Saturday, December 24, 2016

The family hits Broadway and Hollywood!

It’s Christmas day. I don’t have to do anything special. The NZ television is about as LCD as it is possible to get. So I’m just sitting at my computer playing the game of ‘find the family’. I’m quite good at this particular game, having played it for so many years with other people’s families. And I’m quite persistent. So I come up with the occasional nugget.

Funnily enough, most of the interesting folk I have found dangling from the limbs of my tree have been what you might say were of John’s and my world – a musician, singer, museum curator, anthropologist – and, although I must admit to an incommensurate number of bankruptees among the Eltern, so far I’ve found nothing worse.

I was musing, before bed-rise, today on how widely my family has spread from its European roots in even the last century. Mostly, of course, the Jewish part. Josef Sessler, Julie Gánsl’s widowed brother-in-law fled to Brasil, followed by his daughter Nina and her husband, Hans Morsten. Nina's sister, Margarethe and her husband, Friedrich Morsten didn’t move quickly enough. They perished in Auschwitz. Another sister, Pauline Bress, seems to have suffered a similar fate. Son, Ignaz Johann Sessler, also chose Brazil as his home, and made himself a name and career as president of the Associacano Brasiliera de Tecnologia grafica.

Fritz Rosenbaum had departed for Australia, and my father, Fritz Ganzl, by then known as ‘Fred Gallas’, Julie’s only grandchild, had been several years Headmaster of Wellington Technical College, New Zealand … but surely some of the Flüchtlinge must have gone to the pale-greenish-backed paradise of America.

They did. Anna, the 75-year-old widow of Julius Rosenbaum, Julie’s brother, accompanied by her two daughters, the recently widowed Mizzi (b 10 January 1890 Vienna, d New York 1979, (pictured above) and Frieda (b 21 November 1892; d Florida 6 February 1978) with the last-named’s husband, Hans Lederer (b Pfaffensteffen 4 June 1892; d New York 16 July 1963), and their son and daughter made their escape in 1942. Hans listed himself on the ship-list as ‘theatrical impresario’. That’s all I needed. Actually, I think he may have been upgrading himself a touch. Theatrical agent, maybe? Like myself? Anyway, that’s what he worked at in America, with the Clifford Fischer office, the so-called ‘International Theatrical Corp’ and Lew and Leslie Grade. I’ll have to troll through Variety one day. The son of the family, Herbert Lederer (b Vienna June 9 1921; d West Hartford, Conn 18 July 2007) did altogether better. His Obituary from the University of Connecticut, where he was Professor Emeritus of German, says that he was 'internationally recognised in the field of German studies' and directed student theatre productions. He also wrote a number of books. So is he the Herbert Lederer who wrote about East German theatre and operetta? If so, I wonder what he would have thought, had he known that the (then) world guru of Operette was his umpteenth cousin!

But poor Julius’ family was not the only Rosenbalsamic twig to cross the Atlantic. Julie’s sister, Mathilde, had married a widower gentleman by name Leopold Handl and, before she died, aged 56, she had thrice added to his stock of children. The one who lasted was son Albert (b Vienna 24 May 1885; d Los Angeles 1966) who married a Frieda, fathered a Leo, and quit Europe with his family at an apposite time. In 1940, living in New York, Leo described himself as an ‘art salesman’.

But he didn’t stay that way. Leo became an American citizen as quickly as was allowed and decent, changed his name (all our family does, I’m the only one who has changed BACK) to Leo A Handel, and went in for, you guessed it, a career as a writer, a director, a producer in … Hollywood.

Well. The credits I have found for him on the IMDb (and strange errors have been known in THAT publication) are not hugely enthusiasmic. But I know nothing about films. His main claim to fame seems to be a rape/abortion/death thing called The Shame of Patty Smith. But it got better. A Book Academic Films for the Classroom tells us his Los Angeles-based Handel Film Corporation 'produced approximately 150 titles, primarily in the subject areas of history, science and art', that he was in US Military Intelligence during the war, and spent a decade as a backroom boy at MGM. So the 'shockers' were only a sideline.

Well, that’s Christmas day. If anyone with Broadway and Hollywood knowledge knows anything about Hans Lederer or Leo A Handel (b Vienna 7 March 1914; d Camarillo Ventura Cal 8 September 2007) it would be fun to hear!

Postscript:  I see now that another part of the family ended up in America as well. Rudolf Rosenbaum's daughter Gertrude (b Vienna 3 July 1913; d Vienna 8 September 1974) married Johannes Thedor Israel Schmutzer (b 17 June 1913; d Vienna 10 April 1958) and the two men headed the famous firm through the post-war years. Schmutzer was succeeded by his son, Michael who was at the helm when in 1981 Brüder Rosenbaum finally ceased, after more than a century. Michael must be my generation, I mused, and I looked. Hello cousin!

Michael is the President at Disti Kleen Inc which manufactures cleaning systems for the printing industry
and, oh my heavens, he's got branches of his own! 

And an artist ancestor -- Ferdinand Schmutzer -- who has been the subject of a biography. It's neverendless!!

And children ... the Rosenbaums march on into the 21st century!

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