'We had a boy of 17 with us in the holidays, one of the dearest people I've ever known. He was asked to write the enclosed for someone in Canada, & did it in the hope that it might help people to understand that the persecution is not made up of isolated pogroms, but of a fear that is continual & unremitting. I am sending it because perhaps it will give some idea of the background from which Mr Feller will have come.'
- Letter to the Dean of the Society of the Sacred Mission from Marjorie Milne, 1939.A full transcript of the following account is available below.
The account of Otto T. is included among the papers of the Society of the Sacred Mission, an Anglican religious order whose archive is deposited here at the Borthwick. In 1938-9 the Society worked with Miss Marjorie Milne of Scarborough, and others, to arrange safe haven to England for the Fellers, a Jewish family from Vienna.
By O.T. a Viennese boy of 17.
I write this because I see how few people can know what happens in
Germany now. I know very well what the unemployed have to suffer but I was in
Germany and know that it is not to compare with the sufferings of the German
Jews. What I tell here I have seen with my own eyes.
The German Jew has not the chance to get even a little occasional work,
they have not the possibility to go elsewhere because all money is taken from
them, and they are no minute sure they will not be imprisoned without the least
reason just because they are Jews. The Jew without friends or relations in
other countries is practically condemned to die. Have you realised this till
now? Can you as Christ watch this?
I was living for a long time from the Jewish poor kitchen; sometimes the
Nazis enjoyed to ruin all this kitchen; then all many thousand people had
nothing to eat for a few days. You can say also an unemployed can have nothing
to eat for a few days, but can this happen to him? At 11 o’clock night, 10
S.S. men come into a Jew’s flat, awaken him and force him to come with them.
He is brought to a cellar with other Jews. Here S.S. men take out their
revolver, the Jews have to face the wall. After a minute one shoots into the
air, and then the Jews half-dead of his horror can go again.
On the day that Rath was killed 15,000 Jews, only in Vienna, were imprisoned.
Anybody who was seen without a swastika was imprisoned on this day. After
being beaten awfully they were imprisoned. First in schools and other official
buildings. The prisons were all full. They were so many in one room that they
could not move one step. (I say not more than absolutely happened). 8 hours
they stood like this, then about the half was sent to a concentration camp, the
other were falling on the floor to sleep on the wood but they could not because
the S.S. came and forced them to pray Jewish prayers, 5 days they get nothing
to eat and slept on the floor. A few died. One killed himself springing out
of a window. The S.S. officer said “If anyone try to escape like this man,
every tenth will be shot.” On the 7th day came the Gestapo. In all cross-
questionings the Jew had to face the wall not knowing what happened behind him.
(All this has no sense and happens only to make the Jew nearly mad with nervous-
ness). The half went also to concentration camps, the other were imprisoned
2-8 weeks. In concentration camps people are kept 3-18 months. One third
never come back. There was no family of my many Jewish friends in which some
person had not been arrested. Many got a letter “If you want the coffin of your
son, send 700 marks to concentration camp. Dachan [sic].” The coffin came sealed and
no one could see of what he died.
Imagine a 70 years old man jumping over a chair, 50 times, 100 times so
long as laughing Nazis enjoy it.
Imagine a 70 years old man loading old iron (which Goering collected for guns)
on a car while the jeering Nazis throw it down on the other side.
Imagine the mentality of the human being who can say after 50 strokes with
a riding-whip – “It could have been worse.”
What shall I tell more? I could tell for hours only what I have seen.
Horror, horror, horror. I do not want to bring hate between the Germans and
the English, the most Germans have no idea of all this. The only people who
know it are the Jews and the S.S. men and the others of Hitler’s troops who get
the salary of an officer of the army only for beating Jews.
However large the need for help is here in England, strong and soon the
help is not less necessary there. The unemployed themselves realise this and
collect money for refugees. I know people who spent two-thirds of their
possession for refugees.
This boy’s uncle was let out of a concentration camp because someone had
procured him a ticket for Shanghai where he is going with Otto’s parents. They
have no prospects whatever there; are allowed to take no money, and not even
the knitting-machine with which latterly they had earned a little. They may
not be allowed to land at Shanghai where there have been boat-loads of them
landed already. God help them.
Strangely enough Otto has no bitterness about it all, and says Hitler’s
policy is understandable. He also says of the tormentors – “They are only
boys. They do not realise how terrible are the things they do.” I wish I
could believe that. But it can’t be only the young. We couldn’t find a
guarantor for a man some months ago and he was sent back to a concentration camp
and was at last let out to have his feet cut off as they’d been so mutilated
in the camp. And there are too many like this for it all to be done by the
hard, unimaginative young.