Emigration Adventures
Personal Encounters
Film and Theater Credits
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Emigration Adventures

In 1938, when Leon Askin was forced to emigrate for the second time, his brother Dodi took him to the train station.

"Dodi and I arrived at the West Station. Many people were on the platform, as well as many SA and SS. Attila Hörbiger and his wife Paula Wessely were there to say goodbye to their friends Hans Jaray and Lili Darvas. Hans Jaray, who was already sitting in his compartment, saw me on the platform and called out to me: 'Aschkenasy . . . where are you off to?' 'Skiing', I said. 'Naturally, skiing!' he called back. But as soon as he had said this, he realized that he could have compromised me in doing so. Once the train had left the station, he came back to me to more or less apologize for his stupid and potentially dangerous question."

At the Austrian border station in Feldkirch, Askin was taken from the train and brought before two German Gestapo officials for interrogation.

"'Where are you going?' one of them snarled at me. I was quite afraid, but I was able to answer calmly: 'Home.' 'What do you mean, home?' he shouted. I showed him my passport, where I still had written 3, rue Dobropol, Paris 16th as my address. One of those funny coincidences that can save your life: I'm a sloppy Viennese - I had neglected to change my address - and it saved my life, my sloppy Viennese behavior."

In September, 1939, Leon Askin was taken to the French internment camp, Meslay du Maine.

"Our camp in Meslay du Maine wasn't a concentration camp; living and surviving depended on other factors. The French had no intention of killing us, but to humiliate and demoralize us. We - refugees from Hitler and Hitler opponents - couldn't understand that the French did not differentiate between Nazi aggressors and those they had driven from their homelands. The French didn't need to protect themselves from us; we were the ones who needed the protection. "

"On Saturday evenings, along with the opera singer Telasco and Karl Farkas, I organized song recitals and cabaret shows. I sang Jura Soyfer's "Voll Hunger und voll Brot" ("Full of hunger and full of bread"). Farkas wrote a revue with the title: 'Meslay Laughs Again,' paraphrasing his own huge success, "Vienna Laughs Again." Telasco sang Puccini and Verdi a capella. Those evenings were extremely successful; we always had a full house. We organizers looked forward to those Saturday nights just as much as the other camp "residents" who made up the audience. For all of us, they were a time when we could forget the daily routine over which we had no control, when we could again become those beings we once had been, before we were driven from our home and degraded into prisoners in our land of exile. A long time ago, so it seemed to us, we too had once been useful members of society with diverse interests. "