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edith arlen wachtel

edith arlen-wachtel was born edith aptowitzer in 1920 in vienna as the daughter of mina, neé dichter, and michael aptowitzer. her grandparents, leopold und regine dichter, owned the retail store dichter in brunnengasse 40, in the 16th district of vienna. together with her parents and her brother, she lived on the third floor above the store.
as a child, she started dancing ballet and was instructed by grete wiesenthal in josefstädter straße, and later by the opera ballerina hedy pfundmayr. hedy pfundmayr also recommended her to the ballet school at the vienna state opera, where she was admitted as a disciple and received training on four afternoons a week. in 1935, she performed in the world premiere of franz lehar’s operetta “giuditta”, along with richard tauber and jarmila novotná. unfortunately, edith had to be given leave on health grounds.

after hitler had invaded austria in 1938, and later, living in exile, she never got a chance to restart her ballet career. she had to witness her father’s arrest by the sa and the robbing of her parents’ home. her brother emigrated to america in the middle of march 1939, and edith was left behind in vienna with her sick mother and her father’s mother. her grandmother was killed in theresienstadt in 1942. because of a typhoid quarantine, her father’s release from the concentration camp buchenwald was delayed, and they had only just made it to england in time before their entry permit expired. this was in may 1939. a little while after that, her father was interned on the isle of man, as an ‘enemy alien’ – as was every other male refugee. and the 14 year old edith was left to tend to her sick mother again. edith then started to work as a book keeper for the ‘daily telegraph’, for which she also translated from german into english. their apartment was bombed three times during the air war. not until 1946 did they manage to get visas and boat tickets for the us, and could finally be reunited with walter and the rest of the family in chicago.

in 1950, edith got her degree in social psychology which she had studied in chicago. she started to work as a social psychologist; she published, among other things, the first study on the effect of tv on children. in 1970, she got married to hans wachtel, an austrian businessman who had also fled from vienna in 1938 and had emigrated to lima. with the political situation in peru getting worse, they moved to los angeles in 1976. her husband died in 1997. edith arlen-wachtel works as a volunteer for art museums as well as for organisations furthering music talents and social organisations.


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