Posted by Richard Blakeman
The club has been gifted 1200 LightWalker walking sticks by the Estate of the Late Walter Glaser and his late dear wife Cherie. Expected to sell for around $20-$25 each, the gift has the potential to raise between $20,000 and $24,000 for the club's Sierra Leone project and other service projects. Walter, who in his later years needed the assistance of a walking stick, designed the "LightWalker" walking sticks himself, after finding most sticks on offer deficient in so many ways.
There will be more about the Fundraising project and, importantly, how you can help, in next week's Bulletin. But, in the meantime, who were Walter and Cherie Glaser, to whom the club owes such a debt of gratitude? Walter and Cherie were travel writers, amongst many things, and wrote most of Fodor's Guide to Australia. Their story is quite remarkable, in particular Walter's escape from pre-war Austria, and the role of a future Australian Prime Minister in that escape. Click on Read More... below to learn more of Walter's remarkable story. 
And please keep an eye out for next week's Bulletin to learn how you can help with this project. Thank you so much, Walter and Cherie, for your generous gift, which will be put to beneficial use in service to our community.
This remarkable story about Walter Glaser, then a resident of Kew, is taken from The Sydney Morning Herald, November 24, 2016

How a South Yarra dinner party and Harold Holt saved a Jewish boy from Hitler

Carol Saffer
Sydney Morning Herald
Harold Holt in the 1930s

When Harold Holt, future prime minister of Australia, took his seat at a dinner party in South Yarra one July night in 1938, he had no idea that by the end of the evening he would be conspiring to save a young boy and his parents from Hitler.

Another guest, Fred Ashworth, had brought along a letter written in German that he wanted their hosts, German-speaking sisters Beatrice and Clara Dacomb, to translate after dinner.

The letter, it would transpire, was from the only Jew in the Vienna Fishing Club, an Austrian banker named Johan Glaser.

Walter, who was also called Igo, in happier pre-war days with his father Dr Johan Glaser (centre).
Glaser, his wife Henrietta and their nine-year-old son, Walter (nicknamed Igo), lived in the 2nd district of Vienna – the Jewish district. They were a lower middle-class traditional Jewish family, not very orthodox or devout.

When Austria was annexed into Nazi Germany in March 1938, Glaser, a Jew and a Social Democrat, had a feeling his days were numbered.

His fears were confirmed when he was warned by a Nazi and fellow member of the fishing club: "You will be top of the invitees to Dachau. I reckon you've got about three to four weeks."

Anxious to get his family out of Austria as soon as possible, Glaser recalled a distant uncle had migrated to Australia from the Borer branch of the family. Glaser visited the British Embassy and found six entries in the Melbourne and Sydney phone books under the name Borer.

Jews in Vienna forced to scrub Schuschnigg's
slogans off the sidewalk as Nazi soldiers watch

He wrote letters to all six, asking that if the recipient was his long-lost uncle, could he please help with sponsorship for his family to migrate to Australia. It was, he wrote, a matter of life or death.

One of the letters was addressed to "Mr Borer" at the "Borer and White Ant Extermination Company" in Melbourne, who Dr Glaser hoped was his Uncle Borer in partnership with a Mr White.

The mistake meant that Dr Glaser's letter fortuitously reached Fred Ashworth, the owner of the extermination company, and this was the letter he took to the dinner party. As the sisters translated the letter that night in South Yarra, the party chatter gradually gave way to stunned silence.

Walter Glaser as a child. His family nickname was "Igo".

As the enormity of the Glasers' situation became clear, the guests realised this was a plea for help they could not ignore. Everyone agreed that if the Glaser family urgently needed to find Uncle Borer, they would become Uncle Borer.

Holt was on the backbench of Federal Parliament, having been elected three years previously. He called John McEwen, mnister for the interior, the Monday after the dinner party asking for a permit for the Glaser family. At that time there would have been 20,000 applicants seeking permits, as Australia's immigration policy was very strict.

Ashworth was guarantor for Dr Glaser while the Dacomb sisters were guarantor for Mrs Glaser and Walter.

This meant that Ashworth and the Dacombs had to guarantee for five years the financial wellbeing of an Austrian Jewish family they had never met.

On August 19, 1938, "Uncle Borer" wrote to Dr Glaser in Vienna: "I fully expect your permit to go through any time now." With a handwritten P.S, "your permit will probably arrive about the same time as this".

When the Glaser family received their permit, they left Vienna immediately and went to Marseille, where they waited for the MS Sibajak to take them to Batavia. There they boarded MS Nieuw Zeeland for Melbourne.

The Glaser family arrived in Australia on the SS Nieuw Zeeland
After annexing Austria, the Germans allowed anyone leaving the country to take only the equivalent of £50 with them. While the Glaser family was not considered wealthy, Dr Glaser purchased first-class tickets for his family in order to use up as much of their money as possible.

They arrived in Melbourne on November 7, 1938. Waiting on Station Pier was Ashworth, the Dacomb sisters and the other guests from that fateful dinner party four months earlier. Harold Holt was in Canberra at the time. They were holding a small banner with the words "welcome to Dr Glaser and family".

When the family approached the group, they introduced themselves and asked which one was Uncle Borer. "We all are," was the thrilled reply. Ashworth had written to the family in Singapore explaining the identity of "Uncle Borer" but the Glasers didn't receive the letter until after they reached Melbourne.


Walter Glaser, (then) 87, says "if we had stayed, there is no question that we would have been wiped out. We would have been killed. "We came out in style but arrived with nothing," he says of the journey to Melbourne. "My father was no longer a banker."

Like a lot of Jewish refugees to Australia at that time, Walter's father started a business in the garment industry – producing clothing labels.

Walter encountered his first experience of anti-Semitism at Elwood Central School in 1938. "I arrived at Elwood Central School wearing lederhosen and got bashed up in the morning for being a kraut and bashed up in the afternoon for being a Jew," he says.

Dr Glaser died in 1946 aged 49 from rheumatic fever. Walter, 16 years old at the time, took over running the family business. Six years later, while studying at night school, Walter was offered admission to the MBA program at Harvard. He declined because he knew his mother could not run the business by herself. "My dad died when I was 16 and I had to get stuck straight into the business. I went back to university in my 40s," he says.

Walter went on to have careers in advertising and travel writing, before gaining further qualifications in psychotherapy and economics. In 2012, head of collections and curator at the Jewish Holocaust Centre Jayne Josem interviewed Walter about the impact of "this random act of kindness" by the dinner party guests all those years ago.

He replied: "If something good happens to you, you are duty bound to pass it on to others."

He and his wife, Cherie, were in Istanbul in the late 1980s when upheaval in then-communist Eastern Europe was widespread and they befriended a young Romanian shop assistant. The shop assistant had been an officer on a Romanian vessel who jumped ship in Istanbul because as a Catholic he was being persecuted and bullied. He was working and waiting in Turkey for migration to a western European country.

The Glasers upon returning to Australia began trying to sponsor his entry into Australia. They sent him money every month. When eventually he was granted entry to Canada they helped him financially to settle there. And when the communist leader of Romania, Nicolae Ceausescu, was executed they sent him $2000 "to fly back to your homeland and pick up your wife and children fast", Walter said..

"I feel that this is just part and parcel of repeating the cycle of helping," said Walter. "When you have been so incredibly fortunate [as my family was] you are beholden to help others to do the same thing."

Walter Glaser was a past member of The Rotary Club of Moorabbin

Cherie and Walter Glaser wrote travel articles for The Los Angeles Times, Manchester Guardian, Tatler Asia, Far East Traveler, Korea Herald, Malaysian Business Magazine, South African Penthouse, and numerous other publications around the world. In the early 90's Walter wrote much of Fodor's Guide to Australia. To learn more about Cherie and Walter Glaser's writing career, click here.

To read Walter's story in The Australian Jewish News, click here : Luck and a Letter to Freedom