Ava Goodson, age 10, of East Moline, Illinois was born with Cerebral Palsy and uses a wheelchair or a walker. With limited fine motor skills, Ava became an avid reader at a very young age. She loves to research after reading a book, so she got a laptop early as well. Since she can't run and play, she does more reading and researching than most kids. She wrote a book for the A BOOK by ME series two years ago and today Peaches & Wheelchairs has been donated to elementary school libraries in Rock Island County thanks to a grant from Tyson Chicken. This title is now available on Amazon.com.
For the past two years, Ava has been hoping to meet a Holocaust survivor whose story she could write. Finally it happened on October 9. She was in Los Angeles and met Curt Lowens, 89, who is a Hollywood actor who has had roles in movies such as Torn Curtain, Angels & Demons and a recurring part on General Hospital. Lowens, a German Jew, was forced during Word War II to flee to the Netherlands, where he joined the Dutch Resistance. He is credited with saving 125 Jewish children by delivering them to families who hid them. He also assisted in the rescue of two downed American Army Corps flyers before the Nazis could reach the crash.
Curt's story was the inspiration forBestemming: Concerto for Cello, Orchestra and Narrator by composer and performer Sharon Farber. It was at a Yom Kippur service at the Temple of the Arts in Beverly Hills where Farber felt moved to bring his journey to life through music. "The rabbi brought Curt to the stage and told his unbelievable, remarkable story. After he did that, all of the sudden from the wings came the offspring - children and grandchildren - of one of the pilots that he saved," she recalls. "The pilots have already passed, but it was such an emotional moment, so inspiring to see these people who wouldn't even exist if this man didn't save their fathers."
Ava has learned that Bestemming is a Dutch word with the following definitions:
2. the place set for the end of a journey; destination
3. aim for one's life.
Knowing the word was important to him, Ava made an art piece especially for Curt and wrote the word "Bestemming" on it. Upon his arrival, Curt surprised Ava with a gift of his own: a teddy bear she promptly named "Curt". He was very impressed by the questions she asked in the interview and laughed heartily at the book title she has chosen: Broadway Ben. She came up with the name because Curt's first acting job was on Broadway and his code name when he worked in the Dutch Underground was Ben.
Ava's goal is to have the proof copy of Broadway Ben in Curt's hands by his 90th birthday onNovember 17. Then he can make edits as he sees fit. He doesn't know yet that she plans to do this quickly.
It was powerful to watch them meet and know they are part of one another's journey. He told her that he won't be forgotten thanks to the work she is doing. When Curt left her, he picked up her hand and kissed it (like in the movies). Ava said she wanted to grow up and marry a perfect gentleman like Curt.
Broadway Ben is being illustrated by the talented Katy Leigh Babcock, granddaughter of Dr. Maxine Russman, a member of the Holocaust Education Committee of the Greater Quad Cities.
Watch as this six-minute animation which brings to life Curt Lowens' story of escape and resistance during World War II. This was produced by students in the Righteous Conversations Digital Storytelling Workshop during Harvard-Westlake Summer Film 2014. Their mentor filmmakers and animators were Alyssa Sherwood, Cosmo Segurson, and Cheri Gaulke.
Curt Lowens: A Life of Changes
The Righteous Conversation Project is a project of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMOTH). Watch the video in the link above to see the excellent work they are doing in Holocaust education.