Harris (Hadju), Robert
Harris, born as Hadju in 1913, is the son of Armin and Elsa Hadju, who owned and operated the “Pelzhaus,” a business making and selling fur goods in Vienna’s 8th district. He had one brother, ten years younger. After completing the “Realgymnasium,” a combination of junior and senior high school, he attended and graduated from the “Bundeslehrschule fuer Textilienindustrie” (Federal School for the Textile Industry), specializing in the field of textiles. He then worked in his field for a company in Vienna.
Following the annexation of Austria by Germany on March 13, 1938, he was dismissed from his position because he was Jewish. The fur business, operated by his mother after his father’s death, could no longer continue and had to be closed. Harris then accepted a job with the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien, (Jewish Community Council of Vienna) which had jurisdictional control over Vienna’s Jewish population. There he worked in the department dealing with emigration and resettlement.
On November 9 and 10, 1938, Kristallnacht, when a mass arrest of adult Jewish males took place, Harris wandered the streets, avoiding his home, where the Nazis had gone to arrest him. Although safe from harassment at the offices of the Jewish Community Council, he was in constant danger of being picked up by the Storm Troopers or SS while walking to or from there and his home. Seeking an opportunity to leave Austria, he was able to obtain an affidavit for himself and his wife (he was a newly married) from a relative in the United States. The affidavit, a guarantee of financial support if needed, enabled him and his wife to be placed on the Quota List for a visa to the United States.
Through his work at the Jewish Community Council, he was able to find out that it was possible for him to go to England as a trans-migrant to await his turn on the Quota List for emigration to the United States. His wife was able to go to England by accepting a job as a nanny. In England, Harris was placed in the Kitchener Camp, was loosely confined, and not permitted to work on the outside. In the camp he worked with building crews and also monitored radio broadcasts from Germany, translation significant items for the authorities since the war between England and Germany had already started. His wife worked in another town, and they did not see each other for a long period until she was able to find a position as a nanny closer to where the Kitchener Camp was located.
When their quota number came up in March, 1940, they came to the United States. They lived in New York City until Harris was able to find a job as a textile technician with a Detroit firm. His wife then entered Wayne University, where she obtained a degree in education. They have one son.
Harri’s younger brother was also able to leave Vienna, first going to Denmark, then to Sweden, and finally to Israel, where he joined a kibbutz in which he is still living. His mother, however, was not able to leave Vienna and was deported to Minsk in 1942. Her fate after that is unknown.
Numerous documents and photographs were displayed during the interview authenticating his identity and his activities.
Date: November 26, 1999
Length: 47 minutes
Interviewer: Hans R. Weinmann
Format: Video recording