“I was eight years old when the Germans marched into Vienna. When I went to Heldenplatz, there were throngs of people on the Ring shouting ‘Heil! Heil!’ and even at that age I instantly knew I had become an outsider,” recalls Holocaust survivor Lucia Heilman about the Nazi Anschluss – annexation – of Austria in March 1938.
In an instant, Lucia’s home country turned into a place of fear and uncertainty. Its 185,000 Jews suddenly faced hostility from those they had regarded as friends and fellow Austrians.
“It was incredibly frightening and I ran all the way home, scared to death. The principal kicked all the Jewish kids out of school. They humiliated me horribly, and I carry that feeling inside me – even now! Christian boys would bully us and beat us up when they saw that Yellow Star we were forced to wear,” Lucia says.
Lucia Treister was born in 1929 in Vienna to chemist Regina Treister and Siemens engineer Rudolf Kraus, who was not Jewish. Her father immigrated to Iran in the hopes of getting Lucia and her mother out of Austria, but he was too late. When the war broke out, he was considered a hostile enemy and was deported to Australia.
Reinhold Duschka, Lucia’s father’s best friend, who owned a metal workshop, hid Lucia and her mother in his workshop for four and a half years. With barely enough to eat, the two lived in fear day in and day out.
After the war, Lucia spent a year in Australia with her father but returned to Vienna. She became a physician, married Alfred Heilman, a Ukrainian Jew, and had two daughters.
In recent years, Lucia has visited schools and spoken with students throughout Austria about what she went through during the Holocaust. Lucia receives monthly payments from the Claims Conference Article 2 Fund in recognition of the persecution and suffering she endured.