1938 Vienna, Austria
Hidden Child: Germany
Olivia Schneider Newman was born in Vienna, Austria. Olivia’s mother, Emma Griliches Schneider, was forty-two, and her father was fifty-five.
After a young woman passed a note to Olivia’s mother while visiting a friend, Olivia and her mother took a train to Hamburg, Germany. Olivia wondered why it was that her father was not with her and why there were so many soldiers on the train, but because she was only a child, she was not told. Olivia’s mother had been a nurse during World War I and had obtained and kept her German ID, allowing them the ability to enter Germany.
Olivia was told by her mother that her father had died, but the truth was that he had been taken to the concentration camp at Riga in Latvia, where he perished.
Her Jewish roots were unknown to Olivia; she was raised a German child but was cautioned about becoming close to anyone. Olivia’s mother refused to have a Christmas tree, except for a small one, and insisted it have eight candles on it. Her mother and her cousin Hannah would light imaginary candles on Friday night and sing. They spoke in a different language, but her mother always told her it was East Prussian because that’s where she said she was from, but it was Yiddish. She would make challah for Friday night, but she just called it bread.
By hiding in plain sight, they survived the war.
After the war, Olivia earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a medical degree.
When Olivia’s mother passed away, Olivia found the note from a young woman named Kizella, informing her mother that her husband was taken. Searching for answers, Olivia found a small notebook that her mother had kept describing how she had witnessed the death of her parents in a pogrom in Vilna, Lithuania; had run away to an orphanage in Konigsberg and had changed her name to Emma Krilage; and an account of her travels with Olivia from Austria to Germany. The words were written mostly in Yiddish. They told her that in fact she was indeed, Jewish.
Olivia was married and had three children by the time her mother died. She was married to a non-Jew, who was also an only child and age fifty-five in 1964. He had lost his father in World War I when he was a one-year-old.
Olivia’s husband died at the age of sixty-six, leaving Olivia to raise seven kids by herself.
November 9: Olivia returned to Germany from the United States, which was the night that the Berlin Wall came down, leading to the reunification of East and West Germany. She landed in Düsseldorf that morning, saw all the headlines and made the decision to leave Germany. She thought that it wouldn’t be very good for Jews anymore, because people in East Germany would not know what democracy was and would claim the whole country for themselves. She thought that they would push out the foreigners.
Olivia visited with her daughter in New York City for several months. She had visited the United States with her husband several times before.
Olivia moved to Nashville, Tennessee to be closer to one of her sons. In Nashville, she started her own business, creating and selling wearable art, invented her own yarn for knitting, and showed her framed works as a member of Nashville Artist Guild, Visual Arts Alliance, Tennessee Art League and Tennessee Association of Crafts Artists.
Olivia joined Congregation Ohabai Shalom, the Temple.
Olivia celebrated her bat mitzvah, a Jewish coming of age ritual usually performed at age 12 or 13.
Olivia Newman continues to live in Nashville, Tennessee.