Ingeborg R. came from an intermarried family that crumpled under the strain of Nazi occupation after the Anschluss. She was born in 1932 in Vienna, Austria to a Jewish father and Catholic mother. Her parents divorced in 1935 but remained living together until the Anschluss.

In March 1938, her younger sister was born- father unknown. By September of 1938, Ingeborg’s father had fled Austria for France. There, he worked for the Foreign Legion; as a result, Ingeborg and her mother were made to register with the police every month to ensure their presence in the country.

On her father’s side, her aunts and uncles, along with their families (thirteen people in all) were arrested and deported, sent to Mauthausen and Theresienstadt, and eventually murdered. Seeing this, Ingeborg’s mother fought with the Nazi government for a different status. Ingeborg was thereafter allowed to attend a certain school, Staudingergasse, with no required Star of David on the condition that she would only graduate elementary level.

With the stress of unemployment, her mother grew mentally ill, and remained so throughout the end and aftermath of the war. Both Ingeborg and her sister were sent to homes (different ones) in 1940. Ingeborg was made to do laundry and was deemed an “asocial Jewish being.” By ten years old, she had become severely sick with arthritis and paralysis. She spent a week in a hospital, and was later sent elsewhere: Lustkandlasse, a child collection point, and a “home for trainees”. Still known as “asocial” she was harshly treated in the home and made to “earn her keep.”

Until the war was nearing a close, Ingeborg was washing, cleaning, and spending her free time knitting bags to meet the required quota. Once a month, she was allowed to visit her grandmother. By the time she was fourteen, she was severely malnourished. Her sister, meanwhile, was sent from a children’s home to a foster family. Towards the end, Ingeborg and her sister were labeled as “Jewish rabble” by the SS officers nearby and, out of fear, fled to their grandmother in the 20th District, Rauscherstrasse 5, in the middle of the night. They remained in their grandmother’s cellar until the war ended. In December 1945, Ingeborg’s mother was admitted to the Sanatorium “Am Steinhof.”

Ingeborg received her first job in 1947 as a saleslady, and her father returned to Austria. Though life “began anew”, Ingeborg noted carrying around a constant fear of “fire, gunfire, cellars, darkness and persecution” throughout her life. In March of 1956, she moved to Switzerland with her husband.

 

Written by Carmellina Moersch

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