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Survivor Portraits – Eva Engel

This month, we introduce Holocaust child survivor Eva Engel. Eva was born in Vienna, Austria in 1932.

After the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria to Germany in 1938, it became extremely dangerous for the Jewish population. As her father had close business connections in Switzerland, Eva and her parents were able to escape to Zurich with three-week visas. The Evian Conference, which denied Jewish refugees entry to most countries in the world, caused fear of a refugee crisis in Europe.

Because of her father’s profession as an engineer, Eva and her family gained entry into Australia and arrived in Sydney in January 1939. After Australia entered the war, Eva’s father was moved to a position in New Zealand, and so the family spent the rest of the war there.

Eva’s family mixed with German-speaking Jews in New Zealand. They thought, given their location, they were far from the Nazi horror. However, a local man who was a key organiser of the clandestine Nazi party in Auckland started to cause havoc, and Eva’s mother got involved to put an end to it. Eva’s mother reported what was happening to the Lord Mayor of Auckland. An investigation was called for, and two days later the offender committed suicide.

Being an only child, Eva was often fearful of separation from her parents. Life in New Zealand provided Eva with opportunities to grow in her hobbies and personality, and it was these opportunities that gave Eva the confidence to start her work in outreach, counselling and migrant integration.

In this image, Eva holds a promotional brochure for the T.S.S. Straithard, the P&O liner that carried her family to Australia. She remembers that her mother was seasick for four weeks during the voyage. Eva would not leave her side.

Photograph by Katherine Griffiths.