Finally Stanholt reluctantly agreed to go with Ilse to Gestapo headquarters and enquire. On the following morning they made their way to number 1 Morzinplatz in downtown Vienna, a majestic building of four stories high with a canopied entranceway supported by a semi circle of columns. In happier times the building had contained the Hotel Metropol, one of the better hotels in Vienna. They stood timidly before the reception desk.
“Redelmeier?” A tall soldier, well built and wearing the uniform of a corporal in the SS, bellowed at them. “Are you family?”
Ilse shrank under the soldier’s gaze and fingered the edge of the desk nervously. “I am his fiancé. We are to be married.”
There were several other men in the lobby, none of them in uniform, but their tall stature, short haircuts and arrogant manner left no doubt as to whom they were. Ilse shivered. Whenever she neared these people, the atmosphere seemed cold, as if they were surrounded by intense evil. Two of them were taking an interest in Ilse and her father; it was not often that Jews entered this building by their own volition.
“The Redelmeiers have been taken to a labour camp where their efforts will be directed to the benefit of the Reich. They will come to no harm.”
“They were already working for the Reich.” Ilse could not, or would not understand. “Herr Redelmeier’s factory made uniforms for the soldiers.”
“And the factory shall continue to make uniforms, but it has been decided that Herr Redelmeier’s efforts could be used more appropriately elsewhere.”
Close to tears, Ilse said, “What camp have they been sent to? Can I see them?”
“I cannot disclose the camp.” The soldier grinned evilly. “But if you are sent there, it is possible that you might see them.”
Stanholt took Ilse by the shoulder. “Come,” he said. The conversation had turned ugly and he did not like it, also he did not like the way the Gestapo agents were eyeing them. They started back towards the door.
“Wait.” One of the agents motioned them to stop. “Let me see your papers.”
Stanholt handed over his identity card, while Ilse retrieved hers from her purse.
The agent glanced at them and then said, “Come with me.”
They were taken upstairs to the second floor where they were shown into a small room that contained little furniture, other than a desk and a couple of hard chairs. The room still reflected its former grandeur, with thick leather upholstered padding on the doors, which served to make the room virtually sound proof.. The agent disappeared with their papers, and Ilse and her father were left to wait.
“Now what?” said Stanholt, almost beside himself with worry.
Ilse sobbed quietly. “I am sorry, Papa.”
Stanholt placed a comforting arm around his daughters’ shoulders. “It is not your fault, my dear. Why should you not be worried about your fiancé? It is the Nazis.”
They waited in the hot, stuffy room for over three hours, until at last the agent returned. He tossed a buff coloured, manila folder with a yellow star in the corner on the desk. Stanholt recognized it from the times he had been to the Gauleiter’s office. The agent sat at the desk and opened the file.
Both Ilse and her father watched the Gestapo agent apprehensively. They saw his eyes focus immediately on the memo pinned to the inside cover. After reading the note, he looked up. “Why is Germany so interested in you?”
Stanholt said, “I don’t understand.”
“You don’t, eh? Well they are.” The agent re-read the note. “Interesting. I shall have to find out why.”
Stanholt could contain his curiousity no longer. “What does it say?”
“That is no concern of yours.” The agents face creased into a frown and he tossed the file on the desk. “For now, you had better go,” he snapped.
Ilse could not remember feeling as much relief as when they were finally out of that building and walking home. “What is in the note, Papa?”
Stanholt shook his head. “I have no idea. Except that whatever it says has stopped us going to America.”