Menu JTA Search

Aged Jewish General Who Defied the Nazis in Vienna Returns Home from Theresienstadt

Major Gen. Emil von Sommer, a famous Jewish general of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, who for long was believed to have been executed by the Nazis, has reappeared in Vienna to take up his life again. The general and his wife returned to Vienna from the former concentration camp at Theresienstadt, Czechoslovakia.

(Gen. Von Sommer, a few days after the Anschluss, in March 12, 1938, created something of a world sensation by the course of action he took when Nazi storm troopers called at his home and ordered him to report immediately for compulsory street cleaning work. Asking permission to change his clothes, he appeared in a few minutes in his full general’s uniform, wearing all of his medals, and announced he was then ready to wield shovel and broom. The party of stormetroopers, shamed and apparently unwilling to degrade the general’s uniform, saluted and retired.)

Still vigorous at the age of 75, Gen. von Sommer has apparently largely recovered from the effects of his confinement. Both he and his wife told the J.T.A. correspondent they hopefully anticipate an opportunity eventually to migrate to the United States to join their daughter, Mrs. Ellen Fryer, of Middleborough, Mass. Her husband is a physician of the Lakeville State Sanatorium in that town. A son is a physician in the French Congo.

Like all survivors of that camp, Gen. von Sommer and his wife recall with vivid emotion the horrors of their experiences there. “We don’t know how we escaped death,” his wife said. “We would be among those selected to be sent to the gas chambers in Poland, and then-there would be a change in plans. That was a miracle that happened again and again.”

NEXT STORY