version française Voyage au Pays d' Hazel Karr Hazel Karr's Picture Book

Contemporary painting

My Family

A.M. Fuchs, my Zeida, was a flamboyant figure, jaunty, proud, a man who made up for not being very tall by being very self-assured, the sort of man who, when he wishes to cross the road, raises his stick in the air, and the cowed cars stop to let him pass.
I know this because I saw him do it but most of what I will tell you comes from the stories his daughter, my mother Lola told me. She was a stunning blonde with blue eyes looking like neither of her dark eyed, dark haired parents.

My mother used to tell me how she and her parents lived in a beautiful flat in Vienna where she was born.

How AM.Fuchs was correspondant for the Jewish Daily Forwards and how he was well paid in dollars which, because of the exchange rates made the family very well off. Zeida Fuchs liked luxury and used to bring home Persian carpets, tapestries, expensive furniture.

My grandmother Sonia Fuchs, Baba Shana to me because I couldn't pronounce Sonia when I was a baby, together with her maids, used to turn the apartmant upside down every morning, turning over the mattresses, shaking the sheets out of the windows, cleaning up, a general upheaval that like a cat my Zeida would steal away from and find refuge in a café, one of those ornate comfortable Vienna cafés where where he would sit and write for hours.

And if he took a fancy to a chair he would tuck it under his arm and take it home with him, and nobody would dare stop him. So the story goes...

My grandparents had met in New York, in the public library. She had come to America with her parents and sisters from Odessa and he from a shtetl in Galicia where his parents had a baker's shop. Fuchs fell in love with Sonia who was very beautiful and talented, she had taught herself to play the piano and would have liked to have been a concert artist.

She wasn't really in love with Fuchs but was overwhelmed by the fact that he wore white gloves. So the story goes... This is the reason she eloped with him and they went to Vienna.

They were poor at first and were helped by the poet Melech Ravitch who was a sort of patron to all sorts of down at heel Yiddish writers. Then Fuchs got the job writing for the Forwards and they were able to set up house. My mother who was just a couple of years older than him remembers holding Ravitch's son Yosl ( now the famous Israeli painter Yosl Bergner and a great friend of mine ) on her knee when she was a little girl.

Lola had a very happy childhood, her only complaints being that she wasn't allowed to have either a Christmas tree or a puppy.

The family used to go every year to spend the summer holidays in Venice, together with another family who had a son, Guido, and Lola used to torture him, cutting off all his hair and committing other misdeeds

Fuchs had Lola join the left-wing Zionist movement Hashomer Hazair and the children were taken for long hikes high into the cold mountains to get them ready for the heat and hardships they would have to face in the sandy deserts of Israel. They were not given any water because "there's no water in Israel"

Then when she was 18 came the Anschluss and Hitler's troops marched into Vienna to cheering crowds .

She was there, she told me if she had had a gun she could have shot him. Instead she ran home and told her father "Papa ! we have to get out of here !" Her father answered that he was a good citizen who paid his taxes and there was no reason to run away.

Not long after she was spending the evening with some of her friends. When she left the apartment she saw German soldiers coming up the stairs and instead of continuing down she ran back to warn the others and so got arrested with the rest of them . She remembers being taken to a police station where she was made to get down on her knees and wash a floor which she says was very clean anyway. They asked who her parents were. She told them and her parents were also arrested. The family spent some time in prison and were allowed to go thanks to The Forwards who paid a lot of dollars for their release. "Lolinka you look terrible!" Fuchs said to his daughter when they saw each other again "Papa, you don't look so wonderful yourself" she answered. As for Sonia she didn't want to leave prison. She was very happy there, sitting chatting with the other women and with no housework to do.

They were taken back to their flat, given one hour to pack their belongings with a German guard standing over them and put on a train to Paris. On the way Fuchs flung the keys of the apartment out of the train window. For the rest of his life he never wanted to hear about Vienna again. Contrary to Lola who talked about Vienna all the time and many years later my father and I went with her on a pilgrimage to the city she grew up in. We even went to Semperstrasse where the kind neighbors had taken over the whole floor.

They arrived in Paris where they lived the bohemian life, hotel , restaurants, museums, cafés. One day they were sitting in a café on Place de la Republique when someone introduced them to a shabby man who said he was a painter and tried very hard to get them to come and visit his atelier nearby. Fuchs was adamant and would not budge. Sonia gave him a kick under the table to remind him to at least pay for the poor man's coffee. The painter was Chaim Soutine. So the story goes...

Lola didn't want to stay in Paris. Fuchs had two brothers in London and she thought if she went there they would help her get papers for a certain Ernst Ehrenfeld whom she had married against the wishes of her father. He had forbidden his daughter to live with this no-good bohemian who called himself a writer. Fuchs used to follow her around the streets to make sure she wasn't meeting him . Lola wanted to get him out of Vienna. So she left her mother sobbing on the bed in the Paris hotel room and went off all by herself to London arriving on her Uncle Shia's doorstep one afternoon. Her parents soon followed her. Thanks to which they escaped the infamous Velodrome d'Hiver round up of Jews and the concentration camps.

In London one day A.M. Fuchs put on his hat and his gloves and took his daughter with him to pay his respects to Esther Kreitman well known ( in Yiddishland) writer and sister to those better known writers Israel Joshua and Isaac Bashevis Singer.
Royalty visiting royalty.
Esther became my grandmother .

And now I must tell about the other, the darker side of my family

To me of course my grandmother wasn't the writer Esther Kreitman but Buba. My first memories of her are in my grandparents house in London. A house I remember as dark,damp, cold and dreary.
My grandmother was a dumpy figure always dressed in dark clothes, black hair flaring out on either side of a white parting in the middle and blue eyes so pale they were almost transparent. She was a somewhat frightening figure to me. My grandfather Zeida (that makes a Zeida no.2 ) was more jovial .
We used to huddle in the kitchen in front of a fire in the chimney that didn't seem to warm anything. There must have been bright sunny days but I don't remember them. I also don't remember her paying any particular attention to me. Not the rosy cheeked kind of Jewish grandmother who makes you apfel strudel.
Come to think of it she must have regarded me as a bit of a disaster because that was the reason her son married my mother.
Because, and this I know from overheard conversations between my parents, Esther had always thought her son would live with her for the rest of her life, that they would sit together at the kitchen table writing .
So my mother's eruption into their cozy life was a tragedy she never came to terms with.

Because during that first visit my father was bowled over by Lola's beauty and also the chutzpah with which she talked back to her father, he who was always very deferential to his own mother. At the time Lola was still married so Esther thought it safe to suggest her son show her around London.There would be no danger in his having a relationship with a married woman.

Because I happened, Lola got a divorce, and my father used to describe the scene where standing in the kitchen where everything happened, he put his arm round my mother's shoulder and in those days that meant "We're getting married ". Around the chimney fire I remember my mother in the blond halo of her hair and Esther in the dark frizz of her curls saying nasty things to one another while my father perched uncomfortably on a stool between them, a long thin timid uncertain young man not knowing how to deal with these two female furies, the one feeling she'd rescued him from an overbearing mother, the other that her son had been stolen away from her.
And Esther was indeed very possesive, not of her husband whom she didn't even like but of her only son Moishele. When still very young, sitting at that same famous kitchen table my father wrote a book called The House of Napolitano which came out to very good reviews. He was invited to become a member of the prestigious Pen Club, only his mother insisted on going with him to the first meeting. He never went back.
But he loved his mother and felt his mission in life was to look after her and protect her so that falling in love with Lola was a bit of a tragedy for him too.
I think he felt guilty about this all his life.

My father during the war had been working for The Daily Telegraph and then Reuters and also for the BBC . They asked him to change his name because they said Kreitman was too diificult to pronounce . That is why he became Maurice Carr .

After the war he was sent to Paris as foreign correspondant where for years we lived in a tiny hotel room in the Latin Quarter. I always remained frightened of Esther.The last time I saw her I was about 12 years old and alone in the flat we had eventually moved into. The doorbell rang, and there she stood looking whiter than ever . "Let me in" she said "I'm going to faint." I was surprised, nobody had ever told me not to let her in. I asked her to lie down and she waited for my parents. I felt rather hurt that she felt she needed to be so theatrical.

We used to visit Zeida Fuchs and Baba Shana, first in London, in one of those dark tiny houses the English call "two up, two down", then in Israel, where they lived in Hadar Yosef, a Tel Aviv suburb. There they had a minuscule two room flat on half of the top floor of a two storey house. To get to the flat you had to walk past the neighbor's on the balcony . Fuchs used to write there standing up at one of those high desks. Some years later the State of Israel wanted to give their great writer a house. Sonia wouldn't hear of it. She liked the tiny flat---so litlle housework to do.

Then in 1967 my parents and I went to live in Israel for a few years . We rented a house in Jerusalem, a wonderful place with a garden where I used to sit for hours watching the sky which was a strange blue-mauve colour in the daytime and black-violet at night. I've never seen a sky like that anywhere else.

Zeida and Baba Shana used to come and visit us and there were memorable afternoons with everybody shouting at the top of their voices about whether yes or no did Raskolnikov have the right to kill the useless old woman.
And though Baba Shana didn't like housework she was a marvelous cook. Don't get me started on her apful strudel. Unlike Esther, this Jewish grandmother knew how to make it.

Baba Shana and Zeida used to love to go for long walks and on one of these walks Sonia got run over and killed by a car.

We were back living in Paris at the time and Lola felt we should move to Israel for good to be with her father.
As Maurice had for years been wanting to live in Israel, he asked The Jerusalem Post to move him from Paris correspondant to a post in Israel and so we soon packed up and left. Lola and I went first to find a flat and then my father would join us.

This time we didn't go to Jerusalem but to Tel Aviv. Lola wanted a flat overlooking the sea. The estate agents told her that this was absolutely impossible.
So she found one.

It was very beautiful and the sun set over the sea every night in front of the windows.

Then my father arrived with Alfred the cat who'd travelled on his lap on the plane. He wasn't that fond of Alfred but had orders not to dare to come without him.
Alfred used to go off every afternoon to have tea with various neighbors and friends, and he lived happily ever after

And so did we ?

Paintings by Lola Carr
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