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Family Stories: Videos of Local Interest

Marion Wimpfheimer

Videos of families who escaped the Holocaust and settled in Ithaca is a project of the Holocaust Education Committee of the Ithaca Area United Jewish Community. Videos were created and produced with assistance from Ithaca College Park Scholars, students at the Park School of Communication.

  • Rose Bethe

    Rose speaks about her experiences as a teenager in Stuttgart in the 1930s, as she was shunned by friends in the classroom, and the laws in Germany changed, requiring her family to flee. She came alone to the U.S. and worked as a ‘scullery maid’ before being admitted to Smith College and continuing her education.

  • Kurt Gottfried

    Kurt was born in 1929 in Vienna to a family originating in Romania and Poland.   Although he had a doctorate in Chemistry, Kurt's father was unable to find work as a scientist due to anti-Semitism , so started a small company in the apartment building where the family lived,  manufacturing ski-bindings.  Kurt  attended an integrated school on the grounds of the Schonbrunn Summer Palace in Vienna.  After Hitler annexed Austria (the Anschluss, Kurt attended a segregated school in another neighborhood.  He recalls the Kristallnacht as Nazi's rifled through and stole their precious belongings.    Soon after, the family left Vienna by train to Cologne, Germany and paid a smuggler to get them across the Dutch-German border and then to Antwerp in Belgium. They were in Antwerp for about 8 months, while Kurt's father tried to make arrangements to leave Europe.  In August,1939, they were able to leave for Montreal, Canada, where a colleague of Kurt's father, who was in the ski-binding business sponsored them.   Kurt spent the rest of his teenage years in Montreal, and went on to become a world-renowned physicist and human rights activist.

  • Maria Rabb

    Maria is interviewed by her daughter and grand-daughter in Ithaca about her experience as a 10 year old girl whose family hid a Jewish family in their home on the outskirts of Budapest near the end of the war.  Maria's father owned a shoe shop for making custom shoes, and his Jewish employee, Ede Hajos, asked Maria's father to look after his wife, daughters and sister while he was sent to a labor camp.  Maria's mother and aunt took in eight members of the family altogether, and Maria recalls what the conditions were like in their home, as the Germans invaded Hungary in October 1944, and the fascist Arrow Cross party took over the country   Ede Hajos did not return to his family,  but everyone else in his family survived thanks to the courage of Maria's mother and aunt.  In 2011 at the Israeli consulate in New York city, Maria received a Righteous of the Nations award  from Yad Vashem  in recognition of her family's bravery.

  • Mary Salton

    Mary tells the story of growing up in Vienna to Austrian parents surrounded by a large extended family including her mother's sisters and both sets of grandparents.   She recalls seeing Hitler in person in a parade with her nanny, and tells how the SS came looking for her father at his office, and he cleverly avoided being arrested.  At that point, Mary and her parents were forced to leave Austria, and did so legally as they were lucky to have recently acquired passports.  Mary then recounts the sequence of events by which she and her parents were able to cross the border into Italy without any money, and without her grandparents and eventually ended up in Switzerland, where they lived until 1948 when their American visa number finally came through.  Many members of Mary's extended family perished as they left Vienna to go to France and Belgium from where they were deported.   She and her parents came to New York city where Mary studied English and qualified to get into went to Hunter College. She married Gerald Salton, a fellow refugee who came to Cornell, and  she raised two children in Ithaca.

  • Rachel Siegel

    Rachel speaks about her family and how they escaped from Germany before the Holocaust.  Rachel's parents had weathered wars and the Russian revolution while living in Lithuania. They moved to Berlin in the early 1920s for safety. Rachel was born in Berlin, and at the age of 6, her father uprooted the family once again to move to Lausanne, Switzerland where she went to school. She speaks about the life that her family led leading up to the war in the neutral country of Switzerland and finally moving to the U.S. as immigrants in 1939.  Rachel's parents, driven by fear and worry managed to save the lives of their whole extended family. Rachel Siegel passed away at the age of 91 on February 21, 2016.

  • Fred Voss - U.S. Military Service

    Fred speaks about volunteering for the American army after arriving in the U.S. He was sent to France as a combat engineer and translator.