September 30, 2021
This month we introduce to you Holocaust survivor Alice Loeb. Alice was born in 1943 in Zurich, Switzerland.
Both of Alice’s grandfathers served in the Army in World War I, Sadly, her paternal grandfather was killed in battle, aged only 33, leaving behind his wife and six children. Alice’s father and his siblings ended up growing up in separate orphanages.
Alice’s father left the orphanage to become a carpenter and glazier, and worked in the Vienna Glass works until Hitler invaded Austria in March 1938.
Alice’s parents were friends; they lived around the corner from each other but never dated. After Hitler and the Nazis invaded, Jews immediately lost their citizenship and harsh antisemitic laws were put in place. Young people were banding together to escape, having to leave their families behind. Alice’s grandfather kept saying that nothing would happen to them; a lot of older people thought that way.
In August 1938, Alice’s parents escaped illegally to Zurich. When World War II began in September 1939, the Jewish refugees in Switzerland were rounded up into forced labour camps until the war ended on 8 May 1945.
Alice’s parents had been stateless since 1938. Both Alice and her brother were born stateless. Alice was born in 1943 and her brother, Phillip, 15 months later in March 1945. After the war the Swiss refused continually to give the family citizenship. Alice’s parents had to report to the police every week for interrogation and fingerprinting. They both had lost their entire families in the Holocaust and just wanted to leave Europe.
The family finally managed to get aboard a Dutch troop ship, the Johan de Witt, with some 700 other Holocaust survivors. The ship was headed for Australia.
Alice recalls: “The journey took about six weeks, there were two fires on board and every children’s disease was rampant and of course my brother and I caught them all as there were no vaccines in those days. We arrived in Sydney on my brother’s second birthday, on 16 March 1947. I was three years and three months old and my memory begins from this day.”
To read more from our Survivor Portraits blog series, click here.
To explore the personal stories and anecdotes of Holocaust survivors, click here for our first online exhibition.
Photograph by Katherine Griffiths.