Friday, September 12, 2008

The secret extended from parents to grandparents

Roma's parents and grandparents:
When I was 6, my mother and father brought my maternal grandparents to Montreal from Bytom, where everyone ended up after the war. (How they all got there is one of the puzzle pieces.) I lived with my grandparents, since my parents worked long hours. I knew them as Helen (maiden name Tuhanska) and Joseph Karas. I was told my grandfather's brother was Anton Karas, the zither player who composed the music for The Third Man.

In fact, as I just learned, my grandparents' real names were Dora (maiden name Halpern) and Bernard Kluger. Dora was born in Skole and Bernard in Bukovina, and they settled in Przemysl. Anton Karas, whom I was proud to call a relation, especially in my music world, was a prop, and not a relative.

My mother, Roza Kluger ( whom I've known for 61 years as Maria Baran, nee Karas, still a shock after a month to write the other name) and her brother Zygmunt ( the only one of the family to keep his real first name) were born in Przemysl, in 1921 and 1923 respectively. Everyone is/was Jewish. In fact, my grandfather's grandfather was Shlomo Kluger, Rabbi of Brody. My grandfather's real brother was Carl Kluger, early Zionist activist and senator in Bukovina.
I emailed Roma my belief that I could not judge her parents on the lie they chose to foist on her for the past 60+ years. How can anyone know how to react amidst such horrors? How can anyone say that they would have acted differently? Her response:

I agree with your conclusion about the unimaginable effect of the Holocaust horrors. One rare story my father did tell was of finding himself in a small village as (what I now know as) an Aktion was starting. My father circled back around, and got into a cart with bodies piled up, covering himself with blood and corpses. The cart was dumped into a pit, my father included. It was growing too dark to burn/cover the bodies, and my father was able to crawl away into the woods at night.

Growing up an only child with him as my father was no picnic. I forgive him. More on the issue of living in a giant complex lie later.
BELOW: Dora and Bernard Karas/Kluger. Bernard was a sergeant in the Austrian Army, probably in the 10th regiment, 24th Division.

Roza and Zygmunt


The Klugar/Karas family:


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