Edith Jayne’s story is one of an intermarried family that successfully managed to flee the Nazi occupation of Austria after the harsh Anschluss. Jayne was born in Vienna, Austria on June 9, 1936. Her father, Rudolf Kurcz, was born in Manor, Hungary to a Jewish family and was raised in the faith. By 1910, him, his mother, and his sister moved to Austria, where he continued school and earned a medical degree from the University of Vienna. Until the annexation, Rudolf was an Austrian citizen and working doctor. Edith’s mother was born Maria Rixner (later Maria Kurcz) in Raspenau, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) to a Roman Catholic father and Jewish mother.
As her mother died very young, Edith was unsure if her grandmother participated in the Jewish faith. Nonetheless, Maria was raised Roman Catholic and moved to Austria at the close of the First World War. Maria attended Handelsschule in Vienna, where she earned training and a degree in needlework trades. She thereafter worked as a seamstress until marrying Rudolf.
By December 29, 1930, Edith’s parents married in Kormeuberg, Austria and lived in an apartment on Auhofstrasse. Her father held an internship at Franz-Josef Hospital and the couple welcomed their first child, Leiselotte, on June 18, 1932. In 1935, the family moved to Marzstrasse in the 14th District of Vienna. Nearby, her father held an office and worked on contract with the Austrian Krankeskasse, or state medical system.
At the hit of the Anschluss, Edith’s father was fired from his job and the family (Edith was born at this time) was made to leave their apartment by Nazi party officials. Temporarily, her parents moved into a hotel owned by family friends and Edith and her sister were sent to live with their maternal step-grandmother in Korneuberg. When the town was declared “judenrein”, Edith and her sister were forced to leave, going instead to stay with their paternal grandmother in Stockerau.
The family was eager to emigrate to the United States, and even had a sponsor in New York. When quota issues prevented the family from travelling abroad together, they opted instead to emigrate to Lisbon, Portugal on a temporary basis. The family lived in Lisbon from August of 1938 until an opportunity opened for them to travel to America in May of 1941. The move was successful, and the family lived in New York for the remainder of her parent’s lives.
After arriving, the family initially struggled financially as her mother was the sole income-earner through her work at a confectionary and later, in the dress industry. Her father attended a learning program to re-train and requalified under New York state law to practice medicine. He worked as a doctor from 1942 until his retirement. Edith attended primary and secondary school until leaving home for university in 1953, where she earned qualifications to become a teacher. She married in 1956 and had two children.
In 1967, her family moved to the United Kingdom. She separated from her first husband in 1972 and eventually remarried. Until her retirement in December of 1998, Edith taught at the University College of St. Mark & St. John in Plymouth. She visited Austria after the war a total of four times over many years. Each experience, she recalled, urged her to confront and lay to rest her traumatizing past, and connect with distant family members and family friends who survived the war.
Written by Carmellina Moersch