Exodus from Vienna
Vienna – Prague – New York 1938

„I'm coming with you”
Zemlinsky to his wife who was resolved to escape, 1938

After the Anschluss (annexation) of Austria in March 1938 the Zemlinsky family of three soon decided to emigrate to the USA. As a first step Zemlinsky applied on 7 May for an entry visa to Prague, which he received in June, valid for four months. At the same time the girlfriend of his youth — his first wife's sister, Melanie Guttmann-Rice — who had emigrated already in 1901, tried to acquire an affidavit (capitalist visa) from the American immigration authorities for the Zemlinskys. She had to oblige herself to support the immigrants in case of an emergency. However, the application was turned down.

The family stayed therefore for the time being in the city. The official route to an escape was arduous and Zemlinsky found it extremely difficult to give up his homeland — even though the impending catastrophe had literally already reached the composer's door: one day when the Nazis knocked at the door in the Kaasgrabengasse, it was only thanks to Louise's presence of mind, who offered them a donation, that nothing worse happened. As Louise related later, at the time Zemlinsky was considering converting
back to the Jewish faith.

Finally in the autumn the family decided to flee. Countless other formalities had to be settled. The hardest was the payment of a Reichsfluchtsteuer (a tax for escaping from the Reich) amounting to 27,718 Reichsmark — this more or less corresponded to the value of the house in the Kaasgrabengasse. The Zemlinskys left Vienna on 10 September. They each had $8 „travel allowance”in their pocket and set off for Prague where initially they lived with Louise's mother. Nine weeks later they travelled via Rotterdam to Boulogne where they embarked on 14 December on the SS Statendam. They arrived in New York on 23 December. Their housemaid had arranged the transport of their belongings, including their furniture and Zemlinsky's manuscripts and these arrived in the city on 25 January 1939. One manuscript, however, was among the few pieces of luggage Zemlinsky took with him on the long journey: his new opera Der König Kandaules.