My grandfather Karl escaped from Nazi occupied Vienna in the fall of 1938. By 1940, everyone he had ever known in that city was either on the run from, or scrambling to leave, Europe. I found a collection of letters that documented that desperation. Among them, there were dozens of missives from his lover, Valerie – Valy – Scheftel. Of all his friends, no one was more intense in her efforts to escape. By 1940 she, too, was on the run – but she had run deeper into the Reich, rather than out. She moved to Berlin sometime in the winter of 1938/1939 and in this series of letters I found, excerpted here, I discovered that even those around her in the heart of Hitler’s Germany were lobbying my grandfather to help her. But as you will see from primary documents unearthed at the University of Minnesota’s Immigration Research Center archives, my grandfather was in no monetary position to help anyone.
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