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A portrait of Hedi Pope at 99 years old appears on the left side of the image, which fades into a close-up of her 1942 yearbook portrait in the Miami University Recensio.

From Vienna to Oxford in 1939: Hedi Pope '42 recounts an extraordinary life

In 2019, Alia Levar Wegner was researching Miami University alumni whose lives were affected by the Holocaust. As a librarian within Miami University Libraries’ Walter Havighurst Special Collections and University Archives, she was curating an exhibition that would spotlight the Jewish experience at Miami during this historic period. She collected ten extraordinary stories of Miami alumni and faculty — of soldiers, Holocaust survivors, concentration camp liberators, Nazi interrogators, and outspoken scholars. Some were familiar names — Dolibois, Lavin, and Behr — while others’ stories were less widely known.

Most of these alumni had since passed away, having lived long and fulfilling lives after their Miami experiences. When possible, Wegner connected with their children — and in some cases, grandchildren — who shared photographs, documents, and treasured memories.

One alumna, however, was able to tell her story firsthand. Hedi Pope ‘42 was living in North Carolina.

Wegner managed to connect over the phone with Hedi Pope ‘42 to introduce herself and explain that she was curating an exhibition about Miamians’ experiences with the Holocaust. Over the next few months over the phone and by letter, the two arranged for Pope to record an oral history interview with the University Libraries in order to preserve and document Pope’s extraordinary story and her experiences with Miami University in the 1930s and 1940s.

In early 2020 — shortly before her 100th birthday — Pope welcomed Wegner and Nick Kneer, the Libraries’ strategic communications coordinator, into her home. Over the next two days, she recounted her childhood in Vienna, Austria; the tumultuous period following Germany’s annexation of her home country; her journey by boat to America; performing on Broadway; arriving by train in Oxford, Ohio; attending and graduating from Miami; and continuing on to a fulfilling family life and professional career.

Pope’s full oral history interview will be archived within Special Collections and University Archives.