South Carolina Council on the Holocaust

“The work that the SC Council on the Holocaust does is so important for our students in South Carolina. Having a chance to discuss and reflect on the past gives students the tools to be better citizens for our future.”

--Molly Spearman, State Superintendent of Education

The Survivors' Stories -- A Virtual Library

TRUDE . . . .

Trude Describes the German Takeover

The day Hitler marched in, I was on my way to gym class. I wasn't allowed to go by myself. My parents always had somebody to go with me. The whole city was in an uproar because Austrians were going to vote on whether to be part of Germany or not. I did not see one swastika on the way. I saw signs, armbands, and many different-colored flags for the Communists, the Social Democrats, and other political parties. Everybody was yelling for their party.

A half an hour later when I came out of the class, the city was a sea of swastikas. Every building had a swastika flag. Every policeman pulled out a swastika armband. Everything else was gone. It was such a shock to go in without a swastika showing, and come out to go home and every synagogue was burning. When I got home, my father said, "Our passports are ready, let's go."

My mother said, "Are you crazy? What do you mean let's go? This is where we live. This is where we make our living. This is where our money is. When do we go, and what do we do, and how do we leave everything behind?"

I was going to high school at that time. From that day on I was never called on in class again. Then I had to quit. So at fifteen and a half my education ended. After that things changed very quickly. We had help in the house and she had to leave. Nobody under 45 that wasn't Jewish could work for a Jewish family. Then all the non-Jews who worked for us in our stores had to leave. We had Jewish young people who were our friends helping out in the store. They had nothing else to do.

The first thing that happened to me personally was that Austrian Nazis came to ask me to wash the streets with my mother. We went to a place where the Nazis had painted Stars of David near the offices of Jewish organizations. The Nazis had marked all businesses belonging to Jews . They told us to scrub off the paint.

Many neighborhood people stood watching. I knew a lot of them. I had grown up in that neighborhood. They all spoke to me, but I didn't say very much. I was afraid to say the wrong thing. Then all of a sudden the Austrian Nazis sent away all the other people and kept me there. I was a young girl, fifteen years old. They started surrounding me and touching me. Two German officers came up. They saw what was going on and they broke it up. I was very lucky. I went home and cried for 36 hours. I was very brave while it was going on, but I was very frightened.

Trude in Austria

It was Kristallnacht and the Austrian supporters of the Nazis were given a free hand. They could do with the Jews as they wished. My father was still going to work at his store, but it was getting kind of dangerous for us. The Nazis supporters were robbing people. They were coming in and taking everything from Jews that they could. One day just after my father left for work, I got a call from a girlfriend. She said, "Don't let your father leave," and she hung up.

I didn't understand what she meant. All of a sudden my father came back. He said, "I'm lost. This is it. Austrian policemen are downstairs arresting people. I knew the man arresting me; I asked him if I could turn over my keys to the family."

He said, "OK, I'll wait for you."

My mother ran next door. A very elderly Jewish lady and her son were living there. She asked them to let my father hide there. They agreed. So my father went in there. When they came for him, my mother said, "He left this morning."

Then they went next door. They took the woman's son, but she didn't tell them that my father was there.

I went down to the street and called a cab. We all got in. My father hid in the bottom of the cab. The cab driver did not give him away. We went to our store. We went in and locked it from the inside. We stayed in there 28 hours without lights or toilets. Austrian Nazis came and knocked. We didn't move. Outside we heard a lot of shouting. We heard voices, but we didn't know what was going on. They were looking for my father and for a young man who was hiding with us.

We told ghost stories that night to make the time go by, and we slept on the store tables a bit. My girlfriend called us. We had a telephone, and she told us when it was over.

It wasn't that easy to come out because they had put a swastika seal on the keyhole of our store. We could see it when we looked out of the keyhole. If you tore a swastika, it was certain death. It was like defacing something. It was up to me to get us out without breaking the seal. I did it very carefully and gently.

We came back out. We survived that night, but it was a horrendous, horrendous night. A lot of Jewish people disappeared that night. They took away so many.