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Oral history interview with Gertrude Leiser

Oral History | Accession Number: 2017.158.1 | RG Number: RG-50.030.0918

Gertrude Leiser, born Getrude Kraus on January 3, 1930 in Vienna, Austria, discusses her siblings and parents; her parents’ origins in Stanisławów, Poland (today: Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine); speaking German and Yiddish at home; her father’s work as a traveling stationary salesman; her parents’ efforts to become assimilated, but still celebrating all of the Jewish holidays; her family’s apartment near the Danube River; Hitler’s rise to power; attending public school, but having to transfer to a Jewish school after the Anschluss in March 1938; experiencing increased antisemitism and fear; many neighbors who were Nazi supporters; being forced out of their apartment and seeing their belongings sold; downstairs neighbors who, despite supporting the Nazi party, were very friendly with her family and even protected her father and brother when needed; her father’s attempts to get the three children on a Kindertransport to England; Kristallnacht; leaving Austria for France with her older sister in March 1939; saying goodbye to her parents at the train station; her brother’s journey to the United States in 1936 to stay with an aunt and uncle; traveling to Paris, France and staying at a hospital for a week; moving with the other children at the hospital to Leggett Castle, purchased by the Rothschild family, near Paris; attending school and working at the castle; receiving letters from her parents; the Nazi occupation of France; being instructed to only speak French; remaining at the castle for about a year and a half; having to flee the castle and staying at a building in the mountains for about a year; air raids; her parents’ successful attempt to leave Austria in January 1940 and their journey to Brooklyn, New York; leaving the mountains in June 1941 and boarding a cargo ship in Lisbon, Portugal; arriving in New York and meeting her mother on the dock; learning English very quickly; going to school and being initially placed in a lower grade because of her language skills; attending Hebrew school; moving to a house in East Flatbush, Brooklyn; her father’s work at a burlap distribution facility and her mother’s at a coat factory; graduating high school; the fates of extended family members; never returning to Vienna; a friend from Vienna who traveled to Shanghai, China and lived in the Shanghai Ghetto before coming to the United States; meeting her husband, who also escaped from Vienna; her two children; sharing her wartime experiences with her children; and other memories from Kristallnacht.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Leiser, Gertrude
Navazelskis, Ina
interview:  2017 February 26
creation: Boca Raton (Fla.)
Oral histories.
1 digital file : MPEG-4.
Record last modified: 2022-07-28 19:51:50
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