This book has been released in order to commemorate the fiftieth
anniversary of World War II. As a member of the generation born
after the fateful period described in this volume, I cannot help but be
fascinated by events that appear larger than life. It has therefore
been the goal of this first-time editor to bring to light the wartime
memoirs of his father.
For me, these memoirs have
a particular meaning since they were written while my father visited Brazil,
in September of 1989, where he performed one of his last weddings - my
Before Herbert Stein-Schneider
died from a heart attack on March 9 of 1990, I never realized all the contributions
that he had made to humanity during the Second World War. It is only
today, over a year since my father's passing, and 46 years since the end
of the war, that the dramatic events he describes have taken on meaning
and his twin brother Otto were born on November 5, 1921 in Vienna, Austria.
Their mother was a housewife with a very strong and sometimes domineering personality,
while their father, an entrepreneur who toyed with various ideas throughout
his life, was more quiet and reserved. Marguerite Basch and Henrich
"Steinschneider" (as it was originally spelled) met through Otto Muller,
Marguerite's brother-in-law, who spent two years with Henrich in a Russian
POW camp during the First World War. The Steinschneiders remained
in Vienna until shortly after the Nazi Anschluss in April of 1938.
In August, upon insistence from Marguerite, they emigrated to Czechoslovakia.
Again, shortly before the invasion of that country by Hitler on March 15,
of 1939, the Steinschneiders fled to Hungary. Eventually, the family entered Yugoslavia and then made their way through Italy and into France,
where they remained throughout remainder of the war. Upon fleeing
Austria the Steinschneiders left everything behind. The boys were only able to salvage
a stamp collection, which was small enough to carry.
It is very difficult for
the children of today to imagine what it would be like to pick up
and move, abandoning everything they own. We have too quickly forgotten
the fact that as many as 7 million Jews were slaughtered in Nazi
concentration camps and 40 million others lost their lives fighting Hitler's
war. We also forget about the millions of refugees, like my father
and his family, who where running for their lives for seven years while
the world stood by and watched.
It has been my goal, in
releasing this book, to show the people who knew Herbert Stein-Schneider
a side unfamiliar to them. I am grateful to my father for having left
these memoirs because, like a true hero, he spoke very little of his brave deeds.