Anna Helen (née Mahler) Aszkanazy collection
Fonds / Archival Collection
Extent & Medium3 manuscripts
1 membership card
Date[1913 or 1914]–2021
Administrative/Biographical HistoryAnna Mahler was born in 1893 in Vienna, Austria, to Sigmund Mahler and Malvine née Gutmann; she had five older brothers. Sigmund Mahler passed away in 1897. Anna married Simon (Wolf) Aszkanazy, a Polish Jew, in 1918. She moved to Nagymaros near Budapest to be with her husband, who was working as a civil engineer in the construction business in Budapest. The couple, with separate travel arrangements for safety, fled to Vienna as a result of the worsening political situation in the then Hungarian Communist Republic. They split their time between Vienna and Belgrade and had two daughters.
In the years following the First World War, Aszkanazy (who went by the moniker AHA) became involved in the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and wrote and delivered a speech in Geneva in 1930, later published as a pamphlet, entitled “The Problem of Statelessness (people Deprived of Nationality): Some Facts, Arguments and Proposals Presented to an International Conference Called by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.” After this event, her involvement in women’s education, especially in the areas of speech writing and politics, increased, along with her activities in theatre, writing and publishing. She was a co-founder of the Women’s Organization for World Order, a European ecofeminist group, which aimed to establish a new political order, with 50/50 women’s equality, to counterbalance what they perceived as man’s growing inclination of destruction.
Anna Aszkanazy and her daughters fled Vienna on March 13, 1938, the morning after the Anschluss. They took a train to Switzerland, moved to London, and eventually settled in British Columbia, Canada. Simon Aszkanazy was arrested in their Vienna apartment on March 15, 1938, and died in police custody three days later.
Upon arrival in Canada, Aszkanazy spent time, energy and money trying to communicate the urgent need for countries like Canada to open their doors to refugees needing to leave Europe. She co-founded the Vancouver Women’s School for Citizenship in 1941. Under the name Helen A. Mahler, she published the historical novel Empress of Byzantium in 1952, and wrote an unpublished and undated feminist work entitled the Catastrophe of Patriarchy. From 1956 to 1958, she wrote an unpublished memoir detailing her life in Vienna up to her escape. She hosted many of her European feminist friends and local Canadian politicians at her ten-acre farm in Lynn Valley, North Vancouver. She made a few journeys back to Europe, and locally, was a patron of the Vancouver symphony and opera.
Anna Aszkanazy died in Vancouver, Canada on May 17, 1970. Her ashes were scattered on the Pacific Ocean. She was survived by her daughters, Elizabeth Aszkanazy-Rhodes and Clarisse Leonore Dolman, her son-in-law, Claude Dolman and three grandchildren: John, Jennifer and Peter Dolman.
Scope & ContentCollection is comprised of items related to and about the activities of Anna Helen (née Mahler) Aszkanazy in Vienna, Austria and North Vancouver, BC. Items are original memoir writings by Aszkanazy, written in British Columbia both in German and English, an English translation of the German-language memoir part, a German writers association membership card and photographs taken before the Second World War and after Aszkanazy’s immigration to BC. Photographs depict Aszkanazy, her daughter, friends and refugees whom she helped immigrate to Canada during the Second World War.
Immediate Source of Acquisition or TransferRecords were donated to the VHEC by Jennifer Elizabeth Dolman Roosma in 2021.
AccrualsNo further accruals are expected.
RightsDonor relinquished rights to materials in collection upon their donation to the VHEC but collection contains third-party materials for which copyright was not transferred. Researchers are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.