Kurt and Gerti Braun
by Curtis L. Brown
It happened shortly after Hitler's takeover of Austria in March 1938. With my sister Gerti I was walking along the Ringstrasse, a tree-lined boulevard encircling Vienna's historic center, which I often did to dispel a vile mood. (...) Unfortunately, the Ringstrasse (...) was also the favorite parade ground of political mobs. That afternoon, perhaps in order to evade such an incipient rally, or perhaps to say goodbye to the city of our birth, I pulled Gerti into the Museum of Cultural History, where we ambled through gallery after gallery of magnificent paintings and sculptures. (...)
A small group of inspectors was touring the halls, scattering the crowds, and taking notes, apparently as a prelude to reorganization and aryanization.
In one hall with relatively few visitors, Gerti and I stopped in front of a seascape as though hypnotized. Rolling waves, stormy sky, looming clouds – and one lone seagull at the end of a boatless pier, staring out toward the threatening horizon, deliberating whether and whither to chance a takeoff … We did not know the painter, nor his period or his ancestry, but his panorama echoed in us. Gerti seized my hand and squeezed it wordlessly. We had always been close, but never as close as in that moment … And we both began to cry.
I do not know where, when, and how she died. She has no grave, and I miss her.
Curtis L. Brown was born under the name Kurt Braun on May 31st 1921 in Vienna. Due to their Jewish origin, he and his family were forced to flee from the National Socialists in 1938. First, they headed to Bratislava, then to Budapest where Kurt was imprisoned in 1942 and compelled to forced labour in the Hungarian Army. At the end of 1944 he managed to escape to Romania which was under Soviet occupation then. After the war, he returned to Vienna, yet, emigrated to the U.S. in 1947. His sister, Gerti Braun, born on May 23rd 1923 and his parents, Irma – née Neugebauer – and Filip Braun had been deported to Auschwitz in 1944 from where they would not return.
Curtis L. Brown works as a chemist, science journalist and writer in Neenah, Wisconsin.
Sources: Die Gemeinde, Offizielles Organ der israelitischen Kultusgemeinde Wien, no. 689, March 2011, p. 30; Eva Offenthaler, Curtis L. Brown, ein „Neenah Wiener“, in: Neuer Nachrichtenbrief der Gesellschaft für Exilforschung, No. 32, December 2008, p. 11–12.