Die letzten Zeugen - Das Buc



Diese Geschichte wurde im Projekt "Die Letzten Zeugen" erstellt.

"I now feel differently about the Austrians"

Susanne Freeman writes about her feelings, thoughts and experiences regarding her visit to Austria in May 2008.

I am sending you some of my feelings, thoughts and experiences regarding the week in Vienna. Firstly I was very pleased to have been chosen in the small group of Australians to be invited to Vienna. I was very lucky to have left Vienna at age 2 years with my parents in 1939. We were fortunate to gain entry to Australia where we have spent all our lives. Unfortunately 8 of our close family members were not so fortunate and perished in the Holocaust.

Although I was obviously too young to remember my early childhood in Vienna, I was always told many stories about Vienna and about what happened since the Anschluss. My mother who is 97 years of age is still alive and in reasonably good health, living in Sydney, Australia. She still talks about Vienna. She often tells me how she loved Vienna and would have never left if it would not have been for the Nazis. She would have loved to have come to Vienna with me but her age prevented this.

The week in Vienna was an unforgettable experience. I came with my husband. We were extremely moved during the ceremony in Parliament as well as the commemoration in the Helden Platz which followed. We both went to a school in Wels (Franziskannerinnen). There we spent two memorable days talking to the school children, who seemed to be very interested to hear my stories. I told them how my mother had told me that I had been refused permission to play in the sandpit in the park where we lived (am Hundsturm). A child had harassed me there and called me "Jew". Interestingly I returned to that park during the week in Vienna. The sandpit is still there although the park is now in much better condition than it was in 1939. I took a photograph of myself sitting in the sandpit and took it back to Australia to show my mother who was very moved by that. We lived in an apartment block facing this park and I also brought photos of this building for her to see. My grandmother had a poultry shop on the ground floor of this block and this shop still exists although in a different form.

I also told the children of a story my parents told me about a nun who saved our lives. My father was arrested by the police in 1939 for being a Jew and taken to the police station. In 1933 he had had a major stomach operation and used this as a plea against being detained. The police officer asked him for a certificate to prove his statement. He went to the hospital where the Catholic Nun who had nursed him was still working. She wrote him a certificate to confirm the major operation. When he read the certificate, he found that she had put a recent date on it. He said to her "thank you but this is the wrong date". Where upon she replied "do you think that I sat by your bed and prayed for you for days on end and that I would now allow them to take you away?"

Generally the school children in Wels were very receptive to my stories and asked me many questions. They had previously created a very moving display at the Heldenplatz on either side of the panel which I had provided with my biographical details. They had strung yellow stars made of shiny cardboard on a rope. On each star was written in thick black pen the name of one of my close family members who perished in the Holocaust. This was an extremely moving gesture.

In addition the headmaster of the school in Wels, as well as many of his staff members, was very involved with the project. The headmaster gave me a beautiful speech of introduction in front of the whole school. The essence of it was that one must act against evil early as soon as it appears. Waiting longer makes response very difficult. He was of course referring to the rise of national socialism.

An interesting thing is that the school teacher in Wels, Susanne Famler, and I have become very close friends since our meeting in Vienna, she said that she chose me from a list of names because my initials were the same as hers! My name is Susanne (Susi) Freeman. My first name spelt exactly as hers! She says that we have become "soul- mates". She is also planning to visit me in Australia. She even visited me on the Wolfgangsee where we were staying after we left Vienna. She has a particular interest in modern European history. In addition, she is emotionally involved in the Holocaust because her grandfather was killed in Mauthausen Concentration Camp because he was an active Social Democrat.

Another interesting event happened to me when we were travelling in a train in Austria. A woman who was about 60 years of age, a retired social worker, began a conversation with us. I told her why we were here. She had read about the project "A Letter to the Stars". Although she was a complete stranger she offered to meet us in Salzburg and show us around! She obviously just wanted to be part of this project of making amends.

Since my return to Australia I have been back at work (I am a dermatologist). However I have spent a great deal of time thinking and talking about our time in Vienna. I had been to Vienna on two occasions in the past because of medical conferences. I always felt uncomfortable because of the feelings I had regarding the Holocaust. I now feel differently about the Austrians. I believe that the new
generation of young people have been educated against racism and discrimination. I believe that one cannot blame them for the sins of their forbears. Hence my husband and I are now looking forward to visiting Austria again in the future with a different feeling about the people.

Another important feature of the week in Vienna was that we were able to hear the stories of many other survivors who came from different countries. In addition I want to mention the warmth, support and helpfulness of the "A Letter to the Stars"-Team which
was outstanding.

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