Politzer (Lack), Helen
Born in Vienna, Austria, Politzer was the only child of a couple living in Vienna’s 13th district, a nice area with a relatively small number of Jews. Her father was a civil engineer working on state and municipal projects. She attended public primary school and then a Realgymnasium, a specialized combination junior and senior high school for the more talented children with admission based on an examination. Since she was a girl, a special fee had to be paid for her attendance.
Politzer describes life in Austria before the Nazis came as quite normal and she experienced little anti-Semitism. However, after Germany’s annexation, her life changed quickly. Having reached fourteen years of age, the maximum age for mandatory education, she was expelled from school, her father lost his job, her family was evicted from their apartment and had to move in with her grandparents. During the riots of Kristallnacht they were again evicted and sent to another apartment in the same building to live with another family.
Her father was able to obtain a financial guarantor for emigration to the United States but his low quota position prevented him from leaving. The family attempted to illegally enter Belgium but was turned back by German border guards. Politzer’s mother found a job as a maid in England and thus obtained a visa to move there. Politzer eventually also obtained a visa for England and was able to join her mother for a short period before being moved to a hostel where children from the Kindertransport were housed. Although she was forbidden to work with or without pay by British regulations, she became a trainee in a silversmith factory.
Politzer’s father and grandfather attempted another illegal entry into Belgium and this time succeeded. Because of his engineering background, her father was able to go to the Kitchener Camp in England as an instructor. The Kitchener Camp was an accommodation by the British for German Jews who had documentation for emigration to another country but were awaiting their place on the quota. Her grandfather remained in Belgium and ultimately was deported to Auschwitz where he perished. Her father was later interned on the Isle of Man with other Germans but when their quota number came up, Politzer and her parents were able to immigrate to the United States in June 1940.
Date: November 21, 1996
Interviewer: Hans R. Weinmann
Format: Video recording