Harry Weichsel, a Holocaust survivor, returned to the land of his youth, Germany, for the first time in 1992 and was shocked to discover that the old synagogue in his home town, Wetter, was being used as a stable. Weichsel wrote a letter to the mayor of Wetter, suggesting a collaborative effort between Wetter and any surviving Jewish families to reclaim and restore the synagogue. Next, he learned there were no Jewish families left in Wetter, and therefore no longer a need for a synagogue. So Weichsel proposed it be turned into a cultural and learning center. What happened next is the subject of the documentary, Robbery of the Heart, which will be shown at the South End Library on August 13 at 6:00 PM. Filmmaker Micah Brandt, will participate in the post-movie discussion.
The city of Wetter agreed that restoring the synagogue was a good idea, but felt they should take on the responsibility on their own. The restoration was completed in time for 2008, when all across Germany remembrances were being held for the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, also known as the night of broken glass, a pogrom that took place the evening of November 9th, 1938, when the Nazis destroyed Jewish businesses and homes and sent 30,000 Jews to concentration camps.
Although he was only five years old,. Weichsel remembers the night well. His grandmother hid him under the bed, and he had to stay there all night as the Nazis ransacked Wetter. In 1941, at the age of eight, Harry Weichsel fled with his mother. The two traveled through France, war-ravaged Spain, and finally Portugal, where they were able to board a boat that took refugees and orphaned children to America. The title, according to filmmaker Brandt, came from the shape of the two walls surrounding the village, ressembling a heart. Usually, said Brandt in a recent phone conversation, the Jews were housed separately from Gentiles in towns and villages, but not in Wetter. They all lived together, embraced by the town walls.
The event is free.