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Kathryn Spira

Schindler’s List and My Family’s Past

I’ve told all of you several times about my Jewish heritage.  That made the film “Schindler’s List,” which I just saw last week, hit close to home when it comes to my grandparents, mother, aunts and uncles.

From my mom I’ve heard the story countless times about the Nazis coming into her home in Dresden, Germany, waking the children and lining everyone up, even the servants, against the wall to be shot.  Although the film took place in Poland, the same type of thing was happening in Germany years earlier.

“Papa” (my grandfather Abraham Loewenthal) had the foresight to leave the phone off the receiver after calling the police, who were still in power over the Nazi’s at that time, so they could hear what was happening and would come and rescue the family.  Those in Poland at the time the film is set didn’t have that luxury.

According to my mother, “after the police arrived they took the Nazis away and Papa immediately took our family to board a train going to Belgium.”  The year was 1933 and since mom’s sisters and brothers were much older they looked after her and the youngest siblings. All together there were six children.

After speaking with my mother, she recalled a dream she had as a young girl in Belgium missing her father. In the dream she said she saw her father across a field, and they were both running towards each other only to find a fence between them.

She said she was crying and scared. In her dream, “Papa” finally found a hole in the fence that she could climb through.

The very next day after her dream, she received the news that her papa was sending for her from the U.S. where he had gone with her eldest brother Erry to make enough money to bring the rest of the family over to America. He was a furrier.

At first, they only had enough money to send for three children. My grandmother Mutti had to stay behind along with my Uncle Bernie and Aunt Miriam for another six months until Papa had enough money to send for them as well.

When watching “Schindler’s List,” I learned that the Nazis basically took all the power, business and money away from the Jews.  That’s what happened to my grandparents’ family as well. It was more than 60 years before my mother received some reparation payments for the losses of property the family had endured. Of course, nothing could ever make up for them having to flee for their lives.

As hard as it was to watch “Schindler’s List,” I learned a lot about my own heritage in doing so.


About Kathryn Spira

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland, OH who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues freelance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County, New York. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site

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