July 28, 2023
Ella Dreyfus had little knowledge of her family’s tragedies in the Holocaust and sets out to re-connect with Germany through art and music. ‘Dreyfus Drei’ is a short documentary film about family, identity, and the return of three generations of Jewish artists from Australia to Germany, made by award-winning artist Dr Ella Dreyfus.
Watch the film’s trailer here.
Ella Dreyfus is an 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 hidden 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 are to their childhood trauma of war, displacement and exile , 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-grandparent’s 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 a 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 research, journey and art installations in Germany, George’s musical compositions, and Jonathan’s arrangements, to create a family portrait about exile, identity, and art.
‘Dreyfus Drei’ is a collaboration between the Goethe-Institut, Australia, Sevenpeaks Films, Berlin, and Ella Dreyfus. It was commissioned by the 1700 Years of Jewish Life in Germany Festival 2021 and funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (BKM). ‘Dreyfus Drei’ was shown in Germany in the celebratory year of 1700 Years of Jewish Life in Germany.
Visit the documentary’s website.
Image caption: Ella Dreyfus in Berlin, 2021. Photo by Ute Freund.’
Sign up to be the first for exclusive gallery news, international events, opening information and updates on our artists.