Jews fleeing Austria in 1939 #austria-czech

Andrea Tzadik

My Grandfather's first cousin was a medical student in Vienna in 1939.
Once the Nazi's decreed that Jews could not study in any learning institutions,
he fled to Switzerland.I wanted to know if anyone know how people got to Switzerland?
Did they hike over the mountains, or take a train ?
Andrea Tzadik
Santa  Monica,Ca

Odeda Zlotnick

It depends on when they did so.
A Viennese uncle of my maternal GM fled Vienna "on the last train" in March 1938 because  and crossed the border to Switzerland safely. "Last" according to his letter, because someone told him Jews' Passports were being confiscated.

I have reason to know that by 1942, Jews from the areas of France had to cross to border illegally, in the area of Geneve - 

If you type "Switzerland" in the USHMM search form, you'll find quite a number of databses, including: Holocaust Survivors and Victims Database -- [Jewish Arrivals in Switzerland] (

Odeda Zlotnick
Jerusalem, Israel.

Veronica Zundel

My parents were also medical students in Vienna, and after Jews were excluded, my mother fled in March 39 via Switzerland by train, but continued on to the UK where she had a domestic service visa. My father(they were already engaged) followed in July - he wasn't Jewish, so was able to finish his studies and come to London where they were married. I remember my mother saying the passengers all applauded as the train crossed the frontier into Switzerland.

Veronica Zundel, London
Searching descendants of Josef Jakob Horoschowski b. 1905 Drohobych

Tony Hausner

My parents left Vienna in 1938 after the Anschluss. Both sets of my grandparents left Vienna in 1939, and a great uncle and his family in early 1940.  The great uncle was one of the last to leave.  They all moved to England.  My great uncle went via Belgium and was held up there until my mother's former employer, a member of parliament, helped get them out.  My grandparents had to fill out detailed financial disclosure forms, which enabled the Government to confiscate most of their assets. Fortunately, the Austrian government reimbursed our families for part of the confiscated assets around 1999.  My parents and other family members were interned by the British as "enemy aliens" on the Isle of Man shortly after the Nazis started bombing England.  They spent a year in separate camps, as men and women were kept separate.  

Tony Hausner
Silver Spring, MD 


With the assistance of  Jewish agencies, both my parents left Vienna in 1939, but not together.  My father (one of the last Jews to finish University of Vienna Medical School in 1937) left for England and Kitcherner Camp in Richborough, UK in August, 1939.  My mother traveled alone to UK, and worked at a domestic in Colwyn Bay, Wales.  They kept in touch and in January, 1940 both sailed for the US on the US Georgic, landing in NY February 11, 1940. 
I've been unsuccessful in obtaining their Austrian exit visas or discovering the details of their travel.  Both my parents were able to carry personal papers and some items with them.  How was this possible?  Alas, these were discussions and questions I should have asked prior to their deaths in 2001.
Michael Diamant

Bernard Flam

Hi from Paris,
After 1933 from Germany and 1938 from Austria, a lot of Jews but also of nazi's opponents could arrive in France.
When WWII started on 1939 September 1st, they had to register and were sent to interment camps as citizens of an enemy country.
Jews could be released if they agreed to enroll French Army in Foreign Legion regiments : men of my family were Austrian Galizianers and did it.
Mostly after the large French round-ups of Jews during July and August 1942, a lot of Jews found a refuge by being smuggled through the Swiss border.
"Being smuggled" because exactly in August 1942, Swiss government decided that being a Jew trying to save his life was not enough a reason to enter legally Swiss.
In Geneva state by itself, nevertheless ca 9.000 did it.
In this area of Geneva lake, relief isn't mountainous but only fields in a valley : I attach some pictures of the place where my mother (13's) crossed the border, as did ca. 200 Bundists of France (families or children alone).
Today, just a border stone in middle of a field...
But, but, but, in middle of this field, you had to cross two barbed wire lines and French / German patrols which shoot on sight.
And when refugees were caught by Swiss border police, they could be returned immediately to French side, sometimes voluntarily in front of these patrols... 

Concerning refugees crossing to Geneva state, state archives still detain a file for each person (even small children, I have copied 200 of them) as do Bern Federal archives.
Most of other Swiss states (cantons) have destroyed these files after WWII...
A lot of books and thesis (the last from Ruth Fivaz) analyze what has been Swiss policy concerning Jewish refugees during WWII.
You have also a Swiss documentary "Memories of the border".
Bernard Flam
Archives & history of Medem Center - Arbeter Ring of France (Bund / Worker Circle)

Stephen Katz

Followers of this topic might be interested in a book I'm reading, Good Living Street by an Australian author, Tim Bonyhady. It's about his Jewish ancestors who moved to Vienna in the 1800s from various parts of the Hapsburg Empire and became wealthy. Like other other Viennese Jews, especially those who were well-off, many of his Viennese ancestors converted to Catholicism. The book describes in detail the elegant life of the family in Vienna before the Anschluss, including their associations with Klimt, Hoffman, and other luminaries of the art scene. It then relates the flight of his mother, grandmother, and aunt from Nazi--controlled Austria to Australia in 1938, and the steps they had to take to achieve it. They traveled by train to Switzerland, flew to London, then sailed from Southampton to Australia.
I have no affiliation with the author or publisher.
Stephen Katz
Researching KATZ and TEPPER (Novograd-Volynsk, Ukraine), KAPLAN (Stakliskes, Lithuania), VITKIN (Kaunas, Lithuania), KABACHNIK (Butrimonys, Lithuania).

Irv Adler

My paternal grandparents left Vienna in July 1939. From their Reisepass, I have been able to construct a timeline of their trip from Vienna to Portugal.  From Vienna they traveled to Italy and remained there until early-November 1940. From Italy they went to Spain and were there for a few days. From Spain, they traveled to Portugal where they remained until June 1941. Then on June 3, 1941, they boarded the SS Nyassa for NYC. I have started a project to try to try to locate records of in-transit Jewish refugees that might tell me where they lived; how they obtained money; how they were able to travel. 
Irv Adler
Fort Wayne, Indiana 

Lewis, Megan

USHMM has two collections that may have information.  One is RG-58.001, Jewish Refugee Records from the Swiss Federal Archives.  A names index is attached to the catalog record.

For Austrian Jews, if they received assistance from the Vienna Jewish Community, sometimes their files indicate how and when they left Austria.  There's no index available online but we have one at the Museum we can check.  Please email reference@... with the names and dates of birth of the people in question.  I am usually the librarian who answers the questions related to the Vienna collections.  However, I am about to go on vacation for 2 weeks.  If one of my colleagues doesn't answer you I will when I return.

Megan Lewis, USHMM


Please read the fascinating story of Elli Ginsburg in the KehlaLink of Lackenbach website, as was told by her to me years ago:
Melbourne, Australia

Researching (main surnames):