Survivor STORY

Betty Molkner was born in Poland on November 8, 1905 to Israel and Brucha Hubner. The Hubners were very generous people; every Shabbat, they would bring two less fortunate men home for a traditional dinner. Betty was the fourth of five children and very close to her sister, Yetti. Her brothers Leo and Simon moved to Vienna and became businessmen. The rest of the family moved there several years later.

Betty met her husband, Clement, in a Viennese café in February of 1932. They were married in August. Clement worked as a jeweler and owned a store. The couple lived in a wealthy section of Vienna and had their first son, Kenny, in 1938. Shortly after the Nazis occupied Vienna following the German-Austrian Anschluss , Clement’s store was closed down, and he was taken to a concentration camp. The Nazis then forced Betty and Kenny to leave their luxurious apartment for a miserable room elsewhere in the city.

Betty realized she obviously needed to flee the country, so she attempted to obtain a visa. She and many other Jews stood on line trying to gain admittance to the United States, Australia, China, England—anywhere at all. As all quotas were full, she was unsuccessful. Luckily, she had an American cousin who gave her an affidavit to go to the United States. However, the American quota for Lemberg, Clement’s hometown was full. England then announced that they would accept Jews waiting for American quotas. Clement was released from the concentration camp and was allowed to seek asylum in England as a political prisoner. He fled Austria in spring of 1939. As Betty was never imprisoned, she had to take a test to prove she could work as a maid in England. She passed and moved to England with Kenny in August.

Clement initially lived in a refugee camp in England, while Betty and Kenny lived in a group home for women and children waiting to move to America. Conditions were miserable; there was little food and no heat in winter. Luckily, they were able to immigrate in 1940. They arrived in New York and moved to Atlanta on Betty’s cousin’s advice. The couple had another son, Jimmy in 1943. Clement opened a jewelry business and died in 1959. Betty died in 1996 at the age of 91.

Betty’s parents fled Vienna for France shortly after the war started. In 1944, her mother died of health problems, and her father died while waiting in line for food. Leo fled to England and joined the RAF, remarking that “if the Jews won’t fight Hitler, who will?”

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Betty Ebenstein Molkner