Politzer, Henry H.

Politzer, Henry H.

Vienna (Austria)

Politzer was born in Vienna, Austria in 1919, and describes his family as conservative Jewish. His father, a World War I Austrian war veteran, owned and operated a jewelry store in Vienna. His mother was a prominent volunteer social worker for orphanages and a women’s rights advocate who was awarded the title “Federal Adviser on Social Welfare to the Poor” by the Austrian government. She was so highly respected, Politzer recalls, that the mother of Austria’s first president attended Politzer’s bar mitzvah.

Politzer attended a Realgymnasium and following graduation in 1937 enlisted in the Austrian army as a “one-year volunteer” so that he could fulfill his mandatory subscription into the army while not interfering with his planned university education.

He was in the Austrian army when Germany annexed Austria on March 13, 1938. Since the Austrian army was incorporated into the German army, he was required to swear allegiance to Hitler and to the Third Reich even though it was known that he was Jewish. His commanding officer then gave Politzer a medical furlough. While on furlough he was picked up by Nazi stormtroopers and forced to scrub streets by hand. He was released, however, when he presented his army papers. Through a relative who held a position at the Colombian Consulate in Vienna, Politzer was able to obtain a visa for emigration to Colombia. He left for Colombia in the summer of 1938.

The jewelry store owned by Politzer’s father was confiscated by the Nazis, and he was given a small monthly subsistence allowance as compensation. Politzer’s mother was able to emigrate to England in May 1939 as a domestic and later joined him in Bogota, Colombia. His father left Vienna for the United States in May 1941. Politzer moved to the United States in 1944 and was drafted into the U.S. Army. He served in the Pacific theatre and was part of the occupation forces in Japan.

Politzer notes that most of his family managed to leave Germany before the deportations and exterminations began, with the exception of one aunt whose fate is still unknown. One of his uncles, who was married to a Catholic woman, was hidden in one of Vienna’s Catholic churches during the entire war.

Interview Information:
Date: August 28, 1996
Interviewer: Hans R. Weinmann
Length: 1 hour, 3 minutes
Format: Video recording