BENEW Sandbox

Hedy's Story

Perhaps it was the 2014 Academy Award winning documentary of Alice Herz-Sommer - the oldest known Holocaust survivor, or maybe it was the "60 Minutes" broadcast of Nicholas Winton's herculean efforts to save the lives of 669 Czech children from the Nazis in 1938 that brought her memory and story cascading back into my thoughts.

I met her in 1969 and we remained close friends until her death in 2004. Some have said I was her second daughter, while she the "good mother" I had always yearned for.

In any case, the last years of her dementia-rifled life and our waning time together centered around "her story." The one in which she saved herself and several family members from extinction while hidden from the Nazis by French peasants who she clothed with her last remaining means of defense - her arsenal of dress making skills.

She had always wanted the details of "her story" to be told to the world at large, but at present they remain silently tucked away form public view in the archives of Steven Spielberg's Shoah Foundation.

So on a recent hot summer day, Hedy and I are reunited once again at Columbia University where I have come to listen and watch her 1995 interview with The Shoah Foundation. Just like in our past visits we are once again seated in her pale blue living room surrounded by all the familiar photographs and memorabilia that I have not seen in over 10 years.

And after several hours of very careful listening, I am awestruck by how innocently I had misunderstood her story. Because for over 35 years we had spent many hours together but somehow during all these visits I had missed the essence of her being. While I had been searching only for love and acceptance, I was just about to realize that all this time I had been in the presence of the most courageous and POSITIVE human being I had ever known.

It seems that all these years I had been mistaken, for it was not the details of her story that needed to be shared with the world, but the story of Hedy herself. For it was oh so obvious to me now that she alone had been the heroine of the tale - her tenacity, her indomitable spirit, and most definitely her positivity at every twist and turn in this life threatening chapter of her journey enabled her to survive and many years later to thrive.

Hedy, my friend, you are gone but never forgotten! Your story will always remain in my thoughts.