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Erik Moldauer


man in yearbook photo
Erik Moldauer

Erik Moldauer was born on May 18 in Vienna, Austria to Leopold Moritz and Elsa Moldauer. Leopold ran a business in clothing manufacturing. In 1932 Erik, who followed his father's footsteps into wholesale dry goods import/exports, met Herta Maria Demuth at a New Years Eve party. Five years later they married, settling into Vienna. During this time, according to Herta's 1992 Memoir, Eric traveled on business to Germany, Spain and Scandinavia.

 

After Kristallnacht, Herta successfully applied for a visa to Sweden, leaving Vienna towards the end of 1938. At the same time, Eric also fled, moving to Voorschoten, a suburb of The Hague, where he was employed in a button manufacturing plant. He was joined by Herta sometime in 1939.  In 1940 both had applied successfully for immigration visas to the United States (both families had relatives living in America), and were booked to embark from Rotterdam on May 21, 1940.

 


Herta Maria Demuth
Herta Maria Demuth

On May 10, 1940 Eric was in Sweden on business. And on that day the Germans invaded neutral Holland, trapping Eric in Sweden and Herta in The Hague.  From May 10 to the 14th the German bombed Rotterdam, and on the 14th a Luftwaffe blitz flatted the city's center and dock area. Holland surrendered after 5 days fighting, and the Germans blocked the Rotterdam harbor with magnetic mines.

 

Subsequently, Herta moved to Amsterdam, went into hiding while protected by the Dutch underground, eventually winding up on a farm in Friesland.

 

Eric left Sweden in August, 1940 and six weeks later reached the United States via Russia and Japan. In 1941 he secured employment as manager of a Food Fair in New Brunswick, New Jersey, applied for naturalization, and became an American citizen. On November 11, 1942 he was drafted into the U.S. Army as a Private (ASN 32574147), and in October, 1943 arrived at Camp Ritchie as a Tec/5, training in Class 13 (10/30-12/23/1943) with a specialty in German interrogation (IPW-G).

 

Following his intelligence training, and through 1944 Eric remained at Camp Ritchie in Company E, 2nd Training Battalion, Barracks 115.  He was assigned to DEML (Detached Enlisted Men's List) and may also have served in the Composite School Unit (CSU), which was temporary support duty, filling various needs at the base. 

 

On March 18, 1944, while at Ritchie, six weeks after President Roosevelt issued Executive Order # 9414 creating the War Refugee Board, Erik sent the first of several letters to John W. Pehle, then Acting Executive Director, asking for help to find his wife Herta, and secure her passage to the United States. The correspondence lasted until May, 1945, when the Board was able to act.

 

On May 21, 1944 Eric transferred from Camp Ritchie to HQ Company, SCB, T-5-70, Camp Patrick Henry, Newport News, Virginia, in the Prisoner of War Command. According to The Road to Victory Vols I & II, by Major William Reginald Wheeler, U.S. intelligence personnel operated at six POW camps in the tidewater Virginia area, as well as the Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation, the port of debarkation of POWs from the ETO.  Beginning in September, 1942 until war's end, the Port processed 118,581 German and 15,712 Italian POW's.

 


Two Soldiers interrogating a young German boy



The two groups of prisoner were separated by nationality. Camp Hill housed Italian POW's, while the German POWS were placed in Camp Patrick Henry, a sub-camp of Camp Hill. By September, 1945 some 4,000 Germans had been imprisoned at Camp Patrick Henry.



On August, 1944 Eric was assigned to HQ & H. DET POW Side Camp, Camp Patrick Henry. In September he was briefly hospitalized with an ear infection.

 

a group of soldiers sitting for a photo
Prisoner of War Command, November 1944

A Group of Soldiers sitting for a photograph
Intelligence and Security Division, December 1944

At war's end, Eric was serving with HQ POW Command, Camp Patrick Henry. On May 10, he learned that Herta's name had been submitted to American Embassies in Berne and Stockholm, confirmed by a letter from a Canadian soldier. Subsequently, Herta, with the assistance of the War Refugee Board secured passage to the U.S.A., where in December, 1945 she and Eric were reunited.

Returning to Virginia, Moldauer began the process of retrieving property stolen by the Nazis, and began a lengthy correspondence with the Property Control Section, U.S. Military Government, Austria, to recover the Vienna house belonging to Herta's family, resisted by the then-current owners. The house was described as having been "confiscated for the benefit of the German Reich by order of the Secret State Police during the Nazi Regime."

 

On April 7, 1946 Eric was discharged from Army.  He and Herta moved to Newark, New Jersey, where he managed a Food Fair, later moving to West Orange, and Lake Hopatcong. In 1970 he was the new manager of a Pantry

Pride, in Nanuet, New York. During that time the Moldauer's had two children, Lanny and Carol.

 

On June 20, 1991 Eric died while a resident in Deerfield Beach, Florida. Herta died eight years later, on 7 November 1999.


The relevant documents and information can be found in the archives of the Leo Baeck Institute, Fold3 (HQ U.S. Forces in Austria, Reparations, Deliveries & Restitution Division), the FDR Library (War Refugee Board), the records of the Hampton Rhodes Port of Embarkation, Camp Patrick Henry found inThe Road to Victory Vols I & II, by Major William Reginald Wheeler. And, of course, the tables assembled by Dan Gross, which is always a starting point.     



Written by Stephen Goodell

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