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Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
Ernst Flesch was born in 1928 in Vienna. He came to the UK with the Kindertransport in January 1939. He was sent to Scotland and stayed at Hostel Birkenward. He became a lecturer in further education and a keen photographer. He is an active member of Club 43.
I would say that I think it is very important that people should take careful notice of what is going on around them. If you don’t keep a very sharp watch, people can get away with things which they shouldn’t.
They told me ‘You’re going to England to get away, thank goodness.’ But they stayed. My mother didn’t want to leave my father. She could have gone, as a maid. But she had nursing training at the end, under the Nazis in a children’s hospital or something like that. That stood her in good stead in Auschwitz, I believe. Because as far as…I could never quite gather – she didn’t say very much. But I think she must have worked in the hospital or something which meant she could steal more or something you know. That’s how she survived. She was never backward in coming forward my mother
The very first thing they did [after the Anschluss] was they made the poor elderly Jews scrub the pavements, you know, laugh at them, kick them. There was a lot of sadism in Vienna, in spite of the golden Viennese hearts. The Viennese are known for their Gemütlichkeit but when it came to it, a fair proportion were very vicious, very vicious. It gave them a chance to steal of course. There were 200,000 Jews & nearly 180,000 or something like that in Vienna, which was a 10th of the population. A lot of them had shops, not all of course. This was a golden opportunity for people to steal their shops & steal their flats & everything. So for many people Hitler was a good thing, gave them a chance to rob & steal."
We kept indoors while 100s of 1000s were screaming: ‘Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil! Ein volk, ein Reich, ein Führer!’ etc…outside, especially in the centre of the town. When Hitler came he was on the Heldenplatz, in front of the Imperial Palace with god knows how many hundreds of thousands. They all went crazy, you know. A couple of years back, a lot of Austrian school children released balloons in honour of the victims from the Heldenplatz which is good. A certain amount of justice in that.
Immediately after that the kids were already beginning to be in Hitler Youth uniforms. I continued going to my normal school until we were slung out a few months later. In class there was one guy who was immediately—he was older & probably an enthusiastic young Nazi—you know. The majority of kids didn’t take too much notice. They all had to join the…they didn’t have to—they all joined the Hitler Youth.