Wilhelm Steiner was eighteen years old in November 1938 and had to watch how his family’s business was plundered. When he wanted to intervene, he was accused of insulting Hitler and arrested.
“There were thieves everywhere ...”
The day after Kristallnacht a provisional administrator for the store arrived. This provisional administrator was Viennese and a thief. There were thieves everywhere, official and unofficial ones. This administrator took all the money he could find; he simply put everything into his own pocket. This triggered a discussion and I protested loudly, after all I couldn’t assess what was really going on. I told him, ‘You’re a pig. You’re stealing everything here, how can you know what will happen in two years’ time? How do you know? And who knows, things may change.’ Whereupon this provisional administrator, this thief locked the store from the inside and called the police. He claimed that I had insulted the ‘Führer.’
Viennese policemen arrived, arrested me and took me to the police station. The detective superintendent said to me, ‘Tell me, boy, are you out of your mind? How can you say something like that?’ I denied everything and asked him, ‘Would you be so kind as to call my parents and tell them that my bicycle is in front of the store?’ He actually did it. From the station I was taken to the Gestapo where I was interrogated by this young fellow, a typical Viennese. He said to me, ‘What for God’s sake do you think you are doing?’ To which I replied, ‘But I didn’t say anything, I said nothing at all. He was stealing everything there and he probably didn’t like the idea that I saw it. And so he had me arrested.’
Big photo above:
Wilhelm Steiner cutting wood in Switzerland (1939)
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