My grandfather, Frank Weinmann, grew up in Vienna, Austria: a well-educated, assimilated Jew whose father owned paint factories.
His full, happy, upper-middle-class life fell apart when he was in his early 20s and the Nazis marched into Austria. After the so-called “Kristallnacht” in 1938 — when German Nazis destroyed Jewish businesses and homes for the phrase “The Night of Broken Glass” — they knew they had to leave. Grandfather Frank’s parents had already obtained visas to the US with the help of family in Chicago. But Frank fell in love with a Hungarian girl whom my grandmother Theri had met in Bratislava. They stayed with her in Europe, first hiding out in Prague, where they married in secret when they eloped.
Frank eventually made his way to Terri’s hometown of Kosice in Hungary, where he hid with his family. It was 1940 and 1941 and Hungary was still safe for Jews.
Meanwhile, my grandfather’s brother, Uncle Charles, was in Chicago trying to get visas for my grandparents to come to America, which was not easy. To get in, even those trying to escape death in the camps, Jews had to sign an affidavit with an American sponsor and be willing to put up a lot of money. Charles’ employer in Chicago agreed to do so, and by a series of miracles, my grandparents left Europe in the fall of 1941 and arrived at Pearl Harbor two months earlier.
Once in America, Terry’s parents tried to get my grandparents, Rudolph and Matilda Vidor, to come to America. But they are proud Hungarians. They thought it would be fine. They remained until 1944, when Hitler invaded Hungary.
My great grandfathers were taken to Auschwitz and murdered. Their daughter, my great aunt, was also there, but was later taken on a death march and eventually died in a different camp called Stutthof, which we recently learned thanks to the help of Nadia Figara with the American Holocaust Museum.
For years, without knowing what had happened to her parents, my grandmother recited the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer honoring the dead, on the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. This is an event that has nothing to do with my family, but has to do with Jewish courage and bravery. Hitler tried to exterminate the Jews but failed.