In the winter of 1938, Jakob and Ida Kreutner, both born in 1912, escaped together with their nineteen-month-old son Robert from Vienna to St. Gallen, Switzerland. Jakob remembers how in the course of the 1938 November Pogroms a Nazi gang closed a ring round him and beat him up. Injured and unconscious, he remained lying on the ground, which caused the Nazis to let up on him. At this point, the family decided to leave Vienna and flee to Switzerland. Already three weeks later, they set out and started by taking the train to Vorarlberg. At the border, they tried several times to cross the Rhine into Switzerland. Jakob Kreutner remembers the freezing winter of 1938. Ida Kreutner tells about their escape attempts:
The second time, I went to a different spot at the border. I had run half the distance when they came with searchlights and said: “Return!” So I returned again. And then I crossed for the third time and someone said to me: “I’ll take the child across, but you must go back.” So I replied: “No, I’ll take the child back with me.” And again, I returned. (Ida Kreutner, 1997, in an interview with Hansjürg Zumstein for the documentary “Die Fluchthelfer von Diepoldsau”)
Their escape succeeded only at the fourth attempt. Eventually, they crossed the Rhine with an escape helper. Through his bawling, their sick son attracted the attention of the Swiss border police who met them rifle at the ready.
And so they asked my wife (…): “Where are you going?” Then my wife replied: “If you send me back, then you better shoot us right here.“ (Jakob Kreutner, 1997 ibid.)
Thanks to border guard Alfons Eigenmann, who let them pass and accommodated them in his home, the escape finally succeeded. In an anonymous public letter, this dedicated border policeman also tried to inform the Swiss population of the dramas unfolding at the border. According to Ida Kreutner’s eyewitness report, Eigenmann’s wife had ordered him to take in the woman with the bawling child. Mrs. Eigenmann had been able to observe her and screaming little Robert during a previous flight attempt. Ultimately, Ida and her son Robert were able to stay with the Eigenmanns for a few days and then to reach St. Gallen with difficulty. Jakob Kreutner ended up in a labor camp for the time being.
In 1955, the Kreutners were awarded Swiss citizenship. Before that, in 1949, they had been requested in a letter from the cantonal immigration authorities to emigrate to Israel. The expectation was that with the founding of the State of Israel, it would be possible to get rid of the Jewish refugees. The family remained in Switzerland.