Wishnow (Bergstein), Reva

Wishnow (Bergstein), Reva

Vienna (Austria)

Wishnow was born in Galicia, then part of Austria, in 1910. When she was four, she and her family moved to Vienna. She was the second youngest of seven children. In Vienna her father became the owner of a small department store known as Kaufhaus Bergstein.

After attending public school, Wishnow went to work in her father’s store. In 1934 she married a graduate mechanical engineer who was working in a Viennese bread factory and moved to a small apartment still within Vienna’s second district.

The first day following Austria’s annexation by Germany, two men in Nazi uniforms entered her parents’ store and pilfered it. The Viennese police, to whom the incident was reported, claimed they could do nothing about it. Two months after the annexation, the department store was taken over by the Nazis, and her father was given a small weekly allowance. Her parents left Vienna in the summer of 1938 to join their son and daughter in Palestine (they had left Austria prior to the annexation as part of a Zionist program).

Wishnow relates her experiences during Kristallnacht and how she was forced to scrub the streets of Vienna. She also relates during the interview a number of surprisingly righteous actions by Nazis, even while in uniform. Her husband, having an American affidavit and a quota number for emigration, was allowed to enter England as a trans-migrant and was placed into the Kitchener holding camp in February 1939. Wishnow followed him in June 1939, on a domestic servants entry permit. In November 1939, when their quota number came up, they left together for New York, where Wishnow joined her twin sister who had previously emigrated.

After a short stay in New York, the Wishnows came to Detroit, where her husband found very favorable employment as a mechanical engineer. They had two children after settling in Detroit.

Of Wishnow’s immediate family, her sister, brother-in-law, and nephew perished during the Holocaust. In addition all her uncles, aunts, cousins, etc., who had remained in Galicia perished during that period.

Interview information:
Date: April 23, 1996
Interviewer: Hans R. Weinmann
Length: 39 minutes
Format: Video recording