Lucia Heilman was born in Vienna on 25th June 1929. With the help of Reinhold Duschka she and her mother survived the Shoah hidden in various places in Vienna.
“My mother worked at the Lainz hospital. My mother worked a lot and in a career with a lot of responsibility, and when she came home she still had to buy and cook everything. But my mother had a lot of energy. Her friends came to visit every evening.
My father, Rudolf Kraus, wasn’t Jewish. My parents weren’t married and didn’t live together. My father visited us every week and really cared about me. He played with me for the couple of hours he was with me in our apartment.
My father tried to get us out of Austria. That’s why he had himself transferred by Siemens, where he was working, to Iran, and worked in Iran as a lighting engineer. He wanted to help us with entry into Iran. By the time the English and Russians invaded neutral Iran, a ceasefire treaty had been arranged. This made my father an enemy foreigner and he was interned with many others and then brought to Australia. At first he was in an internment camp. Then he was released and settled in Castlemaine as a mathematics professor.
On March 12th German troops marched into Austria. I was eight years old and went by myself to Heldenplatz square, since there was an event there. As I reached the vicinity of Heldenplatz square I couldn’t go any further – there were so many people on the Ring Road. I stood there and heard the yells, the roaring, and this cry, “Heil, Heil, Heil…” and I knew that I didn’t belong there. I came home completely distraught.
A short time later the director of the school came into the class and said that the Jewish children had to leave the class. That felt like a terrible humiliation. Exclusion from the classroom, an expulsion, for reasons incomprehensible to me. This humiliation has accompanied me to the present day.
My mother lost her position at Lainz, and one day a couple came and looked at our apartment. They liked it. We had to get out within 14 days and move into a collection flat. My friend Erna, who I’d always played with, was deported with her parents, first to Theresienstadt, and then to Auschwitz, where they were murdered. The person who saved my mother and I from death during this horrific time was named Reinhold Duschka.
Then Reinhold said that it may well be very cold, but we need to go to Hütteldorf to his summerhouse. It was freezing, there was nothing to cover up with and no heating. A friend of his had a shop on Gumpendorfer Strasse he wasn’t using and gave it to Reinhold. There was a large oven in the shop, and it also had a basement section. First, Reinhold heated up the oven so that we could warm up a little, then we took a look at the basement section, and that’s where we sat in the dark, since the shop had a large display window, meaning we couldn’t stay there. Then Reinhold said that it may well be very cold, but we need to go to Hütteldorf to his summerhouse. It was freezing, there was nothing to cover up with and no heating. A friend of his had a shop on Gumpendorfer Strasse he wasn’t using and gave it to Reinhold. There was a large oven in the shop, and it also had a basement section. First, Reinhold heated up the oven so that we could warm up a little, then we took a look at the basement section, and that’s where we sat in the dark, since the shop had a large display window, meaning we couldn’t stay there
The time from November 1944 until April 1945 was very hard for me. I became depressed and unresponsive. The dark cellar, the cold, nothing to do but sit very still in the basement. That was unbearable for me. On April 13th, Reinhold came and collected us. He had seen Russian soldiers. It’s a feeling you can’t describe, how the Russians came and I was finally freed. I was happy, I was blessed, I could finally run where I wanted, and I could sit on every park bench.
For many years Reinhold Duschka refused to be nominated as a so-called “Righteous Person”, a very honorable title awarded by Yad Vashem. In 1991, at the age of 89, he agreed to be nominated and was subsequently chosen and honored as a “Righteous Person”.”
Lucia 1939 with one of her dolls she had to leave behind. Photo: Lucia Heilman
Lucia’s father Rudolf, Lucia’s savior Duschka on top of a mountain (Austria, early 1920s)
Lucia and her saviour Reinhold Duschka being honoured as “Gerechter unter den Völkern”.
On her lap is her granddaughter Lilli, behind Lucia and Reinhold her daughter Monika. (Wien, 1990).