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Otto Popper 1915 - 1944 Edit

Born 6.10.1915 in Wien
Died 25.10.1944 in Linz

Biography

Otto Michael Popper was born on 6 October 1915 in Vienna, Austria. He was an Austrian citizen and the son of Dr. Michael (Ottokar) Popper (1859–1942, central manager of the Clam-Gallas estate) and his wife Maria (née Li(e)ntschnik, 1889–1988). He lived in Vienna’s 3rd district at Beatrixgasse 3a/19. After Otto Popper had graduated from high school (Schottengymnasium) in Vienna’s 1st district, he studied law at the University of Vienna from 1933. He passed the three final examinations in February, July and December 1938 and graduated ‘Dr. iur.’ on 12 December 1938.

Under National Socialist racial laws, his father, who had converted to Catholicism in 1888, was categorised as a ‘Jew’, his mother as ‘Aryan’, and Otto Popper himself – also baptised a Roman Catholic – as a ‘Mischling 1. Grades’ (‘half-Jew’). In May 1940 he fled from Nazi persecution to Milan.

In 1943 Otto Popper was arrested and sent to San Vittore – a prison in Milan under German administration – along with several other antifascists. He had fathered two sons; the younger was born after his arrest and he never saw him. Their mother, Ariane Dufaux, fled with them to Geneva, where they survived the war.

During his seven-month imprisonment in San Vittore, Otto Popper was used as a translator. In this position he was able to give significant support to the resistance movement in the prison by maintaining the exchange of information both among the political prisoners and between them and the outside world. He received numerous smuggled food packages from friends in freedom, which he distributed among the prisoners, and he gave encouragement to the other inmates.
Later he was transferred to the Fossoli police transit camp near Carpi in Modena. In summer 1944 the camp was evacuated and moved to the newly established transit camp in Bolzano/Gries.

On 5 August 1944, Otto Popper left Bolzano with the first large transport, arriving at the Mauthausen concentration camp on 7 August, where he initially had to stay in the quarantine block. Popper and most of the other 307 prisoners on the transport were categorised as Italian ‘protective custody prisoners’. In the arrivals list he was registered as a ‘translator’ and received the prisoner number 82482.

In early September Popper was transported to the Linz III subcamp. As a Hilfsschreiber (assistant clerk) in Block 10, he was responsible for the lists of sick prisoners, work detachments and transfers to other barracks or camps. In this position he was able to help other prisoners by organising their allocation to ‘better’ work detachments and distributing food. One of those he helped was Enea Fergnani, a fellow prisoner from San Vittore, Fossoli, Bolzano and Mauthausen.
But Otto Popper’s health deteriorated rapidly. Because of knee pain, an oedema in the lower leg and the onset of nephritis he was transferred to the infirmary on 19 October 1944. When he also started suffering from pneumonia, his friends visited him to bid their farewells. He died the next day on 25 October 1944 in the infirmary.

On 26 May 1945 the Italian newspaper Azione del popolo published an article by a fellow inmate from San Vittore, A. Dello Siesto, who called Popper the ‘Angel of San Vittore’ on account of the selfless assistance he offered the other prisoners.

Otto Popper was only officially declared dead in 1950, at the request of his mother.

Since 2009 he has had a page dedicated to him in the ‘Memorial Book for the Victims of National Socialism at the University of Vienna in 1938’.

Katharina Kniefacz / Herbert Posch

 

Sources:

E-Mail from his son Michele Popper, Italy, 28 October 2014.

Archiv der Universität Wien, Rechts- und Staatswissenschaftliche Fakultät, Nationale 1933-1938, Rigorosenprotokoll [Final examination registry] (Nr. 339) and Promotionsprotokoll [Graduation registry] (Nr. 6595).

Archive of the Mauthausen Memorial, Database of prisoners, Totenbuch [Death register] (AMM/Y46, Nr. 4519), Zugangsliste vom 8.8.1944 [Arrivals list from 8.8.1944] (AMM/Y50/158/02/12/158-163, here 162).

Wiener Stadt- und Landesarchiv, Historische Meldeunterlagen, Auskunft 2014 [Historical Central Registration of Viennese residents, information as at 2014], Landesgericht für Zivilrechtssachen (LZS), A 26, 48 T 1639/50, Todeserklärung [Declaration of death].

Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance (DÖW): Austrian Victims of the Holocaust (http://www.doew.at/english/austrian-victims-of-the-holocaust).

Transports from Italy to Mauthausen (http://www.deportati.it/e_lager/english_mauthausen_transports.html#3).

Yad Vashem – The Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names (http://db.yadvashem.org/names/nameDetails.html?itemId=4961533&language=en).

 

Memorial Book for the Victims of National Socialism at the University of Vienna in 1938 (http://gedenkbuch.univie.ac.at/index.php?L=2&person_single_id=5396).

Translation into English: Joanna White

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