Mendell, Titus C. R.
Mendell was born in 1928 in Vienna, Austria, to a well situated couple living in Hietzing, one of Vienna’s most prominent neighborhoods. Because a court refused to accept his father’s paternity declaration, his birth certificate shows his last name as Janschitz, his mother’s name from a previous marriage. Both of his parents had converted from Judaism to the Swiss Evangelic Church prior to their marriage. Mendell has one younger brother and a step-brother.
Mendell’s father was partner in a business dealing in Tungsten wire as used as filaments in iridescent light bulbs, and was also the Honorary Consul of the South American country Colombia. His mother was an actress in summer theater and very active in Austrian politics.
Upon the annexation of Austria by Germany on March 13, 1938, Mendell was expelled from school. At the same time, all of their servants left them even although the Mendells were Protestants. However, under the Nazis they were considered Jews according to the anti-Jewish Nuremberg laws. While on a business trip to Switzerland, approximately five months after the annexation, Mendell’s father received notification from his business partner that he and his family were in danger. His father then notified his family in Vienna to leave Austria as soon as possible. Mendell remembers that his mother obtained all the necessary documents and clearances within one day. They fled Vienna with just a few suitcases leaving everything else behind. They went to Turin, Italy, and then to Fribourg, Switzerland, where they were reunited with Mendell’s father. From Fribourg they went to Le Havre and then by ship to Colombia, South America, where one of Mendell’s uncles lived.
While in Colombia Mendell’s father was involved in the development of a factory producing light bulbs. On a business trip to the United States his father obtained the necessary documents for their immigration. They arrived in Michigan in January 1941.
Mendell finished high school and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in July 1948. He served in the “American Mission for Aid of Greece” operation in Athens. During his service in Europe, Mendell visited his grandmother in Vienna who had survived imprisonment in the Theresienstadt ghetto. He learned that one of his father’s brothers who lived in Italy perished with his entire family during the Holocaust. On his mother’s side, two uncles survived the Mauthausen concentration camp. An aunt who was married to an Aryan in Germany was hidden during World War II and also survived. All of his relatives, except the grandmother, were Protestants but were treated as Jews by the Nazi regime.
After his service in Greece, Mendell return to the United States where he married and graduated from university in 1953. He then held various teaching positions retiring in 1993. Knowing that his family’s background was Jewish and having considerable association with Jews following the exile from Austria, he returned to Judaism. He underwent two years of training prior Mendell feels that the past is always with him and has influenced his life to some degree and the manner in which he raised his son.
Interviewer: Hans R. Weinmann
Date: May 8, 2001
Length: 1 hour 4 minutes
Format: Video recording