On the eve of the Third Reich, a young woman of Jewish descent married an Aryan man. The Nazis would later classify that as a "privileged marriage," which saved her life while millions died. Her name is Elizabeth Pschorr, and today on Boing Boing Video, we present her story in her own words, with rare archival family photo and film taken as early as the 1930s.
A little backstory on how this episode came to be: Ms. Pschorr's grandson, Jason McHugh, has worked with us since the early days of BBTV as a field producer and cameraman. One day when we were on a shoot together, he told me about his grandma, and an autobiographical book she was writing. I asked if we could visit her and record some of her story, and this episode unfolded over the next two years. Jason scanned old photos, love letters, and copied black and white film reels tucked away in boxes at his grandma's home.
After the jump, more of those photos, and Jason (who's enjoying the holidays today with his grandmother) shares his thoughts about his family's story, and about the making of the video you'll see above.
Jason McHugh writes:
More online: Elizabeth Pschorr Website | Amazon link for A Privileged Marriage
My Grandmother, Elizabeth Pschorr, is a major inspiration to me, and to the rest of our family and friends. At age 98, she is still quite on her game physically, mentally and spiritually. Elizabeth lives alone with her small dog Charlie, and has been recently appealing to the DMV to keep her driver's license for another renewal. This week, we are enjoying a traditional German Christmas celebration at her house complete with a candle-lit tree full of tinsel and silver bulbs, rhyming Christmas cards, a table full of presents and a four-course dinner feast!
Of course, as you can see in this video (and in her book, A Privileged Marriage), she is in fact Jewish and so am I. This was a surprise to me, until I read my grandmother's book and discovered she didn't know know she was Jewish either until Hitler came to power. Her parents were wealthy non-practicing Jews, who embraced the German tradition of Christmas in an elaborate way, and we are lucky enough to be able to continue that tradition with Elizabeth to this day.
Elizabeth was inspired to pick up the pen and take a journey into her past while we were on a family trip in Hawaii back in the late seventies. For her, it was a chance to understand who she really was, and then be spiritually reborn again into her present self after having shut a part of herself off for a long time. For the rest of our family and friends, it has been a chance to understand the dramatic changes and wartime insanity she survived, and absorb a detailed account of our family history and German-American history.
A big part of this story, beyond the wartime survival and immigration, is about love. This is the part of the story that my Grandmother is still grappling with: love, and everything that comes with it. She really enjoys philosophical discussions about various aspects of love and has found great inspiration from her favorite philosopher Erich Fromm's book The Art of Loving.
This will be the first time that any of the archival family footage has been seen by the public, besides her 90th birthday, where we played the raw footage with a photo retrospective. Since then, her major PR campaign for A Privileged Marriage has been doing book readings at local book stores and libraries in Northern California.
The debut of this piece on Boing Boing will certainly be the biggest audience she been able to share her story with to date. It also marks the launch of Elizabeth's film career. She has recently been studying screenwriting books in hopes of adapting her story for the screen as well as encouraging me to get Stephen Spielberg on board for the project!
(Images from the archives of Elizabeth Pschorr)