-day to Hungary but the next time will
be to Morocco" and I said: "And I to America". And so it came true. Today I
am in America and Trude is going to Morocco. Three months ago I would have laughed at
anyone who would have predicted what happened.
After Hitler spoke Schuschnigg came on and
emphasized that nothing would change. But after this speech a tremendous tension was in
the air. Whenever I went to the office I encountered huge crowds of youngsters bearing
Swastikas, although this was still against the law. Day and night, the screaming of
"Sieg Heil" was incessant. I had a tremendous fear, but still could not believe
that Hitler really would come into Vienna. A few days later a desperate Schuschnigg spoke
to the people from Innsbruck, asking them to vote 3 days later. We again became optimistic
but did not realize that this would be for a few days only. In the evening of March 11th
I was returning home from the office by trolley, when an old woman, her voice hoarse from
yelling "Sieg Heil" shouted "There won't be an election". Shortly
after I arrived home Jim too returned and said that something strange must have happened,
because the mood all over had turned unbearably tense.
It was Friday night and the candlesticks
with the lit candles were on the table. We were all sitting down for dinner when we turned
on the radio and suddenly heard, Schuschnigg's voice. He said that Hitler had given him a
6 hour ultimatum and that the German Army was already marching in, and that the Austrian
Army should not offer any resistance. His last words were: "God bless you, my
Austria!" We were utterly stunned. We could not fathom that this was really
happening, that Hitler would come to Vienna, with all the horrors we had heard about but
could not imagine. And all this would happen to us as well. My mother cried and we were
wringing our hands, since we could not comprehend what was going on.
From the street we could hear the constant
well-known yelling "Sieg Heil Heil Hitler", but what before was a call to
revolution now became a scream of victory, which was just impossible to describe.
I could not resist going out onto the
balcony and saw huge columns of soldiers marching by with their swastika armbands, singing
Nazi songs. Jim and I 1 listened to the radio until 2 A.M. The population was simply
ecstatic. We were wondering whether their voices would give out from all the screaming.
In spite of all warnings, I went to the
office the next morning. On my way, I saw huge crowds tearing down the flags of the old
Austria, and replacing them with the Swastika. I was just about able to get through when
troops of youngsters marched by, yelling "Jews Perish". During the next days
everything we had feared started to come true, but much worse. Jewish women were arrested
and forced to wash the swastikas off the streets. All cars and motorcycles owned by Jews
were confiscated and stores and offices belonging to Jews were appropriated and turned
over to Aryans. Sunday it became worse, all Jewish stores were marked "Jew" with
red paint. From the 2nd district in Vienna all the old Jewish men had to march to the
Prater (the amusement park), where they were forced to dance to the amusement of the
In front of the Jewish stores, Jews had to
stand with big signs "Aryans, don't buy from a Jew!". In the Jewish restaurants
the Jews had to amuse the crowds by being forced to wash the floors and the windows. In
one Restaurant in the 7th district a guest refused to comply and slapped one of the Nazis.
The whole gang of Nazis then jumped him and beat him up until the blood was running down.
He then was forced to lick up his own blood from the floor and afterward drink the
contents of the spittoons. I don't know what happened to him thereafter.
The Jewish children were all dismissed from
school and my brother Fred, who was in high school at the time, was sent home as well.
I left Vienna on May 10th.