The Lost Café Schindler
One Family, Two Wars, and the Search for the Truth
Sunday October 31 / 10 am
Virtual at the J and at-home
“Rigorously researched, The Lost Café Schindler successfully weaves together a compelling and at times deeply moving memoir and family history that also chronicles the wider story of the Jews of the Austro-Hungarian Empire... It distinguishes itself through its combination of mystery and reconciliation.”
-- The London Times
Kurt Schindler was an impossible man. His daughter Meriel spent her adult life trying to keep him at bay. Kurt had made extravagant claims about their family history. Were they really related to Franz Kafka and Oscar Schindler, of Schindler's List fame? Or Hitler's Jewish doctor - Dr Bloch? What really happened on Kristallnacht, the night that Nazis beat Kurt's father half to death and ransacked the family home? When Kurt died in 2017, Meriel felt compelled to resolve her mixed feelings about him, and to solve the mysteries he had left behind.
Starting with photos and papers found in Kurt's isolated cottage, Meriel embarked on a journey of discovery taking her to Austria, Italy and the USA. She reconnected family members scattered by feuding and war. She pieced together an extraordinary story taking in two centuries, two world wars and a family business: the famous Café Schindler.
Launched in 1922 as an antidote to the horrors of the First World War, this grand café became the whirling social centre of Innsbruck. And then the Nazis arrived. Through the story of the Café Schindler and the threads that spool out from it, this moving book weaves together memoir, family history and an untold story of the Jews of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It explores the restorative power of writing, and offers readers a profound reflection on memory, truth, trauma and the importance of cake.
MERIEL SCHINDLER is an employment lawyer, partner, and head of a team at the law firm Withers LLP, and is a trustee of the writing charity Arvon. She lives in London with her husband, Jeremy, and has three adult children.