Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Senator Stanford Adelstein


Theodore Roosevelt - 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again;

...because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

Sen. Stanford Adelstein is a fourth term 
Republican State Senator 
from South Dakota’s 32nd District:

I want to share with you a few life experiences that have been very meaningful to me and that would subsequently lead me to get involved with Thanks to Scandinavia, as did my granddaughter Shirley, who is currently a board member. 

Shirley's grandmother survived Auschwitz, but when the sister fell in the snow during the death march from Bergen-Belsen, she refused to leave her. They were not seen in the dark, and thus they escaped without summary execution.

My late wife, was born and lived in Lodz, Poland at the time of the Nazi occupation. Her parents both spoke Polish without Yiddish accent - unlike most Polish Jews – and also some upper-class German. Choosing to risk death by neither wearing the yellow star nor moving into the ghetto, they passed as Poles with German background. They escaped the Nazi occupation in late January or early February 1940, after the Nazi occupation. Shirley's grandfather managed to hide in Budapest, evading identification as Jew and remaining outside of the ghetto throughout the war.

Here comes the nub of the story: My oldest son, Dan is a West Point graduate and was an Army officer stationed in Berlin at the time, where Shirley was born.

The first time I became aware of the Danish rescue was while visiting Israel in 1965. I was listening to a lecture on some subject or other (unrelated to the Shoah) in a classroom at Hebrew University. Around the room, there were charts indicating the destruction rate of Jews of the Jewish communities of Europe. For the first time, I saw what had happened in Denmark, something I had never heard about before. Returning home to the United States, I did some research and learned of the rescue – that special Rosh Hashana in Denmark. 

The rescue of the Danish Jews occurred during Nazi Germany's occupation of Denmark during World War II. On September 27, 1943, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler ordered Danish Jews to be arrested and deported. Despite great personal risk, the Danish resistance movement, with the assistance of many ordinary Danish citizens, took part in a collective effort to evacuate about 8,000 Jews of Denmark by sea to nearby neutral Sweden.
The rescue allowed the vast majority of Denmark's Jewish population to avoid capture by the Nazis and is considered to be one of the largest actions of collective resistance to repression in the countries occupied by Nazi Germany. As a result of the rescue and Danish intercession on behalf of the 5% of Danish Jews who were deported to Theresienstadt transit camp in Bohemia, over 99% of Denmark's Jewish population survived the Holocaust. 
As I learned more about what happened in Denmark, I became very interested in the question that defied understanding -- WHY? The actions of the Danish people were so remarkable, and I thought of how different the experience was for Jews in other parts in Europe. The story had a profound impact on me, and I have carried its lessons with me throughout my life. 
For example, years ago there was a very skilled Danish woodcarver, Helge Christiansen, who had come to South Dakota for an unusual project in Rapid City. A successful banker commissioned him to build a replica of the oldest standing wooden Stave church in Scandinavia as a donation to our community in honor of his immigrant father, who had been a Lutheran Pastor. Helge decided to remain following the completion of the project, doing very specialized and beautiful woodwork. My wife and I met him when we participated in discussion group at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. When we asked him to try to explain to me why it was that the Danes did what they had done, he said to me - words never to be forgotten - "This is what one person does for another." 
In 1972, there was a terrible flood in Rapid City in which a significant number of lives were lost and a number of businesses were destroyed. Helge's shop was destroyed; all of his tools were washed down the river, as was his old car. I saw him on the street a day or two after the flood, and I asked what he was planned on doing. With the dazed expression of a survivor, he said, "I don't know. My car is gone, and my shop is gone with all of my tools." I told him, "Our company has a large equipment shop that has storage space on the second floor. We will let you use it. Give us a list of the tools you need to continue making your magnificent woodwork, and we will order them. And, by the way, we have several older pick-up trucks that we are planning to sell, but until you replace your car, one of them will be yours." He asked, "Why are you doing this?" And I responded, "You told me why." He looked puzzled, so I explained, "Have you forgotten what you told me when you were asked what happened before Rosh Hashana in 1943 in Denmark? As you replied, ‘This is what one person does for another.'
I have been moved to find this view echoed by other Danish people. A few years ago my wife and I went for a bike ride in Denmark. In Copenhagen we visited the "Museum of the Resistance.” As we came out, we asked our young taxi driver if he was aware of what had happened to the Jews of Denmark in 1943. He turned around - which was not a good idea in Copenhagen traffic - and said, "Of course I know. I had an uncle or an aunt that had been involved. What else could we do?" We did not have the heart to explain what happened to other European Jews.
This history also takes on special significance for me because there are probably more Scandinavian descendants in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota than there are in Scandinavia. They brought their social values and concerns to this part of the world. One of the concerns was the need to take care of those who needed assistance. For that purpose, they formed an organization called Lutheran Social Services (LSS).

At the start of my first term as a State legislator in 2000 - at the age of 69 - I was appointed to the Appropriations Committee because of my business background. Because LSS has a very sizeable appropriation from legislature for the provision social services in the state, LSS invited the committee members to a dinner with the goal of laying out the budget plan. After the meal, a gift was given to each legislator in attendance. Watching my colleagues opening their little gift boxes that contained beautiful Black Hills Gold crosses, I leaned over to my wife Lynda and said, "What do I do now!?" She said, "Just say thank you and sit down!" Opening my gift box, I wes surprised to find that there was a small gold Star of David inscribed with word "Zion" in Hebrew. 
From here on, I became more involved with LSS. I was invited to be on their board of directors nad became the first non-Lutheran as well as the first non-Christian to be invited to the board. Last December my service as a member on the board of this magnificent organization ended. However, through the years of service, as I because more involved with LSS, I developed a wonderful relationship with Pastor David Zellmer, who was elected Bishop several years ago for the 107,000 member synod of ELCA in South Dakota. 
As a former musician, I blow the shofar for our little congregation at the Synagogue of the Hills. Knowing this, Bishop Zellmer asked if it would be possible for me to sound the shofar as the Call to Worship for his installation ceremony in the beautiful Lutheran Church at Augustana College in Sioux Fall, South Dakota. The shofar was sounded and it turned out to be very special for all who attended that ceremony. As I blew the shofar, I found myself thinking that perhaps this was the same kind of shofar that, along with other ritual objects like Torahs and books, was hidden in a Lutheran church from the Great Synagogue of Denmark on that eve of Rosh Hashana of 1943."

Sen. Stan Adelstein

Thursday, April 25, 2013


In an old, faded, black and white photograph, my mother is standing on the doorstep of a white house with a thatched roof. 

More than 60 years after the photo was taken, I visited that house, the house my parents lived in when they were taken prisoner by the Gestapo in Assens, Denmark in 1943.

My parents, Hans and Hildegard Wallach fled Berlin
, and the Nazis in 1938. They were members of Hechaluz and went to Denmark as agricultural trainees to learn farming so they would acquire the necessary skills to emigrate to Palestine. They, and the 26 other members of their group, were taken prisoner by the Gestapo in Assens in the raid of October 2, 1943.

My mother described their capture in a letter she wrote to me in 1978: “We were picked up at 5 o’clock in the morning in big buses. We had been warned the night before by the Hechaluz that there was a possibility that the Nazis would find us out in the country where all of our group were working for those lovely farmers. 

I was seven months pregnant. Seeing all of our other friends in the bus calmed me down somehow. The ugly thing was that we had to pick up, on two other farms, the two children of our friends. The children were brought to those farm families a night or two before the raid. It was terrible. The farmers did not want to give the kids to the Gestapo, but they would have been shot. There was, of course, no choice. 

All of us had plenty of bread, butter, salami and cheese supplied during the raid, from farm to farm, by the farmers. We even had enough left over and could give a little to some of our roommates in the camp. We were 460 people in the Danish transport. The rest of the Jewish Danes found out in time and fled with the help of fishermen and others to Sweden by night. People with no money were taken also. No questions asked from the beautiful Danes.”

The Hechaluz group and Danish Jews who were also captured, were deported to Theresienstadt. My sister, Rachel, was born in the camp, January 1, 1944. My family was rescued by the Swedish Red Cross in 1945, and returned to Denmark. I was born there in March 1946 and our family emigrated to the U.S. in December 1947.

In 2007, the cousin of my dear friend Renee, introduced me, via e-mail, to Gerda, a friend of hers who is a retired historian in Denmark. Gerda generously offered her help to identify the farmers so I could contact them or their families to let them know their kindness was still remembered and appreciated. Her research provided the names plus a wealth of information I never knew regarding the years my parents were in Denmark. 

Hedegaard Peterson was identified as the owner of Volbrogaard, the farm where my parents worked in 1943. Like my parents, the Petersons had died many years ago. However, using the Internet, I located their eldest daughter, Britta. I also found Den Gamle Skole, (the old school house), which was my first home.

My visit to Denmark in May 2010 was an emotional and exciting journey of discovery. Britta and I bonded quickly over shared stories, old photographs, laughter and tears. She remembered her mother explaining that items stored in a chest “belonged to a Jewish family that had to leave Denmark for a time”. 

The most poignant moment of the trip was standing on the doorstep of the house where my mother had stood 67 years earlier. As my husband digitized the moment, I tearfully thought of my parents leaving this house and boarding the Gestapo’s bus waiting for them on Egerupvej, the narrow, quiet street I was facing. 

Later, visiting Voldbrogaard, I stood inside the barn on the same cobblestones my father had walked on long ago and thought of a photo of him behind a horse and plow, working in a field which Britta had identified as belonging to Voldbrogaard. For a fleeting moment, I felt he was there with me.

A highlight of the trip was visiting Gerda to thank her in person for her time and efforts which had made my parents’ lives in Denmark more real and meaningful to me.

And with special excitement, I visited
Den Gamle Skole

in Kalundborg and took photographs of where I had lived and played as a young child.

When I began my search, I had no idea that I would take this extraordinary journey into my parents’ past and create a memorable story - a story of discovery and the friends, old and new, who helped bridge my parents’ past to my present.

to be continued.

Author Marion Novack

Thursday, April 18, 2013

E R N S T   L U D V I G   
G O L D S C H M I D T 

An anecdote about Ernst Goldschmidt, circulated among his friends and family, was that upon his installation for the Dannebrog Order of the Knight’s Cross he was to have asked: “Will it come with a horse?”

Ernst Ludvig Goldschmidt was born on January 12, 1879 in Copenhagen. His father, Selmar Goldschmidt, the son of a Hebrew School teacher in the Jewish community of Sonderhausen, Germany, came as a young man to Copenhagen where he met and married Henriette Nathan, the daughter of dress-shop keepers Israel Nathan and Fanny (nee Salomon). Ernst Goldschmidt grew up in a home that embraced both Danish and Jewish traditions, within which Jewish Confirmation held sway over calling it Bar Mitzvah. His childhood home also embraced the Zionist dream of a potential Jewish state, a commitment Ernst maintained throughout his life.

His father was financially quite well off as the president of a large tile and brick company. Though he would have wished his son Ernst to also follow a business career, which in fact he did for a few years, but in 1899, Ernst decided to enter the Arts Academy instead. Graduating in 1903, he continued his studies for another year at the Kr. Zahrtmann’s Free Art Studios in the company of three other students who were later to become major recognized artists, Harald Giersing, Sigurd Swane and Karl Isakson and with whom he formed a close tie. 

Along with another group of six artists, the ten of them took the initiative to create, in 1915, what was to become the epoch-making Danish Arts-League, Grønningen. In opposition to Den Frie Arts League, which had for years been the traditional and rather staid outlet for artistic recognition, Grønningen opened its doors to artistic experimentation; it gave modernism its initial foothold in Denmark and is to this day still regarded as a major arts institution.

Ernst Goldschmidt had already made his debut in 1905 in an exhibition entitled “The Rejected”. It comprised paintings by artists whose works had been found unacceptable by the jury at the prestigious Charlottenborg venue for its annual Spring show. And in 1909 four of his paintings were shown at one of the first thematic exhibits in Denmark, entitled “Jewish Art” along with international artists such as Camille Pissaro and Max Libermann, among others.

Both of his two marriages were consecrated in the Synagogue and this despite the fact that his Jewish identity was actually quite marginalized as traditional dogma goes or his unconventional views on life in general would allow. His values were similar to those of many other cultural radicals of his time in his vociferous opposition to sham, hypocrisy, and double standards. He gave vent to these views in his articles and op-ed pieces in Politiken, the large Danish daily for whom he wrote for several years.

Passionate and Intense.  Not surprisingly Ernst Goldschmidt had his enemies—the result of his sharp and often caustic pen, driven by his superior knowledge base as well as his intense passion for the arts. The personal relationships he entered into tended to be strong and intense yet he was quite a reticent and shy person with periods of actual hiding, --avoiding friends as well as the public at large--by shifting his residence to undisclosed addresses. But wherever he happened to be, he always seemed to have had devoted muses who would inspire and look after him.

His close family life was never a happy one. His first marriage to the painter Augusta Theil, with whom he had the son Ervin, was followed by his marriage to Karen Cosman Levysohn, with whom he had the children Verner and Gertrud. After his divorce from Karen, they continued their strife, each feeling let down and rejected by the other. Their persistent battle eventually led his two children to break off their contact with him in 1935, which to his great sorrow was never healed. His oldest son, Ervin, to whom he felt especially close, died of encephalitis in 1936. It was yet another emotional blow from which he was never to recover. Yet he remained a close and dynamic presence to the rest of his family—and as one niece put it “he was seemingly a better uncle than a father…”

Where Ernst Goldschmidt failed as a father, he succeeded in facilitating the careers of many young artists by giving freely of his vast knowledge --as is testified to by the many thank you notes he received from them, found after his death in his correspondence files. During his refugee stay in Sweden (1943-45), his painting were exhibited in 1944 at the Galerie Moderne in Stockholm, arranged by the “Swedish-French Art Gallery”. Here he renewed his acquaintance with the art historian and critic Ragnar Hoppe, who expressed his gratitude to Goldschmidt for the many valuable leads to the elite in the Danish artistic world he had provided him back in 1915. Ragnar Hoppe never forgot its significance for his own studies.

Ernst Goldschmidt was a person who characteristically showed concern for the needy and disadvantaged, ready to express his compassion and care. For example, one day in 1906 while walking down Rue Jacob in Paris he and his companion encountered a noisy mob, with a white-clad baker in the lead, pursuing some fellow who had apparently stolen a loaf of bread. After the baker took the bread and left, the raggedly dressed man sighed in despair—“my god, all this fuss for the theft of just 2 sous!” Ernest Goldschmidt was quick to place some money in his own hat while circulating the crowd for a collection to help out the poor fellow.

Ernst Goldschmidt as painter—characteristics of his work. His paintings were inspired by impressionism. He was grabbed by it in his youth and his passion for it never faded. Certain motifs are repeatedly featured in his paintings. As the artist Albert Naur points out: “ Has the art of rendering light ever had a more fervent lover…? …He depicts the refraction of light in the atmosphere and does not chose built-up areas but rather the terrain of train tracks, beaches and harbor areas, which he has frequented. His appraisal of these familiar perceptual views gave rise to his work, his deeply felt and incisive sense of nature…”

Upon his death in 1959, the newspaper Aarhus Stiftstidende, wrote that Goldschmidt was a distinct mood -inducing artist where the evocation of feelings never ceased to lose their power despite the narrowness of Goldschmidt’s range of motifs at the risk of monotony by repetition. “With the romantic’s dual-mindedness, his paintings combined the demonstrable technical display of power with that of nature’s sovereign mystique; what he lacked in technical skill in rendering his motif, he compensated for with this idea—which he stuck to and preached—and one really never tired of his paintings…the best of his paintings were indeed breathtaking!”

Ernst Goldschmidt enjoyed travel to foreign countries and in 1905 began his frequent visits to France. From 1921 he actually spent more time there than in Denmark, mostly in Paris. In 1911 he paid a visit to Henri Matisse in Camart, near Paris. This led to an intense and colorful interview, the substance of which Goldschmidt reported in an article in Politiken. It was found substantial enough to warrant translation into both French and English and often included in anthologies about Matisse, as in Jack Flam’s Matisse on Art (Rev. ed. U of C Press, 1995).

The interview ends by Goldschmidt observing: “ The eloquent gentleman sitting in front of me is far removed from the taciturn people-shy inhabitants of Aix or from the Barbizon painter who became one with the soil he painted. And it is a long way from Henri Matisse’s well-tended garden to the expanses of Cezanne’s Provence, or the forests of Fontainebleau. These three place names evoke the three phases in the art of a new age. The road runs straight from Fontainebleau in Aix. It then curves in many convolutions, not always so easy to follow. One of the bends goes through Matisse’s flower gardens and the fishing village at the foot of the Pyrenees.”

Fascination with French painting. During an extended stay in Paris in 1906 Goldschmidt meet weekly with the surrealist poet and art critic Guillaume Apollinaire and also frequently with the cubist Juan Gris. Inspired by these conversations, he commenced his literary efforts to promote the contemporary art scene of his day, first and foremost the French and its historical antecedents. This effort culminated in Goldschmidt’s major written work, the 6-volume series: “Frankrigs malerkunst, dens farve, den’s historie” (The art of French paintings, its color, and its history”], published between 1915 and 1950.

In his review of the first volume, the art historian Francis Beckett noted that the strength of the book was the fact that its author was himself a painter. The painter Albert Nauer echoed this sentiment by his laudatory comment: “only someone like Ernst Goldschmidt could enter the inherent life of a painting and then with his magic pen describe what he finds there.”

Even before his escape to Sweden in 1943 along with most of the Danish Jews, Goldschmidt had enjoyed a close tie to the Swedish art world and exhibited frequently in Swedish venues. Thus when he came as a refugee to Sweden his many connections came him in good stead, he continued his work as painter and art-historian without impedance. Thus while in Stockholm he wrote a book about Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin, one of France’s 17th century painters well- represented in Sweden’s National Museum. 

A snippet from Goldschmidt’s book:

Here in Chardin’s work, dating back to his youth, the red blood trickles again out of the fish's white belly, but without any symbolic significance than a jubilant fanfare, the sumptuous red against the festive bright, silk-glittering, pearl luminous material. Here are vivid and amusing tid-bits in the drawing, no dead spot anywhere. Here is a brush-stroke display of cheerful celebration and joy - just look at the oyster shells, a few healthy brush strokes and some precise spotlight that somehow come to life against the surface browns--see the bottle, jar, coppery, knife and all other details - all the Netherlandish abundance and the Flemish wealth, all things that enamel smelted down in the face of unimaginable way ...

Ernst Goldschmidt’s profound insight into French painting contributed significantly to France’s increased interest in it—and for which Goldschmidt was recognized. In 1936 he was celebrated by the Society de’Historie de l’Art Francais at the Louvre in the presence of the elite French arts community. And in 1958 he was awarded the French Legion of Honor. According to family legend, he refused the Dannebrog Orden of the Knight’s Cross on the ground that it did not come with a horse…

Ernst Goldschmidt bequeathed a scholarship fund that has been of assist to generations of young Danish artists and art historians.

By Ditte and Jeanne Goldschmidt Kempinski

(translation by prof. Leo Goldberger)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

S A M  B E S E K O W

A  L I F E  I N  T H E  T H E A T R E

Født den 26 januar 1911 i Københavns fattigkvarter, i Hummergade med dens faldefærdige ejendomme med forhuse og baggårdsbygninger hvor huslejen for de små lejligheder uden bad eller toilet var til at betale for indvandrere.

Sams (Samuels) forældre var sammen med faderens tre brødre og en lillesøster indvandret fra Rusland et par år tidligere. De havde endnu ikke lært dansk, hvorfor alle samtaler i hjemmet var på Jiddisch, det sprog familien havde talt i den lille stettel (landsby) de var kommet fra. 

De boede og arbejdede sammen i den lille lejlighed med at sy uniformer for den danske hær. Så Sam måtte lege på gulvet mellem symaskiner og stofruller, hvilket medførte at han var meget syg som barn. I de første barneår holdt han sig for sig selv og kunne få hele dagen til at gå med sit legetøj, primitive hjemmelavede kludedukker.

Det begyndte at gå bedre for familien. De flyttede til en større lejlighed i Toldbodgade i et andet kvarter af København, Onklerne flyttede til egne hjem og værkstedet rykkede snart ned i husets kælder. Efter at værkstedet var flyttet blev værelset indrettet til børneværelse. 

Det var et paradis for Sams lillesøster Macha der var kommet til i mellemtiden og kunne have været det for Sam, hvis ikke den bekymring der hed skolen var kommet. Hans hjertesuk hed Borgerdydsskolen der lå i en baggård i Store Kongensgade. Lærerinderne forstod ikke det lille fremmedarbejderbarn og var mildest talt ikke søde ved ham. De kyste ham langt væk. 

Resultatet var at Sam strejfede om i de omkringliggende gader mellem otte og to. Bænkene omkring Kongestatuen på Kongens Nytorv var hans yndlingspjækkested. Han var også bange for kammeraterne. De var jo goim, fremmede. Når goim blev nævnt hjemme var det altid med en vis nedladende tone og en lille svag misundelse. Der gik ikke en dag uden at han kom hjem med blå øjne eller iturevne klæder. Jødesmaus, jødesmaus, vil du have flæsk og sovs. Så lå han på jorden med hele det hujende bundt over sig.

Hjemme på buffeten stod en lille metalmølle. En sparebøsse fyldt med sølvkroner som Sams far havde sparet op, sjældne mønter. Dem listede Sam ud af bøssen. Simpelthen stjal dem. En ven i skolen havde noget Sam absolut måtte eje: et dukketeater der så ud akkurat som det Det Kongelige Teaters proscenium. En kassefuld af dekorationer og figurer stod parat til at lade tæppet gå. Og det gik op hjemme i stuen i Toldbodgade, indkøbt for sølvmønterne. Og til dem derhjemme fortalte han, at han havde fået det som årspræmie for sine fremragende karakterer.

Dukketeatret førte ham ind i en ny oplevelsesverden. Hans teatergalskab inficerede hele Toldbodgade. Børnene og de voksne. Der blev spillet teater i kælderen, på loftet, i spisestuen og i sovekammeret: en snor på tværs over, et lagen kastet over snoren og en scene var klar. Sam var blevet tolv år og teatret var blevet Hans anden natur. Han indrettede tekster eller skrev dem selv. Malede kulisser på maskinpapir og heftede dem op med tegnestifter på væggen og spillede ouverturer og mellemspil på familiens nye fortepiano.

For at få en ende på sit mareridt i skolen havde Sam meldt mig ud. Var gået til skolens rektor og sagde op så at sige. Sam tænkte ikke på at han ikke var fjorten endnu. Da forældrene fik det at vide faldt der brænde ned. Men Sam var stejl, han ville være skuespiller, så hvad skulle man gå i skole for, det var bare spild af tid. 

Gudskelov var familien stærkere end Sams stejlhed. Og så kom Sam i en anden skole: Sct. Petri tyske skole. Forældrene mente at undervisning på tysk var godt, det lignede jiddisch en smule, så ville skolegangen måske blive lettere for ham. Det blev den ikke, derfor blev han efter et par år taget ud og meldt ind i en ny skole: Johannesskolen på Vordroffsvej. Og der skete underet. Han blev menneske mellem mennesker. 

Nu skulle det være. I en alder af tolv år gjorde han sit første forsøg på at erobre de skrå brædder. 

En dag fortalte en af beboerne i opgangen at hun havde set Sam i Frederiksberg Have, hvor han havde optrådte i et ”stykke”. Hans familie vidste ikke hvad et ”stykke” var, og de drog derefter den følgende søndag ud til haven, for at se hvad Sam lavede derude. Det viste sig at Sam, efter at havde set en annonce i et dagblad hvor børn mellem 8 og 12 år blev inviteret til at medvirke i et teaterstykke lavet på baggrund af H.C. Andersens eventyr, Svinedrengen, uden at fortælle sine forældre havde meldt sig og var blevet antaget.

Som fjortenårig havde Sam sin første optræden hvor han talte dansk. Det var i Gimle bag den afsides Grundtvigsvej på Frederiksberg. Denne gang stod han på en rigtig scene og aften efter aften kreerede en række statist- og småroller i skolescenens Alladin efter et stykke af 1800-tals digteren Adam Øhlenschløger. Da tæppet gik ved premieren var han som i en let rus. Stod på den store scene i sit kostume, kiggede igennem hullet i fortæppet. Tilskuerpladserne var allerede fyldt…... UD UD, han løb bort op til garderoben. Og måtte hentes af teaterdirektøren og bogstaveligt kastes ind på scenen, da de første akkorder fra orkestergraven lød.

Så var det også forbi. Roligt gik han til sit arbejde, som han gik ind til selve livet. Sam blev både oprørt og krænket over at han skulle have penge for det. Teatret var noget stort og guddommeligt. Det kunne man ikke tage sig betalt for. Han nægtede at tage imod gagen- og fik derfor ingen. 

I 1928 benytter Sam sin sommerferie til at rejse til München for at bliv undervist i teaterteori hos professor Kutcher, og den følgende sommer tog han til Berlin for at blive instruktørelev hos Max Reinhardt og fik samtidigt et job som statist hos Erwin Piscator i Berlin.

Nu var han klar til at gå op til elevprøven på Det Kgl. Teater, og samtidigt gik han op til studentereksamen. Den sidste klarede han men faldt til den første. Han så for fremmedartet ud, mente sensorerne. Hans far forlangte nu at han skulle begynde jurastudiet. Efter et år hvor han forsømte studiet til fordel arbejdet med forsøgsscener og studenterscener, gik han igen op til adgangsprøven, uden at hans far og mor vidste det – og blev antaget.

Efter afsluttet eksamen var det kutyme at de unge skuespillere fik mindre roller på teatret. Teatrets ledende skuespiller, instruktør og rektor for elevskolen, Holger Gabrielsen havde sine tvivl med hensyn til Sams skuespillerkarriere.”Man har sgu ikke lov til at se ud som De gør, Besekow. Hvad skal vi dog bruge Dem til?”

Teatret gav Sam chancen for at vise hvad han duede til i en del mindre roller. I den jødiske forfatter Nathansens skuespil ”Indenfor Murerene” fik Sam dog hovedrollen som gamle Levin. Sin første chance som instruktør fik han i Stefan Zweigs ”Jeramias”. Men så strakte teatrets velvilje heller ikke længere. Sam var stædig og indleverede en række færdige iscenesættelser for at få lov til at prøve kræfterne, men ingen af dem kunne bruges. Sam måtte finde andre veje og tog derfor imod et tilbud fra Odense Teater der lå i H.C. Andersens by, Danmarks tredjestørste. Her var han instruktør og skuespiller i årene 1936 til 1938.

Sam indså at han måtte til hovedstaden og virke, hvis han ikke skulle komme i glemmebogen på parnasset og åbnede derfor sin egen avantgarde scene i Riddersalen i Lorry, på Frederiksberg.. I Riddersalen opførte teatergruppen en lang række moderne skuespil som ikke tidligere var vist på de danske scener. Heriblandt stykker af O.Niel, Tenesie Williams og Steinbeck. Om sommeren rykkede teatergruppen til en mindre by i Danmark, Nykøbing Falster. Bortset fra sit bryllup med skuespilleren Henny Krause, som han allerede i Odense havde gjort bekendtskab med, var det en mislykket sommersæson for Sam som leder og for teatertruppens økonomi. Hvis Sams far ikke havde dækket underskuddet, havde skuespillerne ikke kunnet få deres løn.

Teatret Riddersalen lå i Lorrybygningens første sal og i stueetagen lå restauranten Drachmanskroen. Danmarks berømte digterepræst KajMunk (der i 19844 blev myrdet af nazisterne) overværede forestilling High Tor, hvor Sam foruden instruktionen også spillede med. Bagefter inviterede han Sam til et glas i Drachmanskroen. Kaj Munk tilbad de stærke ledere Musolini og Hitler og derfor kom det til en heftige diskussion mellem dem. På trods af sin naive beundring for diktatorerne delte Kaj Munk ikke deres antisemitistiske anskuelser: Husk på Jesus var også jøde. Sener i sin karriere skulle Sam få et tæt samarbejde med digterpræsten, hvor han iscenesatte mange af hans stykker.

Kaj Munk der var begejstret for forestillingen gik til Det Kgl. Teaters største skuespiller, Poul Reumert der havde en enorm indflydelse på teatrets repertoire. Kaj Munk gjorde ham opmærksom på den unge fyr som rumsterede derude i det lille avantgardeteater. Og Reumert kom så selv nogle dage senere og overværede Sams iscenesættelse af Steinbecks ”Mus og Mænd” hvor Sam og hans kone havde hovedrollerne.

Medens Sam var på en rejse til Oslo, Norges hovedstad for at forhandle med Oslo Stadsteaters chef om den kommende sæsons forestillinger. Havde Det Kgl. Teater besluttet antage Sam som fast instruktør. Et telegram fra teatrets ledelse indbød Sam til en samtale. På båden tilbage til København blev Sam vækket af en tordnende durren fra en masse fly. Danmark og Norge var ved at blive besat af Tyskerne. Sam fik sin befordring som sceneinstruktør på det Kgl Teater: Et ugkryds med bolle. Og da Kaj Munk blev udnævnt til æreskunstner i studenterforeningen, og Poul Reumert indvilligede i at optræde, skulle det absolut være Sam, der satte forestillingen i scene på den store sal. I besættelsens første par år iscenesatte Sam en række forestillinger på Det Kgl Teater herunder flere af Kaj ..

Hans arbejde på teatret skulle få en brat ende, idet Gestapo arresterede ham i september 1943. Han havde fået den tvivlsomme ære at være en af de ”hundert besten köpfe” der som gidsler skulle henrettes, hvis de omfattende strejker i landet ikke ophørte. Her sad han så i koncentrationslejren Horserød i Nordsjælland medens aktionen den tredje oktober mod de danske jøder løb af stablen. Da Gestapo mødte op på Sams bopæl på Frederiksberg kunne has kone meddele at han desværre ikke var hjemme.

Ved ankomsten til lejren blev Sam ført frem for kommandanten der tiltalte ham på tysk. – Sam svarede på dansk, at han ikke forstod dette sprog. Kommandanten bad ham holde op med at spille komedie ”Kom nu Sam, hold op, var jo din jeg lærer i den tyske skole. 

Da strejkerne mod den tyske besættelsesmagt brød ud i Odense, befalede lejrkommandanten Sam at han den næste morgen skulle stille på paradepladsen. Næste morgen klokken seks mødtes Kjeld Abel, en kendt dansk dramatiker og Sam i vaskerummet. Kjeld Abel bebrejdede ham hans ringe interesse for sit udseende. 

Han skulle jo alligevel dø, så Sam mente ikke det var så vigtigt ment Kjeld Abel befalede: ”Vi du være venlig øjeblikkelig at gøre dig i stand. Du kan sgu ikke være bekendt at stille ubarberet op foran henrettelses pelletronen. Den glæde skal de ikkehave. Sam Kjeld Abel og Ole Bramsen blev placeret op ad en mur med ti tyske politisoldater med ladte geværer pegende mod dem. Klokken tolv kom kommandoen og meddelte at strejken i Odense r er slut og at de godt kunne gå til frokost. 

Nordisk Film i Hellerup var gået til Gestapo og gjort det dem klart at en underholdsningsfilm Ikke kunne færdiggøres fordi der manglede den sidste scene hvor Sam deltog. Da han havde en stor rolle i filmen som japansk gangster, måtte filmselskabet absolut låne ham nogler timer. Filmselskabet lovede at aflevere ham senere på dagen når indspilningen var slut, men holdtselvfølgelig ikke ord, og i stedet blev Sam placerede i bunden af en fiskerbåd der lå for anker iNyhavn midt i København.

Sam blev varmt modtaget af teateraktørerne i Sverige. Han nåede at lave omkring 30 – 40 forestillinger i de 1½ år flygtningetilværelsen varede. Forestillinger for Riksteatret i hovedstaden Stockholm og forestillinger i flere større byer i Sverige. Endvidere virkede Sam med iscenesættelser for Sveriges store revykonge Gutav Wally. Selv om han blev budt velkommen af sine svenske kolleger, var ikke alle svenskere lige venlige. De svenske aviser førte på et tidspunkt en hetzkampagne imod ham. Han havde nægtet at instruere en forestilling hvor en berømt sangerinde, Sara Leander skulle medvirke. Hun var en stor svensk stjerne, men desværre også en stor stjerne i Nazi-tyskland, bedste venner med Hitler, Göbels og Göring. 

For Riksteatret havde han iscenesat Kaj Munks Niels Ebbesen. Efter premieren mødte en truende hob op i foyeren: ud af landet, jødesvin – en svær herre nærmede sig og spyttede ham i ansigtet,. men så kom en lynreaktion fra en teaterkollega: et spring, en hånd fløj ud og mandens hat for igennem luften midt ind i hoben som måbede og fortrak.

En aften på serveringsteatret China i Stockholm, hvor der var premiere på en gigant-crazy-revy, hvor mange danske medvirkede, trådte konferencieren, der var norsk ind på scenen, han stammede, og tårerne strømmede ned over hans ansigt. Fred, der er fred. Salen rejser sig lodret, stirrede fortryllet. Man omfavner hinanden, skreg, græd, kyssede hinanden. 

Efter krigen var Sam Free-lance instruktør på Det Kgl.Teater, Det Ny Teater, Foyerscenen i Boltens Gård, og Gæsteinstruktør i Norges Stadsteater, Stockholms Statsteater, Teatre i Berlin, Hamborg og Frankfurt. Endvidere iscenesatte Sam forestillinger i Australien og Israel.

Desuden instruerede han utallige forestillinger for dansk og tysk TV. Og deltoget som skuespiller i flere danske film. Heraf én sammen med Victor Borge. Hans sidste film var: Manden der ikke ville dø. Sam blev 92 år og levede sine sidste år i savnet af sin anden kone, Jette Hecht Johansen.

Skrevet av Salli Besiakov
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