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Survivor Portraits – Anne Heilig

This month we tell the story of Holocaust survivor Anne Heilig (nee Anneliese Hoffmann). Anne was born in Berlin, Germany in 1935.

Hitler had already come to power and the persecution of the Jews in Germany had begun. One morning, in 1938, Anne’s parents woke to find that their family business had been vandalised. Someone had scrawled across their shop window, “Leo Hoffmann is a Jew”. From that night on, Anne’s father would not sleep at home, fearful for his safety. He knew that the Nazis were after him.

Fortunately, Anne’s parents were lucky enough to receive visas to Australia. Their ship, the Eridan, arrived in Australia on the day of Kristallnacht – the Night of Broken Glass – on 10 November 1938. They had with them a few personal belongings and £200 in their pocket.

Anne remembers, “My father couldn’t find a job. He was willing to settle for washing cars for a shilling, but couldn’t even get that work.” They eventually opened a shop in Mascot selling children’s and men’s clothing, using milk crates for the shop counter.

Although considered in Australia as an ‘enemy alien’, Anne’s father was able to enlist into the Australian Army. Anne’s mother looked after her and ran the small shop while he was away.

Anne taught her parents English. She tells the story of one day when her father went to the shops to ask for potatoes, but came back with onions instead.

Anne sympathises with the refugees of today saying that, “you need all the help you can get”.

Photograph of Holocaust survivor Anne Heilig

In this photo, Anne is pictured with her toy pram, a gift for her third birthday. It was a custom-made copy of the same pram that her mother had used when Anne was a baby.

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.

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