Elli Jekel Carroll was born on June 19, 1927, in Vienna, Austria, to David Jekel and Klara Redisch. After serving in the Austrian army during World War I, David owned a men’s clothing store, while Klara was a homemaker. Elli’s older sister, Margit, was born in 1923. Elli and Margit completed public elementary school and were both in secondary school before the war. Margit had completed five years of secondary school while Elli completed the first six months.
Nazi Germany incorporated Austria into the German Reich on March 13, 1938, which included extending the antisemitic legislation decreed in 1933 into Austria. During Kristallnacht on November 9, 1938, SS officers came to the family’s apartment looking for David. He was not at home, and the officers left. Having obtained papers to go to Trinidad, the Jekels planned to leave Vienna for Amsterdam in September 1939. A few days before they were scheduled to depart, David discovered the British government had closed Trinidad to immigration due to overpopulation concerns. Despite this, David decided to risk departure; hoping authorities had not been informed about the closure of Trinidad. His gamble paid off, and the family reached Amsterdam, where they were aided by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and other Jewish organizations. They waited in Amsterdam for ten months. Here Elli attended a Dutch school; both teachers and students welcomed her. As a foreigner, David was not permitted work in the Netherlands, and was obligated to report to the Dutch police every week. The police repeatedly threatened that if the family did not leave soon, they would be returned to Austria.
Finally, the family received four visas for Chile and left on a Dutch ship. They had just reached the English Channel when the Germans invaded the Netherlands in May 1940. The Jekels disembarked in Panama and received help from Jewish organizations to continue their journey to Chile. They set sail once again traveling in steerage. There were twenty men and twenty women divided into separate large rooms with bunks.
The Jekels settled in Santiago, the capital of Chile. David found work and eventually became a successful businessman dealing in leather goods. Elli graduated from high school and enjoyed her young adult years in Chile. In 1950 she moved to New York and shortly after married Tom Carroll, a United States citizen. The couple lived in Rome, Italy, and Santiago, Chile, while Tom worked for the United Nations. Elli’s two older sons, Alan and Peter, were born in Rome, and her third son, Andrew, in Santiago. While living abroad, Elli took care of the children and was a hostess to the many visitors they received. The family returned to the US in 1961, settling in Bethesda, Maryland.
Since then, Elli has lived mostly in the Washington area. She has three grandchildren. She has been a volunteer at the Museum for the past 19 years, translating documents from Italian, German, Spanish, and French into English.