La Jolla Holocaust survivor Edy Lange and Del Mar Heights student Madeleine (Maddy) Jennewein were recently in Sacramento to commemorate California's annual Holocaust Memorial Week.
Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego, invited them after Maddy interviewed Lange and wrote an essay about Lange's experience living in and then fleeing Nazi-occupied Austria.
Maddy's essay and those written by other California students are available in the 2009 California Holocaust Memorial Project Book.
"My entire life changed in the course of one day - March 12, 1938," Lange said in a news release issued by Fletcher's office. "From my family's apartment in Vienna, I saw Hitler and his soldiers enter the city. That night, my father's business was destroyed, my school was closed and my family began to experience terrible prejudice."
Lange and her father sent letters to mayors and chief rabbis in large American cities, seeking sponsors so they could travel to America. The mayor of Minneapolis responded to the request, and Lange and her father sailed to America on the Queen Mary.
Maddy's full essay:
Leaving for Minneapolis
By Madeleine Jennewein
For the Holocaust Memorial Project
Not every Holocaust story is a story of concentration camps or resistance. Some Holocaust survivors are the lucky ones who got out just before the worst atrocities began. One of these survivors is Edy Lange who survived almost a year in Nazi occupied Austria before she sailed for America on the Queen Mary.
Edy Lange never expected the Holocaust. She grew up in Vienna, Austria, relatively sheltered from the Nazi regime burgeoning nextdoor. Edy was born on Feb. 19, 1923, as Edith Sonnenshein. She lost her mother at a very young age and lived with her brother, stepmother and an emotionally distant father. She lived a good life with school, friends and family until the German invasion that would change everything.
On March 12, 1938, as the family celebrated Edy's brother's birthday, the German army marched into Vienna. From this moment on her life would never be the same again. In that instant, her family lost everything. That night, her father's stationery store was smashed and looted; the next day the owner was not her father but a German shop-girl. In that one night other aspects of Edy's life changed forever too. Her high school, owned by a Jewish woman, closed and Edy was apprenticed to a seamstress simply to fill her time.
Immediately, the family knew that they would have to leave Austria. Even as most Jews stayed, refusing to believe the tales of death camps, Edy's father, motivated by a complete loss of income, fought to get the family free. To stay afloat that one perilous year, the family rented two of their rooms to an opera singer. Miraculously, it was this tenant who saved the family during that year by hanging a Nazi flag in the window.
Only a few weeks after the German invasion, Edy found herself standing in line for three days simply to gain a passport. While waiting, Edy and her father came up with an ingenious plan to speed their freedom, they would write letters. Knowing almost nothing about America, they picked ten of the largest cities and naively decided to write to the mayor and Chief Rabbi of each (unbeknownst to them, cities in America do not have Chief Rabbis).