savinghistory

It’s Always Better Late Than Never

In Uncategorized on June 19, 2013 at 9:26 AM

items from the flat
I am not an avid moviegoer; not that I don’t like movies or popcorn, I just never seem to get around to it. Last year I remember seeing an article on a documentary that won several foreign film awards and was right up my subject alley; the Holocaust (I’m an adjunct professor teaching WWII). No one I knew was keen on seeing it; English subtitles were not a real lure. So, I never went though kept it on my list of “movies I’d like to see.” Earlier this week one of my sons got Netflix and while he scrolled through the lineup to show me everything he could watch I caught a glimpse of it… “scroll back” I shouted and jumped to my feet when I saw the title; The Flat!!!
the flat poster
Directed by Arnon Goldfinger it is the story of the long and shocking process of clearing out his 98 year old grandmothers flat in Tel Aviv when she passed away. She and Goldfinger’s grandfather immigrated to Tel Aviv (then Palestine) in the 1930’s as a result of the mandatory invitation to leave their homeland of Germany; not an uncommon request/demand of Jews during that era. Considering the events of history, they were certainly fortunate to be alive. Despite living in Tel Aviv for nearly seven decades, the grandparents never mentally left Germany and the apartment was clear testament to that fact. Barely fluent in Hebrew, everything in the apartment was in German.
In the weeks it would take Goldfinger and his family to go through the flat to dispose or disperse of the items accumulated over a long lifetime they discovered the family history never shared or spoken of. Curious and shocked, Goldfinder set out to unravel the long hidden details around a well developed friendship between his grandparents and a Nazi official; can you say Odd Couple? How a young Jewish couple, expelled from Germany came to visit Palestine with a Nazi official was, to say the least a revelation, even to Goldfinger’s mother who knew nothing of this friendship her parents maintained. Despite the fact her own mother (Goldfinger’s great grandmother) was a Holocaust victim, despite the fact that this “friend” was highly placed within the Nazi Regime, and despite being expelled from their own country, Goldfinger’s grandparents remained close to this man and his family, taking other trips, and maintaining a rich correspondence. Now, can you say unbelievable???!!! But it is true and had Goldfinger not been assigned the difficult task of clearing out the belongings of a departed loved one, this story would have been lost.
Goldfinger emptying cabinet
In one scene several family members descend on the apartment to empty draws, closets, and cabinets. Amongst the piles and trash bags each held some object they were left to wonder about. “Why did they have this”, “what was it for”, “who gave it to them”, “I never knew this”, “why did they keep this”, and similar thoughts raced through all their minds and mine as I watched. I paused the file and looked around my own den at all the stuff and books and things. Would the scene paused on the screen be repeated in my own home years from now (hopefully many years from now)? Would my family know why I’ve kept the things tucked in my draws, closets, and cabinets? More importantly would they know my stories? I heard myself answer out loud; “NO, not unless I do something about it.”
The 20th century has been marked by incredible global change, perhaps more than any other time in recorded history, but it is fast disappearing. The relationship Goldfingers grandparents maintained with a Nazi official reveal that our interpretation of conditions and events is perhaps incomplete; there are other bits and pieces that remain untold, packed away in someone else’s draws, closets, and cabinets. Maybe yours, maybe mine. The point is there are untold tales and recipes, and stories, and an endless list of information, information that will bring to light a more complete story of history. The process does not have to be overwhelming and by all means the process should not be tackled after we are gone. The clues surround us but the details are within. Don’t leave the interpretation to others after you pass.

You should be Saving History…because your story is priceless.

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