Valerie Klimt

Valerie Klimt was born Anna Valerie Herlinger in Vienna. She had a brother Herman who was four years older than her and they lived in the district of Hitzing. Her father Moritz Herlinger passed away from blood poisoning while her mother was pregnant with Valerie. Her mother continued to run the shop of her father, Waeschehandlung Moritz Herlinger Witwe. Her brother helped in the shop and her sister who lived with them helped in the home. Her mother’s family had come to Vienna from Ungarisch Brod, a town in Moravia. Throughout the interview Valerie states that not many relatives of her mother’s family survived. One uncle survived and came back to Vienna after the war but his two children had been killed. Valerie cannot remember any problems growing up Jewish in Vienna. They went to the Tempel in Hitzing and her brother had his Nar Mitzvah there. After the Anschluss Valerie had to change to a Jewish school. Valerie recalls taking her brother to the train station and he crossed illegally to Belgium. Her mother and herself had planned to follow but Valerie contracted scarlet fever and they had to wait for six weeks. In the meantime a cousin in India managed to find a lady who invited Valerie and her mother to come to India and acted as a sponsor. Valerie underlines that they could hardly take any belongings with them but that her mother managed to get ‘board money’ out, which was paid to the Dutch ship company in Germany  and  paid out on the ship (travelling to India).

 

In April 1939 Valerie and her mother left Vienna for Rotterdam and there they boarded a Dutch ship which sailed to Ceylon. After one week they boarded a second ship which took them to Calcutta. When they arrived they found out that Valerie’s brother was also given permission to come to India. Valerie’s mother supported the family by cooking continental meals for other refugees. Valerie was sent to the Loretto Convent school in Darjeeling, where she was not very happy. The sisters tried to make her convert to Christianity and were not very understanding of her situation. She then went to a Commercial school in Calcutta to learn secretarial skills. Valerie enjoyed her time in India as a student and as an employee and later met her future husband in Bombay who had come to India from Vienna via Palestine. When he went to the UK in 1948, she followed him soon. They settled in London and Valerie’s brother who had married in Bombay also came to the UK. Her mother got a visa to the USA but after some time in America, decided to join her children in the UK. While they visited Austria frequently, they would have never considered returning to Vienna and Valerie feels that her mother never got over loosing so many of her family members.

 

In the UK, Valerie met some of her Viennese friends, such as Liesel Grunberger and the former Chazzan form the Tempel in Hitzing, Chazzan Einhorn. They settled in Wembley and had three children. Her husband worked in the textile busieness. Valerie feels British and Jewish. She continues to speak German and both of her children who are present at the end of the interview speak German. Her son and her daughter reflect on how their mother’s experiences have shaped their lives. They stress the importance of remembering the lives lost but also the positive influence of the their mother’s experiences in India on their understanding of migration and immigrants. Valerie’s daughter lived in Vienna for some time and taught English.  

 

Key Words: Vienna. Hitzing. India. Calcutta, Bombay. Wembley. Portland Steet Synagogue. Liesel Grunberger. Textile Business.  Portland Street Synagogue.  

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