Friday, February 02, 2018

Full circle

On March 5, 1945, as air raid sirens enveloped the city of Chemnitz, my grandfather, who was surprised to find himself at home instead of on a transport to Theresienstadt with the few other remaining Jews in the city, ran to the basement to protect his beloved collection of quintessential German Romantic art.
Carl 1940
Days later, on temporary leave from Munzig bei Meissig, the work camp where half-Jews – “mischlinge” – were taken, my  father arrived at his childhood home where he found his father’s lifeless body amid the ruins.  Carl’s round wire spectacles were barely cracked and he was still dressed in his customary three-piece black suit, which he had continued to wear daily, though he had been released from his executive banker position years before.
Chemitz house past March 5 1945 bomb which killed Carl
Sixteen-year-old Thomas collapsed, exhausted, beside his father’s lifeless body.
There were no tears, no anger, no frustration, not even fear. In their place was only a survival instinct, the knowledge that being alive and on his own, he must now act.
‘I, the living, must bury my father, the dead.’
It was not the thought of a boy, or of a teenager, but of the man he had too suddenly become.
Thomas 1944~~~~~~~~~
On the 21st of this month, 73 years after Carl’s death, 64 years after my father emigrated to America, and exactly one year to the day after his death at the age of 89, I will travel to Chemnitz, accompanied by three generations of Carl’s descendants. We will be the guests of the city’s mayor, who has asked us to return to honor my father and grandfather at the art museum that Carl so dearly loved and to which my father recently bequeathed three inherited pieces.
Invitation letter from City of Chemnitz
(Webpage translation – see above link: The banker Carl Heumann (1896-1945) was one of the most notable art collectors in Chemnitz. The co-owner of the Chemnitz bank "Bayer and Heinze" and Portuguese vice-consul, Carl Heumann was a renowned connoisseur of the art of the 19th and early 20th century. Until 1933, he donated more than sixty graphic sheets by August Gaul, Adolph von Menzel, Julius Scholz, Carl Peschel and a graphic portfolio by Ernst Barlach to the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz. On 5, March 1945, he was killed by a blast bomb while trying to recover a suitcase with valuable drawings from the basement of his house. His son, Thomas Heumann (1928-2017) emigrated to the US after after difficult times in the labor camp in Munzig near Meissen. Thomas Heumann bequeathed in honor of his father three works to the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz. These will be presented for the first time together with the donations of his father at the Museum am Theaterplatz.)
I will journal preparations for, ponderings about, and experiences of the trip here.

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Margaret said...

You write this beautifully, and definitely have the chops for the book. Blog posts will get you more into the habit, and also serve as a reminder of your experiences on this trip of a lifetime.

Tonya said...

I second Margaret's comment! Beautifully written! What an experience your trip will be!

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