Michaela Raggam-Blesch. Journal of Genocide Research. Volume 21, Issue 3, 2019.
A few years after the end of the Second World War, Mathilde Hahn, a woman of Catholic descent, took her own life. After having stood by her Jewish husband and child through years of ostracization and hardship, enabling their survival during the Nazi regime, she simply could not go on any longer: According to her daughter, the degradation had worn her out. Sometime earlier, already in November of 1945, Oskar Baader committed suicide. He too had upheld the sole responsibility of protecting his Jewish wife during the Nazi years in Vienna, while being deprived of his position as a high school teacher due to his Jewish spouse. In the fall of 1944 he had been drafted to a forced labour deployment in the Organization Todt (OT), where Baader—a veteran officer of the First World War—endured the demeaning treatment of his OT-commanders. According to his son Gerhard, this turned out to be the ultimate humiliation he would never recover from: “He only came home to die.” He found his final resting place in the Baumgarten cemetery on the outskirts of Vienna.
After the war, intermarried families were considered the privileged ones, those who had been lucky enough to remain in Vienna while everyone else was being deported, most of them to their imminent deaths. Compared to the horrors of the camps, they were the ones to whom “nothing had happened.” In this article, I highlight the daily life of “mixed marriages” and their families during the years of the Nazi regime in Vienna and the hardships they endured. While each of them formed the nucleus of an “emotional community” (Rosenwein), they did not necessarily form bonds of solidarity with each other during times of deep emotional upheaval. By focusing on the biographies of three families, I will provide insights into individual responses to persecution and their interactions with their Jewish and non–Jewish environment over a longer period of time, including the pre- and postwar period. Since this article is based on ordinary people, there is little official documentation available to rely on, apart from family documents. Therefore, the main primary sources for this paper are oral history interviews conducted with the children of three families in the late 1990s and early 2000s as well as a short autobiographic manuscript. While oral history interviews are historical sources produced by the research interest of organizations or individuals decades after the events took place, often containing inaccuracies regarding historical data, their subjective nature can be made productive with a clear awareness about which research questions can be answered. Whereas exact dates, the chronology of persecution measures and other determinants of the historical context can be researched through other sources, oral history interviews and testimonies are particularly valuable sources for exploring coping strategies as well as aspects of identity and belonging. The high demands on survivors such as stating the correct colour of uniforms or naming exact dates—sometimes even in settings where they had been lacking the means to trace time—has been shown with court testimonies in postwar trials against perpetrators. At the same time, even “objective” sources such as contemporary historic documents were created in a specific context with an intrinsic agenda that requires contextualization as much as the specific setting of oral history interviews. The reconstruction of events of the past from the perspective of the present sometimes allows sensitive topics that had been difficult to communicate in earlier years to emerge with grater candour in later testimonies, as Christopher Browning has shown. Following Saul Friedländer’s concept of writing the history of the Shoah as an integrated history, the persecuted are taken seriously as individuals and their perspective is taken into account as much as the actions of the perpetrators. Autobiographical sources and oral history interviews reveal insight into individual survival strategies and represent an important corrective to the sources produced by the Nazi state authorities. They offer the chance to discover small acts of resistance or self-assertion that were not reflected in the sources created by the perpetrators. Victims thereby cease to appear as an anonymous collective and their agency and strategies of survival become visible. Furthermore, the microhistorical lens, as Claire Zalc and Tal Bruttmann have pointed out, encourages us to take a closer look at the particularities of individual biographies in order to gain a deeper understanding not only of regional differences, but also of the multi-layered realities of the Holocaust.
While this paper focuses on Vienna, the situation of intermarried families is comparable with Germany, since most edicts constricting the daily life of this group pertained to all “mixed marriages” and their families in the Altreich (Germany) and the Ostmark (Austria). Nevertheless, regional differences between cities—depending on the local Nazi officials in charge—could at times be significant, as Monica Kingreen has shown with the deportation of Jewish members of “mixed marriages” in Frankfurt am Main.
Conversely, early Holocaust research considered the persecution of Mischlinge and “mixed marriages” as marginal. Only in the late 1980s—starting with the first publications of Ursula Büttner and Jeremy Noakes, followed by the comprehensive study by Beate Meyer and the publication of James F. Tent—the fate of intermarried families during the Nazi regime gained increasing attention. In addition, the publication of Victor Klemperers diaries, who survived in a “mixed marriage” in Dresden, further sparked public and scholarly interest in the subject matter.
In this article, three intermarried families in Vienna will be examined during the time span from the interwar years through the Nazi oppression to the immediate postwar period. All three families led secular lives with varying ties to their Jewish and non–Jewish environment. After the so-called Anschluss to Nazi Germany in March 1938, intermarried families along with the Jewish population experienced immediate discrimination and ostracism. This article aims to outline how the Nazi takeover affected these families in their day-to-day encounters with non–Jews as well as their relationships with friends and family members. “Mixed marriages” and their families navigated between Jewish and non-Jewish worlds, usually not fully belonging to any side. Thus, most of them experienced social isolation and a lacking sense of belonging, while others—mostly younger generations—sometimes found new forms of community.
Political Turmoil and Pervasive Antisemitism: The Interwar Years in Vienna, 1918–1938
The three Jewish protagonists that are at the focus of this paper stemmed from families that had moved to Vienna at the beginning of the twentieth century. While some of them came from more observant backgrounds, they all had somewhat distanced themselves from religion before they chose to marry a non–Jewish partner.
Cecilia Adler, born in 1887, was the eldest daughter of ten siblings of a Moravian Jewish family that moved to Vienna around 1900. After the early death of her father, a tailor, Cecilia helped her mother raise her younger siblings. Later on, she caught up with her education, studied for her final exams in evening classes and became a university student in the 1920s. During these years, the Vienna University was a hotbed for antisemitism. At the university, Cecilia met the Catholic Oskar Baader, a promising student of English literature, who was about to start an academic career. After their engagement, however, Oskar Baader was excluded from the influential German Academic Anglicist Association (DAA) due to his Jewish fiancé, since the DAA had an “Aryan paragraph” in their membership statutes. This put an end to his professional aspirations. He became a teacher at a Gymnasium (high school) instead. Their son Gerhard, born in 1928, was baptized after birth, yet grew up in a secular family with a strong socialist identity. While they always had a Christmas tree, Gerhard and his mother Cecilia also regularly attended family celebrations at the Adler family home during the Jewish holidays. The Adler family upheld Jewish traditions, which was not an expression of their religious adherence, since most of Cecilia’s siblings were also supporters of the Social Democratic party and her sister Henriette had married a non–Jew as well. The Baaders, as Social Democrats, were able to get an apartment in one of the new community buildings of the ground-breaking Red Vienna public housing projects. However, since their building was located in the bourgeois district of Hietzing, they hardly had any close contact with people in the neighbourhood—apart from an occasional playmate of Gerhard, who lived in the same building. They mostly socialized with other Social Democrats, who usually did not live in the area. While some of them might have been of Jewish descent, Gerhard Baader as a child perceived their circle of friends mainly as non–Jewish. The political changes in the wake of Austrofascism and the prohibition of the Social Democratic party in 1934 already affected the Baader family in the years leading up to the Nazi takeover in 1938. Gerhard Baader considers this time as the end of his childhood, since the family, whose allegiance lay with the forbidden Social Democrats, already had to be careful in their social encounters during the Dollfuss/Schuschnigg era.
Albert Hahn, born 1892, stemmed from a Hungarian Jewish family. In the 1920s he was also enrolled at the Vienna University as a law student. Due to its high numbers of Jewish students, the faculties of law and medicine were particularly targeted during antisemitic riots. During this time, Albert became a member of the Zionist student fraternity Kadimah, which was founded to fight back antisemitism and gain pride in Jewish identity. This experience proved to be formative for Hahn. Even after his marriage to the Catholic Mathilde Ruttner, he maintained a strong Jewish and Zionist identity, which was somewhat exceptional among intermarried families. Their daughter Judith was born in 1929. Albert Hahn made a point of sending her to a private girls’ school, the famous Schwarzwaldschule, where most of Judith’s classmates were of Jewish descent, in order to spare her the experience of antisemitism in the public school system. The family only had Jewish friends and Judith also joined the Zionist sports club Hakoah as a member of the swimming team.
Moritz Freiberger, born in 1881, was one of the eldest siblings of seven, when his father passed away in the late 1890s. In order to help support his family, he started working in one of Vienna’s larger textile companies Blau. After getting his textile license he started his own wholesale business in yarn and fabrics and got married to the Catholic Mimi Löw. His widowed mother, however, never accepted her Catholic daughter-in-law, even though Mimi converted to Judaism prior to the wedding. As a result, Moritz Freiberger distanced himself from his Jewish roots and the family was rarely invited to Jewish family celebrations. This was not an unusual occurrence. In fact, most intermarried families faced reservations or even ostracism from non–Jewish as well as from Jewish family members. Moritz and Mimi Freiberger’s daughter Lotte, born 1923, therefore grew up in an acculturated Jewish family, who socialized mostly with non-Jewish circles. While receiving the obligatory religious education at school, she never attended a synagogue service together with her parents. Instead, the family celebrated Christmas, while the Jewish holidays were not kept. Compared to the Baader and Hahn family, the Freibergers belonged to the majority of Austrian intermarried families without strong religious or political convictions and with already loosened ties to the Jewish community.
Life Changed Overnight: Intermarried Families after the Anschluss
On the eve of 10 March 1938, Moritz and Mimi Freiberger were glued to the radio, together with their fifteen-year-old daughter Lotte, listening with avid attention to Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg’s radio address, when he uttered the famous farewell “God bless Austria”—yielding to the superior force of the Nazi regime. At this moment, it was clear, even to the teenage girl Lotte that something bad was about to happen, even though at this point nobody could really have fully anticipated the extent of what was about to take shape.
The Anschluss to Nazi Germany radically changed the lives of the Jewish population and intermarried families. While anti–Jewish measures had progressed in Germany over the course of five years, they were implemented in Austria overnight. Images of the euphoric welcoming of Nazi troops by wide segments of the annexed Austrian population were contrasted by the sudden emergence of violence against Jews, most distinctly documented in photos of so-called Reibpartien (“cleaning squads”)—Jews kneeling on the ground and forced to scrub pro-Austrian slogans written in oil paint from the streets of Vienna, while being surrounded by gleeful onlookers. The violence of the Anschluss pogrom was a uniquely Austrian phenomenon: Not until the November Pogrom did the persecution in the Altreich (Germany) reach the levels of brutality seen in Austria. While the Jewish members of the Baader, Hahn and Freiberger family were lucky not to be caught in one of these events, they were nevertheless aware of the omnipresence of this humiliating practice and tried to avoid certain areas of the city.
The Nuremberg Laws were retroactively out into effect as of 15 September 1935. Therefore, conversion to another religion after the Anschluss had no effect on a person’s “racial status.” The laws immediately affected intermarried families, who were a particular offense to the Nazi regime, since they betrayed the concept of a clear separation of a German Volksgemeinschaft of “Aryans” and the Reich’s Jewish population. While the Nuremberg Laws were a first attempt to define this group, questions about how to categorize and treat “mixed marriages” and their families continued to challenge National Socialist ideology and created discord among bureaucrats and policymakers. Efforts to introduce legal measures to dissolve “mixed marriages” were, however, met with caution by party leaders. Nevertheless, local Nazi authorities repeatedly put pressure on “Aryans” to leave their Jewish spouses and get a divorce.
Within a short time after the Anschluss, intermarried families lost their livelihoods. Oskar Baader was discharged from his position as a high school teacher because of his marriage to a Jewish woman. At the same time, he was compelled by party members to get a divorce. His refusal to do so marked the beginning of the social isolation the family found itself in during the years to come. They had to live off Oskar Baader’s meagre pension and the few private lessons he was able to give. For the Hahn and Freiberger family, who were business owners, expropriation was imminent. Albert Hahn’s stationary store was seized shortly after the Nazi takeover. Moritz Freiberger, however, got support from an unexpected source: Two of his business colleagues—illegal members of the Nazi party prior to the Anschluss—used their newly gained power to intervene on his behalf in Berlin. They succeeded in getting him permission to continue his business as a former officer of World War One—something that rarely had an impact in Austria during this time. Nevertheless, in the wake of the November pogrom, permissions of this kind lost their bearing. On 10 November 1938, Freiberger’s wholesale yarn and fabric store, located in Hugo-Wolf-Gasse, just around the corner from the burning Schmalzhofgasse temple, was liquidated by party members of the nearby Braunes Haus in Hirschengasse. He was never to see any restitution for his lost business, since the store was not officially “Aryanized” and taken over but instead ransacked and closed altogether. Since the Hahn and Freiberger families lost their main source of income and only had limited access to their funds, their “Aryan” wives helped support the family with outwork jobs.
“Privileged Mixed Marriages” and “Non-privileged Mixed Marriages”
In order not to evoke objections from broad non-Jewish circles, Nazi authorities decided to provide privileged treatment to certain “mixed marriages.” Families like the Baaders, where the non-Jewish spouse was male (head of the household) or who had “half-Jewish” children who were baptized (Mischlinge), were declared “privileged.” They received the same food ration cards as the general “Aryan” population. While “privileged mixed marriages” were usually able to remain in their apartments, Oskar Baader was nevertheless already expelled from his community building apartment together with his Jewish wife and son in December of 1938—prior to the official revocation of Jewish tenancy rights in April 1939 and in spite of being an “Aryan” himself. In fact, the Austrian Nazis in the Vienna municipality were eager to get a hold of apartments in the popular community buildings and expelled all Jewish tenants by the end of 1938. In addition, the local Nazi functionaries in Hietzing were particularly zealous to clear the bourgeois district from Jews. The Baader family thereafter found an apartment in the second district (Leopoldstadt) in a building that later became a Judenhaus. Unlike other “privileged mixed marriages,” they therefore witnessed the crammed living conditions and the terror of deportation of their Jewish neighbours.
Intermarried families like the Freibergers and Hahns, who, together with their children, were members of the Jewish community, were declared “non-privileged mixed marriages” and therefore subjected to a similar treatment as the general Jewish population. Their children, even though technically also “half-Jews” in Nazi terms, were classified Geltungsjuden according to the Nuremberg Laws. Together with the Jewish population, they were gradually excluded from staple foods (milk, eggs, meat, wheat products) and evicted from their homes. While the Hahns left Vienna in a failed attempt to emigrate to Palestine via Yugoslavia only to return after a few months, the Freiberger family lost their apartment in December of 1939, because the caretaker of their building decided to give it to an “Aryan” family in the neighbourhood. They first moved to Moritz Freibergers sister Helene, who lived in an apartment in Grünentorgasse together with her daughter Elise and another Jewish sub-tenant. After witnessing the deportation of their relatives to Litzmannstadt (Łódż) in October of 1941, the Freibergers had to vacate the apartment and move to the Leopoldstadt, where the majority of the Jewish population was being concentrated. There they had to change apartments another two times. Lotte Freiberger described in an interview that her family basically lived from the food rations of her “Aryan” mother, since the provisions for her father and herself were severely limited. While being exposed to the same anti-Jewish legislation, “non-privileged mixed marriages” and their families, however, were deferred from deportation as long as the marriage with the “Aryan” spouse remained intact.
Friends, Neighbours and Strangers: Interactions of “Mixed Families” with their Jewish and Non-Jewish Environment
The Anschluss immediately disrupted social relationships between Jews and non-Jews. Lotte Freiberger, whose best friends were non–Jews, remembers distinctly how these girls suddenly made a point of ignoring her. She was subsequently excluded from high school and started taking occupational classes at the Jewish community, where she not only learned how to sew gloves, but also found new friends who were of similar background. On the weekends, Lotte and her new companions went to the Jewish part of the central cemetery, which had become the leisure place of Vienna’s Jewish population due to the fact that Jews were excluded from parks and recreation areas. There she also met Judith Hahn, who was among the younger youths gathering there. Together with other teenagers, Judith and Lotte played ball, helped with the cultivation and harvest of vegetables for the Jewish community or were hanging out with the boys, while forgetting their precarious situation for a short while.
For the Baader family, the Nazi takeover did not only mean discrimination but also social isolation. While the Freiberger and Hahn families both benefitted from the infrastructure the Jewish community set up for their persecuted members, the Baaders were initially left without support. When in 1942 members of the Hilfsstelle for “non-Aryan” Catholics stood at their door, Oskar Baader, known for his anti-clerical views, was caught by surprise. While he himself could not overcome his reservations towards the church, his son Gerhard greatly benefitted from the Hilfsstelle’s outreach. In the church youth group he was invited to he finally found a place where he was welcomed as a “youth among other youths.” There were, however, limits to this acceptance. When Gerhard fell in love with one of the girls during the preparation of a nativity play, the relationship was immediately prohibited by the parents of the girl, who forbade their daughter to closely socialize with “a Jew.”
Ostracism also occurred within family circles. Some intermarried families faced reservations from their own relatives even before the war. After the Nazi takeover, they had to cope with the fact that non-Jewish relatives became party members and active combatants of the German Army, while their Jewish relatives were deported one by one. Mathilde Hahn’s Catholic family shunned her after her wedding to her Jewish husband and her conversion to Judaism. The fact that her twin brother Egon became an avid National Socialist shattered their relationship. Similarly, for the Freiberger family, the rift with non-Jewish family members in Sudetenland, who became active Nazi party members, proved irrevocable. Gerhard Baader, on the other hand, was in touch with his non–Jewish relatives even during the war, yet had to cope with his Catholic grandmother, who in her simple-mindedness was outspoken about her sympathies for the National Socialist regime.
While Geltungsjuden had been immediately expelled from their schools and banned from any higher form of schooling, Mischlinge like Gerhard Baader were still able to attend high school until 1942. In his case, this privilege had a distinct disadvantage, because he was known as the only “non-Aryan” at his school and had to endure daily discrimination. After his expulsion, he started to work as an unskilled labourer at a construction site, where he finally experienced acceptance and solidarity among his co-workers.
The edict of 1 September 1941 obliging Jews to wear the stigmatizing yellow star was a turning point in relations between Jews and non-Jews. Along with the rest of the Jewish population, Jewish spouses of “non-privileged mixed marriages” as well as their children, who were classified as Geltungsjuden, were made visible as Jews, thereby becoming vulnerable to public assaults. Particularly members of younger generations regularly disregarded these Nazi regulations in order to attend places they were banned from as Jews. Eighteen-year-old Lotte Freiberger occasionally went to the cinema without the star together with her non-Jewish mother, but stopped doing so after recurrent reports of arrests and deportations of people who were caught. Judith Hahn on the other hand, who was in her early teens, did perhaps not fully realize the dangers and continued taking off the star on a regular basis. She was encouraged to do so by her father Albert, who also ventured out without the yellow star, while her “Aryan” mother was worried sick about them.
The restrictive Nazi laws, heavily regulating Jewish daily life, occasionally also led to absurd situations for members of “mixed marriages” and their families. During a walk in the inner city, Lotte Freiberger and her non-Jewish mother passed the famous Demel pastry shop. Lotte longingly glanced at the display of cakes, but had been, as someone defined as Jewish, forbidden to buy and eat them since February of 1942. Her mother Mimi recognized her craving and went in to buy a cake. When she handed the package to her daughter, who was wearing the yellow star, she was apprehended by a Gestapo man, who had watched the scene and reprimanded her for forbidden “friendly relationships” towards Jews in public. After finding out the Jewish girl was in fact her daughter, he was taken aback and disappeared. In December of 1943, Mimi was apprehended another time for accompanying her Jewish husband Moritz, who as a Jew of a “non-privileged mixed marriage” was drafted to a forced labour assignment to shovel snow in the very early morning hours in front of the city court. Worried about her husband, who was physically challenged by a neuropathy resulting from his military service during World War One, she insisted on going with him. The presence of an “Aryan” woman accompanying a Jew marked by the yellow star enraged one of the guards. He had her arrested, but she was released after a few hours.
For “mixed marriages” and their families, the relationships with their neighbours were crucial, since they shaped their daily lives. The Baader family, in spite of the fact they were considered privileged, were closely confronted with the fate of their Jewish neighbours, who lived in crammed apartments and were being deported one by one. Their son Gerhard was often woken up at night by the sound of boots on the stairs and the shouting that occurred as their neighbours were taken away. In addition, the daughter of their concierge, Leopoldine Frassl, closely monitored the remaining Jewish parties in the house. Through a staircase, she was able to watch the kitchen window of the Baader family. Cecilia Baader, who had a health damaging forced labour employment packaging poisonous substances, was able to get the permission of her supervisor to only work part-time. She therefore had to be careful not be seen by Frassl in the house and had to avoid entering the kitchen until the evening hours, since a denunciation could have led to her being deported for an alleged “unwillingness to work.” The fact that Leopoldine Frassl’s own brother Erwin was married to a Jewish woman, who happened to be Cecilia Baader’s sister Henriette, had no bearing on Leopoldine’s unshakeable fanaticism. A neighbour in the house, Otto Lauterbach, who was also protected through his marriage to a woman of Catholic decent, was less fortunate. He was denounced by Frassl for listening to foreign radio stations—a major violation of Nazi laws—and the “illegal wearing of a traditional Austrian folk suit (Trachtenanzug),” which was forbidden to Jews by anti-Jewish legislation. Subsequently, Otto Lauterbach was arrested and deported to Auschwitz. He survived and Leopoldine Frassl was put on trial after the war.
The Hahn family, after returning from Yugoslavia, were also moved to the second district. There, they witnessed the disappearance of their Jewish neighbours as well. Their building hosted a temporary Jewish old-age home on the upper floor. In the summer of 1942, the thirteen-year-old Judith Hahn and her family observed the deportation of these helpless old people, who were pushed down the stairs under the gloating watch of their non-Jewish neighbours. Judith remembered one of these neighbours even inciting her hunting dog to bark at the fragile and frightened crowd huddled together on the open truck.
There were, however, also acts of kindness and support among people in the neighbourhood and throughout the city. Sometimes these were small gestures such as a bowl of potatoes anonymously deposited at the doorstep or a package with a much-desired bologna sandwich that Lotte Freiberger was given secretly by a stranger, who was riding the tramway with her to work. In some cases, people even provided consistent support. A local non–Jewish grocery store owner in the neighbourhood of the Hahn family clandestinely supplied them with regular food provisions. Most of these groceries were used for the illegal activities of Albert Hahn, who was part of an Austrian resistance group that mainly supported people in hiding. With the help of his daughter Judith, he also sent food packages to acquaintances and friends, who in the meantime had been deported to Theresienstadt (Terezín). For those who remained in the Theresienstadt ghetto, these packages were a key factor in their survival.
It was not only food that “mixed marriages” and their families were deprived of, but also normal caring human relationships with non–Jews that were rare, but meaningful if they occurred. According to an edict from 24 October 1941, “Aryans” were not allowed to have “friendly relationships” towards Jews in public. Lotte Freiberger, who was classified as Geltungsjüdin, was barred from regular leisure activities due to anti-Jewish legislation. One of her dreams as a teenager was to learn how to dance. Therefore, her mother approached Willibald Elmayer-Vestenbrugg (1885-1966), a cavalry captain of the military and founder of a prestigious dancing school. Elmayer instantly agreed to give Lotte private dance lessons and kept in touch with the family throughout the war.
For the Baader family—in spite of their social isolation—there were nonetheless a few non–Jews who provided support. Members of the Catholic Hilfsstelle were regular visitors and even managed to gain the trust of Oskar Baader, his outspoken anti-clericalism notwithstanding. In addition, Baader’s closest friend continued to visit them in the second district. He always made a point of taking out the garbage for the family in his full Wehrmacht uniform, whenever he came to call on them—a sign of support that made a particular impression on the young Gerhard Baader. Finally, there was the wife of a local restaurant owner, Kuranda, who hired Oskar Baader as a tutor for her son Othmar. She immediately became aware of the difficult situation the Baaders faced and convinced her husband to welcome Gerhard Baader as a companion to their son into their home. They even invited him to come along for family outings in the country side, which Gerhard particularly enjoyed, since members of “mixed families” were already restricted from moving around freely outside of the city limits. These visits only came to a halt when Gerhard, in a carefree moment, went on a hiking trip to the Rax mountain area with a friend of Othmar, who had no clue about Gerhard’s “mixed” background. On the way back, they were apprehended by military police near Wiener Neustadt, where Gerhard was arrested and sent back to Vienna, while his companion was reprimanded for socializing with “a Jew.” After learning about this incident, Vinzenz Kuranda decided that as a local restaurant owner he could no longer afford to openly invite Gerhard into his home. Nevertheless, his wife still continued to support the Baader family with much-welcomed groceries, which Gerhard clandestinely picked up every weekend from their storage. These additional foods also provided the Baaders with the opportunity to send parcels with groceries to Cecilia Baader’s brother Julius Adler in Theresienstadt. Adler was able to survive the war there together with his wife Rosa.
While acts of kindness or support are mentioned in autobiographical accounts and interviews, they are nevertheless presented as an exception in an environment that had suddenly turned hostile. The traumatic experiences following the Anschluss to Nazi Germany in March 1938 and the humiliation and the sudden loss of rights that followed were too deeply imprinted. Overnight, neighbours and friends had turned against them, and denunciation continued to be a constant threat.
Precarious Protection—The Crucial Role of the “Aryan” Parent or Spouse
Existing marriages between Jews and non-Jews, as well as the presence of their “half-Jewish” children, presented a permanent threat to the integrity of the Nazi regime. In conjunction with the so-called Final Solution, this “unsolved problem” played an important role in the discussions during the infamous Wannsee Conference in January 1942 and its follow-up meetings in March and October of the same year. Internal differences within the Nazi party and concerns that “Aryan” family members would cause public unrest ultimately spared this group from the full force of the radical measures applied to the rest of the Jewish population, even if plans for the ultimate inclusion of “half-Jews” and Jewish partners of “mixed marriages” in the Final Solution were never abandoned.
In the course of the mass deportations between February 1941 and October 1942, the majority of the Austrian Jewish population was deported from Vienna. Jewish spouses of “mixed marriages” as well as their children were officially deferred from these transports, as long as the matrimony remained valid. If it was dissolved due to divorce or the death of the “Aryan” spouse, this protection ended immediately, unless there were under-aged children classified as Mischlinge. At the same time, Jewish spouses, as well as Geltungsjuden coming of age, lost the protection of their “Aryan” parent or partner, if they no longer shared the same household. Non–Jewish spouses of “non-privileged mixed marriages,” who could no longer endure the conditions in crowded Jewish apartments, thereby often unknowingly endangered their Jewish spouses, if they moved out.
Lotte Freiberger turned nineteen in the summer of 1942, at the peak of the mass deportations from Vienna. Around this time, she was summoned for deportation for the first time. When the SS came to pick her up in the family apartment, she was ready to jump out of the window and was only prevented from doing so by her father. They came back on two more occasions, always unannounced. Each time Lotte was told to pack, while the SS had her papers checked, and each time she ended up being excluded from the transport—after hours of nerve-wracking uncertainty. Even though the SS came only for Lotte, who had officially entered adulthood, her mother decided that the family was not to be torn apart and all three ended up packing, until they were given the all-clear that they were not being deported. While Lotte Freiberger was ultimately able to remain in Vienna because she shared the same household with her “Aryan” mother, she nevertheless was made aware of the very fragile nature of her protection. Since deportation guidelines were never published, as they were considered “Geheime Reichssache,” members of “mixed marriages” and their families did not officially learn about the key factors of their safeguarding. Instead, they were left to their own instincts on how to uphold their protection.
While in Vienna, the mass deportations of the majority of the Jewish population were already concluded by the autumn of 1942, they were still under way in Berlin. In fact, it was the infamous Fabrik Aktion in February of 1943 that was the prelude to the final deportation of Berlin’s Jewish population, regardless of their value for the work force. However, while Jewish partners of “mixed marriages” were arrested in the course of this Aktion as well, it was—as Wolf Gruner has shown in great detail—never the intention to deport all of them. Nevertheless, their papers were checked whether their protection through marriage was still valid. The public protest of their “Aryan” spouses outside of the Rosenstraße collection camp—regardless of its importance as a public sign of resistance—was therefore not the reason for their release, as previously assumed.
During the last years of the war and after the deportation of the majority of the Jewish population, the remaining Jews came under increased scrutiny, and even trivial infractions against Nazi laws could lead to imprisonment and deportation. In the autumn of 1943, the Gestapo arrested eighteen-year-old Friedrich Braun, classified as a Geltungsjude, who lived with his “Aryan” mother and stepfather, for his “absence from work.” He was deported to Auschwitz, where he was murdered in January 1944. Even activities like going to the cinema could be fatal, since it was forbidden to Jews, and therefore one could only enter if one removed the yellow star, which was itself a major offense. In 1943, the twenty-one-year-old Katharina Fischer was arrested for “disregarding the mandatory labelling”—the yellow star she was supposed to wear as Geltungsjüdin. She was deported to Auschwitz and killed in December of that year. Consequently, these wide-ranging stipulations led to a criminalization of normal, daily activities, since survival strategies, such as getting extra food from the black market to supplement the meagre food rations, were dangerous. This can be seen in the increased number of arrests quoted in the Gestapo daily reports during the final years of the war. Regardless of the dangers involved, some of the remaining Jews, particularly younger generations, continued to take off the yellow star. Apart from the comprehensible motivation to have moments of “normal life,” this was also an act of self-assertion and agency. Judith Hahn reflected on this in an interview:
If one talks about this today, this all sounds downright silly, because actually we were taking a risk for nothing, which we did not realize then. We did it. And maybe it also contributed to the fact: We felt stronger, if we did not show fear or if we were carefree. One was able to endure it better.
In the autumn of 1944, even “privileged families” were increasingly affected by the radicalization of the Nazi regime. Male Mischlinge as well as “Aryan” spouses of “mixed marriages,” who both were considered “unworthy” of military service, were drafted for forced labour deployment in the OT. There are indications that this was intended to disrupt these families and to impair the protection of “Aryan” spouses in order to facilitate future deportations. Gerhard Baader, who was drafted as a sixteen-year old, was already aware of the imminent defeat of the German Army. Together with his fellow inmates, most of them teenage Mischlinge like himself, he used every opportunity to evade orders during his OT deployment and was not even afraid to commit minor infringements, such as sneaking out at night to the nearby Prater amusement park. Older generations like the one to which his father belonged had a much harder time, as they tended to wear themselves out by following orders to the letter. Oskar Baader was sent to a forced labour unit on the border of Hungary, designated to build the South-East-Wall (Südostwall), where he was placed under the command of former criminals. As a veteran officer of World War One, the demeaning treatment he experienced was the ultimate humiliation he never recovered from.
Survival was not guaranteed until the end. In January 1945, only months before the end of the war, the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Main Security Office, RSHA) finally issued an edict ordering the deportation of Geltungsjuden and Jewish spouses of “mixed marriages” to Theresienstadt. While in Germany about 1,600 persons were deported from a number of cities by the end of February, local Nazi officials in Vienna cancelled the transport planned for 26 February 1945 because of the approaching front.
Postwar Lives and Identities
After the war, intermarried families were considered by survivors as those to whom “nothing had happened,” since they had been able to remain in Vienna, seemingly unscathed, while everyone else was being deported. This certainly had an impact on the self-definition of intermarried families. While learning the gruesome facts of the Holocaust, their own experience of discrimination and persecution suddenly seemed insignificant by comparison. In addition, the Hahn and Baader family had to cope with the loss of their “Aryan” spouse and parent, who had been the guarantee of their survival during the war years. While the reason for these suicides may never be fully comprehended, it nevertheless indicates, that these war time experiences took their toll on intermarried families.
Children of intermarried families were acknowledged as victims of National Socialism rather late in Austria. For those, who as Mischlinge did not have to wear the yellow star, recognition only came the late 1990s. Therefore, their status of being “in-between” often continued through their postwar lives, since they were neither included in organizations of Nazi victims nor did they fully belong to general Austrian society, considering the fact that their narratives of wartime differed significantly from non-Jewish Austrians. Gerhard Baader found a new identity in Socialism. Nevertheless, he described his first awakening to his Jewish identity at the funeral of his Jewish grandmother in 1942. Due to the lack of Jewish men in the wake of ongoing mass deportations, Gerhard was counted in the minyan for the first time, when the Kaddish was recited. In spite of the fact that during this time he was an active member of the local Catholic church youth group and regularly attended Sunday masses, this nevertheless made a lasting impression on him. After the war, he loosened ties with the church, which—due to the dauntless sermons of the charismatic local priest Arnold Dolezal (1902-1978)—had also functioned for him as a forum to express his opposition to the Nazi regime. He immediately started to engage himself in Social Democratic youth and student organizations and became a renowned medical historian. In his later life, however, he reconnected with his Jewish roots and today he is an active senior board member of the Oranienburg synagogue in Berlin. Lotte Freiberger, on the other hand, who narrowly escaped deportation, distanced herself from the Jewish community after the war. Her marriage to a Christian was one of her attempts to blend into Austrian society—an attempt that was bound to fail, as was her marriage. In an interview, she revealed that it took her many years to become comfortable to visit the second district again, where she had survived the war years. After her retirement, however, she became a volunteer with the Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance (DÖW), which brought her closer to her Jewish roots again. Nevertheless, she is still cautious about her Jewish background and only gives interviews under her maiden name Freiberger in order to “protect her daughter,” who was raised Catholic. Judith Hahn, finally, had already been raised with a strong sense of Jewish identity. The Nazi racist laws therefore did not fundamentally change the way she perceived herself, in spite of their discriminatory character. After the war, she immersed herself in her studies in order to catch up with the education she had been barred from during the war years. Judith and her friend Helga, a survivor of Theresienstadt camp, made a point of excelling at every exam, in order to show their non-Jewish classmates that they were able to so. They had no intention of blending in and proudly carried a necklace with the star of David in class. Judith also immediately got in touch with the Zionist youth movement Hakoah, where she met her husband, a Hungarian Holocaust survivor. Their plans to make Aliyah to Israel, however, did not materialize and they remained in Vienna. As with most children of intermarried families, the postwar lives of Gerhard Baader, Lotte Freiberger and Judith Hahn took very different paths. While Gerhard Baader as an active Social Democrat became involved in Jewish community life in recent years, for Lotte Freiberger the defining moment in regard to her Jewish descent remained that of caution—quite in contrast to Judith Hahn, whose strong sense of Jewish identity seemed hardly affected by the Nazi years. Nevertheless, the fact that the descendants of the Hahn family requested the name to be anonymized in order not to endanger their place in today’s Jewish community by highlighting the Catholic descent of one of their maternal ancestors indicates that questions of identity and belonging for these families remain crucial issues until today.
Intermarried families were under enormous strain during the years of the Nazi regime. Particularly after the end of mass deportations, the remaining Jewish population came under increased scrutiny by the authorities. Since members of “mixed marriages” and their families did not officially learn about the key factors of their safeguarding, they were left to their own instincts on how to uphold their protection. In addition, their relationship with their non-Jewish environment was greatly affected from the start. While many of their friends and neighbours immediately turned against them after the Nazi takeover, there were also a few who provided support, even if only in small gestures. In the course of this paper, the complexities of these relationships have been outlined. Wrongdoers were usually ordinary people, who were often not even party members: caretakers, who offered the apartment of Jewish families in their building to “Aryans”; neighbours, who incited their hunting dog at helpless Jews; or, in the case of the Baaders it could even be a woman related by marriage, who was ready to report them at any given time. Support, on the other hand, could come from unexpected sides such as former business competitors in the case of Moritz Freiberger, a Wehrmacht soldier, who upheld his friendship with his former colleague Oskar Baader or clandestine dance classes given by a cavalry captain of the military.
It is the microhistorical lens that reveals the simultaneity of the non-simultaneous: The Baader family, while theoretically being classified as privileged by the NS-regime, was nevertheless exposed to similar persecution measures as the Hahn and Freiberger families. At the same time, the way they dealt with Nazi oppression differed to some degree. While the Jewish members of the Hahn family were still able to take pride in their Jewish identity and were overall motivated to withstand the regime, the Baader and Freiberger families instead acted with great caution. There were, however, generational differences, since Gerhard Baader was eager to participate in activities that other non–Jewish teenagers were engaged in and was not afraid to risk minor infringements, much to the distress of his parents. Interestingly, it was his forced labour assignment that sparked this youthful nonchalance, since he found unexpected comradeship with his fellow construction workers, who took him along. While the Baader, Freiberger and Hahn family lived in close proximity to one another in the second district of Vienna, where the remaining Jewish population was being concentrated, they hardly formed bonds with each other nor with many other “mixed marriages” and their families. When “non-privileged families” shared living quarters with other families, nerves were often “strained at utmost,” as Lotte Freiberger remembered, since all were facing an uncertain future. “Cooking took place in a small kitchen. There were daily arguments and bickering, everyone’s nerves were on edge, living together became an ordeal,” she recalled. Consequently, people living in crammed conditions did not necessarily form bonds of solidarity with each other. It was the younger generation that managed to form “emotional communities” of their own—Gerhard Baader with his fellow construction workers and in the church youth group and Judith Hahn and Lotte Freiberger with other youths at the Jewish cemetery, their playground. These bonds helped them cope with discrimination and persecution and sometimes even made them forget the dire reality for a short while.
Intermarried families, who—by definition—were navigating between Jewish and non-Jewish worlds, did usually not fully belong to any side. While this status of being “in-between” granted them a wider room of manoeuvre than the general Jewish population, it also affected their identity and sense of belonging. The fact that they were as “non-Aryans” excluded from society did not necessarily lead to full acceptance from the Jewish side, particularly if they had already stepped out of the Jewish community before. Nor did it immediately create a desire to belong. This was particularly true for the Baaders, who kept their distance from the Jewish community, while being excluded from society at large. Their social isolation was therefore also a result of this conflict. At the same time, their restraint in their social contacts had already started before the Anschluss, since they were supporters of the forbidden Social Democrats under the Austrofascist regime. The Freibergers, who were officially members of the Jewish community, had become estranged from Judaism due to reservations from Jewish family members against their marriage. While, after the Anschluss, their daughter Lotte benefitted from the infrastructure of the Jewish community for their persecuted members, Moritz and Mimi Freiberger led secluded lives with only a few social contacts. It was only the Hahn family, whose identity seemed hardly disrupted, since they were already proudly identifying Jews before the war. Nonetheless, not all members of the family were able to endure discrimination and persecution with persistence and pride. Mathilde Hahn not only suffered from the degradation they were subjected to, but also from ostracism by her own family, who became ardent supporters of the National Socialist regime.
As previously demonstrated, the living conditions of members of “mixed marriages” and their families changed over time. Particularly during the last years of the war their protection became more precarious, since even trivial infractions against Nazi laws could lead to imprisonment and deportation. The pervasive feeling for “mixed families” therefore was one of high alert and a mandatory lack of trust in their day-to-day encounters with their non–Jewish environment, since anyone could potentially turn against or even denounce them. During this time, the presence of the “Aryan” family member was essential for their protection and survival. The enormous strain on intermarried families took its toll. The postwar losses of the Baader and Hahn families can be also attributed to the years of persecution.