Sincerely Yours – Letters from the Archives: A Viennese Jewish Refugee of WWII, Charlotte (Lotte) Lederer

Born in Zistersdorf, Austria on September 7, 1919, Charlotte (Lotte) Lederer arrived in New York, New York on August 28, 1939 via the S. S. Bremen through Southampton, England. The recipient of one of three refugee scholarships from the Indiana University Board of Trustees that covered her tuition in full, she enrolled at Indiana University that fall while student organizations such as the Student Refugee Committee organized benefit dances and raffles to cover room and board. After a year at IU, Lotte penned this note of gratitude:


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While at Indiana University, Charlotte met and subsequently married fellow student Hugh Grant Freeland on April 24, 1941. The pair graduated in May 1942; Charlotte with a B.A. in Psychology and Hugh with his LL.B.

While the details of their life after graduation are a little hazy, we know that the Freelands immediately moved to Louisville, Kentucky where Charlotte initially took a job at the University of Louisville in the office of the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts while Hugh worked as an attorney for Seagrams. She wrote her mentor Frank Beck back at IU that “I really had first planned on doing something in connection with the war-effort. But I was not able to find the right thing…. I feel all at home here – as you know I have always been crazy about university-atmosphere, etc.” She later took a position doing “personnel research work” at Seagrams. On January 21, 1944 she became a naturalized United States citizen. By that point Lt. Hugh G. Freeland of the US Naval Reserve was stationed in the Pacific, and she had relocated to Washington D.C. in 1945 where she was working as a Classification Analyst in the Personnel Division of the Office of the Secretary of War. She wrote the IU Alumni Association on October 27, 1945 that “It’s a swell and very interesting job. There are many I.U. grads in the Pentagon, and we are all enjoying the good news of our Football Team this year.” Following the war the couple moved to Beaumont, Texas where Charlotte taught German at a Beaumont high school and Hugh began a law practice specializing in corporate law.

To learn more about other refugees who came to IU during WWII, contact the IU Archives. The above letter is currently on view as part of the exhibit “‘Here I met my first true radicals'”: Student Reform Movements at Indiana University.”

The above letter is located in C213 President’s Office records – Herman B Wells.

Author- Carrie Schwier

Public Services and Outreach Archivist, Indiana University Archives.

6 thoughts on “Sincerely Yours – Letters from the Archives: A Viennese Jewish Refugee of WWII, Charlotte (Lotte) Lederer”

  1. What happened to Charlotte, her husband & the two kids–all dead on Dec. 28 1973. (I was actually looking for an author/illustrator named Charlotte Lederer, but this woman has later dates.}

  2. Charlotte and Hugh had three children. Two died in 1973, but the oldest (that would be me) was not with them when they died. I am a retired college professor, married, with two children and three grandchildren. Charlotte’s legacy continues.

    1. Hi Pennie,

      I am a student-intern for the Office of International Services looking into scholarships specifically for refugee students like Charlotte.

      I was curious if you know a particular name given to the scholarship she received or if it was just from the Board of Trustees.

      Thank you in advance.

      1. Hi Lora – according to our Trustees records these were just referred to as “refugee scholarships” during the time period and weren’t “named” in the fashion that we’re used to today. If you’d like to see the names of some of the other recipients, you’ll find them through the online Board of Trustees minutes here. If we can help with anything else, please feel free to email archives@indiana.edu.

        Cheers, Carrie

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