Two very different families and the store that connects them lie at the heart of Shattered, a documentary that features Salem’s Britta Franz. The film is being shown as a one-night fundriser at Salem Cinema, to benefit The Center for Hope and Safety. (Formerly the Mid-valley Women’s Crisis Center).
The first family is Franz’s own, the Lions, who owned the Appelrath Cuepper store in Aachen, Germany. In 1937, Appelrath Cuepper was a well-established, substantial company, known for quality clothing. It was the place Britta’s parents, Curt and Else Lion spent their days making decisions about fashion and engaging with customers and staff.
But with the rise of Nazism, the Lions lost the family home, Britta and her sister were deprived of schooling and the store was sold off to another German family – all without compensation or apology, because the Lions were Jewish.
In Shattered, the process the Lion family went through, forced out of a country, culture and language, is inserted into the larger context of history with details that are well described and often wrenching. The family left Germany, with very little means, in 1937. They arrived at the Port of Los Angeles and began to build a new life.
The second family the film considers is the Wehmeyer family. Paul Wehmeyer assumed Appelrath Cuepper from Curt Lion under conditions that remain somewhat foggy. Paul’s grandson, Walter Wehmeyer, is the director of the film.
Walter never worked in the store himself; he studied film and in 2000, moved to Vienna. He reached out to Franz three years ago in an attempt to understand and document their intertwined past. The result is this film.
Shattered takes the viewer back on a modern day trip to Germany with Britta, to the store and the places of her youth. Britta and her sister Marianne are interviewed, as are Wehmeyer family members. Well-researched archival letters, photographs and documents show Walter Wehmeyer a man determined to learn the truth about his past.
In discussing the film, Wehmeyer says that Britta and her sister, “… are two of hundreds of thousands of German Jews who lost their homes, country and many family members – a widely silenced generation.”
Today Franz is a dynamic Salem community asset and advocate for progress. She co-organized 2015’s Bus Stop Paint In and 2016’s Wear Bright at Night campaigns – among other achievements.
Franz says she doesn’t have time to be bitter about what was lost. “I’ve had a wonderful life,” she says. “I’ve never looked back. I made my reparation in 1983 when I was invited back by the town.” On that earlier trip, she was one of more than 250 people displaced by the war who were invited back in an act of apology to return, look the place over, and consider resettling there. Britta remained in Oregon.
“What come up when I think back, is that I have had the best of all worlds,” Franz says. For many years she actively managed La Pointe’s stores in Oregon. Headquartered in Salem, at its height, the exclusive fashion chain included two locations in Salem (Downtown and Lancaster), two in Medford, one in Corvallis, plus the first, anchor store in Klamath Falls.
An outspoken supporter of women’s rights and women’s issues, Franz allowed Salem Cinema to present the film as one of its special events screenings if it could benefit the Center for Hope and Safety, She supports the work the Crisis Center does do to serve survivors of domestic abuse.
Directed by Walter Wehmeyer
1127 Broadway NE
November 13, 7 p.m.
Limited seating; purchase tickets
to show and reception at