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PAGE 16A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 27, 2012 Seeking Kin: Man hidden as baby hopes to honor father-rescuer By Hillel Kuttler BALTIMORE (JTA) Even after seven decades, Peter Nurnberger's most basic biographical facts remain elusive. The Slovakian doesn't know his birth date, his natu- ral parents' fate or whether they had any other children. Peter's adoptive parents hid him during the Shoah in their home in Kezmarok, 168 miles east of Bratislava, where he lives today. Now the retired civil engineer hopes that "Seeking Kin" readers can supply leads that help crack a mystery: Who else did they rescue? Identifying such people and obtaining their testimonies are crucial to Peter's goal of securing posthumous recog- nition for his adoptive father, Karl Nurnberger, as a Righ- teous Among the Nations, an honor that Israel's Holocaust commemoration institution, Yad Vashem, confers upon gentiles who saved Jews dur- ing World War II. Karl's wife, Paula (nee Blasenstein), was Jewish. Only upon Karl's death in 1958 did Peter learn that he had been adopted. Paula refused to discuss the mat- ter; she died in 1964. Years later, Peter discovered that his natural parentswereYosef and Berta Hirschberg, thathis first name was Moshe, that he was born in Bochnia, Poland, near Krakow, and that he'd By Tom Tugend LOS ANGELES (JTA)-- Joseph Cedar is on a pretty good run: The Israeli direc- tor has made four movies in his 11-year career, and the first three have represented his country at the Academy Awards for best foreign- language film. One made the cut of five finalists, but a Cedar film has yet to capture a golden statuette. In fact, no Israeli film has ever won an Oscar. Cedar and many of his countrymen were hoping that his fourth entry, "Foot- note," would prove to be the charm when nominations for been smuggled to Kemarok as an infant. The little that Nurnberger knows about his natural parents, and of his being born in Bochnia, came from discussions in the early 1990s with Berta's brother, Leopold Blasenstein, who had settled in Australia. Karl's candidacy for Righ- teous Among the Nations rests on collected scraps of information,, conversations Peter vaguely recalls from childhood and the words of a woman he met more than 30 years ago who has passed away. After returning from visitingYosef's cousins in Isra- el in October, Peter mailed Yad Vashem a two-page document that laid out the relevant facts. One of the cousins broadcast his search on the Israeli radio program "Hamador L'Chipus Krovim" (Searching for Rela- tives Bureau). Peter's letter to Yad Vashem contains serious drawbacks, he believes: They are the words of a son, and they aren't based on his own remembrances -- he was a baby at the time. Tereza Nurnberger, who translated for her husband during two Skype interviews with JTA in December, ac- knowledged that "chances are very thin that someone will be found" to attest to Karl's wartime sheltering of Jews, and said that Peter agrees. Estee Yaari, Yad Vashem's foreign media liaison, said the application is being re- viewed. Each rescue story, she explained, "is carefully examined to see whether it meets the criteria, the most basic of which is that a person risked his life to save Jews from deportation and murder. The stories must be substantiated with survivor testimony or archival documentation of the period." Peter "feels sorry that he doesn't know if he will succeed in giving Karl this honor that he deserves and that he didn't find people who know about those times--that it may be too late to find people," his wife explained. One person who has been located is Zoltan "Bezalel" Schulcz, who lives in Netanya, Israel. Schulcz told JTA that as a Kemarok teenager dur- ing World War II, he escorted two Jews to the Nurnberger home. Schulcz did so at the request of a neighbor named Rozenzwaig, who he thinks was active in identifying safe houses where escaping Polish Jews briefly stayed before con- tinuing their journey toward Hungary and, they believed, safety. "I took them to [Nurn- berger's] corridor,', Schulcz, now 80, said by telephone in December. "I was told to take them20 meters [60 feet[, show them the house, then leave." Schulcz does not remember meeting Karl Nurnberger, the names of the Jews he brought there or precisely when the escorting occurred. Schulcz thinks that he delivered Jews to Karl's house three or four times. Peter Black, a senior his- torian at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, figured that Schulcz's role likely dates to 1942 or 1943, prior to the Nazi occupation of Hungary and of Slovakia. From Boch- nia, those who smuggled Peter very well might have traveled through Slovakia and on to Hungary, Black said. "It only became danger- ous in Slovakia [beginning] in August 1944, when the Germans went in to wipe out the Slovak uprising and used that opportunity to deport the rest of the Slovak Jews who were not deported in 1942," Black explained. Until 1942, he continued, the Slovakian government of Jozef Tiso cooperated with the Nazis' deportation orders, butceased doing so after learning that the trains were traveling to death camps, not labor camps. The existence of an under- ground railroad to Hungary is an aspect of the Shoah not widely known or well documented. Black said that numbers for those traversing Slovakia bound for Hungary "would be hard to know," but figured that it didn't exceed a few hundred people. Records of Polish Jews briefly hidden en route are even more un- likely because escapees were transient, he said. "In a given town, I'd be surprised ifitwould have been more than a few dozen--but that's just shooting in the dark," he said of Kemarok's role. "There wouldn't be re- cords because peoplewouldn't want to keep records." He added, "I don't think it's been systematically studied." Peter Nurnberger said he learned that Karl and Paula sometimes sheltered up to 30 Jews, but usually a few people each night. He's not sure if people stayed in a secret room built onto or part of the Nurn- berger home, or were hidden in, under or near a woodshed in the yard. Investigating the property at 40 Huncovska St. is impossible now because the home was razed and a pediatric hospital stands on the site. Peter first found out about the Nurnbergers running a safe house from the late Livia Sandorfy, a friend of Karl and Paula. On a visit to Sandorfy while on a busi- ness trip to Kosice in the late 1970s, Peter asked about the circumstances of his adop- tion. Sandorfy revealed that she had been hidden by the Nurnbergers--and dropped the bombshell that he had been hidden, too. Sandorfy remembered that Peter was dropped off by two men and a woman who likely spent the night with another Jewish family before proceed- ing to Hungary. The Nurn- Israel again going to the Oscars gate with a Joseph Cedar entry the 84th Academy Awards were announced on Jan. 24. Sixty-three countries, from Albania to Vietnam, were vying in the foreign- language film category, and there are no guarantees aboutwhich would make the cut. The Oscar announce- ment was made after the Heritage deadline. Last year was the first in memory that no domestic or foreign film dealing with the Holocaust or the Nazi era was entered in any Oscar catego- ry. On that basis, I predicted that the "Schindler's List" and "Inglourious Basterds" era had passed and that the historical genre would deal EXCELLENCE IN ELDER CARE PROGRAMS AND SERVICES River Garden Hebrew Home- aditional Long-Term Care, Short Stay Rehabilitation, Alzheimer's and Dementia Care The Coves - Independent Living Reliran Community at River nten The Theral, Center- 7 days a week RIVER GARDEN Excellence in Adult Care and Services with more recent conflicts and genocides. It took on!y a year to prove the prophecy wrong with Poland's entry this year, "In Darkness." The movie's set- tings and emotions are as lightless as the underground sewers of Lvov, where a dozen Jewish men, women and chil- dren hid for 14 months during the German occupation of Poland. Their unlikely protec- tor was a rough-hewn Polish sewage worker and part-time thief who knew all the hiding places in the underground system--it's where he worked and stashed his loot. At the helm of "In Dark- ness" is the superb Polish director Agnieszka Holland ("Europa, Europa"), whose forte is to delineate the shades of the human char- acter. As in her other works, the strengths and weakness of the victims, heroes, vii, lains and bystanders vary with time and circumstance. "I have always been in- trigued by the contradictions and extremes in human nature," she said in a phone interview, "I wonder at how fragile and how strong we are, how evil and irrational under some conditions, and how brave and compassion- ate at other times." With "Footnote," Cedar centers on the rivalry be- tween two Talmudic scholars who also are father and son. It's a sharp contrast from the New York native's previous film, "Beaufort," a war film with an anti-war message. "What could be more bor- ing?" I can hear a younger audience moan about ',Foot- note." But in the hands of Cedar, 43, the film has more tension per frame than a gun-toting action picture or apocalyptic sci-fi epic. Both Eliezer and Uriel Shkolnik, father and son, are shining lights in the Department of Talmudic Studies of the Hebrew Uni- versity in Jerusalem, where rivalries are fierce. To the two Shkolnik philologists, the stakes in their lifelong studies of the authenticity and meaning of each word in different Talmudic versions and editions are far higher than the struggles of warring countries or the rise and fall of national economies. The director, himself the son of renowned Hebrew University biochemist How- ard Cedar, firmly rejects the assumption that the protagonists resemble his family or their relationships. "The film's Talmudists in no way represent my father and myself," said the younger Cedar, who as an Orthodox Jew is a rarity among Tel Aviv filmmakers. "Actually, their relationship is my night- mare, not my reality." Yet "Footnote" explores the balance between un- compromising honesty and family relationships. "What if my son becomes a more successful director than I am, but makes movies that I hate?" asks Cedar, who explored the gulf between observant and secular Israe- lis in his first two films, "In Time of Favor" and "Camp- fire." "Will I tell him how I really feel or preserve family harmony?" On a national scale, the insistence on one's abso- lute truth contributes to civic violence in Israel, Cedar believes. "We now have a generation that considers 'compromise' a bad word, and social harmony has been taken hostage by people who claim to know the absolute truth," he said. Although "Footnote" has not yet been released in American theaters, it has received favorable reviews. At the Cannes Film Festival, "Footnote" was awarded the top prize for best screenplay, and in the United States the National Board of Reviews of Motion Pictures placed the film among the five top foreign-language features. But the Oscar competi- tion in the foreign-language category is rough and the Academy Awards selection committee is widely consid- ered unpredictable, if not erratic. The Netherlands' entry, "Sonny Boy," tells the ac- tual story of two unlikely rescuers, a middle-aged Dutch housewife who runs off with and marries a black Surinamese student more than 20 years her junior. Under the German occupa- tion they hide several Jews in their home. Similar to Anne Frank's fate, the couple is bergerswere urged to transfer the baby to an orphanage but refused, she told him. From Sandorfy, he also learned that Karl later built a hideaway in the woods near the village of Mengusovce, and moved there with sev- eral families in the autumn of 1944. "He took in everyone who was in need," Peter said, add- ing that he obtained a docu- ment from the state archives in which Karl said that 113 people were saved there. Peter also has a handwrit- ten original list of the group's weapons, all of which Karl transferred after the war to the Czechoslovakian army. "If some people who were rescued will be found ... it will confirm that my quest for recognition for Karl is justified," Peter said. "I am proud of him. Why he did it, I do not know. He was a man who was able and ready to take that enormous risk and responsibility." Peter's search is "a needle- in-the-haystack" effort, said Black, the museum historian, "but it's worth a shot." Please send a message to seekingkin@jta.org if the Nurnbergers rescued anyone you know or if you would like our help in searching for long-lost friends or family. Include the principal facts in a brief e-mail (up to one paragraph) and your contact information. betrayed and arrested, and they die in captivity. One trend among foreign film producers is the growing emphasis on such themes as internal conflicts, problems of immigrants and life under the former Soviet occupation of Eastern European countries. Examples are films from Bosnia and Ireland (ethnic cleansing), Colombia (guer- rillas vs. the military), the Czech Republic (expulsion of ethnic Germans after World War II), Estonia (Soviet army deserter returns), Kazakhstan (Soviets invade Afghanistan), Italy and Romania (illegal immigrants) and Lebanon (Christian-Muslim conflict). While many colonials this side of the Atlantic consider the King's English as a for- eign language, this year the United Kingdom actually submitted an entry in the foreign-language category. The film"Patagonia" is set in a Welsh settlement in southern Argentina, and the characters speak Welsh and Spanish. In both the United States and Europe, the critical fa- vorite is the Iranian entry, "A Separation," which has won a string of awards at international film festivals. The film by Asghar Farhadi masterfully combines an easily recognizable situation--an impending divorce in an upper- middle-class family--with the strange atmosphere, pieties and judicial proceedings of an unfamiliar society. The Oscars will be pre- sented Feb. 26.