Karl Löwy – Memories

Karl Löwy (born 1898) was the co-owner of a thriving grocery business in the small Austrian town of Gmünd in Lower Austria (Nieder Österreich). He owned it with his brother Hermann and they had inherited it from its founder, their father, Eduard Löwy. 


Karl and Hermann, along with their wives Magda and Margarete, were hounded out of town to Vienna and their business was aryanised (forcibly sold to non-Jewish owners) between 1938 and 1939.

Throughout 1939 Karl, Hermann, their wives and siblings, had been trying to escape Nazi-governed Europe (Karl’s sisters Ottilie and Hedwig had married and had been living in Vienna from the early 1920s, whilst his sisters Helene and Ella had married and moved to Teplitz Schönau in Czechoslovakia before the early 1920s). Their plans, recorded in letters between relatives from that time, included Palestine, England, and Venezuela.

Karl is not mentioned a great deal in the letters. This might be because he was in a concentration camp – something that remains to be confirmed.

Karl arrived in Sandwich in August 1939, as recorded in a relative’s letter to Hedwig. At the same time his wife Magda, who was born Hungarian, had to head to Budapest to escape Nazi persecution because her visa for England had not yet been secured: when it was, work broke out almost straight afterwards; she somehow survived the war in Budapest.

Two of Karl’s letters from Sandwich are among letters we still have; they were sent to Hedwig in October and December 1939. In the letters Karl writes of adjusting to camp life and also speculates on the fates of their siblings and Magda. He is aware of how lucky he and Hedwig are (she was also in the UK – on a domestic service visa).

The next letter to Hedwig was sent from Hay internment camp in Sydney, Australia, in December 1940. Karl had been deported on the Dunera.

Karl was then moved to Tatura internment camp in Victoria, Australia, until he managed to get to Palestine in 1942. He stayed there for the duration of the war, getting intermittent news from Magda until finally he heard that she had survived and could perhaps join him in Palestine.

Karl stated that he would never return to Gmünd or Vienna, but he and Magda did (either because she could not get to Palestine or because they could not settle there). His shop was returned to him and Hermann (who had managed to reach the USA in 1939 and also returned).

Karl’s sister Hedwig survived the war in the UK, and his sister Ottilie survived in Vienna because she was married to a Catholic. Sisters Ella and Helene were deported from Prague with their husbands in 1941 and perished. Fortunately, their children survived.

Karl and Magda never had any children, to Magda’s regret, later in life. They sold the business in the early 1970s (Hermann having died in 1967) and retired to Vienna. Karl died in 1985 and Magda died in 1993. They are buried in the Jewish section of Vienna’s Zentralfriedhof cemetery.

Submitted by Nikolas Pollinger for his great-uncle Karl Löwy