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Saved by my mother's prescience

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Annexation to Germany ignites Austrian anti-Semitism
Eric Kandel Scientist
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This unification brought with it the most immediate and radical outburst of anti-Semitism one could imagine. Carl Zuckmayer, whom I would later write about in my honors dissertation at Harvard, was a progressive dramatist who had lived in Germany prior to Hitler coming to power, left Germany when Hitler came to power, and came to Vienna.

He said, I’ve lived through some of the most horrible experiences of my time. I saw gassings at the front in the First World War, I saw Hitler’s Munich Putsch in 1923. I saw Hitler come to power in Berlin in 1932. Nothing was comparable to the outbursts of viciousness and anti-Semitic anger than when Hitler came into Vienna. It was as if hell had opened up its gates and spewed out all of its anger and fury. Jews were forced to scrub the streets to get rid of these propaganda statements. My father was one of the people trapped in this way. They were beaten up, it was horrible.

The next day, I met a classmate of mine who said, ‘Kandel, my father said I’m never to speak to you again.’ Within weeks, another Jewish girl and I, the only Jews in our class, were kicked out, we were sent to a special school only for Jewish children, which was on the outskirts of town. And we stayed there until we left for the United States.

Eric Kandel (b. 1929) is an American neuropsychiatrist. He was a recipient of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research on the physiological basis of memory storage in neurons. He shared the prize with Arvid Carlsson and Paul Greengard. Kandel, who had studied psychoanalysis, wanted to understand how memory works. His mentor, Harry Grundfest, said, 'If you want to understand the brain you're going to have to take a reductionist approach, one cell at a time.' Kandel then studied the neural system of the sea slug Aplysia californica, which has large nerve cells amenable to experimental manipulation and is a member of the simplest group of animals known to be capable of learning. Kandel is a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. He is also Senior Investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He was the founding director of the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, which is now the Department of Neuroscience at Columbia University. Kandel's popularized account chronicling his life and research, 'In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind', was awarded the 2006 Los Angeles Times Book Award for Science and Technology.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Carl Zuckmayer, Adolf Hitler

Duration: 1 minute, 33 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2015

Date story went live: 04 May 2016