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Monday, September 12, 2016

For Posterity

Kiddos, this is by your great-great grandmother. 

The Philip Family's Escape from Germany

by Anita Heilbut Philip

Anita Heilbut Philip wrote this short essay, in English, for presentation to an audience of Quakers in New York City in 1948. She describes the rise of Hitler and the emigration of the Philip family from Hamburg, Germany to the United States.


            I was asked to speak here today about my experiences in Europe. I am very willing to do so, and I hope by telling you my personal fate I can make you understand the tragedy of the people in Europe.

            I was born in Hamburg, as well as my husband and children. My husband's and my family had been living there for several generations. I grew up at my parents' home in Blankenese near Hamburg. I had three sisters and one brother and we had a very happy life together. My parents [Julius and Rosalie "Lodel" Heilbut] gave us the opportunity to learn, to study, to travel for they realized that knowledge was worth more than money. I went to school in Hamburg and one year in England in order to learn the language. Later I studied household science and graduated as a teacher of household science. Until I married, I did social work in Hamburg. I kept up piano playing. I heard lectures about the history of art and music [and] literature and traveled to France, to Belgium, Norway, Switzerland etc.

            I married in 1914, and both my children [Lisa and Eva] were born during the World War. In the inflation which followed the World War we lost our fortune, but it did not impress our life very much because my husband always earned a living.

            In 1927, life seemed to be all right again in Germany after the World War and inflation, and we built our own home in a pretty residential section on the Alster River in Hamburg. I wanted my children to have the same sort of homelife and education as I had myself when I was young. We had much music at home, a good library and a circle of faithful good friends.

            When Hitler came into power and established das Dritte Reich [Third Reich] everything changed for us. My husband who was official stockbroker of the Hamburg exchange as the owner of his father's old firm knew that he would probably lose his position. So, we sold the house in which we lived for only six years, stored our furniture and moved into a much smaller house which we rented. We took our children from school and college. We thought that the girls had to learn practical things in order to be able to earn their living in any country into which they might have to go.

            Lisa, our eldest daughter [1915-1978], had the opportunity to learn in Berlin and Hamburg. She became a gymnastic teacher and physiotherapist. Eva, the younger one [b. 1917], went to Sweden on a farm school where she learned household, poultry and dairy. After that we sent her to Vienna which Hitler had not yet overrun. She went to a children's hospital and became a trained baby nurse. She stayed in Vienna until 1938 when Hitler came. She had her home there with my sister, brother in law [Dr. Oscar and Eva (Heilbut) Hirsch] and their children [Lisa and Erwin]. [Eva Philip actually lived in the hospital for her one-year training.]

            Some of our good friends went away in 1933. They went to Brussels, Belgium; to Copenhagen, Denmark; to Prague, Czechoslovakia. Nobody thought at that time that Hitler would take all these countries. They are now in unoccupied France, in Holland, in England and scattered all over the world.

            My husband lost his position as official stockbroker in 1936, but he was allowed to keep his banker's firm [Max Philip] which was now 65 years old, and to visit the exchange. Only very few were allowed to do so. Most non-aryans lost their job entirely. Not being able to make our living in Germany any more, we decided to go away in 1938. 

We should have liked to come to the U. S. at that time, but we were told that only young people had the chance to make their living here. So we went to Italy. I went down to Merano in the south Tyrol and rented a rather big apartment, and I obtained the permission to live there with my husband and to take boarders in, in order to make our living until my husband should be able to take care of us again. I went back to Hamburg, took all my furniture, the Steinway, the books, the pictures and arranged everything in order to be able to take 8-10 boarders in.

I arrived in Italy in June 1938. I took five boarders in. My husband came two months later and we should have had quite a nice life. But on the first of September 1938 suddenly a new law was made in Italy: All aliens had to leave the country in six months. So all my work was for nothing. It was the first time in my life that I had earned my living, and I was really rather proud of it, and I had to give up everything. So we did the same as all other people who had the same fate. We sold our furniture and wrote letters to nearly every country where we might stay until we could go to the U. S. where we had applied immediately after that 1st of September.

            I must tell you now that our daughters did not come to Italy with us. We decided they both should go to the U. S., and luckily they both found a sponsor. So Lisa came over here in May 1938, one month before we left Hamburg, and Eva in December 1938. We stayed in Italy one year in order to wait for the visa for the U. S. But after the beginning of the war in September 1939 we suddenly were told that we had to leave Italy in 5 days. Some months before, suddenly all aliens had to leave Merano, where we lived, in 48 hours — and we lived now in a very lovely place [at Alassio] on the [Italian] Riviera where friends had lent us their house.

            We did not know what to do. All the frontiers were closed because of the war. The officer of the Italian police told us that he could give us another six months permission to stay in Italy if we should go to Germany for a few days and come back again. There was nobody to help us. Our friends and our lawyer lived in Meran and there was no communication possible because of the political situation in Italy — quarrel between Hitler and Mussolini. So we went to the frontier hoping to be sent back directly. We went to the German police at the frontier and they told us to go back to Italy. But the Italians did not allow us to come in again and so we were standing between two frontiers. One country did not allow us to come in, and the Germans told us they should put us in a concentration camp if we should come back.

            By several sad, but nevertheless in the end lucky circumstances we did not get into a camp but were allowed to travel on to Vienna. There the refugee committee of the American Society of Friends and the Gildemester Committee after 6 weeks took care of us. All our papers were all right. Those from Germany, our Passport etc., those from Italy, and those for the U.S., our affidavit, etc. We had to wait four months in Vienna for the visa to come over here. 

From one day to another we did not know what should happen to us. We lived in a boarding house. You cannot know how dreadful this time was for us. You hardly saw any well dressed women and men in the streets, but many men in Nazi uniforms. Those who bore no uniform usually wore the swastica in their buttonhole — men as well as women. Jews were not allowed to wear the swastica. So you could see who was Aryan and who was not. All non-aryans were not allowed to go out of their house after 6:30 P.M.

There was enough bread in Vienna at that time, but everything else was insufficient and nothing was to buy without a food ticket, dress ticket, coal ticket. The man of the gestapo who had to visit the boarding houses asked how long we had to wait. We did hope that it should be only 3-4 weeks, and we stayed four months.

Vienna had altered very much since I saw it last. First there was the blackout. Then there were food tickets, dress tickets & coal tickets, The only thing that was sufficient was bread. Meat, fat, eggs and everything else was given in very small quantities: 1/2 lb of meat, one small section of cheese, sometimes one egg for each person weekly; 3 pairs of silk stockings, one handkerchief etc. each year. The non-aryans had a mark on their tickets and were not allowed to buy their food at the same time as the aryans. When they came, everything that might have been there — vegetables, fruit etc. — was sold out. Also fish & fowl they were not able to buy. You did not see any well-dressed people anymore in Vienna. Those who had good clothes from earlier times preferred not to wear them in town.

The Nazi party had their men of confidence [spies] in every apartment house and every block. So everybody of the populations was watched in everything he did or said. When anybody seemed to have more food than was allowed or more new dresses or said anything against the Nazi party he was reported to the gestapo, so nobody dared to do or say anything which was not allowed. 

But a great number of aryans and non-aryans who did not agree with the government had already left the country. Among them are some of the greatest men of this century: scientists of all faculties, clergymen, poets, artists, musicians, singers and actors. Many of them came to the U.S. and they brought the old European culture over here, and I hope that they and the many great men in the U.S. will keep up that tradition of the old world which cannot be expressed in money-worth [dollars and cents] for it will probably take many years until Europe can recover after the end of this most terrible of all wars.


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