This past Sunday, I attended a fabulous presentation by Glenn Kurtz sponsored by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Connecticut (JGSCT). Glenn shared his book Three Minutes in Poland, in which he tells the story of a film he found in his parents’ closet. The film contained images of his grandparents’ trip to Europe in August 1938. He brought the film to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) where it was ultimately posted on their website.
The story of Glenn’s efforts to identify and locate the people in the film was so inspiring. He was able to share photographs with survivors who might never have seen images of their family again had he not made that one decision to examine his grandparents’ film.
When I arrived home after the presentation, I wanted to view the film again. I googled “Three Minutes in Poland.” A few links down the page was the link for the video at the “Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive.” One click brought me to the archive’s home page and I was immediately “distracted” by the search box.
I decided to type in “VIENNA” – hey, you never know! I’m always on the search for images of my grandfather’s hat shop, Lital.
The search term returned a list of 166 titles; “Nazi propaganda decorations in Vienna”, “Hitler bust in Vienna; Nazi propaganda”, “March of Time — outtakes — Hitler speaks in Vienna after annexation of Austria.”
Too depressing. I kept scrolling. Film # 22: “Children playing in prewar Vienna.” That looked pleasant enough. I clicked on it.
The image that appeared on my screen completely shocked and amazed me. There, running around and playing with her best friend, was MY MOTHER! Most likely filmed around 1937-38, there was my mom, at about 5 or 6 years old. I was actually shaking. (Note: Sadly, Mom passed away on Dec. 2, 2011. She would have LOVED knowing she was on the Internet!)
|On the right is my mother. Doris Lichtenthal. Her best friend, Lucy is on the left. Vienna, circa 1937-38.|
My mother (Doris Lichtenthal FALCONE), her mother (Rose Spiegel LICHTENTHAL) and her grandmother (Sophie Weiss SPIEGEL) left Vienna for America in mid-1938 shortly after her father, (Paul LICHTENTHAL) was imprisoned in the concentration camp, Dachau. This film shows perhaps one of the last happy times my mom experienced in her homeland.
When my pulse returned to normal, I sent the link to my siblings along with a few pictures I had of my mother’s friend from that time period. Within minutes, the phone calls, emails, and texts came rolling in:
One sister pointed out that the woman our mom ran to 47 seconds into the clip is most likely our grandmother, Rose Spiegel LICHTENTHAL.
|Could that be my grandmother? Very likely.|
As a genealogist, I have learned not to make a decision based solely on one source. But – here were FOUR more people all saying, “It’s our mom!” Of course, we might be biased. Not 100% convinced yet, I searched through my photo archive and found a picture of our mother wearing the SAME snowsuit! Okay- that’s pretty good proof. But, again, I might be swayed by my own feelings. You know – we SEE what we WANT to see.
|Mom – Vienna 1937-38|
|This certainly looks like the same snowsuit worn in photo above.
Note the high waist in both shots.
I decided to try and locate my mother’s friend, Lucy. Luckily my mom had shared some stories with me, including Lucy’s married name and profession. It didn’t take me long – maybe 30 minutes. I called her and shared the story. We had a fabulous 10-minute conversation during which she confirmed that the woman who took the footage was the mother of a childhood friend. Despite being 84 years old, Lucy is versed in technology. I sent her the link to the video and awaited her opinion. The next day, I received an email:
Really enjoyed our conversation too and admire your effort to put together the many parts of your family history… Yes, your Mom is in it.
Concerned about privacy (and rightly so, considering how quickly I was able to locate her!) Lucy felt the names of the children on the video should not be posted publicly on the website. I will honor that request as well as not identifying her any further than her first name.
I had some luck locating Peter, the son of the woman who took the video. He apparently donated several reels of film in honor of his father, Max Schur. If that name rings a bell it is because Dr. Max Schur was a psychoanalyst and Freud’s personal physician. I found only Peter’s office numbers and am a little reluctant to contact him that way. Instead, I contacted the UHSMM in search of more information. Should I receive any, I will update this blog post.
Well, that’s my amazing story! One never knows what a click on a link might lead to. I am truly grateful to those who decide to keep, examine, restore, and share their finds. It may take years (the film was originally donated in 2009) but when found, these moments are truly precious.
To see the entire film clip, click on the link:
Click on the links below to view Glenn Kurtz’s film clips:
Click on the link to learn more about Glenn Kurtz and his book Three Minutes in Poland:
Click on the link to learn more about our local Jewish Genealogical Society (JGSCT):