Hermine Nierlich-Jursa

... I grew up like the wild grass.

Hermine Nierlich was born in Vienna in 1912. She was orphaned at an early age and grew up with foster parents in the Waldviertel (a region to the North-West of Vienna). Her guardians refused her wish to begin an apprenticeship after compulsory schooling with the explanation that a girl does not need to learn anything. Thus she worked at a factory making stockings for a year. In 1929, she moved in with her sister in Vienna and worked as a servant and washerwoman. She was fired several times, once because her employer did not want to grant her a paid holiday which she had the right to take, another time because of an accident at the workplace, after which she fought for compensation. In 1934, she married Ottokar Huber and they had a happy marriage until Hermine was arrested. Through her neighbours, she entered a Communist resistance group in which she pursued illegal activities from 1936 onwards. In 1939, she was arrested by the Gestapo together with 200 other Communists and Socialists. She spent more than two years in prison before she was deported to the Ravensbrück concentration camp in 1942.

… I grew up like the wild grass, yes. I, I didn't have a hard time, but on the other hand nobody took care of me, so I, let's say, can get an education or something. That wasn't possible.

Well, when Hitler came marching into the Soviet Union, we [in prison] got up a big demonstration. It was a Sunday, and Hansi Eibenstein recited a poem: „Soldiers, when once you're marching East with songs and music, soldiers, who knows if you might not lose your courage...“, well, she shouted this poem out of the window. And we sang the Internationale. (…) Then we got 14 days' correction, with three days without food and without paillasse, we only had the floor to lie on. Actually, we got correction a few times.

The illegal antifascist resistance

When Hermine Nierlich-Huber joined a communist-socialist resistance group in 1936, the leftist parties had already been illegal for two years - since the Austro-fascist dictatorship had been established in 1934. Hermine Nierlich-Huber’s group printed and distributed illegal pamphlets and painted walls with slogans against the regime and the ever-stronger National Socialists. With the Nazi takeover, resistance became extremely dangerous. To protect themselves, the members of the resistance used so-called "I-names" (illegal names). Hermine Nierlich-Huber for example was called "Roserl". She brought printed material to a comrade who would distribute it to workers in factories, or handed out leaflets in the houses where she delivered milk. The betrayal of an informer led to the arrest of her group as well as that of many others.

Hermine Nierlich
(1929, Foto: privat).