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Fellner family papers

Document | Digitized | Accession Number: 2015.563.1

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    Fellner family papers

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    The Fellner family papers document the immigration experiences of Rudolf and Anita Fellner, along with other family members, trying to escape Nazi persecution in Austria and Germany in 1938-1939. The papers include identification papers, immigration papers, and photographs related to Rudolf’s emigration from Vienna, Austria to the United States, his conducting career, and his service in the United States Army; Anita Fellner’s emigration from Fischach, Germany via a Kindertransport; and the emigration difficulties Rudolf’s parents Eugen and Stefanie faced when leaving Vienna on the SS Pentcho, which shipwrecked near Greece in 1940, their time in makeshift refugee camps at Rhodes, Greece and the Ferramonti concentration camp in Italy.

    The biographical materials contain identification, employment, school, and military papers for the Fellner and Sohr families. Identification papers include birth, marriage, and death certificates along with passports. There are oral history transcripts of Anita Fellner describing her experiences during the war including her passage to England via a Kindertransport. There are also documents and clippings of Rudolf Fellner describing his military experience as well profession as a conductor.

    There is a small amount of correspondence of Anita, Rudolf, and Stefanie Fellner. Included is a letter to Anita from Gernot Römer, whom included her Kindertransport story in his book In der Fremde leben meine; a censored letter from Rudolf to his parents Eugen and Stefanie; a photo postcard from Rudolf to Anita of him with fellow soldiers in Belgium; and a letter written by Eugen while he was at Ferramonti.

    The immigration papers contain documents related to the immigration experiences of the Fellners along with Elsa and Leopold Freiwirth, Rudolf’s aunt and uncle, and Anita’s brother, Walter Heufeld. There are documents of Eugen and Stefanie’s about the SS Pentcho, including Eugen’s written account of the event, and a passenger list. There are also documents of Eugen, Stefanie, Elsa, and Leopold from Ferramonti, including a diary and notebook of Eugen, and a notebook of Stefanie’s with figures from card games she organized to earn extra money in the camp. Additionally, there are papers of Stefanie’s regarding her brief immigration to Palestine before moving to the United States.

    The restitution papers include papers regarding the sale of Anita’s family home in Fischach. The printed material includes stationary, clippings, and theatre programs collected by Anita while living in Cardiff, Wales.

    The photographs primarily consist of pre-war family photographs of the Fellner, Sohr, and Heufeld families. There are two modern annotated photograph albums with these photographs. There are also photographs of Rudolf Fellner at school and with the United States Army, the shipwreck of the SS Pentcho, Ferramonti, and Palestine.

    The 2017 accretion contains additional biographical material and correspondence. The biographical material includes two self-produced books regarding the Holocaust experiences of Anita Fellner and Stefanie Fellner, both of which make use of documents and photographs from the collection; a personal narrative written by Anita; documents from Ferramonti; immigration papers; a small amount of photographs; and restitution papers. The correspondence includes letters exchanged between Anita and Rudolf; wartime letters from Samuel and Erma Heufeld in Fischach to Anita and her brother Walter; letters from Samuel and Isidor Heufeld to Franz Hörtensteiner, including a letter from Isidor sent from Thereresienstadt; and wartime letters from Stefanie and Eugen Fellner to Rudolf, the bulk written from Rhodes and Ferramonti.
    inclusive:  1865-circa 2014
    bulk:  1901-1957
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Estate of Anita and Rudolf Fellner
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Estate of Anita and Rudolf Fellner
    Collection Creator
    Fellner family
    Rudolf Fellner (1913-2011) was born in Vienna, Austria to Eugen (1888-1942) and Stefanie (née Sohr, 1887-1974) Fellner. Eugen grew up in Vienna, and worked as an entertainer, singer, and magician for many years. He married Stefanie in 1912, and then worked in his father-in-law’s knitting and garment store. Rudolf was an only child, but spent a lot of time with his cousin, Fred Freiwirth, whose mother was Stefanie’s sister, Elsa. Rudolf pursued a career in music, and studied to become a conductor. After the Nazi annexation of Austria and increased persecution of the Jews there, Rudolf began to search for ways to emigrate. He obtained a passport and on July 8, 1938 and flew to Italy. He stayed there over a year before obtaining papers to immigrate to Bolivia, but the papers turned out to be invalid. Eventually he received an affidavit to come to the United States from a distant cousin, Arthur Wise. He booked passage on the SS Conte di Savoia, and arrived in New York on September 23, 1939. He settled in Dallas, Texas where he taught music. In 1941, he was then drafted into the United States Army. He trained as an interrogator and went overseas in 1944 to Cardiff, Wales where he would soon be assigned to the Second Armored Division. While in Cardiff, he also met Anita Heufeld at a Passover service, and they became engaged soon after.

    Eugen and Stefani Fellner also began to search for ways to emigrate from Vienna in 1938. In 1940, they booked passage on the SS Pentcho, a boat illegally sailing to Palestine. On October 9, the ship's boiler exploded, and the ship broke in two off of a deserted island under Italian control. The passengers and crew were able to get ashore before the ship finally sank. Ten days later, Italian authorities picked up the refugees and brought them to Rhodes, Greece where they stayed for the next year and a quarter in a hastily constructed camp. In January 1942, the refugees were transferred to the Ferramonti concentration camp in southern Italy. Stefani’s sister, Elsa and her husband Leopold were also there. Eugen died in the camp from disease in 1942. Stefanie immigrated to Palestine in 1944 before immigrating to the United States in 1949.

    Anita Fellner (née Heufeld, 1925-2011) was born in Fischach, Germany to Samuel (b. 1891) and Erna (née Weil, b. 1892) Heufeld. She had one brother, Walter (b. 1907). Her parents owned a business that sold wholesale tobacco, wine, and cigars. After Walter and Anita were prohibited from attending school, Walter went to work as a secretary for a cousin's plastics factory, and Anita worked for a Jewish dressmaker in Augsburg, Germany. On Kristallnacht, both Samuel and Walter were arrested and sent to Dachau. Both were eventually released, but Walter suffered frostbite on his hands and feet. The family began searching for ways to leave Germany. Walter received an affidavit to the United States, but his quota number was too high to immigrate. Instead he went to the United Kingdom where his cousins had relocated their plastics factory in Wales. Walter initially was interned in the Kitchener Camp, but his cousins petitioned for his release on the grounds that he was essential for their business. On May 18, 1939 Anita came to England on a Kindertransport. At first, she could correspond with parents and even tried to find them employment. However, this became impossible after the start of World War II, though she managed to write to them via the United States for the next two years. Anita lived in a children's home in Windermere and worked as a dressmaker, but later joined her brother in Wales where she worked as a hospital nurse. In spring 1944, American servicemen flooded into Cardiff, and the local Jewish community invited Jewish soldiers to join them for Passover. It was here that Anita met Rudolf Fellner. They were soon engaged, and married after the war. Anita joined her husband in the United States in 1946.

    After the war, Anita learned that her parents were deported, and likely killed in 1942. Rudi resumed his career as an opera conductor and eventually became the head of the Opera Workshop in the Fine Arts Department of Carnegie Mellon University. Anita worked as a dressmaker, including being in charge of all the costumes for New York's Gaslight Club for many years. After the family moved to Pittsburgh, she maintained a thriving private dressmaking business until a year before her death at age 87.

    Physical Details

    1 negative.
    3 boxes
    1 oversize box
    5 oversize folders
    System of Arrangement
    The Fellner family papers are arranged as six series: Series 1: Biographical materials, 1865-circa 1993; Series 2: Correspondence, 1941-1996; Series 3: Immigration papers, 1938-1956; Series 4: Restitution papers, 1949-2001;
    Series 5: Photographs, circa 1890-1970; Series 6: Printed material, circa 1920s-1991; Series 7: 2017 accretion, 1920-1950, Subseries 7.1 Biographical material, 1920-1950, Subseries 7.2 Correspondence, 1938-1946 and undated.

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    Material(s) in this collection may be protected by copyright and/or related rights. You do not require further permission from the Museum to use this material. The user is solely responsible for making a determination as to if and how the material may be used.

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The Fellner family papers were donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum by the Estate of Rudi and Anita Fellner in 2015. An accretion of additional materials was donated to the Museum in 2017.
    Record last modified:
    2023-05-31 15:43:06
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