“Then on a winter’s night in 1944, Nazis, informed of the Sterns’ whereabouts, broke down the door of the attic in which they were hiding and seized the family. Norbert and his parents were taken, while my mother, Beatrice, escaped out of her bedroom window to the freezing roof outside. The Sterns, without Beatrice, began the journey to Auschwitz where they ultimately perished,” Peltzman continued. “I always knew my uncle was a great pianist and that he died in Aushwitz but I didn’t know many of the details until after my mother’s death. Ultimately, I came to discover transportation documents which revealed dates and places.”
In 2010, he heard from a Mrs. Hennessy of Brussels. She had attended the Brussels Conservatory of Music when younger and was friends with both Peltzman’s mother and uncle. While his family was hiding in fear of capture by the Nazi’s, Mrs. Hennessy, at obvious risk, allowed Norbert to practice on her family’s Steinway. It was Mrs. Hennessy’s father who delivered Beatrice Peltzman to the underground after her parents and brother had been taken away, a heroic action that helped her survive the war.
Peltzman subsequently visited Mrs. Hennessy in Brussels that summer, and played on the very same piano as his uncle had practiced on for many hours. The experience was life altering for Peltzman, making the bond between his long deceased uncle that he never knew and him even stronger. The New York Times published an article about the event, noting that Mrs. Hennessy turned the pages for Peltzman in much the same manner as she had done for his uncle so many years ago.
Peltzman became determined to record an album of all Chopin’s works, his uncle’s specialty, in the spectacular and acoustically rich concert hall at the Brussels Conservatory of Music. He found the setting a particular powerful place in it’s connection to his uncle to pay tribute to a life and talent so tragically destroyed. Stern died at 21 years of age. Peltzman did accomplish this feat and his CDs will be on sale at the concert on Saturday night. He will also include a film describing his journey in recording the CD during the event. Fifty per cent of the proceeds from the sale of the CDs go to the recently opened Holocaust Museum of Belgium, Kazerne Dossin.