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La Pietra Dialogues On the World On-Line
Director´s Statement - Auf Wiedersehen / ´Till We Meet Again
Linda G. Mills
Auf Wiedersehen Press Kit
May 22, 2012

It was September 11, 2001 and my own family’s close brush with death that started me thinking about the past in a new way. It was Ronnie’s first full day of kindergarten at a school three blocks from the North Tower when American Airlines Flight 11 exploded into the building. As we ran from the wreckage my son began asking me some hard questions: Why did people want to hurt us? Why did all those people have to die?

These same questions plagued my own childhood. Repeatedly, I was led to a blank – the answers I sought from my mother about the Holocaust were not forthcoming. I decided that if I was ever going to be able to talk to my son frankly about what happened on September 11th, I needed to delve more deeply into my past. It was time to take my mother back to Vienna to confront the city she fled 70 years ago.

Growing up, I learned at least one thing for sure: The Austrians hated the Jews. Why else would my grandfather have escaped a death train, my mother have traveled alone to the U.S. at just 14, or my then nine-year-old aunt, have been rescued by an English family? Aside from these facts – and the snide comments about Austrians – I had learned very little about my family’s history.

Documenting on film my mother’s return to Vienna could fill in the missing pieces. It would be important to the family’s untold story, and with my son in tow, I felt I could finally break the generational silence.

Then something astonishing happened. We discovered the archival records kept from 1938 to 1945 by the Jewish Community Vienna for Adolf Eichmann. Here was the history that we hadn’t been told, a hidden story of heroism and deceit, collaboration and escape. It was a censored, complex past that revealed a very different story from the one that I had learned growing up. As I pieced together the history told by the archive and came to know the historians who helped me discover the past (themselves descendants of Nazis), I began to appreciate the paradoxes and opportunities that personal genealogy could produce. This film was woven from these surprises.

In December 2009, right after we had completed filming, the Jewish Community leadership in Vienna decided to regulate access to the archival records. In addition, the archivist who had been so helpful to me was no longer employed there. The Jewish Community had been very good to my family in a brief period of complete openness. As possibly the only crew to have filmed in this remarkable archive, we could now be the last.

Through the making of this film, our son Ronnie has seen it all. I am still not sure that his – or my – questions have been fully answered. However, I am now fully convinced that taking a deep, dark, long look into the past can help put a family’s ghosts to rest.

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