June 13, 2001
The Community Press

Taking history to heart
By Iris Pastor, Columnist

As women, we measure ourselves against our mothers but as daughters, we throw out the tape measure and crack the yardstick over our knees. We simply want to please our fathers.

Cynthia Crane is a pleaser but also a seeker of secrets -a legacy of secrets. She is a prime example of a young woman impacted by her father's childhood experiences as an outsider in his own native country. Cynthia Crane grew up in a 'house where the illusive past remained illusive -where shreds of whispers made her feel that "there was a dormant world embedded in me via my grandparents and father" that she was never privy to. She both figuratively and literally crossed the ocean six years ago to re-weave her life and enlarge the scope of information she had gleaned.

Cynthia Crane's father, Carl, was a son of a mixed marriage, who was living an unexamined, carefree existence in Germany until the Third Reich came to power. All that changed overnight. Though not a practicing Jew, Carl's last name was Cohn (a word that meant rabbi) and his father was determined to be of Jewish blood. Thus, overnight Carl became "no longer an insider, but an outsider. He no longer had the right kind of blood, the right name, the right family background to be considered a member of his society, city or state."

Crane's father's experience led her back to Germany on a Fulbright Scholarship in 1994 to try and find others who had been born into Jewish-Christian marriages and had survived the 12-year reign of Nazi terror. After six months, she found a "half -breed" (a mischling) willing to share her experiences both during the Nazi Era and in the intervening years when she re-entered the society that had persecuted her. As time passed, Crane found more women willing -but also hesitant and fearful- to divulge their anguished pasts.

These German women shared some common characteristics. They suffered for their mixed breed status and they all chose to remain in Germany after the war.

I couldn't help but ask, "Why -why stay in a country that so mistreated you?"

Crane surmises that perhaps they still felt a connection to their homeland. And language certainly played a significant part, as did the recognition that they would be a foreigner in any other country.

In Crane's words, "They all suffered through traumatic, fractured lives." And their tortuous paths molded them into the splintered adults they would become. This led to the title of her book: "Divided Lives."

Crane's expertise comes across in her soft-focus ability to portray the horror of watching your family torn apart in irreparable and irreversible ways for reasons that are incomprehensible. Though Crane readily admits her father's daily beatings at school pale in comparison to internment in death camps, his experience as a half-breed (Nazi definition: A monstrosity halfway between man and ape) is worth noting and preserving.

Crane believes the relevancy of the book today is that we are living in a land of many mixed marriages where offspring of these unions often struggle to find a place for themselves, to identify with a group that will accept them.

"Divided Lives" begs the question for many of "Who am I and where do I belong?" For those who share this dilemma, and for Crane's own father, Crane wrote her book.

To all those fathers whose daughters tell their stories -

To all those fathers whose daughters listen to their stories -

And to all those fathers whose daughters take their father's histories to heart -

Happy Father's Day from one more in the ranks of daughters who listen, write and hold close her father's tales.

Copyright @ 2001 The Community Press/The Community Recorder. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright 2000. All Rights Reserved.

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