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June 16, 2000 - Image 84

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2000-06-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Arts E tertai

ODITSSE

In a salute to a legacy
of inspiration and love,
a local filmmaker chronicles the life
of her Jewish-born grandfather.

TAMARA WARREN

Special to the Jewish News

etroiter Tamara Warren's

grandfather, Frank "Opa"

ries, I have discovered struggle, loss and the impor-
tance of going on living when it seems there is noth-
ing to live for," Tamara has written. "I have also dis-
covered that the Holocaust shaped me, too."
Tamara hopes to generate support to complete
this film with her grandfather later this year. The
following is a selection from her travel journal.

Kussy, is an 89-year old

Bohemian-born Jew and

Auschwitz survivor who converted to

Catholicism in the 1950s. Her late grand-

mother,_Ada "Oma" Kussy, was a member of

the Dutch Resistance who risked her Own

safety to protect his.

Tamara (nicknamed "Little Klooney")

decided to write about her grandparents' lives

when she was 18. After six years of research,

she has written The Opa and the Little

Klooney, a 250-page memoir about her expe-

riences as a grandchild of the Holocaust.

IN

6/16
2000

84

Tamara, her grandfather and other family recently
traveled to Europe to complete filming of a television
documentary about this exploration. "In [Opa's] sto-

APRIL 19, 2000

We arrive in Dresden, Germany, on an unseason-
ably warm morning for eastern Germany, which is
often chilly and damp. Yet, some force seems to be
guiding our journey — with an 89-year old travel
companion, sunny weather is surely a blessing.
He would never say as much. He looks at the town
of his birth through wise eyes of knowledge. He has
no fear. "The past comes never back," he says.
Yet, I cannot help but wonder how this place res-
onates inside his head — the city where he studied,
where he married, had his children — and was first
persecuted by the Nazis during Kristallnacht.
We walk past the reconstructed Dresden Opera. My
grandfather looks up. "My mother loved to go to the
opera," he says. "It was the best opera in all of Europe."
Before the bombing, Dresden was said to be archi-
tecturally perfect. It is a twist of irony to peer at these
soot-laden buildings with an extended family that
includes my mother, my brother and our Israeli
cousins. When Opa left Dresden for the United States
in 1953, his wife, his nephew and his children were all
he had left. His family had been erased — murdered,
one by one, in the Nazi concentration camps.

That evening, my cousin Miriam tells me she
heard that Passover services are being held at the
synagogue. She and I take a cab to the synagogue
that my grandfather helped to construct when he
returned to Dresden after liberation. The service is
letting out, but we try to worm our way into the
exclusive hotel dinner to follow.
We are told that several Jewish families in
Dresden are unable to afford the 50-deutsche mark
fee to attend, and that they have no room for extra
guests. But one man sees the pleading in my young
cousin's eyes.
"You've come so far, this is ridiculous," he says.
He says he will see that we join them at the Dresden
Hilton. I feel a little guilty as I recall the Russian
faniilies leaving the synagogue unable to attend, but
a few minutes later, we are laughing.
I discover the man who has invited us is the son
of my grandparents' old friends.
"Your grandparents gave my parents their first hot
meal in Germany in 1948, " he says. "I remember= a
Chanuka party at their house with your mother." I
no longer feel out of place.
One hour later, we listen to the rabbi speaking in
German. Chills course through my body. German
does not usually bother me, but the mingling of
these languages on a holy day is petrifying. Though
my grandfather converted to Catholicism in the
1950s, I feel an uncanny connection to my Jewish
ancestry.
Fifty people struggle to follow what is going on
— about two-thirds are German and Russian Jews,
and the remainder are Christians. Even though I
have practically no knowledge of Hebrew, I seem to
be among the more knowledgeable.
Bottles of wine are emptied, and by the end of
the evening the stiffness has dissipated into a cele-
bratory state. A large chunk of Dresden's small
Jewish community has observed Passover together.
As a young Israeli boy and a German Jewish boy
escort my cousin and me home, I feel the disturbing
and complex tone for my project has been set by
such a bittersweet occasion.

APRIL 20, 2000

We begin filming today at the synagogue and
inside the Jewish cemetery. The caretaker makes a
special allowance for us. Opa, my mom and I walk
to the headstone that my grandfather has construct-
ed in memory of his father, mother, brother, sister
and nephew.
Opa recites the passage inscribed on the head-
stone, taken from one of his favorite playwrights,
Johann Schiller, whose themes of spiritual freedom
and human dignity resonate with him. I read the
inscriptions for Opa's mother, brother, sister —
"Auschwitz 1944, Auschwitz 1944, Auschwitz 1942."
With a sense of completion we leave the ceme-
tery. Oblivious to the camera crew, Opa has jour-
neyed to the physical memory of his loved ones. On
this day, the realization comes to light; it is most
likely my grandfather's last journey to Dresden. His
business with reparations is nearly complete, and the
trip is visibly taxing. on him. He takes one last look
and slowly we return to the cars.
Tante Illa arrives today, and the joy on my grand-
father's face is clear.

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