A Slovak Anne Frank?: The case of Kitty Weichherz.
Framed by the exhibition accompanying his talk, as well as a series of photographs, Professor Magilow told us that Katharina (“Kitty”) Weichherz was born into an acculturated Jewish family in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia 1929, the same year of Anne Frank’s birth. Kitty Weichherz’s life, too, became the subject of a diary. Her father, Béla Weichherz, began to record his only child’s life lovingly and in meticulous detail in two notebooks. In text and image, Béla’s baby book (or “diary” as he called it) tells the story of one anonymous life from its very beginnings until the summer of 1942, when the Weichherzes were deported to Nazi camps. It is also a touching testimony to modern child-rearing principles and to the loving involvement of a father who, for instance, recorded his child’s food intake (“140 ml from the bottle and the left breast”) and noted her sniffles, rashes, and temper tantrums.
Comparing the two “Kittys” (Anne Frank had named her own diary Kitty), Dan Magilow pointed out tendencies to shape and create a polished memory of two girls who, if not for their diaries, would have remained forgotten victims of state-sponsored genocide. Anne’s discussions of her own sexuality, for example, have been excised from the versions known to most, and her Jewish identity is almost always toned down to provide an easier identification for a larger non-Jewish audience, and a similar tendency can already be seen with Kitty Weichherz. His talk, which also touched upon the role of photography for creating memory, was followed by a lively discussion.
The exhibition, here shown in the chapel prior to the talk, will be on display at the Capstone Building until October 21.
More talking later, at the reception: