Just before our DDFR Dartmouth Roadshow on May 9th, I was invited by Lecturer Martin Roberts to present on DDFR in his Digital Arts & Culture course. The topic of the class that day was pretty broad – “Afro-Futurist Histories” – looking at a range of African and African-American digital arts projects. I screened a bit of Through A Lens Darkly, some of the DDFR modules and gave an overview of the larger transmedia project which was followed by a lively Q&A with students.
As I was leaving the class, a young woman ran after me with cell phone containing a black & white image of two elegant people and told me that these were images of her great grandparents who somehow were able to get themselves and these images out of Nazi Germany. Her name was Amanda Herz and she had been looking at these images of family members including her great grandmother Ellen, who Amanda knew while growing up and died at the grand age of 96. Amanda was longing to do something of consequence with the images and stories of her great grandmother as well as other relatives. I looked at the images while she shared her story and then invited her to be a special guest at the Dartmouth DDFR Roadshow the following week which she accepted and promised to reach out to her great uncle Frank and his wife Ruth to get more images and clarify the story. Here are her text and photos.
Kurt Gustav Herz (my great grandfather) was born on February 2, 1903 in Offenbach A.M and Ellen Marie Wolff (my great grandmother) was born on February 23, 1906 in Bad Kreutznach.
Kurt and Ellen were married on January 8, 1932 in Bad Kreutznach, then Stefan Peter Herz (my grandfather) was born on December 18, 1932 in Berlin and Frank Herz (my great uncle) was born on June 20, 1936 in Dusseldorf.
Their last place of residence in Germany was 44 Bilker St. in Dusseldorf, which they left in 1939. Shortly after Kristallnacht (in 1939), Kurt was arrested and sent to Dachau concentration camp. Ellen had the children smuggled out of Germany (as part of the Kinder transport, which she helped to start) with my grandfather Steve going to London, my great uncle Frank going to Stockholm. I don’t know the whole story of Ellen getting Kurt out of Dachau, but it required quite a bit of savvy on her part. It started by her convincing the commendant overseeing Dusseldorf that without Kurt they would need to close the school (that he started and ran) and that this could create a public incident.
At the time Hitler was focused on trying to convince the rest of the world that everything was “OK” (WWII had not really started yet). Anyway, the commendant didn’t want to be the source of something that might anger the Furher so he wrote her a letter requesting release of Kurt. Ellen used this for passage to Dachau, retrieval of Kurt, and return (I think to Dusseldorf).
Along the journey she certainly had to bribe officials and guards… the details of which I do not know (I don’t think anybody alive does either). Anyway somewhere shortly thereafter she and Kurt secreted out of Germany, and eventually the entire family was reunited in London. In 1941 the entire family emigrated to the US, I believe in part sponsored by Kurt’s sister Else who had come earlier.
After the DDFR Roadshow Amanda wrote: