Wednesday, June 28th, 2017...12:35 pm

She heard Hitler speak

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Remembering Hungarian Shoah survivor Eva W. Wiesenberg

by MAX SAPRBER

Eva W. Wiesenberg’s recent obituary, published in the June 16 issue of American Jewish World, contained a chilling pair of sentences: “Eva was a high-spirited, Jewish teenager visiting relatives in Vienna when Hitler and the Nazis annexed Austria. Eva actually heard Hitler speak and witnessed the outrageous fate of her friends and relatives in the ensuing days.”

Eva W. Wiesenberg. (Photo: Courtesy of Wiesenberg Family)

Eva’s family expanded on this in a booklet they created celebrating her life on celebrationsoflife.net, explaining that she overheard Hitler speaking to a crowd, and was terrified by the anti-Semitic content of his speech. “For months she pressured her family to leave until her father finally agreed to help her,” the booklet explains. “However, her parents were unwilling to go as they, like most Hungarian Jews, didn’t believe their lies were threatened.”

This is how Eva, a native of VásárosnaményHungary, since her birth in 1920, left for England shortly before Hitler invaded Poland; it is also how Eva lost her parents and two brothers to the Holocaust.

In England, Eva met her husband-to-be Rabbi Joseph W. Wiesenberg and gave birth to her son Michael, but upon learning of the fate of her family, Eva decided she wanted to leave Europe altogether.

This proved to be a complicated process, as Rabbi Avi S. Olitzsky explained in his eulogy for Wiesenberg: “Eva and Joe applied for a visa to the United States, but were repeatedly denied. Eva decided to write directly to Eleanor Roosevelt with her appeal — and the Former First Lady sent her a personal response offering to do whatever she could. Shortly thereafter, the visas were granted.”

The Wiesenbergs first lived in Chicago and eventually settled in St. Louis Park in 1961, where Eva was active in the local Jewish community, as a member of Beth El and also as a patron of art and music. Her family’s recollections, however, were that the Holocaust had diminished her previously adventuresome personality. She “never lost her spark, however,” her daughter Judy wrote of her, “and I have always described her as having been vivacious and full of life.”

In her final years, Eva suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Rabbi Olitzsky was told by a family member that “to an extent, though she had been afflicted by Alzheimer’s for the past 15 years or so, eventually the disease seemed to reset her inhibitions to before the war, with a smile and love that seemed to emanate from her youth — even at the age of 97.”

“Her family can remember her with a smile on their face — and hers,” Rabbi Olitzsky said, “sitting sipping her tea, reusing the teabags in her beautiful china; or, carefully and delicately flattening out the aluminum foil, the silver paper … so as not to waste it.”

Eva Wiesenberg is survived by son, Michael Wiesenberg, and his daughters: Emilie Nangle and her children, Joey and Lili, Chloe Meade and her son, Henry, and daughter, Madeleine Eva. She is also survived by her son-in-law, William Neiman, and his daughters: Becky Neiman and her daughter Emma, and Maurine and her step-daughter, Frieda Kenyon Brown and her son, Jack Joseph Neiman

 

(American Jewish World, 6.30.17)

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