The year before my father left his home in Vienna, Austria he had a decisive experience with Nazi Sturmabteilung (Storm Troopers, known as "Brownshirts"). As he told the story to me, the Brownshirts rounded up a large group of young men from the streets of Vienna, including him. They were taken to a Jewish Synagogue which had recently been destroyed. They were made to clean up the site of the destruction. Afterwards, the boys were all instructed to drop their pants. The circumcised boys were all taken away in a truck by the Brownshirts. My father had not been circumcised and so was spared the fate of those boys.
Shortly after that he began his efforts to get out of Nazi Europe.
The following is a translation of a document written by a man in the Austrian (Nazi) government who had just interviewed my 17 year-old father for the purpose of obtaining a very scarce (for Jews) visa to emigrate to America.
Registration Office of the Israelite Religious Community in Vienna
Fischer Peter Thomas
Both parents are divorced and remarried. Applicant is temporarily supported by his own mother. He himself was a publisher's employee, since September this year. In his position, since he was an apprentice, he received about RM [ReichsMark] 70 per month. Lives in a sublet, pays RM 25 rent there. Obtains unemployment benefits.
Requester is the son of the company owner of Gramaphon Brunswick [Brunswick Records]. He stated that he had repeatedly tried to get the travel money from him, but the letters and telegrams were returned undeliverable.
He also presented a recommendation from Stefan Zweig. Makes a very favorable impression, one can believe his statements.
Card: N.York Rm 350,-
Guild Master Emigration Office: (not yet registered there) Rm 150,-
Application still required: Rm 200,-
November 18, 1938 Alexander Kokisch
[dated and signed]
This is my father’s identity card at the time, indicating that he is employed in outside sales (im aussendienst).
This is the actual document from which the above translation was made:
Mostly because of the recommendation letter from the famed author, Stefan Zweig, he was able to get a visa and escape the coming holocaust. He arrived in New York City in 1939.
He received a telegram from his family in Vienna. This is the original created in Austria, which he later was given by his mother after she made it safely to America. It says "Good luck Peter."