Alfred, the son of a manufacturer, was an eleven year-old when the Germans annexed Austria. When Alfred was six years old, his brother Hans was born. He spent a lot of time playing with Hans, teaching him to ride his tricycle and play with a wind-up train.
After the annexation, Alfred's family fled to Belgium, where they immediately applied for visas to the United States. They received the visas in early 1940, but were put on a waiting list for berths on a ship. Alfred attended school and quickly learned Flemish. He made new friends and went to soccer games and swimming matches.
In May 1940, during the Nazi invasion, Alfred's father, who held a German passport, was arrested and sent to an internment camp in the south of France. That fall, Alfred had his Bar Mitzvah without his father.
In spring 1941, Alfred's mother sold his stamp collection to feed the family. Later on she sold her engagement ring. When they received a postcard ordering them to report for deportation, they fled to Marseilles in unoccupied France. In spring 1942, Alfred's mother became ill and was hospitalized. His brother, Hans, was sent to a children's home and Alfred was sent to a home for teenagers.
Even though he worked in the kitchen, food was scarce, and Alfred was often hungry. In the winter of 1943, the Nazis began raiding children's homes, and Alfred was sent to hide on a farm with two other children. He learned to milk cows and to clean the pigsty.
In March 1944, Alfred and a convoy of 30 other children escaped to Switzerland with the aid of false identity cards. Close to the border, the children scaled a ten foot-high barbed wire fence and fell onto Swiss soil.
Alfred spent the rest of the wars in a refugee camp, and later on in a boarding school in Switzerland. He corresponded with his mother until she died of tuberculosis. Sometime after the war, in May 1945, he learned that his father had been killed in a concentration camp, and that his grandparents and his little brother, Hans, were murdered in the Auschwitz death camp. Alfred was an orphan at seventeen.