Eugene Braunwald: Maestro Of American Cardiology  pg. 3

Clara Braunwald was frantic, but she kept her wits about her. The next morning when the SS officer arrived, she told him that her husband had been arrested, which was unfortunate because the officer had liquidated only half of the business. She pointed out that he could become much wealthier if her husband’s deportation could be delayed until the entire stock was sold.

“You might be right,” the officer mused. He then made a phone call or two, ordering William Braunwald to be returned home.

On July 31, 1938, William and Clara Braunwald packed some lunches and told Eugene and his younger brother Jack that they were going on a picnic. They boarded a trolley, then a taxi, then a train, and eventually crossed into Switzerland. From there they traveled to Paris, and finally wound up in London as wards of a relief agency, in possession of nothing more than the proverbial clothes on their backs.

Braunwald (right) works with Stanley Sarnoff, M.D., in the animal laboratory at the National Heart Institute (now tht National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute) in 1955.
Photo courtesy Eugene Braunwald, M.D.
“It was like the Sound of Music, except there was no music,” Braunwald says, admitting that they barely made it out in time. “Kristallnacht (the wave of pogroms against German and Austrian Jews) came three months later.

“This was a point of no return; Jews were slaughtered on the streets, others were arrested and carted off wholesale to concentration camps. It was the start of the Holocaust. But I was very lucky. I never went hungry and I had no physical injury. So, given the whole scale of things, I feel extremely fortunate.”

Their fortunes detoured again during the London blitz. Because Austrian refugees were deemed “enemy aliens” in Britain, the Braunwalds had to leave the country or be interned in work camps. They managed to get to New York City, where they had a relative. They arrived the day after Thanksgiving 1939.

Two years later, the United States entered World War II. For young men and women on the home front, the catchword of the day was “engineering.” Joining this wave, Braunwald was accepted into the elite Brooklyn Technical High School, in an accelerated program in which both high school and college could be completed in five years.

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