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Letter from Steffie Fessel to Arthur Lederer

Date: 12 June 1939
Overall: 297 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 Name: Letter
Object No: 00015950
Place Manufactured:Wien

User Terms

    Steffie Fessel wrote this letter to Arthur Lederer on 12 June 1939 sending it to him in London after he had fled Austria. Fessel was a close friend of the Lederer family and knew them before they migrated to Australia to escape Nazi persecution in Austria. Despite this Fessel later removed all the Lederer's goods from storage and kept them for herself.
    SignificanceThe story of the Lederer family provides a glimpse into the experiences of Vienna's Jewish population before World War II and illustrates the tortuous journey many emigrants were forced to endure to find safety.
    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 Steffie Fessel to Arthur Lederer


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