Holocaust survivor thrives in an atmosphere of love

Lotte Keiderling

Lotte Keiderling 1931 –

Pastries in her father’s bakery. Chestnut trees in bloom. Passover at the synagogue. The Ferris wheel in the Prater amusement park. Lotte’s memories of Vienna are still vivid after eighty years, but not all of them are so happy. 

It was March 1938 at the Hofburg; a man was screaming from a balcony. Suddenly Mama was pulling me from the crowd: “That’s Hitler. He hates us.” Another time a child ran after me, yelling, “It’s a Jew!” Soon worse things were happening, like the looting of Jewish businesses. 

In June 1939, Lotte found herself on a train, heading toward London. One of thousands of Jewish minors whisked out of reach of the Nazis by the Kindertransport, she was assigned to the Bruderhof, which had volunteered to take in four children.

On arriving, she stared: “All these women in kerchiefs and long dresses. I thought I’d landed on a different planet.” And yet she was accepted with open arms and included in everything, as if she was one of the community’s own children. Best of all, no one seemed to mind or even know that she was a Jew. Soon she was thriving in what she called “the atmosphere of love.”

When a child walks down the road, a company of angels goes before him proclaiming, “Make way for the image of the Holy One.”
Hasidic saying

After the war’s end, Lotte, who was living at a Bruderhof in South America, received news that her mother had been killed in a Polish ghetto. Her father survived the concentration camps and emigrated to New York. Tragically, he died before she was able to reunite with him. 

In 1950, when I was nineteen, a young man on the community fell in love with me. He was a German, but he didn’t worry or care that I was Jewish. He just loved me and I fell in love with him. We got married in 1952 and, guess what, we had thirteen kids. And I said, “I gave Hitler a kick in the pants!” 

In 2018, at the age of eighty-seven, Lotte finally returned to Vienna and the Ferris wheel of her childhood. Back then, her father had always said she was too little to ride. “Not today, Lottchen. But one day, I promise I’ll take you.” This time, the operator, who had been given a heads-up, called her to the front of the line. In minutes, the entire city was stretching out before her feet.

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