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Hans, the son of a successful manufacturer, was four years old when the Germans annexed Austria. He spent a lot of time playing with his older brother, Alfred, who taught him to ride his bicycle and play with a wind-up train. The family often spent their summers in the country.
After the German annexation of Austria, the Ament 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. Hans attended school and quickly learned Flemish.
In May 1940, the Nazis invaded Belgium. Hans's father, who held a German passport, was arrested and sent to an internment camp in France.
In spring 1941, Hans's mother sold his brother's stamp collection for food. Later on she sold her engagement ring. When ordered to report for deportation to a "resettlement camp," they fled to Marseilles in unoccupied France.
In Marseilles, Hans attended the local public school and soon learned French. His mother became ill and was hospitalized. Hans was sent to a children's home in Izieu, and his brother was placed in a home for teenagers.
At the children's home, Hans lived with over 40 Jewish children and several adult counselors. The children often went on hikes, picnics, and swimming, while the older children helped out on local farms. The adults were determined to give their young charges a respite from the stress and danger they had already experienced. In November 1942, the Germans occupied all of France. Now, no Jew was safe.
On April 6, 1944, when Hans was ten years old, the Nazis raided the home. Most of the children and their counselors were sent to the Auschwitz death camp on April 15, where they were murdered in the death camps.