Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Second Descent into the Gates of Hell- Escape to Czechoslovakia

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The Second Descent into the Gates of Hell- Escape to Czechoslovakia

Upon release from Brandenburg Prison, my father made straight for Vienna to ponder what clouds were appearing on the horizon and what steps to take next. By now, much of the faculty of the Berlin Hochschule were themselves in the process of finding routes of escape, so his dream of a return to Berlin was shattered. Fortunately, he had been able to finish his studies with his faculty by correspondence and earned his ordination in absentia.
      Vienna in 1937 was not much less welcoming to Jews than Berlin. Austria had been under the dictatorship of Englebert Dolfuss in the 1930’s, who established his own
“AustroFascism” and,while banning both Nazi and Communist parties, allowed only his party to operate. He was assassinated by Austrian Nazis in an attempted putsch; in an ironic twist, Italy threatened to go to war against Germany to protect Austria’s independence!      
My father was concerned by the possibility of an impending German invasion of Austria, and feared for his safety not only as a Jew but also as a political personage and a former prisoner. While his brother, Munio, received a visa for Switzerland, my father did not and Munio decided to stay with Willi rather than leave him to fend for himself. By December 1937, the two brothers, leaving behind all their possessions, fled by train to Brno, the capital of historic Moravia, Czechoslovakia. It was a short train ride of perhaps an hour and a half, and Brno was a major industrial and trade hub.