At first Hitler had said to the Jews, “Go,” and those who could, went east or west, wherever there was a place to take them. But another thought was forming in Hitler’s mind, what might be done with the Jews. The door for leaving Austria was rapidly closing.

One day, on yet another visit to the American consul, the Baders found him engaged in returning two quota numbers to Washington for re-allocation. Perhaps the intended immigrants had TB, or maybe no sponsor, or they may have decided that the madness could not last and chosen not to abandon all that they possessed. Whatever the reason, it made possible the consul's impulse, when he said, “here,” to the Baders and they were soon on their way to America.

Franz and Tony gave up everything except their lives. “We both came out with $12 each—that is all that was permitted. No new clothes, no quantity of anything else. And my mother gave us a bottle of rum—for tea actually. And at the border, the Nazi guards said again you want to smuggle out something, so they took it away.” Franz was fond of saying that after he was able to get to America, “All those things were completely against any kind of logic and possibility. So much that I felt afterward that if I go over the street and the light is red, then so what, the cars will stop because I go by.”

Franz and Virginia Bader

Franz and Toni Bader in Rock Creek Park,
soon after arriving in Washington, D.C., early 1940s

Franz found Washington very different from Vienna: “On the first days, someone took me out for lunch and I ordered some pork and potatoes and rice. `But Franz, you will die, you have to eat some green vegetables!' Never, ever anybody told me in Vienna about green vegetables. Never anybody told me about heat and humidity.”

In Washington, Franz soon arranged with Mr. Whyte to sell modern art in the bookstore. The First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, mentioned Franz in her syndicated newspaper column, “My Day.” She had come to one of the exhibitions at the Whyte gallery, and didn't like it, but she came back and changed her mind.

Franz continued to sell foreign language books throughout the Second World War. The Soviet Embassy came to him for maps of Munich. Speaking of his German trade, Franz said, “The reason why I carried German Books, showed Austrian and German artists, for which actually I was sometimes attacked by other refugees, as I was, the reason is, that I feel that people who have gone through war, concentration camps, persecutions and so on, have a right to do something, not a right but a duty, and doing something doesn't mean hatred. If someone wants to hate, it's fine, but hatred always brings hatred back. And I think, I have no children, but people who have children, people like this should have a right to live a life without fear, or with less fear, and if people understand each other, in music, in literature, and in art, and respect each other, it may be a little more difficult to kill each other.” In 1964, the German Government presented Franz the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit, being unaware, we presume, where the Russians got their maps of Munich during the war. More than two decades later Austria awarded Franz the Gold Medal for Public Service.

The Whyte Bookshop and Gallery

The Whyte Bookshop and Gallery on 17th Street at H, Washington, D.C.,1939. This is where Franz Bader first worked when he came to the United States. Bader persuaded Whyte to hold monthly art exhibitions.

A few years after the war, Franz was able to open his own art gallery and foreign language bookstore. Speaking of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Teddy Roosevelt's daughter, Franz said, “She was one of my favorite customers. She was the greatest book reader I've ever seen.... She came in at least once a week. We had always a little shelf for her of books we thought she might like. Take Rachael Carson, she read all night and at nine o’clock the next morning she phoned her for more information. I have never seen anyone more intellectual. She published an anthology of poetry. She said she knows poetry because if she has to go somewhere by land and she is driving, she gets bored and she recites poetry.”

Of the gallery, Franz said, “Washington artists were our artists because there was nowhere else to show even if they wanted to. A number of people like Prentiss Taylor, Paul Howell, Alice Acheson [wife of Secretary of State Dean Acheson], Bernice Cross and maybe two or three other ones, started at that time and they are still with me,” Franz said a quarter of a century later. Franz gave Grandma Moses her first Washington show. And, “Take Lowell Nesbitt, I was eating in a Yugoslav restaurant and there were some prints of his that I liked, so I sent him a message and so I had the first exhibition of his work. From this exhibition, he [was acquired by] the Rosendorf collection.” Another of Franz's discoveries was the noted African American artist, Alma Thomas; he presented her first show in a commercial gallery. The list of artists whose careers owe much to Franz is a long one, and to name a few: Ken Noland, Jim Davis, Herman Maurer, Mitchell Jamieson, Ken Young, Dorothy Phillips, Peter Milton, Lester Cooke, H. I. Gates, Berthold and Slaithong Schmutzhart. Franz's support for art was unexpectedly wide ranging, including German painter Anita Bucherer, Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo, the art of the Inuit Eskimos in the far north of Canada, and the folk art of Haiti, introduced by Franz in 1946, ahead of the wave of Haitian art popularity. Among the potters Franz displayed, none was more eminent than fellow Austrian refugees Otto and Gertrud Natzler. And lest one forget, Franz introduced more than a few writers to Washington. The late poet, Dylan Thomas, comes to mind.

Tony Bader died in 1966, and Franz slipped deeper into the work of his gallery, marking time for some years until Virginia Forman came upon the scene.