Assemblymember Mary Hayashi Honors Holocaust Survivor Martha Reynolds

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California Legislature holds special Holocaust memorial ceremony at the State Capitol

Assembly Member Mary Hayashi's Honoree Martha Reynolds, with her late husband Hugh

Assembly Member Mary Hayashi's Honoree, Martha Reynolds, with her late husband Hugh

“Martha Reynolds experienced one of the darkest times in world history, a time where everyday people were forced to find their deepest courage and greatest strength in order to survive.” --Assembly Member Mary Hayashi.

Assembly Member Mary Hayashi (D-Hayward) will be honoring holocaust survivor Martha Reynolds on Monday, April 16 at the State Capitol. The California State Assembly is hosting a special Holocaust Memorial ceremony to honor survivors and World War II veterans, who will sit with their representatives on the Assembly floor.

“Martha Reynolds experienced one of the darkest times in world history, a time where everyday people were forced to find their deepest courage and greatest strength in order to survive,” stated Assembly Member Mary Hayashi. “Like many other survivors, she went on to thrive and live a fulfilling life. It’s an important lesson for all of us today to remember and recognize this incredible power of the human spirit.”

A Castro Valley resident, 90-year-old Martha Reynolds was born Marta Wachtel in Vienna, Austria. She lived in an apartment with her parents and her younger sister Rose. She completed her schooling and attended a trade school, where she learned to sew. In March of 1938, Hitler’s forces crossed the border into Austria. Vienna was taken over by the Nazis in one night.

The family was forced to move several times. Eventually, on Martha’s 21st birthday, she and her sister were sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. They spent two years there, and then they were sent to Auschwitz. Because they were strong enough to work, they were sent to a munitions factory. Martha was able to use her skills as a seamstress to secure a job. It made her useful enough to be kept alive.

When the factory was bombed by Allied forces, Martha and Rose were put on a transport train which was intended to take them to another camp. They persuaded a railroad man that he should assist them, since the war was almost at an end. He did so by switching the tracks so that their train took them to safety. They returned to Vienna in 1945, arriving just days after their parents were sent to a death camp.

Back in Vienna, Martha reconnected with a boy she had known as a child, Hugo Reinfeld, who had barely escaped Dachau. He and Martha fell in love and began planning a future. A chance meeting put them in touch with Hugo’s uncle in the United States, who arranged their paperwork so that they could come to this country. Their ship arrived in New Orleans on Labor Day in 1949. As they entered the country, an immigration agent advised them to change their names to sound less German. Reynolds was taken from a phone book. Hugo became Hugh, and Marta became Martha.

The Reynolds raised three sons and a daughter and had a long and loving marriage. Hugh lived to the age of 91, retiring from a long career with General Motors, while Martha continued to work as a seamstress. At age 90, she is happy to have had such a long and remarkable life.

Assembly Member Hayashi is the Chair of the Business, Professions, and Consumer Protection Committee and serves the 18th Assembly District, which includes San Leandro, Hayward, Dublin, most of Castro Valley and Pleasanton, and a portion of Oakland, as well as the unincorporated areas of Ashland, Cherryland, San Lorenzo and Sunol.

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Ross Warren
Office of Assemblymember Mary Hayashi
(916) 319-2018
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