One woman’s journey to find the lost love her grandfather left behind when he fled pre-World War II Europe.
Pittsfield holds a special place for author Sarah Wildman. Her grandfather Karl Wildman moved there in 1938 after escaping Vienna months before Hitler’s takeover, going on to open his own clinic on North Street and become a successful doctor and prominent member of the Jewish community.
“Pittsfield very much shaped who they were,” Wildman says of her grandparents. “They relished in being rooted. And I think especially if you’re a refugee, that rootedness, you don’t take it for granted.”
It is another part of her grandfather’s story, however, that inspired her new book Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind. After discovering photos and letters from a mysterious young woman in her grandfather’s files, Wildman embarked on a six-year journey throughout Europe and across time in search of his long lost “true love.” As her investigation unfolds on the pages, so too does the fate of many Jews during the war.
On June 12 and 13, the author will be speaking at the annual Wildman Lecture Series, named after her grandfather, at Congregation Knesset Israel, an honor that is “a great opportunity for people to know more about who he was,” she says.
“Memory passes into history—how do you make it vibrant, how do you make it authentic, how do you make it relevant to people that are younger? I think in some ways attaching true stories and real people to these histories allows access to them in a way.”