A short documentary film by about family, identity and returning from Australia to Germany
Dreyfus Drei will be screened for the first time at the Delphi Theatre, Berlin on 29 October, 2021. There will be a live streaming event with Q&A with the Director and a musical performance with the film's Composer.
Dreyfus Drei is an event of the 1700 Years of Jewish Life in Germany Festival, with Project Partner the Goethe Institute, and funded by the German Federal Government Commission for Culture and the Media (BKM).
Dreyfus Drei is written, directed and produced by Ella Dreyfus and co-directed and co-produced by Janis Westphal, Sevenpeaks Berlin.
My German-born uncle George Dreyfus is 93 years old and lives in Melbourne. When he dies, the final door will close on our family’s history, and of how he and his brother Richard, were fortunate to escape Nazi Germany by Kindertransport in 1939 and begin new lives in Australia. My father Richard turned his back on Germany, yet embraced Jewish communal life, whilst George, who retained his childhood passion for music, reclaimed and retained his German identity and culture.
As the daughter of someone who did not wear the label ‘Holocaust survivor’ or speak of his past, I was kept in the dark for decades, unsure of my relationship to Germany. My yearning to know more about the Dreyfus’s origins, combined with an artistic curiosity, lead me on a journey of remembrance, return and renewal of Jewish life. In Germany I experience the transformative power of art to shift perceptions, and my aim through this film, is to open up a dialogue for subsequent generations to confront their inherited traumas and re-claim our Jewish lives in Germany.
DREYFUS DREI is a short documentary film about family, identity, and the return of three generations of Jewish artists from Australia to Germany.
Ella Dreyfus is a photographic artist who grew up in a vibrant, Jewish home in Sydney, Australia, yet knew nothing of her German family’s history before they left Germany, or about those who stayed and perished in the Holocaust. Her father Richard’s silence about his childhood in Wuppertal and Berlin left Ella with a feeling of dread and fear of all things German.
It wasn’t until after her father died that Ella began thinking about her family’s lost history. She travels to Melbourne to visit her Uncle George, the last German-born Dreyfus and keeper of the family archives and stories. He recalls his experiences of leaving Germany by Kindertransport and returning in 1955 to pursue a musical education, only ten years after the war. He was amongst the first German Jews to return from exile, where he forged life-long relationships through his performances and concerts. In Australia he rose to fame as a composer of film and concert music.
In Melbourne Ella finds George’s son Jonathan, also a composer, visiting his father from Berlin. Ella learns how different the brother’s responses to their childhood trauma of war, displacement and exile were, and how they shaped the attitudes of the next generations of Dreyfus families. Richard and George actively chose their own identities, leading to very different experiences of German and Jewish traditions for their children and grandchildren in Australia.
Ella travels to Germany to seek out her father and uncle’s homes in Wuppertal and Berlin and finds evidence of her great-grandparents lives in Wiesbaden. She meets up with Jonathan again and they talk about their feelings towards Germany and their family backgrounds. For Ella, her childhood nightmares of the Holocaust ensured she kept a great distance from Germany until later in life, yet Jonathan, who first came to Germany as thirteen-year-old, now calls Berlin his home. While in Germany she creates a series of public art installations, declaring her family’s names and their Jewish identities in the streets.
Dreyfus Drei combines family interviews in Melbourne and Sydney with Ella’s subjective research journey and art installations in Germany, Jonathan’s film music and George’s compositions to create a family portrait about exile, identity, and art.
GEORGE DREYFUS, born 1928, is a survivor of the Holocaust who escaped from Germany in 1939 and resettled in Australia. He became a musician, composer and conductor and returned to Germany numerous times from 1955 onwards to study and perform music, and rose to fame in his adopted country Australia. He longs to visit his son Jonathan in Berlin and interact with German friends and colleagues again.
JONATHAN DREYFUS born 1987, grew up in Melbourne and like Ella, he has dual citizenship in Australia and Germany. Jonathan studied violin from age 5, performed by age 12 and followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming a professional musician and composer. As a teenager he said that Berlin was his ‘soul city’, and now he lives and works there producing film music for clients in Europe, the USA and Australia. He is the composer of the Dreyfus Drei film’s soundtrack.
ELLA DREYFUS born 1960, is George’s niece. She is a photographic artist and lecturer at the National Art School in Sydney, where she grew up in a traditional Jewish home. Her father Richard was an observant Jew, yet there was a wall of silence surrounding his childhood and the family’s losses in World War II. She bore the impact of inter-generational trauma and avoided going to Germany until later in life. She is the writer, director and co-producer of the film Dreyfus Drei.