“The terrible reality is that the evils of WWII are not unique to Germany, Poland or France,” says Rabbi Eli Herb of Salem’s Temple Beth Sholom. “In the immense tragedy of the Shoah (the Holocaust), there are lessons for all of humanity to learn about what happens when we ignore our own humanity and that of others.”
Herb is discussing the reasons the film documentary, Shattered tells a universal story that impacts all Salem people. The film will be presented with live comments by Salem’s Britta Franz, the subject of film, at Temple Beth Shalom in January.
Shattered concerns Franz’s family and how it interacted with history. Her parents owned the Appelrath Cuepper store in Aachen, Germany, which in 1937 was a well-established, substantial company, known for quality clothing. But with the rise of Nazism, the Lions lost their beloved 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.
The Lion family escaped Germany with very few possessions and journeyed to America to start over. At the same time, the Wehmeyer family took over the store under conditions that remain cloudy.
Walter Wehmeyer, the director of the film, is the grandson of the man who assumed ownership of Appelrath Cuepper. The film – personal and universal, professional, nuanced and compelling – appears to be Wehmeyer’s attempt at understanding and atonement.
It’s what the world needs more of, especially at this moment, says Herb. World War II, he says, “like all other wars and genocides, must be understood and reflected upon in order to prevent it from happening again and again and again. We have not, as the human race, gotten to the bottom of what happened to allow human beings to murder 6 million Jews and millions of other Europeans deemed lesser beings by the Nazis.”
The questions of nationalism, peoplehood and racism raised by the war “are all questions that, as an entire planet, we are still trying to understand,” Herb says. “This particular tragedy does not only belong to the Jews but all of the Western world.”