Note: This is a personal space for writing now. Older posts on frugality remain; frugality is a timeless practice.
I know so little about life in Vienna, the city my mother's family left in 1938. On election night, I felt an increasing sense of panic and fear. I said to my family: Perhaps this is 1% of what my grandparents felt in the years before they left Vienna, while in Belgrade, and even when they arrived at Ellis Island.
Although my mother's photos were all lost during her move to Florida, her cousin's widow gave me some photos. I have a thumb-sized photo of Herbert and his parents getting ready to board their ship for America. And then I remember an exhibit of anonymous newspaper photos that we saw in Amsterdam: the one that haunts me was of an upper-middle class young Jewish couple, she in a fur coat, he in a suit, being turned away by immigration officials in Cuba in the late 30s. The look of horror on their faces. They knew what they were in for.
Sadly, I only have fragments. The people who did remember have been gone for many years. My mother mostly says she remembers nothing. Many years ago she said "We had a chauffeur to take me to school." When I expressed amazement, she airily replied, "Oh, everyone did."
This comment has given my husband the impression that my mother's family was extremely wealthy. That is not the case. They were middle-class in a time when middle-class families had household help, as my husband's family in the midwest also did.
A few months ago, a thought popped into my head. Why a chauffeur? My grandparents lived right across from the Freud Museum at Bergasse 19. Surely in that densely populated residential area, there were schools within walking distance.
Then the next thought: Was my mother driven to school so she would not have to walk? Then a worse thought: Did my mother have to wear a yellow star?
I have not had the courage to ask my mother these questions. She is 86 and seems to be fading. Perhaps I will ask. I do want to know.
From Viennacitytours (!)