One Austrian Jew Escapes Certain Death at Sachsenhausen
Walter A. Singer’s story is told at the Cohen Center for Holocaust Studies (Keene State College, New Hampshire). Here is an excerpt:
According to Singer, Austrian Jews were aware of their danger long before German Jews. They sailed on a small, crowded fishing boat that carried 72 refugees. Latvia, however, refused to admit so many Jews at one time, so although the boat was anchored in the port of Riga for three days while the Jews of the city pleaded with officials, they ended up having to sail back to Szczecin. With hindsight, Singer now feels they were fortunate, because Latvian Jews were to fare very badly later.
The Cohen Center website comments, “It is often asked: ‘Why didn’t Jews just leave?’ This is a simplistic question with very complicated answers… By asking the question ,we miss the fundamental point that these were citizens of a modern nation-state. Why should they leave their homes?…If they decided to leave, how would they go? Where would they go? What was required of them if they did decide to uproot themselves? The attachments [in the Singer Collection] will testify to the extreme difficulty faced by would-be Jewish emigrants from the Reich and potential immigrants to the United States. When looking at what was required, it is important to remember that 1938 was a time before Xerox machines and e-mail.”
On the question of why more Jews didn’t leave Europe, Yad Vashem has this to say:
The most straightforward answer is that they simply had nowhere to go. For the Jews of Europe, as noted in Chaim Weizmann’s famous remark, the world was divided into two: places where they could not live and places where they could not go. The restrictive immigration practices of the major overseas countries vis-à-vis Jewish refugees reflected a global climate of economic protectionism tinged with xenophobia and outright anti-Semitism.
Walter Singer was one of the luckier ones who found freedom even after internment at Sachsenhausen concentration camp. His wife had to bribe Gestapo officials and provide proof of her travel arrangements out of Europe. She showed them two steam ship tickets to New York. Her husband was released, and upon returning to Vienna, they obtained American visas. Within a few months, they were safe in the United States. “Of his wife, Walter said: ‘First of all, I loved her. Second of all, I owed her my life … so I try to fight twice as hard'” (From an interview in The Monadnock Observer, July 21, 1984, Cohen Center for Holocaust Studies).
Never Again! wishes to pause in remembrance of the 65,000 Austrian Jews who perished in the Holocaust.