Music and Memories

Music and Memories

When the new lower school is open and operating and filled with children, someone surely will wonder why the music room is named in memory of Trude Berg. 

 

Trude Berg poses with her husband Franz Kaufmann

The answer can be unfolded in several ways. To start, Trude Berg was blessed with longevity. She was born in 1919 in Vienna, Austria and died 100 years later in New York City. She was, her husband recalls, mentally sharp until the end. That spouse, Franz Kauffmann OPC ’63, is a Penn Charter graduate who, in composing her death notice, was hard put to mention just one attribute, so he wrote that his wife was “my soulmate, best friend and constant companion.” 

Trude Berg was 25 years older than her husband, but he said that when they met in 1996 she appeared 20 years younger than her chronological age, a fact attributable not only to her genes, but also to her warm and outgoing personality. She made friends easily and kept them. 

Her disposition overcame the darkness in her life. By her own admission, Trude – born Gertrud Hammerschlag – lived a pampered life, with a loving nanny and a comfortable family home in Vienna with grass and gardens where she played as a child. 

Black and white photograph of Trude Berg taken in 1939.

 

Her life changed abruptly in 1938 with the Anschluss, the German annexation of Austria, and the arrival of the Nazis. Trude’s family was Jewish. “Life under Hitler was constant fear,” she wrote in a brief memoir that ended abruptly with: “I don’t want to write about Kristallnacht.” 

Sensing impending doom, her family decided Trude had to leave, so her aunt and uncle, who lived in New York, sponsored her, and she immigrated to America in 1939. Her mother was supposed to come next but the sponsorship program ended and her mother perished, along with the rest of her family, in the Holocaust. 

New York City had a vibrant community of German-speaking exiles, with one foot in the old world and another in the new. The Vienna Café at 50 West 70th Street was a gathering place that had a cabaret theater featuring sardonic, happy/sad songs in a mix of English and German, many of them written by Jimmy Berg, another refugee. Trude stopped in one day and it was close to love at first sight. After Trude and Jimmy were married, she began a career as a singer in his shows, and they were together until his death in 1988. 

She was a conservator of his memory and his work, which represented a vibrant mix of Old World-New World music that captured the energy and the angst of Jewish, German-speaking immigrants during that era, a way of life that faded after World War II. 

After Trude and Franz met at a tea in 1996 hosted by one of his former college teachers, they were together nearly all the time. She was at his side as he created Enlog, an international company that sells materials and equipment to make photovoltaic modules (solar panels) to convert sunlight into electricity. Though nearing 80 at the time, she set up a computer in their apartment and learned to operate its many programs, including TurboTax. 

Kaufmann said that when he made a campaign gift restricted to new construction he was touched when Head of School Darryl J. Ford and Chief Development Officer Jack Rogers, frequent visitors to the couple, suggested naming the lower school music room after his wife. He said the two were taken by the “positive energy” emitted by Trude whenever they visited the couple in their Manhattan apartment. The new music room would reflect not only on her love of music, but also her resilience. In a time of darkness she found light. 


Franz Kaufmann’s gift to the How Far? campaign is in the form of a bequest. Establishing a bequest is a decision that a person makes in their financial planning process, taking into account their charitable wishes and personal values; some planned gifts make it possible to give a larger gift than feasible from income. 

The How Far? Campaign will raise 20 percent of the $125 million campaign goal in planned gifts. Since the campaign began, we have received $16.3 million in planned gift commitments from 22 people. 

Post