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Remembering Lisl Winter

Lisl was born in Vienna in the spring of 1925. When she was a year old, her 29-year-old father died of cancer, so she never knew him. When she was four-and-a-half years old, her mother, Grete Bauer, decided to go to Frankfurt, Germany, to study architecture. She put Lisl into a nearby progressive boarding school, Odenwaldschule, so that she could visit Lisl frequently.

During that time, the mother met a Czech journalist, Ernst Froehlich, and married him. When Hitler became chancellor in 1933, they moved to Ernst’s hometown, Prague.

There, Lisl first went to a German-speaking elementary school. When her Czech was adequate, she was able to start a Czech high school. During this time, she frequently visited the extended family in Vienna. She was always very happy there. After Hitler invaded Austria in 1938, Ernst felt that Czechoslovakia might be next, and in order for Lisl to be safe, he was able to arrange for her to go to England as an exchange student. When she got there, she started at Beltane School in Wimbledon. During the tennis tournaments, since the school was so close to the courts, the Beltane students often walked over and asked people who were leaving for their tickets and so got in free. In the meantime, Lisl's mother went to England to get visas for the family to go to Australia. Since Ernst had been an active anti-Hitler, he could not legally leave occupied Czechoslovakia, because they would have kept him and his passport at the border. So Ernst and Grete crossed the border into Poland by night. From there, they were fortunate to be on the last transport to England before the war broke out in September 1939.

As they were about to leave for Australia, Lisl went to Woolacombe in Devon to say good-bye to her uncle Sigmund and aunt Mitzi. While she was there, the war broke out and all overseas transportation was stopped, so she stayed with her uncle and aunt. She went to school in the morning, and in the afternoon worked at a farm across the street and learned to milk cows. Since the school was a boarding school, she moved there, graduated and got her school certificate. In the fall of 1943, she started at the London School of Economics which had been evacuated to Cambridge. But later that fall, she and her mother came to America. Ernst had to stay behind because he was of military age.

At first, they lived with Grete's sister Annie in New York City on Ft. Washington Ave. Soon they found their own apartment on the same street. Since Lisl was eighteen, Aunt Annie, the natural-born matchmaker, had arranged for her to meet four young men. Herbert happened to be on furlough from the army, so he was one of them. - In January Lisl started Hunter College. At the time, for New York City residents Hunter was free; even the books were on loan. All they had to pay was a ten dollar registration fee per term!

Initially, Lisl and Herbert had talked about getting married when the war was over, but when it ended so suddenly in August 1945, they were not quite ready. He started to study engineering at City College and Lisl continued Hunter. But a year later, they felt ready. With a stipend from the GI Bill and the money they made from part-time jobs, they felt they could manage. She was working with preschool children at a settlement house on First Avenue for $20 a week, and he was typing envelopes twenty hours a week for 75 cents an hour. Their mothers were concerned that they were not yet financially established enough to get married - they were both still in college – but with help from the GI Bill, a bond from Lisl's grandfather and saved army pay, they could prove that they could manage. Lisl’s aunt Annie made a beautiful reception, and they picked up a fair amount of money as wedding presents.

At that time, housing in New York City was very hard to come by, so they had to live with one of their mothers. They decided to live with Herbert's mother because of the way the apartment was set up. That was hard on Lisl's mother. After about a year they found their own apartment on the Lower East Side.

The apartment was on the fifth floor without an elevator. They made their subway fare by returning bottles which they found on the way down. After graduation, they spent a summer working at a Catskill resort, Lisl as a children’s counselor, Herbert as a busboy. With wages and tips, they cleared $1,000 which helped them to finance their graduate work.

Herbert decided on the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. They planned that he would study and Lisl would take a job. But it was impossible to find a job, so Lisl started graduate school during the second semester, majoring in education. At the end of the year Herbert got his Master’s and accepted an offer from Bell Aircraft in Buffalo at $75 a week. They bought a second-hand ‘47 Studebaker, and drove to Buffalo in style. It was the summer of 1950.

They found a one-bedroom apartment in a new development in Snyder, a suburb of Buffalo. While Herbert was working at Bell, Lisl found a job as a kindergarten teacher at Park School, a private school. In 1953 they moved to a larger apartment, and shortly after adopted Judie. Three years later they adopted David and needed more space. So they bought a three-bedroom house for $16,500 where they lived for 46 years.

Some years later, they had occasion to return to Ann Arbor for a year. While Herbert did some additional study, Lisl was able to complete her Master’s degree, which was actually a requirement for her current job as a kindergarten teacher in the Buffalo Public School System.

In 1987, they retired and they spent fifteen more years in Buffalo. In the meantime, Lisl's mother, Grete Frohlich, had moved to the Fellowship Community in 1973. They visited her frequently, and so got to know the Community, and the Community got to know them. When Grete died in August of 2001, at the age of one hundred, she knew that “the children” were going to come to the Community, and they did so on February 2002.


To make a gift to the Fellowship Community in honor of Lisl Winter please visit


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