My life as an 13 year old in a well-to-do Viennese family was disrupted Christmas Eve 1938. My mother, Maria Koritschoner, suddenly packed us up and we hustled to board a train bound for Switzerland. Traveling under cover of a forged Hungarian passport, and fearing for our lives, my mother and I fled for safety.
Although our family was, at the time, practicing Catholics, Hitler’s anti-Semitic Nuremberg laws had decreed that our background marked us as Jewish. Politics had not been all important to my mother and certainly not to me, but it was well known by our circle of friends and relations that persecution was looming and flight was imperative. It follows therefore that my sanctuary from 1938 to 1946 in the care of a generous Swiss family saved my life.
Mother returned to Vienna to help my older sister Suzanne flee to Kenya, after which my mother soon fled to England and eventually made it to the USA. Other relatives and family friends also went to the USA as well as to many other countries. Paul Hasterlik, my elderly widowed, loving grandfather, wished to remain in his Austrian home, trying to enjoy his retirement years, but in 1942 he was deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp, in 1944 he died. These and other stories are preserved in this precious collection of letters, saved carefully by myself, my mother, aunt and other relatives and now by Florida State University.
I feel my designation as Holocaust Survivor carries with it a responsibility to spread the word about the history of our family of the times before during and after Hitler’s atrocious reign.
I encourage those who use this collection to become acquainted with my lovable grandfather, his daughters and granddaughters. Learn about his work, retirement, family ups and downs, recreation and vacations. See him as a man you would haveliked to have known and join my sadness as you envision his enforced deportation via train to his death. Other family members you can also learn about is Heimito von Doderer, Auguste Leopoldine Hasterlik, Maria Hasterlik, Thomas Heller, Ernst Kalmus, Julius Heinrich Koritschoner, Maria Felicitas Regenstreif, Suzanne Weiss, Ernst Weiss, and Eberhardt Wolff.
My life changed its course due to the tyrant, it is true, but it is grandfather Paul and other lost loved ones I ask you to remember.