In 1938, after Germany crossing the border into Austria, the situation for Jews worsened sonsiderably. Mobs attacked Jews around the country, looted shops, and arrested 8,000 Jews , while 5,000 were sent to the concentration camp, Dacau.
The Mühlbauer family lived in Vienna. Edith Mühlbauer was 17 at the time, and as the plight of Jews in Austria became more hazardouss, she wrote to her English pen pal, Muriel Roberts, asking if she could come and stay. Muriel’s family didn’t have the money to host Edith, but wanted to help, so her father asked members of his Rotary club for money to bring his daughter to England.
Edith arrived at the Roberts home in Grantham, England in April 1939. She brought two gifts, one for Muriel, who was the same age as Mühlbauer, and the other for her 13-year-old sister, Margaret, the future Prime Minister of England.
Mühlbauer found it difficult to settle into the Roberts’ home. The house the family shared above their shop on North Parade was, Margaret remembered, “very small… [with] no mod cons” (modern conveniences). “We didn’t have a proper bathroom in those days,” the former prime minister wrote of Mühlbauer’s stay in her memoirs. “She was used to better things.”
Muriel said Mühlbauer was “a nice girl” with a “wonderful wardrobe” who didn’t want to go on family strolls in the countryside because Edith said, “It’ll ruin my shoes.”
Thatcher was shocked to hear Edith talk about “what it was like to live as a Jew under an antisemitic regime…. One thing stuck in my mind: The Jews, she said, were being made to scrub the streets.”
A reporter tracked Edith down in Brazil after Thatcher had left Downing Street. Edith acknowledged, “If Muriel had said, ‘I am sorry, my father says no,’ I would have stayed in Vienna and they would have killed me.”
When people ask, “What can one person do?” Thatcher responded, “That is the question that people so often ask. Never hesitate to do whatever you can, for you may save a life.”
Philpott observes, “As Prime Minister, Thatcher did not always see eye to eye with Begin or Yitzhak Shamir, but her commitment to Israel — an oasis of democracy, in her eyes — was never in doubt. It was symbolized by her visit to the Jewish state in 1986 — the first ever by a sitting prime minister.”
Source: The Times of Israel
Image: AP Photo/Gerald Penny
By: Hadassah Schwarz