One-woman drama relates family's Holocaust story

10:42:32 AM CDT - Thursday, March 27, 2003

Growing up, Claudia Stevens hadn't heard of her family's persecution in pre-World War II Austria. After learning of the saga as adult, she's making sure their story is now heard through a one-woman drama, "A Table Before Me."

She'll perform the drama at Newman University's De Mattias Hall at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 6, as part of a community Yom HaShoah commemoration.

The Mid-Kansas Jewish Federation, Wichita State University, Newman University, Inter-Faith Ministries, and the National Conference for Community and Justice are sponsoring her performance.

Stevens, an actress and concert pianist, drew upon declassified documents turned over to her mother in 1997 by the Austrian government. Her mother had been trying for years to force the government to redeem an insurance policy taken out by Stevens' grandfather before the war.

The documents her mother received from the Austrian State Archives contained letters written by the Gestapo to Stevens' grandfather Edmund Sinai from 1938 until 1941. The insurance policy had been among property, including the family's Vienna home and clothing manufacturing business, that the Nazis had confiscated.

In the one-act drama, Stevens recreates the characters involved in this story, among them her desperate grandfather, a Gestapo official, and her mother who was an aspiring actress. She intersperses the story with period music, including the cabaret music that was popular at the time.

Yom HaShoah is an annual observance, established by Congress in 1981, to remember Holocaust victims.

Compiled by Amy Geiszler-Jones

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