Visiting my grandfather’s apartment
This is the apartment building where my grandfather Benjamin Perl lived until he was 15. He and his family were forced to leave Vienna in 1939 and come to America due to the Nazi annexation of Austria.
My grandfather could not go to school and his father could not work because they were Jews. But they were some of the luckier ones. Several of my grandfather’s relatives were able to flee to other countries, but many were murdered, along with millions of other Jews, in concentration camps.
My grandfather visited Vienna with my mom 49 years after he left during the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass. The picture on the right is of them in 1989.
Though I never knew my grandfather at his full mental capacity (he had a debilitating stroke before I was born), my mother said he remained a proud Austrian for the rest of his life.
Still, while the two pictures capture joyous moments, it is important to note the reason they exist. My grandfather adored his city, but he was forced to leave his whole life behind because people in power decided he was inferior to them.
Though it’s been nearly a century since that black period in history, Antisemitism persists. I was lucky enough to walk inside my grandfather’s building, and while I was taking it all in, I turned my head and saw the words “Heil Hitler” graffitied on a wall.
The best way to combat hatred is to keep alive the stories of those who were affected so profoundly. I’m proud to have done that today.