My Childhood 1920-1938

I was there.

Grete Feldsberg was born in 1920 in Mistelbach, a small city 50 km north of Vienna, Austria, as the only child of Ignaz and Irma Feldsberg, nee Zweig. She spent her childhood in Mistelbach. Her father and his brother had a wine shop.

The years of elementary school were rather “normal”, but in the thirties, when Hitler came to power in Germany, the then still illegal National Socialists also gained influence in Austria and antisemitism got stronger. Grete said that since that time she had no contact with Christian children anymore.

In 1937, the family moved to the capital Vienna. Ignaz Feldsberg bought a house in Vienna, which Grete was to inherit.

Grete Stern, nee Feldsberg (1920), Austria

Grete Stern, nee Feldsberg (1920), Austria

Consider here Grete Feldsberg's life before WWII

The picture shows the Feldsberg family in the late 1920s in front of a wine cellar in Mistelbach. Grete Feldsberg’s mother, Irma, is sitting on the far right of the left-hand bench. Grete is standing on the far right with her father Ignaz Feldsberg’s arm around her.

1)  Look at the picture and consider the question.

  • 1a. Grete Stern tells about the experiences of her Jewish family at the time of National Socialism. Have you heard stories in your family about this time?

Childhood in Mistelbach

Grete Feldsberg, grows up in Mistelbach in the Lower Austrian Weinviertel. Her father, Ignaz Feldsberg, runs a wine shop together with his brother. The Jews and Christians in the town rarely have any private contact with one another.

2) Listen to Grete as she talks about her childhood in Mistelbach, then answer the questions.

  • 2a. Make notes of the most important themes in her narration and talk about your impressions in the group.

  • 2b. What do you know about the relationships between the different religious and ethnic groups in Grete Stern’s hometown? What changed these relationships?

  • 2c. Think about your own childhood friendships. Do you know what religion or ethnic group your friends belonged to? Did it make any difference to your friendship?

Jewish Life in Mistelbach

3) Watch the slide show about Jewish life in Mistelbach. Then answer the question.

  • 3a. What was Jewish life like in a small town and in the countryside?

Next Section
Life Changes 1938

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