Marie Donner was Jewish and grew up in Linz, Austria in the 1930s. At eight years old, Marie escaped severe food rations, attacks on Jews and Kristallnacht through the Kindertransport to London.

“She never forgot the generous few who gave her food when she was starving,” says Michael Donner, Ph.D., a forensic psychologist and the son of Holocaust survivor, and our donor, Marie Donner.

“[During Kristallnacht], they had all been locked inside their temple and it had been set afire,” remembers Michael. “The paper’s headline was, ‘I will not cry before the Nazis.’ That in some way captures something about who my mom was. That you could do whatever you are going to do, but you are not going to make me cry.”

“Mom took no guff from anyone,” Michael went on. “She was a very, very intelligent woman who probably would have made a great doctor. She was a child prodigy as a piano player at six.” Marie got a full scholarship to Stanford, but she chose not to go. She met Michael’s father and was somebody who really wanted stability and security.

As one of the few Jews of Linz that survived the Holocaust, Marie was called upon in her adult years to share her story and warn future generations of the legacy of hatred and antisemitism. Both of Michael’s parents were Holocaust survivors and his mom never lost her capacity to translate and speak German fluently. Marie got involved with our partner, Jewish Family and Children’s Services in Palo Alto as a volunteer.

Michael also recalls the happy memories he had with his family around the dinner table:

“My mother loved to eat. My brother and I both learned how to cook from our mother. She really liked to go places that served really big portions. She liked the idea of taking the leftovers home and freezing them. I think that’s the holdover of the trauma of starvation.”

When Marie died on Sept. 17, 2020, she included a donation to Second Harvest of Silicon Valley of $60,000 in her will.

Michael shares, “My mother and I hope that this token of her appreciation and regard can do something for those you serve, to make some people’s lives better and to offer the hope of a better time.”

Learn more about how you can support your community with planned giving.

1935 Marie Donner (then Spitz) at the age of 5 with a family at the Linz Hessenplatz

Archival 1935: Five-year-old Marie with her family in Linz, Austria