An Austrian, Czechoslovakian, Jewish Engineer
It is important to note Alexander's Jewish heritage and having one of the oldest Jewish names because of the anti-semitic lines in the book he published in Germany, 1939. It in itself requires deep investigation into the doctoring of the book 'Hart auf Hart,' before publication. This Jewish heritatge also led to Alexanders daughter Lily, to be refused an Aryan passport, forced to escape to England and is still left displaced to this day.
He [Alexander Wienerberger] was born in Vienna, Austria, the son of a Jewish engineer of the same name, Alexander Wienerberger and his Czech wife who, I was told, committed suicide while Papa, her son, was in Russia.
After finishing his studies in Chemical Engineering in Vienna, Papa joined the Austrian army and fought on the Russian front in the First World War. He was taken prisoner and, after the war, he stayed in Russia under Stalin, managing munitions factories.
Papa returned to Vienna in search of a new wife and he met my mother, who was very much younger than he was. Eventually, they married in Vienna and my mother went with my father to Russia. When my birth was imminent, she returned to Vienna where I was born on 8 February 1931. Six weeks later, my mother took me back to Moscow, where we lived at that time.
My first language was Russian, which my father spoke like a native but my mother spoke very little; I had a Russian Nanny. I remember, in Moscow, being pulled by my father on a sledge with mountains of snow towering above me. We bought some shelves from a street-market - a kiosk in the roadway. Later, when we had returned to Austria I recognised the shelves in Papa’s laboratory, which he kept whenever possible. They must have been brought from Russia with other items some time. They were finally destroyed in an air raid during the war.
Another memory I have is that my hair was shorn off my head in summer because of lice. In the winter, my hair was soaked in petrol to rid me of them but, unfortunately, my scalp came off with the lice. Later, Papa told me that the factories had a shortage of everything except petrol. When, one time, they had an epidemic of cholera, and many workers died, he ordered every worker to strip on arrival at work, to soak all their clothes and shoes in petrol and then put all their garments on again. He said that it stopped the epidemic.
Another shortage was light bulbs; there were none and this sharply reduced his production, especially in the winter months. When there was a tragic railway accident just in front of one of the factories, Papa ordered all his workers to walk from wagon to wagon and to unscrew all the light bulbs they could find.
My mother’s family, who were bankrupt during the depression, came to visit us in Russia one by one. I particularly remember seeing my mother’s younger brother Egon there.
When my mother was in hospital, the two men had to cook for themselves. They both liked rice pudding, but didn’t know how to cook. They put equal amounts of rice and milk in a pot. As they boiled this pudding, the rice swelled and they had to add milk and to use another pot. It continued like this until they had used every container in the house including cleaning buckets and my chamber pot!
When Papa showed Egon how to shoot, they used the candles alight on the Christmas tree as targets! I remember that Egon said later, back home in Austria, that my father had become uncivilised in Russia because he spent so long in prison there.
Lillian-Margot Pearce, formally Wienerberger: Interviewed By Samara Pearce, 2013.