Otto FRIEDMANN was born in Vienna on December 23, 1896. He was the third of the four children of the Jewish couple Ernestine Friedmann neé Stransky and Moritz Friedmann. Otto’s father Moritz was a furniture dealer in Leopoldstadt, Vienna’s main Jewish neighborhood. But Moritz died from an illness when he was only 40 years old, when all of his four children were still under school age. His family was reduced to poverty as his widow struggled to maintain them with needlework. In the last peacetime years before the First World War her oldest son Alfred had begun to earn his own income, but then he was drafted into the army and was killed on the Italian front at age 23.
Alfred’s brother Otto FRIEDMANN survived his own WWI military service in the Austro-Hungarian Army and then began working as a buyer for his uncle’s lumber business. The living conditions of the Friedmann family improved considerably thanks to this prosperous business and it provided Otto with the basis for establishing his own family.
Otto and Hilde met on a swimming trip and fell in love. They got married in the Vienna City Temple on October 22, 1922. Otto’s wife Hilde (Hildegard) FRIEDMANN had been born in Vienna on August 21, 1899 and was the only child of the Jewish couple Anna Rideg neé Weinberger and Josef Rideg (originally Reitzer). Josef had owned a silk shop in Vienna’s First District, but like Otto’s father Moritz he had died young.
Now Otto FRIEDMANN had to provide for a growing family, so in the spring of 1924 he expanded into exporting lumber in a business arrangement with the Falk Brothers AG in Basel Switzerland. Over the next fourteen years he was the Austrian lumber buyer for the firm that sold lumber in Switzerland, Germany and France.
In November 1924 the FRIEDMANNs moved from Vienna to Salzburg and from the beginning of January 1926 on they lived on the first floor of the building at 25 Haunspergstraße in the Elisabeth-Vorstadt neighborhood. The Falk Brothers AG Swiss firm had bought the building in July 1925 to provide a stable living and work place for their lumber buyer – who at first couldn’t afford their own residence in a prestigious neighborhood. The property records of the city of Salzburg indicate that in December 1931 Hilde FRIEDMANN acquired ownership of half of the building at 25 Haunspergstraße from the Falk Brothers AG, and that in December 1937 the other half was sold to the Fahom AG, a Swiss firm that Otto FRIEDMANN had set up in Basel. As he recalled it later:
… Then we found the house at Haunspergstraße 25. The firm [Falk Brothers] said it was prepared to buy it as we couldn’t pay the rent on our own. In August 1925 we agreed that I would pay a third of the cost. An apartment became free only in January 1926 so we moved in there in the first days of 1926. For the first time we were the occupiers of a really first class modern residence, the kind we had dreamed of. In the summer our mothers took turns visiting us, and sometimes these visits lasted the entire year. We were completely satisfied living there. It was a pleasure when our first child Fred was born. Sowe lived happily in our apartment from January 1926 until March 1938. [Marko M. Feingold Hg., Ein ewiges Dennoch, p. 47]
In his recollection Otto FRIEDMANN focused on his family’s happiness in 25 Haunspergstraße, where his children were born: Alfred (Fred) on October 15, 1926 and Margarete (Grete) on September 14, 1930. Both of them grew up in security and comfort – although only until they were twelve and eight respectively. The December 1937 Hanukah festival of the Salzburg Jewish Community, where Otto FRIEDMANN showed some films, was the last one before the dissolution of the Jewish Community.
Since the 1920s Salzburg’s Antisemites knew the names of the city’s Jews who were made into targets of their hatred, so the FRIEDMANN family was unable to avoid disturbances where they lived. We know that from 1935 to 1938 Otto FRIEDMANN was a member of the board of the official Jewish community organization, so he well informed about developments. The board’s protest against the persecution of the Jews in Germany and against Antisemitic pamphlets in Salzburg shows that the threat to Jewish life was felt even during the years when the Nazi movement was banned in Austria. Nazi supporters generally showed their political beliefs openly only after the arrival of German troops in Austria in March 1938 – threats that were now visible and tangible for the FRIEDMANN family.
The raising of the Nazi Swastika flag on the roof of 25 Haunspergstraße in March 1938 must have been an unmistakable signal for the Jewish building owners. Six families of renters were registered in their building and four of the six had family heads who were members of the Nazi party: Josef Rachmann (mezzanine), Leopold Neckam (first floor), Ludwig Sadleder and Franz Sauer (both third floor). Franz Sauer, the cathedral organist and a music teacher at the Mozarteum, had been a party member since 1932 (Number 6,342,291) – after the Nazis took over he was the state director of the Reich Music Chamber and responsible for the »dejewification« [»Entjudung«] of the music business in Salzburg (and later in liberated Salzburg he was honored posthumously with the naming of the Franz-Sauer-Straße, which is next to the Münchner Bundesstrasse near the Saalach river and the bridge to Germany).
The FRIEDMANNs noted later that »we were the only Jews in the house«, but it is worth noting that not all of their neighbors were Nazis: neither the Wengharts on the first floor not the Leitls on the second floor – who shared the floor with the FRIEDMANNs – were Nazis. Their neighbor Josef Leitl was a former Major General in the Austro-Hungarian Army who died in 1943. His wife Friederike, neé Singer, was a Jew who had converted to Catholicism and was therefore categorized by the Nazi racial laws as a »full Jew« and their unmarried daughter Therese was categorized as a »jüdischer Mischling« [a term best translated from Nazi-speak as a »Jewish mongrel«]. The experiences during those years of the two stigmatized women remains unknown, but according to the police registration files they had to share the second floor of 25 Haunspergstrasse until the liberation in May 1945 with the family of a Dr. Begus.
The expelled family FRIEDMANN knew a little about the Dr. Begus family which took over their apartment in January 1939 and lived there until the liberation of Salzburg. Dr. Otto Begus was an Austrian police officer – a member of the Nazi party and the SS who had been awarded the Nazi’s »Blutordensträger« [Blood Order] medal. In 1938/39 he was a Criminal Commissar in Salzburg, but during the Second World War he served as a Commissar in the Geheimen Feldpolizei – the military equivalent of the Gestapo – and was Chef of Group 6111 in occupied countries. The war crimes committed by the 611 group in Greece, including murders of the civilian population, were never punished. In the last years of the war Dr. Begus was an SS-Sturmbannführer [Major] and SS-Führer [Lt. Colonel] on the staff of the SS Upper Alpine Division in Salzburg. He returned to Salzburg in 1961 and lived here until his death in 1980 – he is buried in the Salzburg Municipal Cemetery.
Hilde, Otto, Fred and Grete FRIEDMANN lost far more than their lovely and beloved home in Salzburg. They also lost their mothers or grand-mothers, elderly women in need of nursing care who had to remain in Nazi Austria – sad farewells in 1938 that remained hidden traumas too painful to recall in the published memoires of the survivors.
The police registration files record that Anna Rideg, Hilde FRIEDMANN’s sick mother, was cared for in Salzburg until November 1938, before she was expelled to Vienna – where she died in Vienna’s Leopoldstadt at age 71 on February 3, 1940 (Vienna Central Cemetery grave Tor IV/22/44a/10). Otto FRIEDMANN’s 80 year old mother Ernestine was forced out of her apartment in Vienna’s 9th District in February 1940 – first to a Jewish nursing home in the Leopoldstadt, and then to a »collection camp« before she was deported to the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp on August 20, 1942. According to the official death report, Otto’s 82 year old mother Ernestine died there from »Adynamia Cordis, cardiac paralysis« on October 13, 1942.
The flight of the FRIEDMANN family lasted three years. When Hilda’s mother Anna died in Vienna they were in France (Switzerland having refused to allow them to stay even though Otto owned a business there). But even there it was unclear if they could remain free for long. They fled before the advancing German armies to the unoccupied zone of southern France. From Marseille they were able to get to Spain and then Lisbon, and from there they were finally able to reach freedom on two ships, the S.S. Exeter and the S.S. Excalibur. Otto and Fred reached New York on July 21, 1941, Hilde and Grete arrived a week later on July 28, 1941. There they were gladly welcomed by Otto’s sisters Grete and Ida who had gone to the US earlier. At that point their mother Ernestine was still living in a nursing home in Nazi Vienna before her deportation in August 1942.
What did the saved family members in America know? When did they learn of the loss of their beloveds under the terror regime? Presumably only after the victory of the allied forces and the liberation of Austria in 1945 – sadness and trauma in private, silence in public.
We do know that Hilde and Otto FRIEDMANN never filed for restitution for their house at 25 Haunspergstraße, even though they had clearly been injured and cheated. The two of them seem at first glance to have gotten 27,000 marks each for the confiscation and forced sale respectively of their two half ownerships of the house during their flight in the years 1939/40 – and even that was well below their original value. The real estate agents, lawyers, and so-called »foreign exchange advisors« cleared about 11,500 marks in commissions and fees off the sale of the two half ownerships.
As Hilda’s half ownership was declared to be »Jewish property« the German government seized 20,463.64 marks, most of what the buyer had paid. Another 2,036.36 of the sale price was deposited in a frozen account for the »dejewification proceeds Hildegard Sara Friedmann« at the Salzburg State Mortgage Agency – which like all similar frozen accounts for Jews was simply confiscated by the government during the war. The other half ownership belonged to Otto FRIEDMANN’s Fahom AG in Basel Switzerland. As it was the property of a Swiss company it wasn’t counted as »Jewish property« and the entire post-sale balance of 20,247.80 marks left after the deductions for commissions and fees was deposited in a frozen account for the Swiss Fahom AG in the Carl August Steinhäuser Bank in Vienna – a renamed formerly Jewish owned Ephrussi & Co bank that had been confiscated in 1938.
There are real doubts that anything from a frozen account in an »Aryanized« Vienna bank was ever allowed to be transferred out of Germany (though many years later Fred said he thought that his parents had gotten some of the money). In any case Hildegard »Sara« and Otto »Israel« FRIEDMANN (the middle names that the Nazis imposed on all Jews), suffered severe damages and losses by the time the Nazis declared them to deprived of their German citizenship (reported in the Deutscher Reichsanzeiger of May 15, 1941).
After the FRIEDMANNs were deprived of their ownership the Salzburg property registers recorded new owners for 25 Haunspergstraße in 1940/41: Anna and Dr. Kurt Lundwall, gynecologist and Nazi Party member number 6,347,114 (a membership number that was one of those reserved for »old party comrades«).
It’s been said that Dr. Lundwall was a Swedish doctor, but in fact he was an Austrian (born in Troppau in 1892). It has also been said that Lida Baarová, a prominent film actress and for a while mistress of the Nazi propagandist and leader Joseph Goebbels, moved into the Jewish family’s apartment after the end of WWII. What is certain is that in 1971the widowed Dr. Lundwall married Ludmila Kopecký neé Babková (known as Lida Baarová) who had been living in Salzburg since 1948 – and that Ludmila Lundwall (widowed in 1973) officially lived in mezzanine apartment number 2 at 25 Haunspergstrasse from May 5, 1986 until her death on October 28, 2000.
It appears that the perpetrators and beneficiaries of the Nazi regime enjoy more media attention than their victims. That is at least in part a result of the continuance of Antisemitism. That meant that the return of the survivors was most definitely unwelcome. It took decades before the city of Salzburg officially invited the expelled families to visit their former home town: in 1993, and then only thanks to the initiative of the Jewish Community organization and its president Marko Feingold.
The older FRIEDMAN(N)s were not among the visitors as Otto had died in December 1986 at age 90 (Hilde lived to be 101before her death in Flushing New York in December 2002). Their son Fred, serving as the Austrian honorary consul in Buffalo New York, visited Salzburg many times. His sister Grete (Margaret Kohlhagen) was far more reserved about their home town than he was, but she too accepted the official invitation to visit Salzburg in 1993. On January 16, 2008 Fred died in Clarence New York (18 miles north-east of Buffalo) at age 81. Both Fred and Grete have children and grandchildren who live in the US.
»…Head of group 611 [Geheime Feldpolizei] was an Austrian, Otto Begus from Salzburg, whose role in major Nazi war crimes in Greece would be investigated by Austrian prosecutors after the war. Feldpolizeikommissar (captain) Begus never got indicted for the crimes he had committed in Greece. The only punishable act that could be proved by the prosecution was his membership in the clandestine Austrian Nazi party before the ‘Anschluss’. On 26 April 1948 he received a conviction of three years imprisonment (LG Wien Vg 11 Vr 8262/47). Information about the shooting of hostages, the murder of hundreds of civilians and other atrocities in the Athens metropolitan area can be found in Greek documents attached to the prosecution record against Otto Begus, Franz Kleedorfer, Alfred Josef Slawik (LG Wien Vg 8e Vr 183/53)«.
Winfried R. Garscha, »Ordinary Austrians. Common War Criminals during World War II« in: Günter Bischof, Fritz Plasser, Eva Maltschnig (ed.s), Austrian Lives. Contemporary Austrian Studies, vol. 21, New Orleans 2012, p. 313
- Israelitische Kultusgemeinden [Jewish Community Organizations] Vienna and Salzburg
- Salzburg city and state archives
- Real Estate Registers of the City of Salzburg and Documents Collection (EZ 140)
- Albert Lichtblau: »Die Geschichten der Familie Friedman(n)« in: Marko M. Feingold (ed.), Ein ewiges Dennoch, Vienna 1993, pp. 461-485
- Winfried R. Garscha, »Ordinary Austrians. Common War Criminals during World War II« in: Günter Bischof, Fritz Plasser, and Eva Maltschnig (ed.s), Austrian Lives. Contemporary Austrian Studies, vol. 21, New Orleans 2012, pp. 304-326
Translation: Stan Nadel
Laid 26.09.2018 at Salzburg, Haunspergstraße 25