The Pfeffer Family During the War
Alan's Onkel Max, perished at Dachau Onkel Oskar, fled to Shanghai Tante Frieda, fled to Shanghai
During the war years we knew very little what was really going on and it took many years after the war before the enormity of the horrors really sank in. As I get older I think of it more and more often as I try to imagine what it was like and how I would have behaved, had I not been able to escape.
I think of my cousin Dolores, a beautiful girl, a little younger than myself, an orphan who perished in one of the Polish camps. But more often I think of the rich old ladies with all their jewelry, drinking their coffee mit Schlag, whose hands I was made to kiss as a boy. All of them perished before their time and I wonder how they ever made it up the ramps into the cattle cars with their suitcases.
My parents were extremely unhappy in Palestine, my father suffered under the climate, but more than anything he wanted to have his business, which he had so painstakingly built from scratch, returned to him. My mother hated it, period. They registered with UNRRA for repatriation at the first opportunity and were sent to a camp in the Sinai desert. Eventually they were put on a ship to Trieste and then via cattle car (an UNRRA requirement) to Vienna, to be welcomed by the Mayor and bands. That was in early 1947 and very shortly thereafter, Captain Peters, British Army, arrived, laden with food and cigarettes for barter.
My parents continued to express their gratitude for all the help I had given them in the past and continuing to that day. I remember finding it all a little embarrassing and unnecessary. I really was not coming home as they seemed to expect, because much had changed for me and them.
I had spent my formative years away from them in a very different culture, had achieved a great deal without their help and was now a person of substance, however temporary, in this very immediate post-war and four-power occupation environment. For example, I had to stay at the Sacher Hotel, reserved for British officers, while they, at that time were living in some hovel. Physically, I had grown to be quite tall and towered over them, since they were quite short and seemed to have shrunk. They treated me with a great deal of respect, if not deference.