Die letzten Zeugen - Das Buc



Diese Geschichte wurde im Projekt "3808 - Einladung" erstellt.

Childhood in Vienna

Stella Bruckenstein-Bengel, Melanie Ölbaum and Herta Griffel-Baitch are three Jewish women we had the opportunity to meet in Vienna to listen to their story about their life during the NS regime.

Stella was the first who started telling her story. A reporter who was doing research about the NS regime contacted her three years ago, because he wanted to write an article about survivors. She thought she had forgotten everything, but then she got to know Herta who could help her to remember details of her past in Vienna.
Before the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler, Stella and her parents were living happily in Vienna. Stella could go wherever she wanted and had even the chance to meet the Chancellors Engelbert Dollfuß and Kurt Schuschnigg. Her father was the owner of a small shop at the Ringstraße.  
One day in March 1938, when she was 11 years old, she went to the shop at the Ringstraße to see her father, but instead of him she only saw members of the SA and Hitler and the people who were greeting those with the “Hitlergruß”. Stella did not understand this ceremony, but she understood even less why Kurt Schuschnigg was caused to fall by the SS.
The next day at school she was not allowed to take part in the lesson, but was told to stand in the corner: “Jews must stand in the corner!” This repeated in the next days and some weeks later she changed school. Then it got worse there, too. The Jews had to use their own classroom and then they had to attend their own grammar school. It got worse and worse all the time.
In November 1938 her father brought her to school one day and went to work in his shop. He gave her a kiss and nobody could know that this was the last time she saw her father. After school she went home, but her parents were not at home any more. So she went to her father’s shop and was a witness when the police forced some men to go with them. She could find her mother later and got to know that her father was one of them. He was taken away because he was a Jew. She never saw him again. She returned home with her mother, but when she wanted to go into their flat the key was taken away by the police. So they moved to the neighbours. Two families were now living in a small flat. The police came back very soon and forced Stella’s mother to give them the key of the shop. Her mother was very angry, but then she gave the key to the police. Stella had to help them to clear out the shop. Then the police destroyed the interior. Stella and her mother were now helpless and did not know what to do any more. Then they decided to ask the Gestapo for help. But they did not get any help, but their passports were taken away.
Later they learned from the Jewish community that her father had been brought to the concentration camp in Dachau. They could not help him as they had no passports any more, but one day they got his ashes back.

Melanie did not tell very much, but what she told was also really depressing. She was born in Vienna as an only child. At the beginning her life as a Jew was very beautiful. She went to a “normal” school and could live a “normal” live. But it got worse slowly. The Jews had e.g. to leave the pavement when a German wanted to pass. They had to clean the pavement then. Some people disappeared and were never seen again and nobody knew what had happened to them. One day her father was terribly beaten by some unknown people and brought back then. In Germany there was a law saying that people could do with a Jew what ever they wanted and so nobody had to suffer from any consequences. But there were also still Germans who tired to help the Jews. When the Jews did not get food any more, Melanie was sometimes given some milk by a German. Later her family was sent to different concentration camps. She was lucky because she had the chance to emigrate in the USA. Only 1000 children could get visa for the USA and she was one of them. The American families that took care of the children only took children that were physically and physiologically healthy, if a child was very sad because it had to leave, it did not have the chance to emigrate the USA. But Melanie was lucky. It was a great problem for her to learn English, but she did it successfully. Today she cannot speak German any more. She has forgotten her mother tongue. Melanie is the only one of her family that survived.
She thinks that Hitler had the chance to gain influence as the economic situation was so bad. The Jews were persecuted as they were rich and had everything many people could not afford to buy.
Melanie came back to Vienna in 1987. She wanted to see the house of her family but this was not possible. She has “difficult” memories, being in Vienna is not a pleasure for her. She calls her participation a “productive reason”.

Herta spent a lot of her childhood in a foster home. She was so young that she cannot remember much of this time. She thinks that the time of the NS lead to a loss of identity and to many physical problems, but today she is happily married.            
She takes part in this project because she wants to help that such time will never happen again. At the beginning she was not interested in taking part, but now she knows that many survivors take part and she was convinced to take part. She came back to Vienna in 1973, not as a survivor that wants to deal with her past but as tourist that wants to see a town. Nobody knew her.

Julia Feil, BG/BRG Knittelfeld, Mai 2008

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