To my grandfather Armin, who I never met, but from whom I inherited a watch


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To my grandfather Armin, who I never met,

but from whom I inherited a watch

and an unbiased, lay outlook on life;
to my parents Ernst and Afra, who performed

the double miracle of giving birth to me

and of allowing me to complete my education

in a difficult situation;
to my wife Giovanna, who persuaded me

to find my roots and write down their history;
to my cousins Henry, Lizzy and Peter, who gave me

the missing threads of our family’s rich tapestry;
to my son Giulio Ernst, for the time being the last Rosenbaum.


The research which would unexpectedly lead me back two centuries, to the heart of Central Europe, began more than two years ago, with an exchange of e-mails between Milan and the United States…

I had lost touch with my American relatives twenty-seven years earlier, in 1972, the year of my father’s death. The only thing I knew about them was that they helped us sending us, from time to time, parcels with food, clothing and a few green ten dollar notes which were immediately swallowed up by the whirl of the family’s expenses and debts.

I only had a confused idea of the wars and persecutions which had brought about the separation of our family and caused our financial difficulties, because my parents had chosen to protect me and themselves with silence and reticence from the most painful memories.

In 1988, after my mother’s death, a worn-out suit-case, crammed with papers and photographs, which had been buried for forty years in the attic of our house in piazzale Brescia, was moved into the storage of my new home. It was still preserving all its secrets intact.

Only two years ago, like a river in flood, the past overflowed and forced me to come to terms with it. Those e-mails were in reply to my attempt to resume my correspondence with my father’s relatives, tracing my cousins by means of the Internet: an attempt which I made mainly to please my wife.

The avalanche of letters and photographs which came shortly afterwards from the United States, and above all my reading of the diaries written by my grandfather Armin, Aunt Emmy and Uncle Leo, gave me the strength to open that suit-case and made me understand that the struggle for survival had involved our whole family in the course of the 20th century.

In those documents and diaries there was a lot of pain, but also a lot of love. I thought that it was a story worth telling: the story of a persecuted family which has managed to survive and regain decorous positions in different parts of the world.

This book aims at being a homage to those who managed to save themselves thanks to their optimism, stubbornness and ability to make the best of circumstances, but also and first of all to those who fell on the way, victims of the ferocity of their executioners and of the cowardice of the accomplices and onlookers.

Women play a major part in this story: they struggled to keep the family together when the men were away, they fought tooth and nail to shelter their children from hunger, fear and death. It is mainly to their credit that the stock of the Rosenbaums has not been wiped out.


Ladomir, 1826

The remotest information about my father’s family which is recorded in Vienna’s archives takes me to Hungary: not the small nation of today, mutilated by the Treaty of Trianon, but Great Hungary which existed before the 1st World War and included Slowakia, Croatia and Transylvania.

My great-grandfather Simon Rosenbaum was born in 1826 at Ladomir, at the north-eastern tip of the country, to Israel and Amalia Wittis. The first and last name of my great-great-grandfather leave no doubts about the family’s Jewish origin, even if I do not know which migrations or flights led Israel to that village on the Carpathians. He was a private tutor, the only professional intellectual in a family of merchants.

Today Ladomir is called Ladomìrova and lies in the territory of the Slowak republic, along a mountain road which crosses the Carpathians by the Dukla Pass. The area was a theatre of fierce fighting between Russians and Austrians in the first world war, and again between the Soviet Army and the retreating Germans towards the end of world war two. On the road leading to the pass, in a sort of open air museum of human folly, you can still see airplanes and tanks of the opposing armies, which were damaged or destroyed in those battles.

Once you have crossed the pass, you drive into Eastern Galicia, near the border of the former Russian empire. Ladomìrova is a hamlet of a few houses and the Jewish cemetery is hidden in a forest, on a hill overlooking the village. There several dozen Jews have been sleeping undisturbed for centuries, and if someone could make out the inscriptions in Jewish, one of the tombstones worn away by time might disclose my great-great-grandfather last resting-place.

Simon’s future wife, my great-grandmother Elizabeth (Fanny) Chat, was also daughter of an Israel (a merchant) and an Amalia (Heißfield). She was born in 1833 at Raußnitz, Moravia, only a few miles away from Austerlitz, where 28 years earlier Napoleon had achieved one of his most brilliant triumphs.

Like countless co-religionists, Simon took the big step and moved to Vienna, where he worked as a lace-maker and married Fanny on 12th May 1857. The marriage was celebrated by the rabbi of the capital’s Jewish community. The couple settled in Burggasse, in the seventh district, not far away from the city centre. Those were the days when Franz Joseph, crowned emperor nine years previously, was beginning to rebuild Vienna. His endless reign (1848-1916) spanned three generations, allowing my father, as a child, to see him passing by in the royal coach, heading to his summer residence at Schönbrunn, and later on to fight in his name on the Plateau of Asiago.

After centuries of persecution, Simon was lucky enough to start a family at an especially favourable time for the Austro-Hungarian Jewish community: in 1867 the Emperor issued the Ausgleich (‘Edict of equality’) granting equal rights to all religious creeds and, on the whole he always protected the Jewish minority within the empire.

Simon and Fanny had three, perhaps four children, as two babies bearing the same name were entered into the Register of Births of the Jewish community at a distance of two years: but probably the first Katharina didn’t survive. The second Katharina, born on 25th May, 1861, was luckier and was followed three years later by Armin, who came into the world on September 10th, 1864. My younger great-aunt, Viktoria, was born after a further six years, on 20th November 1870. The three names chosen by their parents are Germanic and not at all Jewish sounding, witnessing Simon’s definite desire to integrate: his children would eventually set out in the same direction.

Cholera raged in Vienna at that time and it was maybe because of the terrible epidemic that the three children were orphaned very early: Fanny died at the age of 46 in July 1879, her husband followed her two years later. So precociously deprived of parental love (when their mother died, Katharina was eighteen, Armin fifteen and Viktoria only nine years old), the children had to grow up fast and showed they could manage to get along nicely. However, they most likely took advantage of the protection of some influencial member of the Viennese aristocracy, since a Baron Victor Erlangerl turns out to have paid for Katharina’s education at the academy of music.

My great-aunt was admitted there at the age of thirteen, in September 1874. At first her extraordinary bent for singing was not supported by sufficient commitment. As it turned out, in her finals she failed the singing examination, the very one in which she should have excelled, and had to repeat the year.

The school-year 1878-9, the second of Stimmbildung (voice foundation), was also very critical for Katharina: in the spring her mother’s health declined until it precipitated and the girl, devastated by her personal tragedy, was excused from nearly all her finals.

Having been orphaned precociously, Kathy matured and tackled the final biennium at the academy of music, the Opernclasse (opera class) with a much more responsible attitude. Her performance improved so much that she won the second prize in the yearly singing contest twice in a row.

Her career as a lyrical singer was dazzling albeit short. She made her debut at Graz’s Landestheather in 1883. Two years later she replaced the great Regina Klein in the role of soprano at Prague’s German Theatre, where, on 20th December 1885, she played Sieglinde in the Walkyrie. On that occasion the conductor was no less than Gustav Mahler! A play-bill, which is still preserved at Prague’s Narodni Muzeum, immortalizes her name.

After four seasons at Breslau (1892-1896) and a short employment at Hamburg’s City Theatre, her artistic career came to an untimely end.

It is difficult to ascertain when she first met another Katharina, Emperor Franz Josef’s famous bosom friend, but theirs was certainly a friendship born by common attendance of theatrical backstage. Katharina Schratt was born at Baden, on the outskirts of Vienna, in 1855. The daughter of a well-known baker, she aimed at a more illustrious career, privately taking declamation lessons and in 1872 making her debut on the stage of Berlin’s Schauspielhaus in one of Schiller’s plays.

In 1883, having reached the height of her career, she was employed as a permanent actress at the Hofburg’s imperial theatre. It was customary for all new actors of the court theatre to present themselves before the emperor in order to thank him for the appointment, and on that occasion the first meeting between the sovereign and the exuberant 28 year-old actress took place. It was the beginning of a “loving friendship” destined to last until Franz Josef’s death.

Schratt’s best friend and lady companion was of course my great-aunt, whose name, which had disappeared from theatrical reviews, reappeared after 1897 in the emperor’s correspondence.

The elderly sovereign had been severely tried by hardships in his family life. His difficult relationship with his wife Elizabeth (better known as Sisi) had ended up in a separation de facto. The empress, for a long time a victim of anorexia and depression, was divided from her husband by an abyss of incomprehension. She therefore favoured his affair with the actress, with the aim of finding a new partner for him, and on one occasion she even asked her daughter Valerie to urge her father to take the opportunity of marrying Schratt after her own death.

In 1889, at the time of Rudolph’s tragic suicide in the castle of Mayerling, Schratt was beside the emperor, while Elizabeth sank deeper and deeper into depression. Then came the murder of Sisi on the Lake Geneva by the Italian anarchist Luigi Luccheni (1898), which put a tragic end to the physical and moral sufferings of the sixty-year-old empress.

The only comfort for lonely Franz Josef was his platonic but extremely intense relationship with his whimsical, charming friend Katharina Schratt; in this affair my great-aunt, the actress’ secretary and confidant, somehow played the role of a go-between, as is proved by the correspondence between them, edited by Brigitte Hamann.

On October 14th, 1900, on the occasion of an extended holiday of his beloved, the sovereign wrote to her:

It has come to my knowledge that Frln. Rosen was or still is in Your house. How I envy her and Palmer the happiness of being near You!
On 27th February 1901 Franz Josef sent a sad letter to his still far-away friend, complaining about her decision to prolong her stay in Berlin and disapproving of her behaviour:
Unfortunately I know so little about you and receive news so seldom that my mood is naturally very wretched. I learned a little from Hawerda, who has spoken with Frln. Rosen, including, to my regret, that you are again occupying yourself with spiritualism and hypnotism, as she told me before. All this can only injure you and must exhaust your nerves still more.
In my family it was rumoured that aunt Kathy “Rosen” enjoyed a sort of ‘indirect familiarity’ with the emperor and took the liberty of addressing him with the endearment of Kaiserli!

The friendship between the two women continued when my great-aunt resigned from her post as lady companion. In the spring of 1909 Kathy Schratt, in despair after her thousandth loss at Monte Carlo’s Casino, applied to my great-aunt, who had remained in Vienna, in order to obtain a loan from a bank:

I must thank you for having gone to the Escompte Bank on my behalf. Unfortunately one has to think of paying back. You can imagine how I dread returning to Vienna when there is so much to pay and nothing to pay with.

After these roaring times Katharina Rosenbaum withdrew in the shade. She never married and lived a spinster’s life with her sister Vicki, intellectually much below her, and staying close to her brother Armin even after his wedding with Henriette and his removal to Albertgasse.

Katharina survived with a monthly pension of thirty marks (after the Anschluss the German mark had become the official currency in Austria too) which she received from Prague’s Landestheater.

And yet she must have experienced wealth or at least comfort, as is shown by the embroidered table-cloths and the precious crystals engraved with her initials, which she generously donated to all her relatives in memory of the glorious days when she was on friendly terms with emperor Franz Josef!

Until her death she lived with her sister Vicki in a humble flat consisting of two bedrooms, lobby and kitchen in Pressgasse, in the 4th district of Vienna, keeping in touch with her far-away relatives.

My father Ernst, passing through Vienna in 1936, stayed in her house for over a month: on that occasion he probably received as a gift the small crystal bottles and the table cloth which ended up with me. My aunt Emmy too went to say good-bye to Katharina before embarking for Santo Domingo, and she recalls the last meeting with her and Vicki with these words:

I visit my old aunts who live on the fourth floor in a street on the outskirts, away from turmoil of recent times. They no longer read the papers, they know nothing of the laws concerning the Jews. They come and go as they please into stores and coffee-houses. They know nothing about it all and obey no rules, and so far nothing has happened to them. One of them does not understand why I want to leave, she only knows she is old, and she loves me. She makes me promise to come back. She begs me with a trembling voice, which I love so much and which once enthralled thousands of spectators in the opera hall. “I will see you again, you will surely come back”. I promised. I kissed her hands. I will never see her again.

Katharina Rosenbaum passed away in Vienna on 12th February 1941, just one week after her sister Viktoria (a mysterious, if not suspicious, coincidence), while the war was raging. By then 123,000 Jews had fled the country; there were only 50,000 left: before them stood the nightmare of deportation and extermination, under the direction of Adolf Eichmann and of his right hand Alois Brunner.

From the very beginning of her career, aunt Kathy had shortened her surname in ‘Rosen’ because even then a Jewish surname in Austria could close many doors and alienate many hearts. However, she had not given up her religion: on her death certificate, which is kept in the Vienna town hall, you can read the annotation mos(aisch), namely Jewish.

In her last years, she was reduced to extreme poverty: the notary attributed the symbolic value of 200 marks to her “very old and dilapidated” apartment in Pressgasse, As a refund of the funerary expenses, the flat was given to an old friend of my great-aunt’s, who had looked after her during the last months: her name was Rosa Müller-Schratt, very likely a relative of the emperor’s former friend.

Vicki, who had lived in the shadow of her sister, vanished without a trace: even her death certificate has disappeared from the archives of Vienna’s town-hall and her last resting place is unknown.

My grandfather Armin Rosenbaum was born in Vienna three years after Katharina, on 10th September 1864.

I do not know which direction his studies took: his diary demonstrates complete mastery of the German language and his deep culture. His father, or rather his conjectural guardian, after his parents’ early death, started him off in business. During a business or a pleasure trip to Aussee (most likely Mährisch Aussee in Moravia, the seat of an important Jewish community) he first met Henriette Uiberall, five years younger than him, the woman who was destined to become his wife. On 11 January 1889, as a birthday present, he sent her a photograph from Prague, where he had gone to listen to one of her sister Kathy’s singing performances. Being ironical about the Jews’ proverbial parsimony, he jokingly reassured his fiancée about the modest value of the book by writing the word ‘billig’ (cheap) in the margin of the photograph.

Henriette’s family lived at Rzeszow, about 150 kilometres east of Krakow, in Galicia. Galician Jews were more traditionalist and conservative than their Viennese co-religionists, who had partly integrated into Austrian society, and were involved in agriculture, cattle-breeding and trade.

At Rzeszow the Jews were almost one third of the whole population (15,000 out of 50,000 on the eve of the Holocaust), had two synagogues, both built near the Rinek (market-square) between the 15th and the 17th century and participated a the highest level in all the community’s intellectual and day-to-day activities.

Today nothing is left of all that zeal and activities: only the synagogues destroyed by the Germans have been rebuilt and turned, respectively, into archives and an art gallery. One of the two cemeteries blown up by the Nazis is now a park where children play unaware; the other one, out of the way, huge and empty, is struggling to guard the few still recognisable tombs from the raids of Polish Neo-Nazis, who deface its boundary walls with anti-Semitic graffiti. In today’s Rzeszow, disfigured by Stalin’s ugly council-houses and parabolic antennas which spread the new myths of consumerism, it is difficult to picture last century’s shtetl (Jewish community), where young Henriette used to ride in her father Leib’s estate. There are no Jews at Rzeszow today, and the only visitors to the Jewish archives section, which is based in the old synagogue, are the European or American descendants of the former inhabitants, who write to the archives or come personally to the impossible discovery of their lost roots.

The mystery which wrapped my grandmother’s family only recently began to unfold, thanks to the research carried out by my cousin Ashwin, the great grandson of Regina Uiberall, Henriette’s eldest sister. The surname Uiberall, made up at a time when Eastern Jews were trying to dissimulate their origins to avoid persecution, is very similar to the German adverb überall (everywhere) and is extremely suited to portray the nomadic destiny of that people, and especially the fate of my grandmother, who was born in Galicia, lived in Austria and died in Italy.

Leib Uiberall, Henriette’s father, a merchant by profession, had the imposing figure of a patriarch, with a long white beard which framed his stern face. He got married to Sara Rager, born in Jaroslav, another Galician town nearby. In the photographs taken before her husband’s death and her departure for Vienna, my great grandmother, portrayed at the back of her house with Leib and a grandson, is showing off the traditional apron and shawl worn by Galician Jewish women.

In the course of their long and prolific married life, over a number of years, Sara and Leib had four children: Rivka (Regine in the German transcription) born 1857, Jakob (1859), Henryka (1869) and Eduard, the youngest, destined to an untimely death.

The two boys remained in Galicia or soon moved back, while the daughters married two members of the non-Galician Jewish society and moved to Vienna. Rivka married Hugo Cohn and Henriette my grandfather Armin. Rabbi Wolf Ellenboger officiated at their wedding, which took place at Rzeszow, on 8 November 1891. The notarial contract proves that Henriette’s dowry amounted to five thousand florins, a substancial sum of money.

The happy pair settled in Vienna, joining there Regine and Hugo who had rented a large, luxury flat in Esterhazygasse a few years before. Their match, in spite of their dissimilar characters, was happy and blessed by the birth of four children.

Armin, open to progress and integration like his father, an unprejudiced observer of the reality which surrounded him, was an enterprising and adventurous spirit; in contrast, Henriette was a conservative who distrusted innovation and hated travelling, with that pessimism and attachment for tradition which were typical of the Galician Jewish community.

Helene, the eldest child, was born in Vienna in February 1894.

Once again times were hard for Viennese Jews: Franz Josef’s Ausgleich, while granting them equal rights, had roused a massive anti-Semitic reaction, which accounts for the widespread support gained by Georg von Schönerer. A Liberal member of Parliament, he had converted to Anti-Semitism and Pangermanism in the eighties, and was now fighting for his fatherland’s moral rebirth through “legal restrictions targeting the Jews, exploiters of the people”. In March 1888 he put his theories into practice, devastating the offices of the Neues Wiener Tagblatt, destroying the printing machines and manhandling the editorial staff of that “Jewish bog-roll”.

The success of Karl Lueger, founder of the Austrian Christian-social party, was far more dangerous and lasting. Born in a family of modest means, Lueger shared anti-Semitism with Schönerer, which he used to instigate the common people against the “Jewish liberals”: the big capitalists and the “Press-Jews”.

The fear of rising socialism, against which the Christian-socials could be a barrier, did the rest: in 1895, the year of my father’s birth, Lueger’s party obtained 93 town councillors out of 137 and its leader was elected Mayor.

The emperor, who detested the man and his plan, did not ratify the election and appointed a government commissioner. He even ignored the results of 1896 elections, which recorded the Christian-socials’ further progress and the Viennese’s almost unanimous support for Lueger. The following year, however, Franz Josef couldn’t avoid inviting him to the Hofburg and signed the appointment ordinance.

According to the author Stefan Zweig, Lueger’s success did not harm Vienna’s Jews:

Faultless and unpretentious in his private life, he always kept lofty feelings towards his enemies and his official anti-Semitic attitude never prevented him from being kind and benevolent to his former Jewish friends… The town’s administration continued to be irreproachably fair and exemplarily democratic; the Jews, who had trembled with fear after the triumph of the anti-Semitic party, kept enjoying the same esteem and exactly the same rights as anybody else.
Not all historians agree with this positive evaluation of Lueger’s administration. He continued in office until 1910, and a square and a monument are now dedicated to him in Vienna: we must not forget, however, that he dismissed all Jewish civil servants and introduced segregation in the schools. His new political style enraptured Adolf Hitler, who at the time was earning his living in Vienna by painting picture postcards: according to him Lueger “understood the advantages of massive propaganda and was clever at influencing the minds of his supporters”.

Was it because of this intolerant atmosphere that my family moved to Mährisch-Neustadt, or did the prospect of employment attract my grandfather to Moravia, his mother’s native country? Certainly there the political atmosphere was far more relaxed and peaceful, as is stressed by Zweig, whose father’s family had Moravian origins:

There, in small rural villages, Jewish communities lived in perfect harmony with peasants and lower middle classes. Having suffered no oppression, they were entirely without uncertainty and anxiety about the future, sentiments peculiar to eastern Jews and Galicians.

For many years Mährisch-Neustadt was for me just a high-sounding name, associated with a tiny photograph which my father kept on his bedside-table. I thought that the pointed roofed house surrounded by a fence was on the outskirts of Vienna.

Instead I found out that no fewer than 226 kilometres separate Vienna from Uničov (this is now the town’s Czech name). The road takes you first to Brno, where a new road begins, heading to Olomouc, formerly Olmütz, the archiepiscopal centre and an important imperial town. From there you cross long stretches of rural landscape; in order to get to Uničov, you have to leave the main road and drive along a uneven paved alley, which suddenly takes you into the Marktplatz, deserted and somewhat ghostly at six o’clock in the evening. It is the same square which my father used to cross every day to go to school and return home.

My family’s house, at Müglitzergaße 21, a big and beautiful three-storied villa surrounded by a fence, no longer exists. The whole road was rebuilt in the socialist age to make room for a set of council-houses and a bus depot.

Armin and Henriette’s second-born child, my father Ernst Rosenbaum, came into the world in that very house on 5 May 1895, followed, after two years, by his sister Emmy. The last to arrive, in 1903, was Wilhelmine, known to everyone as Wilma.

A series of portraits, all taken in the Atelier Mitschala, has handed down to us the images of the four children in the most care-free years of their lives.

Helene, the first-born, is already a young girl (the picture must date back to the time when Wilma was born), has fair hair gathered into a bun and a dreaming gaze. Ernst, dressed up as a dwarf, pretends to be absorbed in a book beside a real wooden dwarf. In another photograph he is wearing Lederhosen (typical Austrian leather trousers with braces) and is standing by his sisters, grandfather’s hand resting on his shoulders. He has the trace of a smile on his lips and the somewhat bewildered expression of someone who does not know where he is. Circumstances would really drag him and Helene a very long way away from there, to Milan, in Lombardy, the province lost by the Empire and annexed to the new Kingdom of Italy only thirty-five years previously!

Emmy has an incredibly modern look, with a rucksack around her shoulders and a fringe. In another photograph she sits at her desk and smiles sweetly, with an intense expression which allows you to foretell her future gift for writing.

Wilma, two years old at the most, also with a fringe and a white pleated dress, expresses with her perplexed look the fear of falling from the heavy inlaid bench on which she has crouched. Both of them would leave Moravia’s hills for different, unthinkable destinations.

I also have the amateurish photographs of a picnic in Passek’s forest with the parents and a number of strangers, and of a tennis game played with huge wooden rackets. A care-free, tranquil childhood in a gentle pastoral landscape where it was nice to go for a walk or to fly a kite in the fields.

There my father attended the first years of the grammar school (still in existence today) and learned by heart those lines by Homer which he was still able to repeat to me fifty years later. In Olomouc’s archives, howeverI found no evidence of grandfather’s factory, which supposedly produced silver utensils.

In that idyllic atmosphere Armin made very important decisions, which affected the future destiny of my family. In 1907, four years after Wilma’s birth, my grandfather resigned from the Jewish community. The fact is proved by this letter, signed by the community’s district director:

Littau, 26 June 1907.

To Mr. Armin Rosenbaum, manufacturer

Mähr. Neustadt.
Your letter of June 25, 1907 concerning your resignation from the Jewish Community, in agreement with item 1, paragraph 1 of the law n°49 of 25 May 1869, has been forwarded to the direction of the Jewish Community in M. Aussee for the necessary steps to be taken.
By this act Armin was trying to sever his ties (which were already very loose) with Hebraism, hoping, with all likelihood, to make his children’s and his own life easier and to deliver them from future humiliation and maybe even persecution. Or else, to quote Stefan Zweig once more, he simply belonged to a new category, that of the “Jews of the 20th century”:
They did not have a common faith, they considered their race more as a burden than a ground for pride, and they no longer believed in any mission. They no longer observed the precepts of the books which had once been sacred to them, nor did they want to speak the old common language. To become familiar, to become incorporated in the surrounding populations, to mingle with society was their increasingly impatient desire.

In spite of the breaking off, my family kept associating with their Jewish friends, and the daughters chose their husbands within that community. Armin’s drastic step would not be enough to protect them on the day when dutiful Nazi officers would dig up everybody’s past, looking for a few drops of Jewish blood.

My grandfather, once he had retreated from the Jewish community, didn’t subscribe to any other religion, but remained konfessionlos, an atheist, for all his life.

Emmy was baptized according to the evangelical rite: my father did the same when he came back from the front. Helene, Wilma and my grandmother held fast to the Jewish creed. Only in 1942, at the peak of Nazi persecution, was old Henriette converted to Catholicism, which she followed with zeal, invoking the Christian God’s merciful protection over his persecuted relatives.

On 14 September 1911 the Rosenbaums returned to Vienna and settled in Albertgasse 3, a high-class building not far away from the house in Burggasse where Armin was born. The street belonged to the district of Josefstadt, which had a mainly middle-class population, amongst which there were many assimilated Jews. Vienna’s ghetto, reserved for the orthodox Jews, was far off, in the district of Leopoldstadt, near the Prater.

I don’t know the reasons for the change of residence, but I think that my grandfather had sold his Mährisch-Neustadt factory and rented or bought the flat in Vienna mainly to allow his son Ernst to continue his studies in the capital. The war would shortly upset his plan and snatch the two men from that house, leaving only the women waiting anxiously.

For over twenty years however Albertgasse 3 would remain a landmark for the Rosenbaums: even after the departure of the four children for different destinations, all of them would still consider it their home.

Although my relatives belonged to a minority, just tolerated and often harassed, Austria was, and would always be to them (to express it with Franz Werfel’s words), “a wonderful fatherland, a country which was humane to everyone, without distinction of blood and confession, origin and destination of its children”.

The war, the end of the empire and the devastating events which would follow would alter that balance and infringe the pact between Austria and its Jews.

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