1939 – 1942: Dreizehnlinden, Santa Catarina, Brazil

No sooner had the stalwart community of Dreizehnlinden established foundations, than political unrest and natural disaster combined to shake them to the core.

Even in the far reaches of the south of Brazil, they could not escape the turmoil that embroiled their Austrian countrymen in Europe. In March 1938, Austria’s formalized Anschluss (connection) with the German Reich, made administration of the settlement of Dreizehnlinden subject to the German Consulate General in the nearby town of Joaçaba. The Nazi Party considered the area as prime real estate for the settlement of their own emigrants—Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia. Led by Andreas Thaler, and supported by his influential connections, the families in Dreizehnlinden argued vehemently against this unwelcome invasion onto the lands they had prepared.

On June 28, 1939, more fundamental concerns temporarily overshadowed their political ones when a torrential rainstorm assaulted the community, flooding the river, damaging crops, and injuring livestock. When the rains finally abated, to their horror, they discovered Andreas Thaler drowned, assumedly in an attempt to rescue a cow from the river’s swift current. Without Thaler as representative, the town became evermore susceptible to German agendas.

On September 1, 1939, Germany turned its attention toward Poland, provoking France and the United Kingdom to retaliate. Thus began the Great War. From late 1939 to early 1941, through a series of campaigns and treaties, Germany conquered or controlled much of continental Europe, and formed the Axis alliance with Italy and Japan. The Nazi’s long reach extended further and further.

Little Gisa experienced Germany’s influence as an absence. The regular influx of bad news from abroad, and the continued interference from the German Consulate, diverted her family’s attention away from household tasks, and her care. All around her, people half functioned in a full state of distraction. Too young to understand events on a global scale, Gisa simply felt them…in her father’s cynicism, her mother’s apathy, her sister’s impatience…. She retreated into herself, only deepening her isolation. As quiet as a mouse, she received as much attention as one. And the war raged on.