Holocaust survivor tells of life and escape from Nazi-controlled Austria
After completing a unit of study on the autobiographical novel “Night,” Elie Wiesel’s account of his experiences with his father in the Nazi German concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald in 1944–45, HFM BOCES students at Gloversville High School had the opportunity to meet and listen to a living survivor of the Holocaust.
Hedi McKinley spoke to Jennifer Coleman’s 11th grade ELA class along with HFM students from Gloversville Middle School at a presentation on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016.
Ms. McKinley shared her life story with the students, telling of her birth and childhood in Vienna, Austria. During Kristallnacht, November 10, 1938, the Nazis closed the small store her Jewish family operated, throwing them into the street with nowhere to go.
Ms. McKinley had been writing to families in England trying to secure a job there that would take her away from Austria and Nazi control. After days of hiding with friends and family after Kristallnacht, she was able to procure a passport and escape to London, alone with no money or any of her belongings.
Arriving in England, she discovered the family really had no position for her, but simply took pity on her plight and wanted to help save her life. Ms. McKinley did find work as a maid in a different household. A few years later, thanks to an uncle in New York, she and 11 others safely immigrated to the United States, where she ultimately became a U.S. citizen and graduated from Columbia University with a Master’s degree in social work.
Ms. McKinley’s parents also made their way safely to London, then on to the US to live with her. She eventually learned that her grandmother and 12 other relatives were taken to Nazi camps and killed.
Ms. McKinley presentation was arranged through the Holocaust Survivors and Friends Education Center in Albany, an agency that provides a wide variety of education programs about the Holocaust to schools and organizations across upstate New York.