Sam writes: In 2015, my father received a phone call from the Sydney Jewish Museum. “Mr Weiss,”they said, “We have come into possession of something that we think you should come and see.” The museum had been donated an item that had mysteriously surfaced in a pawn shop in Bondi, NSW, and was purchased by a man who kept it in his personal collection, only to donate the diary to the Jewish Museum in honour of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
This item was my late paternal grandmother Nelly’s autograph book, which she took with her as a young girl when she and her family fled Berlin to New York and ultimately to Sydney, Australia in 1938. It contains 63 pages filled with poems, drawings and letters from family and friends that were a part of this journey and into her school years in Sydney.Tragically, most of these inscriptions are from victims of the Shoah.
My piece Deine Mami (in English ‘Your Mami’) sets a poem inscribed in this autograph book to song, written by my great-grandmother Cecille Merel on Nelly’s seventh birthday, 5 September 1936. It beautifully expresses a mother’s love for her daughter, while also capturing the gloom and nervousness in pre-war Germany.