Oswald, the son of Herman and Frieda Kernberg, was a nine year-old schoolboy when the Germans annexed Austria in 1938. His father was a manufacturer of knitwear, sweaters, and dresses, and made a comfortable living for his family. Oswald and his older brother Fritz lived with their parents in Vienna, Austria, a glittering, sophisticated city, where the Jewish citizens were highly assimilated into the general cultural and civic life.
With the Nazi annexation, all antisemitic legislation passed in Germany automatically applied to Austria. Jewish citizens were barred from most professions and from attending public schools. Jewish businesses were confiscated, and many families became impoverished. Oswald's parents tried to obtain visas to leave the country, but they were unsuccessful. They heard of special children's transports out of Austria, and tried to get their two sons on one. Fritz, thirteen years old, was deemed too old, but ten year-old Oswald was sent to France.
Oswald lived in various children's homes for the next two and a half years. He lived with other children in similar straits. When the Germans occupied Paris in 1940, Oswald was sent to a home in unoccupied France.
In July 1941, Oswald was chosen to join a transport of 100 children who were sent to the United States. Most of the children who were left behind were murdered by the Germans. Soon after his thirteenth birthday, Oswald received a letter written by his parents, on the occasion of his Bar Mitzvah. He was never to hear from them again. They were deported, together with Oswald's older brother, Fritz, to Lublin, Poland, where they were murdered.