…we have a duty to bear witness. While I can do it, I’ll do it.
- Hedi Argent re giving her testimony at the National Holocaust Centre and Museum. 

Hedi Argent was born in 1929, and lived in a suburb of Vienna, Austria with her parents, Max, and Liza. Hedi’s father was a lawyer and her mother trained as a chemist before raising Hedi. The family were secular Jews. Although she was an only child, Hedi had a very large extended family, some of whom she was very close with.

Hedi remembers the presence of anti-Semitism long before the Anschluss in Austria. She stated that she was never outwardly bullied but felt a definite sense of ostracization; never being picked for school plays, or sports teams or any activities at school.

The anti-Jewish laws and backlash that accompanied Hitler’s annexation of Austria in 1938 were something Hedi remembers very well. She remembers seeing Jews being made to scrub the pavements and having stones thrown at them. The day after the Anschluss, Hedi’s father lost his job, Hedi was unable to go to school and the family were thrown out of their home within a month, losing many of their possessions in the process.

Before the night of the November pogrom 9-10th November 1938, Hedi’s father had been arrested and sent to prison on a six-week sentence. This had meant that he escaped the rounding up of Jewish men, but also that time was running out for the family to escape Austria. Finally, Hedi’s father was released, and the family managed to leave Austria intending to travel to the United States of America through England. They were only allowed to bring one suitcase each with nothing of value and two pounds seventeen and sixpence for all three of them. Hedi brought with her a doll named little Suzie.

Hedi remembers the train journey through Europe as a very frightening experience, with many passengers terrified that the train would be stopped, and they would all be in danger.

Hedi’s family arrived in England in 1939 and at first stayed in a safe house in West Hampstead with other refugees. When war broke out the family could no longer fulfil the rest of their journey to the United States as the war had prevented further travel. Hedi’s mother and father found work as domestic servants in Hertfordshire and Hedi attended the village school. She managed to learn English very quickly, even winning a prize for English at the end of her first school year. 

After the war, Hedi and her parents wrote to the Red Cross to try and find their extended family. They found out that most of their other family members in Europe had been murdered during the Holocaust.

Hedi has a long-standing friendship with the National Holocaust Centre and Museum and has given her testimony on many occasions, teaching others about her experiences during the Holocaust. Her testimony, along with the objects she has donated provide a crucial role in Holocaust education and will continue to teach people for years to come.

 

The Collection

The museum houses documents, objects, and photographs donated by Hedi. It is our privilege to care for these artefacts and ensure they are available for future generations. The museum's collection provides vital, tangible, evidence of the Holocaust. We are committed to ensuring we have everything we need to continue to tell our speaker's stories into the future. Please find a selection of objects below from the Hedi Argent Collection, you can also search our collections for further objects and information.