Australian Musical Charts Family’s Escape from Nazis in Europe

A musical that depicts the remarkable escape from the Holocaust of a renowned Jewish sculptor and his family is about to open in Australia. Driftwood recounts the journey of Karl Duldig, his wife Slawa Horowitz-Duldig – inventor of the modern foldable umbrella – and their baby daughter, Eva. They fled the Nazis from Vienna in 1938, sought refuge in Singapore, but were deported to Australia in September 1940.

“Driftwood” is based on a 2017 memoir by Karl Duldig’s daughter, Eva. She was a child when the family arrived in Australia. It was during World War II, and the family were classified as enemy aliens. They were interned in an isolated camp in the state of Victoria until 1942, when Karl Duldig joined the Australian army.

Eva de Jong-Duldig, who became a talented tennis player and reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 1961, says the musical is an epic story of survival.

“My parents were inspiration. I think what I admire most is their resilience after coming through such a terrible period in which they lost nearly all their family. They made new lives here in Australia and they became wonderful art teachers, and my dad became really very well recognized as a sculptor,” she noted.

They rebuilt their lives as artists in Melbourne in what is described as a “magical” family history of “creativity, perseverance and freedom.”

Their granddaughter, Tania De Jong, is one of the musical’s main performers. She told the Australian Broadcasting Corp., that Driftwood has become a story with a global appeal.

“Both of us just felt a really strong yearning to create a new Australian musical that was deep and substantial and told a very meaningful story. But we do also have an enormous amount of interest from international film producers to turn this epic story into a feature film as well,” she expressed.

Karl Duldig died in Melbourne in 1986. His wife, Slawa, died in 1975.

The show has had positive reviews from Australia’s Jewish community.

Hadassah Australia, an organization that supports programs that connect the Australian community with Israel, said it looked “forward to the success of the musical telling [of Eva de Jong-Duldig] parents’ story.”

Theatrepeople.com.au, an online publication, said “Driftwood” “features a fluid sense of time, as characters reconstruct past experiences, to make sense of history. It is an epic, ambitious theatrical piece and a truly original Australian story.”

The Australian Jewish News said it would be giving away free tickets to the show’s opening night.

The world premiere takes place at Monash University in Melbourne May 13.


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