My parents, Julius and Olga Popper and my brother Herbert and I lived at Lainzerstraße 162. The house had been the summer residence of nobility until World War I. It was then sold and subdivided into a number of apartments. The building was recessed from Lainzerstraße with a lovely garden protected from the street by an ornate metal fence and lined with beautiful old lilac trees. My mother and I loved to garden, and we planted an apricot tree which bloomed for the first time when we had to leave in 1939. I was then thirteen years old. I attended Volksschule in the Steinlechnergasse and entered the Maedchen Gymnasium Wenzgasse four years later. I loved going to school and had very good grades until the „Anschluss“. Then I went to Judenschule near the Westbahnhof.
During my childhood years in Hietzing I had had various experiences which I remember well over these many years, and some of which I am very grateful to be able too share with you today. For many years Hansi Hoffmann and I were close friends. When we were about four years old the Hoffmanns moved into a new villa build next to Lainzerstraße 162, and we played together daily. His parents had come to Vienna from Germany and were very nice to me. After the „Anschluss“, Hansi, in his Hitlerjugend Uniform, passed me by on the street and looked away. Did he survive the war? His father turned out to be a leading Nazi.
On my first day at Volksschule, when I was six years old in 1932, I little girl asked me whether I was Jewish. When I told her that I was she told me that she was not allowed to speak to me, ever. But there were many other children with whom I was on very good terms. After the „Anschluss“ two elderly women who lived in one of the apartments in our house passed me on the street and spat on me. But, another tenant stopped me in the garden and asked me to come to her apartment in five minutes; she was concerned about being seen walking with me. There she explained to me that she was afraid to talk to me and my mother, to even greet her on the street. She wanted me to tell my mother how sad she was about all that had happened and showed me her linen cabinet where she had hidden her beloved books by Heinrich Heine.
One moving memory
But one of the most moving memories I treasure happened only a few weeks before the „Anschluss“. Our apartment was only a few houses away from the Lainzer Kirche. One of the priests was a very tall young man who never failed to exchange greetings with my father as we passed each other on Lainzerstraße. That day, as we passed the church on our way home, this young priest stopped us and asked whether we would come and join many other people standing near the entrance to the church. There, on the steps, a passion play was being performed. Just as we arrived, Christ was speaking, and I will never forget what he said: „Ob Jud oder Christ, ganz einerlei – Hört auf mit dieser Rassenschänderei!“ I have often worried what might have happened to this lovely young priest during the Nazi Regime. The knowledge that there were such wonderful caring people helped me over many bad moments and experiences at that very difficult time for us and always.