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  • Our family had fled Vienna in 1938 after the Anschluss when I was four months old. We felt blessed to be among those who escaped and found refuge in England.

    Two years later, there was hammering on our front door. The British constabulary announced that they were going to take away my father, a research chemist at Cambridge University. They gave him one hour to get his things together. Without a word they took him away.

    Another hammering at the door two weeks later. They gave mother an hour to prepare to leave with me. A visiting friend emptied his wallet for her. She stuffed the money in her girdle. She tells of distorted faces yelling epithets at our train that took us to the internment camp. Hundreds of Austrian and German women and children, recent immigrants, were placed behind barbed wire and armed guards in the Ballaqueeny Hotel on the Isle of Man. My non-English speaking grandmother arrived a month later.

    I know my mother spent hours washing the sheets of our shared bed where I peed nightly. She walked the beach when allowed, and gathered shells.

    A fellow internee made them into a necklace which my mother wore often until her death. She bequeathed the necklace to me.
    My mother, a model internee, was sometimes allowed to shop in the village, accompanied by armed guards. She was chosen to play the part of Mary in the Christmas play for the camp.

    We were released after ten months and returned to our home in Cambridge. After the war we immigrated to the USA.

    I heard bits and pieces of this story from my mother over 90 years,, but only when I asked. How did it affect me? Every day I felt I was lucky, lived life to its fullest. It took her death to start me writing our family memoir. I felt an obligation to my family, her especially. I wanted my children and grandchildren and beyond to know our story, but one of thousands.

    I have spent 30 years working with disadvantaged inner city children in Syracuse. It has fed me as much as them and their families.

    My mother was proud of me all those years.
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