Hans Heimann

Hans Heimann

Born: May 28, 1920

Vienna, Austria

Hans was born to a Jewish family in the Austrian capital of Vienna. His parents ran a successful export shop for ladies' hats and sold their wares to many different countries. As a boy, Hans attended a private, preparatory school in which courses were taught in both English and German.

1933-39: Hans was attending business school when the Germans annexed Austria in 1938. Hans and his family watched from their window as German troops, led by Hitler, goose-stepped into Vienna. Hans was immediately forced out of school. About two weeks later, an Austrian appointed by the Germans told his family he had instructions to liquidate their business. His parents no longer believed they had a future in Germany and decided to leave. The family left for Italy in 1939.

1940-45: Hans and his family settled in Genoa. One day in 1940 two Italian policemen came and told them they were to be interned because they were Jewish. "But don't worry," they said, "We're human beings. We're not animals. We're not the Germans." The Italians took them to the village of Compagna, and a month later, to Tortoreto in central Italy. His family was housed in a hotel overlooking the sea and were allowed freedom of movement. They could go to the movies and were even given pocket money. In 1943 they were liberated by the British army.

Hans worked as an interpreter for the Allies until the end of the war, and then spent three years arranging for JDC-funded ships to smuggle Jewish refugees into Palestine.