15 minutes of fame

Berlin in 1931 was not a good year for a half-Jewish child to be born.  By 1933 after Hitler came to power, though my father’s songs were played throughout Germany, he and countless other Jews could no longer work in theaters,  films, or cabarets.  Fearing worse to come, my family fled the Nazi regime.  Then much much later, in June 2007 while I was in Berlin, a television journalist wanted to “shoot” me in front of places that I remembered.  “I was one and a half when we left,” I told him.  I don’t remember anything.”

He would have known that if, as he claimed, he’d actually read my book, the occasion for my return to the city.

We visited other places instead.  The crew shot me pretending to gaze at a poster of an ocean liner carrying German emigres to America in the 1930s; in front of the Berliner Dom where my mother was taken to church as a child; and inside a theater where, presumably, my father’s musical hits were performed.

Having posed me among the orchestra rows, the director asked, “What was he like?  How did you feel about him as a father?”

“He was kind to me.  He was witty, and I thought he was wise.”

This last bit of dialogue was the only snippet the survived on TV from five-and-a-half hours of filming throughout the city.  Even that snippet was pre-empted by bulletins covering protests at the G8 Summit in Hamburg and was only aired some weeks later after I had left Berlin.

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