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Otto Hutter

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
Born:
12 December 1938 in Harwich
Experiences:

Interview Summary:

Otto Fred Hutter was born in 1924 in Vienna as the second child of Elisabeth Grünberg from Vienna and Isaak Hutter who had come from near Lvov (now Ukraine) to Vienna for his law studies. Before he finished his studies, World War I broke out and he joined the army which he left promoted to the rank of officer. When he contracted Typhus he met his future wife in the field hospital where she worked as nurse. They married in June 1919 and moved into a flat in Lilienbrunngasse 3 in Leopoldstadt, which was given to Elisabeth as dowry by her father. Otto remembers the flat nicely furnished and with two live-in maids. He also remembers that later after the Anschluss it was also on the street where the Nazis held their “torch parades” and how the mother closed the wooden shutters. After primary school Otto joined the Chajes Gymnasium and as it was an all -Jewish school he was shielded with his fellow students from anti-Semitism. But he remembers how the walk to school past the “Stürmer” advertisements at the newsstand were a daily torture. He realised that life had changed in a bad way because his father spent more time at home, which meant that money was getting scarce. One evening on his way home from the park Otto ran into a friend who told him about the Kindertransport to Great Britain. Without checking with his parents first, he went to Hotel Metropole and signed himself up as no. 359– out of 360 children on this day. He thinks that was very lucky as the first transports went without needing guarantors and also boys his age were favoured (keeping in mind that soon they would be too old to go on the KT). He remembers his father blessing him before getting on the train and he regrets being a thoughtless teenager eager to leave and not being more sensitive to his father’s pain in parting with him. He remembers arriving in Dovercourt and his first English breakfast of kipper which he didn’t appreciate. From there he went on to Broadstairs where he lived in an hostel. Luckily he was chosen as one of two boys for a scholarship at the prestigious Bishop Stortford College (private school). He had turned down all suggestions of learning a trade remembering his father’s insistence on a good education. He settled well and remembers that the fellow students were all very friendly. Some of them took him home during the school holidays. He excelled in school – especially in biology and chemistry and so moved on from Bishop Stortford College to the Research laboratories in Beckenham, Kent. This is also where he met his wife, Yvonne, who he married after passing his degree. They got married in a shtiebel in Great Portland Street. After the war and many years of correspondence with the Red Cross he found out that his parents had fled from Vienna to Eastern Poland. The last known address was in Yarychiv Novyi near Lvov and he suspects that they became victims of a pogrom there on 15.1.1943. This is the day he commemorates as the day of their death. After the war he went to UCL and became their first post- war graduate in physiology. Later he won a Rockefeller Travelling Fellowship and lived with his family in the USA. After the return to the UK he became Regius Professor of Physiology in Glasgow where he brought up his four children. He also retired there but later moved with his wife to Bournemouth to be near one of his daughters who had settled there. He visited Vienna reluctantly for the first time in 1963. It wasn’t the Vienna he remembered, he didn’t see memorials to commemorate the murdered Jews of Vienna and memories of his earlier life overwhelmed him. He came back later with his family to put down two Stolpersteine in Lilienbrunngasse 3 for his parents. He doesn’t miss anything about his life in Vienna and he feels no Austrian heritage. He doesn’t think his life would have been as rich with possibilities as it was in the UK. However he feels “survivors guilt” insofar as he thinks that he had all the luck in his family compared to his parents and his sister Rita. She came as a domestic as she was too old for the Kindertransport and later worked as a nurse but never found fulfilment in her work like he did. Otto is grateful for his large family and always puts them first. He is very proud of all of them and happy that some of his grandchildren live in Israel.

when it came to Crystal Nacht, my father was rounded up, together with other Jewish men. And he was incarcerated for... a week or so. During which time I remember my mother ageing by about ten years. I mean she was a young-looking woman, but...but that was a terrible time. He got out eventually, because at that time, the Viennese or the Nazis, still respected the war record, right? And when he came out, he told us, perhaps a little bragging, that when a young Nazi tried to speak to him, right? He told him to stand “Hab Acht”, which means to “Stand to attention! You’re speaking to an officer!”, right? So I mean he, he- and I must admit that him having told us this, all during the war, when we in England really weren’t told anything of what was going on, right? All during the war, I felt quite confident that he would be alright some... that somehow or other, on the strength of his war-time record and his general ability to handle things. But of course I was wrong.

In- on the critical day was the 4th of December 1938, right? It was a relatively warm Sunday, and I went out as usual still, to play or whatever in that park I described to you by the side of the Donaukanal. On the way back – of course I was expected home well before dark. And at about four o’clock in this- in December I was on my way back across the Marienbrücke within 100 yards or so of our house, right? When, coming the other way was a friend of mine; Bobby Mütz, his name was. We- he was... attended the same cheder as I did. And as we passed, he says, “Hello Otto, bye-bye. I’m off to England this week.” And I said, “How on earth are you going off to England? How do you do it?” He said, “Well, people- children are being registered in the Hotel Metropole...” – that was the Gestapo headquarters – “...to go to England.” And I said, “Well, the Hotel Metropole, you know it’s just around the corner, a couple of squares away.” So I turned around and I ran to Hotel Metropole and I joined the queue. It was quite an elaborate procedure. I underwent a medical examination and overall general questions. And in the end was handed papers, telling me that I would- whatever I needed to take with me in my suitcase and so on. And that there would be a transport at the end of that week. I mean, I’m not sure exactly what information. But of course it, this had taken till about eight o’clock at night. And I hadn’t told my parents anything. I mean, I should of course have gone home and told them what Bobby Mütz had told me, but my reflex was to act immediately. And just as well, because that day, I was number 300and... 359... out of 360... recruited that day. So if I hadn’t turned around and ran to the Hotel Metropole, I would be pulling out teeth in Treblinka or something. Right? That... So it was just sheer luck, right?

You- to go to England, to travel, to- this was a big adventure. And, and- and when I remember, I mean I tell this story to my children. That when my father took me to the station – only one person was allowed- one parent, was allowed to take you- that I was just terribly keen to get onto the train and rush away. And he held me back to.... [with emotion] to give me his blessing. He- he could see the future better than I could see. So, one... One doesn’t... looked back from the eyes of an adult many years later, one was really very sorry. One hasn’t got the sensibilities as a, as a, as a fourteen-year-old boy, right?

The good Lowestoft people, the first breakfast we had there [arriving in England with the Kindertransport], gave us kippers. And not just good Lowestoft kippers, not boiled kippers, but roasted kippers.We thought this was an attempt to poison us.

Well I’ve always taken care to keep in good contact with my family, with my grandchildren and, and great-grandchildren, and so on, right? Always given priority to... to- to them. It’s made me perhaps a little cautious and unadventurous. You know... And ...perhaps the most significant moment... was when I did have an opportunity to stay on in America, in 1955. And no less than a job at Harvard. But Harvard was not then, as far as physiology goes, as good as University College, right? And I decided I had enough with moving country once. And I didn’t really want to make another change and came back to England. That was perhaps the most, the one decision I made... where my past influenced me in a major way.

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@ AJR Refugee Voices 2020

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OH: In conversation with His Royal Highness Prince Charles at the Kindertransport 70th reunion, 2008. “I fell into a tutorial mode, when I discovered that Prince Charles seemingly did not know much about the origin of Regius Chairs endowed by his great-grandmother perhaps, Queen Victoria, under Albert’s influence. He clearly was amused by my explanation.”