From the Testimony of Lilli Wolff
The Lord gave me friends who were destined to stand by my side to help me when the need, the terrible need, occurred….Hitler.
…I was just their friend, and they were mine. Let me give you a deeper look into their lives and into the events which kept us together in a mutual fate. Being associated with me, they knew the dangers which were involved for them; but they never gave up. Dorothea was especially warned by her brother and sister-in-law that she might lose her job as an actress and her life, too, but she insisted that she would keep her commitment. This she did until I left for the USA in the year 1947. Correspondence kept us together, and until this very day this friendship is alive. In those years in Vienna, under the force of our fate, I observed in deep thankfulness Dorothea's nobility of mind and heart.
In September 1940 we arrived in Vienna. Dorothea had a contract with Deutsches Volkstheater. She played herself into the hearts of the people in Vienna, was soon very well known and loved. She immediately took an apartment in Vienna, which was fully furnished with everything we needed. But trouble came very soon. The owner cancelled the lease; and in a few days we were to be without shelter, furniture, and the other items we needed for the household. At this time, it was very hard to rent a place (especially with somebody on hand who was not registered with the police). But Dorothea's Theatre Director came to her assistance. He spoke in her behalf with the Department of Renting – and she was able to rent the apartment at Annagasse 8 – the same we were in before….
Every evening after having played her part in whatever performance it was, I could count on 32 minutes which Dorothea needed to come home. There were daily proofs of care above what life itself required. For instance, she often repeated entire conversations she had with somebody to let me know of the happenings on the outside world. Or she brought me a heavy bucket of potter's clay that I might do something that would occupy me in order to forget my underground life filled with fear, trembling, most of the time hunger and terror around us. Surely Dorothea, Meta and Mati were in the same dreadful world, but they had me in addition to all of it.
…At a certain time I received a "postcard" with the order to assemble at a certain schoolhouse (Kastelitzgasse) from where I was to be deported. When this postcard came, we decided that I should go on the train and travel to berlin, where my father was living and there find a hiding place.
Meta was again available and decided to go with me in order to help or protect me. How unselfish and how naïve. She did go with me, but we had to return immediately because in Berlin nobody was able to take me into their home. Coming back to Vienna, Dorothea took me back into her care. Now I had to get new foodstamps, which were forfeited since I had left the city. I did need them again. I soon learned that the authorities were informed about my going to Berlin and I had to appear in a certain office to be questioned. Meta again went with me, waiting outside the building for eight hours. Finally I was called to a window and after a short questioning, I was issued new stamps and permitted to leave. God helped again.
While I was living in Ferdinandstrasse I was surely much more exposed to the current happenings and laws and order of the Nazis towards the Jews. I was informed that every Jewish person must be ready to assemble for deportation. Size of valise was ordered, name was to be put on it in white paint. Dorothea helped me pack. It was one of the darkest hours in our life. We both felt something else was involved. Dorothea said, "Let's stop…you are not going. I am going to hide you…" At this time we decided that I should "disappear" – not to be seen by anybody from now on.
Thinking of this situation sometime later, when I read Isaia 43:2, I realized God's promise – he not only gave me those wonderful friends, but as the prophet says:
"When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee…and through the rivers they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle on thee"
All of us were in the terror of the Nazi persecution and of the war: bombs and grenades flew through the city of Vienna. Sitting in the cellar, a friend's hand was holding mine, telling me not to fear…the flames of the bombs did not kindle on me, the rivers of hatred did not overflow me, and the fires of Hitler's ovens did not burn and consume me. I escaped irreparable hardship, but relatively small hardships came and went – they were easier to take as somebody shared the burden.
What did "hiding" mean to us? …When the doorbell rang, I trembled. How long would this fearful hardship go on? What would happen in the next hours? It went on for FOUR YEARS. In spite of all of this, the friendship and care I received gave me a glorious balance in my otherwise completely shattered life. The Lord provided; and how thankful I was and will ever be! We needed each other – we hungered together, we stood the cold and had no way to heat the place. When the war reached Vienna, we went night by night down to the cellar, seeking protection from the bombs. We never knew if somebody would recognize me or if the walls would come down on us or if fire would break out. Yes, it broke out in a neighbor's house and underneath our living room.
Concerning Mrs. Ottensteiner, the woman who took care of the people who lived in the big house Annagasse 8, she was satisfied with Dorothea's explanation about me – that I was bombed out in Cologne and was a visitor each time only for a few days. As I left the house very seldom, she might have believed it or she might have thought about the real fact. At any rate, she did not ask again if she should bring foodstamps for me, too.
….I had to be taken to a hospital because of a lump in my breast. No Jews were allowed there, but I was smuggled in by a false name under the pretense that all my papers had been burned in Cologne during a bomb attack. So Dorothea's name Schmitt (her former married name) was placed over my head on my bed.