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Letter from Arthur Lederer to Her Excellence Muriel Grafin Seherr-Thoss

Date: 14 February 1939
Overall: 290 x 210 mm
Medium: Type written on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Walter and Jean Lederer Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Object Copyright: © Jean Lederer
Object Name: Letter
Object No: 00015941
Place Manufactured:Praha

User Terms

    Austrian emigrant Arthur Lederer, wrote this letter from Prague, Czechoslovakia to Countess Muriel Grafin Seherr-Thoss in Palermo, Italy to notify her of his imminent plans to leave Europe. Along with Lady Max-Muller, the Countess helped the Lederer family to escape Austria prior to World War II during a period of growing Jewish persecution by the Nazis. It was only with the help of his wealthy contacts that Arthur could escape Austria and come to Australia as a displaced migrant.
    SignificanceThe story of the Lederer family provides a glimpse into the experiences of the Jewish population in Vienna and illustrates the tortuous journey emigrants were forced to endure in order to find safety. This letter is significant in documenting the story of one migrant family's flight from Nazi-occupied Europe to Australia.
    HistoryBorn in Vienna, Austria in 1889, Arthur Lederer was a talented tailor who made gala uniforms for European royalty and high society. On the eve of Adolf Hitler’s march into Vienna in March 1938, Lederer was working on Archduke Otto of Austria’s crowning robes, believing that the exiled monarch would return.

    In November 1938 Arthur Lederer, his wife Valerie and their son Walter attempted to escape the escalating Jewish persecution in Nazi-occupied Austria. They travelled by taxi from Vienna to the Austria-Czechoslovakia border but were held up by the German Gestapo and thrown into jail. They were released after three days and returned home to Vienna.

    Four weeks later they made another attempt to escape. The family purchased passports in December 1938 and travelled by Austrian Airlines to Prague, Czechoslovakia. The League of Nations (forerunner to the United Nations) issued them with Nansen passports, an internationally recognised identity card provided to stateless refugees.

    Arthur then started appealing to his well-connected clients for help to escape Europe. Most clients did not respond, perhaps fearing they would be persecuted by the Nazis for assisting Jews. Eventually Lady Max Muller, wife of the British Ambassador to Spain, provided them with tickets to Australia and the £300 arrival money required by the Australian Government.

    The family travelled to Australia on the Orient liner SS ORAMA, which departed Toulon, France on 17 June 1939. ORAMA stopped at Naples, Italy, Port Said, Egypt, Aden, Yemen and Colombo, Ceylon before arriving in Fremantle, Western Australia. From Fremantle the Lederers sailed to Sydney, where they began their new life in Australia.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Letter from Arthur Lederer to Her Excellence Muriel Grafin Seherr-Thoss


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