Lives Interrupted, 1938–1941
Viennese Jews experienced the Nazi policies of anti-Semitism when the German army marched into Austria in March 1938.
After the Anschluss (German–Austrian union) the new government barred Jews from schools and universities, closed their businesses, and looted and confiscated their homes, forcing them to leave or face deportation. Many Austrian Jews tried to emigrate, but the intricacies of this process were daunting, with complicated paperwork and tight deadlines.
Near the end of 1938 the Gottliebs finally succeeded in getting their daughter Lony to America. Once in the United States Lony made vigorous efforts to save her parents. Her imploring letter to U.S. government appointee Sidney Hillman in 1941 indicates her devotion.
Jude badge, about 1938
The Nazis in Vienna required Jews to wear a yellow Star of David to publicly identify them and single them out in their community.
Lony sent this postcard to her parents while she was on the S.S. Washington en route to America.
Letter from Lony Gottlieb to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, December 6, 1939
To get her parents out of Austria, Lony went through the normal immigration channels in America. But because her father was born in a part of the old Austrian Empire recently ceded to Romania, both parents were subject to the small quotas assigned to that country. In this letter she petitioned—unsuccessfully—for their immigration on a preference quota visa.
Letter from Lony Gottlieb to Sidney Hillman, April 16, 1941
Lony addressed this letter to Sidney Hillman because he had an influential position in President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration and was strongly opposed to Nazi Germany. She hoped he would support her parents’ immigration based on her father’s usefulness as a chemist to the American war effort. She said: “Shall I live in liberty and, at the same time, be unable to safe [sic] them?” There is no record of Hillman’s response.