Watching My Mother: Memories That Never Wash Away

Authored by Abena Amoh

Jewish people scrubbing the sidewalk in Austria (1938).

“I watched as my mother was forced to scrub the sidewalks with other Jews shortly after the Anshluss.”
Vienna, Austria (March 1938)

On March 12, 1938, Adolf Hitler officially announced an Anschluss between Austria and Germany (History, n.d.). The German term Anschluss means union (Encyclopedia Britannica n.d.). Hitler claimed that his desire was to unify all European countries that spoke German. Interestingly, the idea of this type of unification was initially proposed by Austrian socialists in 1919 (Low 1974, 1).

April 10, 1938 marks the date of the Anschluss election (Roman 2003, 604). On that day, almost one hundred percent of the votes recorded supported the decision to move forward with the unification of Germany and Austria. Not all Austrian citizens were permitted to vote on this matter. Austrian Jews were excluded from the election process.

Shortly after the Anschluss went into effect, things immediately began to take a turn for the worse. Austrian Jews were treated as though they were less than human. They were subjected to many forms of public humiliation. Many non-Jews at the time were unperturbed by the degradation of the Jewish community.

During an interview with the Holocaust Museum and Tolerance Center, a Holocaust survivor named Anita Weisbord recounted one such memory. She vividly described how her mother was chosen to participate in a demeaning act alongside several Austrian Jews. The Nazis forced to them to their knees and demanded that the scrub off all signs of political graffiti on the ground. Young Anita helplessly stood by and watched as her mother scrubbed the sidewalk. Several decades later, the images attached to that memory are still clear in her mind.

Anita Weisbord is a living example of what it truly means to be a survivor. She knows exactly how it feels to be hated by absolute strangers. Weisbord is an inspirational figure because she continues to live a Vincentian life that is led by love and not fear. It would be easy for her to spite those who humiliated her mother and carry hate in her heart forever. Instead, Weisbord shares her story to emphasize the importance of respect, tolerance, and acceptance. In order for us to harmoniously move forward as citizens of the world, we must incorporate those three core values into our daily lives. We must focus and extend our minds and hearts to nurture one’s own and another’s good (St. John’s University, n.d.).


“Anschluss | German History.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed March 16, 2018.

“Hitler Announces an Anschluss with Austria – Mar 12, 1938.” Last modified March 12.

Low, Alfred D. The Anschluss Movement, 1918-1919, and the Paris Peace Conference. Philadelphia, PA: American Philosophical Society, 1974.

“Our Mission.” Our Mission | St. John’s University. Accessed March 16, 2018.

Roman, Eric. Austria-Hungary & the Successor States: A Reference Guide from the Renaissance to the Present. New York, N.Y.: Facts On File, 2003.