Hermine Liska

Hermine Liska lives in a retirement home near Graz, Austria. It was a bright, sunny, cloudless day. In retrospect, I realise that no other weather suits Hermine Liska's charisma than such a clear, spring-like January day.

About Hermine Liska

Hermine Liska, née Obweger, was born on 12 April 1930 in St. Walburgen in the Görtschitztal valley in Carinthia, Austria. Her parents had a farm and four older sons. Hermine remembers a happy childhood with house music and walking barefoot into the autumn. Her father had come into contact with biblical scholars after the First World War while in Russian captivity and later left the church. The family were the only Jehovah's Witnesses in Görtschitztal. When the National Socialists came to power in Austria in 1938, Hermine's parents prepared her to resist all indoctrination. She stubbornly refused to greet pupils at school with "Heil Hitler". She was eventually sent to reform centres, at the beginning of 1941 to Feldkirchen and six months later to the "Adelgundenheim" in Munich. From April 1944 onwards, she completed the "compulsory year" prescribed after school in Lambichl near Klagenfurt. She then returned home. Hermine Liska married and had three children. She now lives in a retirement home in Graz.

"Everyone raised their right hand, except me."

Hermine Liska

A picture to live on

Hermine Liska found strength in reading the Bible during the National Socialist era and beyond. Her family, who were biblical scholars, also gave her the strength - even during the periods of separation - to resist National Socialist indoctrination and, for example, to refuse to give the Hitler salute. To this day, the Bible has a firm place in Hermine's life.

Our encounter

We entered the retirement home with its long corridors, many floors and lounges and immediately thought: we'll never find our way around here. Irene Hubmann from Lila Winkel, who we had contacted in advance and who organised the interview, went ahead towards the room where we were to meet Hermine Liska. She met us in the long corridor with her manoeuvrable walking frame: briskly on the move, smartly coiffed and determined. Hermine Liska. Come on, we should follow her, after all, she knows best where to go. So she confidently led the way and we followed behind. We walked past the other residents of the retirement home, who were watching us closely, to a small meeting room where we would spend many hours learning about Hermione's life. When I think back to this encounter, I am happy and grateful. It was the first eyewitness interview I took part in for the association. I wondered beforehand whether it would be sad, emotional and depressing. But it was completely different: positive, funny, heart-warming, empowering and motivating. Hermine Liska has such an incredibly positive view of the world and her life, she radiates a cheerfulness and confidence that is infectious. She has had experiences that no child should have, but she still has so much love in her. In between, we went out together to get some fresh air and to visit the donkeys and rabbits in the enclosure right next to the retirement home. Hermine Liska told us, as she stroked the donkey, that it greets her every morning. Such a lovely image and as I looked at the two of them, I was sure that the donkey also sensed Hermione's positive nature and really liked her.