Matthew Stadlen, in The Telegraph, 11 November 2013, where the title is “Family history: retracing the steps of a romance disrupted by war”
In 1938 my grandfather, the pianist Peter Stadlen, was returning to his native Austria from a concert tour of Ireland when he happened to meet a girl on the ferry home. As a result he caught a cold from chatting to her on deck, and had to stop over in Amsterdam. The fates were with him, because the following day – 75 years ago – the Nazis marched into Austria; Peter was a secular Jew. He was able to communicate with his mother and sister, who were still in Vienna, and urge them to leave by the next train to Holland. From there, all three made it to London as refugees, and that is where my family has been based ever since. They were lucky.
My great-great-uncle, known as Onkl Friedl, did not escape. He was one of the very first to die at the hands of the Gestapo when they moved into Vienna. He had been chief economic adviser to pre-Nazi Chancellors of Austria, and was immediately put under house arrest. A paraplegic, he always kept cyanide in his ring in case he should ever be caught in a fire, unable to escape. He tricked the Nazi guards into leaving his room and took the poison. I have red hair but neither of my parents do: Onkl Friedl was a redhead and I’ve always believed it comes from him.