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Lost: mother; Last seen: Switzerland 1937

by Dikla Kadosh

October 17, 2007 | 7:43 pm

Lily Kopitopoulos lost her mother the day she was born.

Nearly fifty years later, she was reunited with her in Hollywood.

“Looking for Else” is a heart-twisting, eye-moistening documentary about a German Jewish girl who gave birth to a baby she was told was still born. Crushed but faced with mounting danger in Nazi Germany, 16-year-old Else Siegel buried her secret deep inside her and fled to the United States.

She married (several times), had a daughter and developed a successful career as a music editor in Hollywood. But the dead baby still haunted her.

Lily grew up in Switzerland, where she was adopted by a gentile family. At age 47, she decided to resolve the great mystery of her missing mother. Why did she give her up? Did she survive the Holocaust? Did she know Lily was alive?

A relative called Else one day informing her that an ad in the paper said her daughter was looking for her. She immediately picked up the phone and dialed Switzerland.

“Hello.”

“Hello, are you Lily? This is your mother, Else.”

Screened last week as part of the L.A. Femme Film Festival, “Looking For Else” is a riveting documentary lovingly created by Lily Kopitopoulos’ son, Sandy. The story takes you through the two women’s lives, separated for so long by a lack of knowledge, to the point of their reunification and their subsequent struggle to rebuild a family torn asunder by war.

I sincerely hope that Sandy finds distribution for this remarkable film so that more people have the opportunity to see it.

Else, whose last name is now Blangsted, is an incredible figure aside from this story. She edited the music for classics such as “Tootsie” and “The Color Purple,” as well as dozens of other movies. Sharp, charismatic and humorous, Else made her presence known at the Oct. 11 screening.

As soon as the film was over, she announced loud and clear for the entire theater to hear, “That’s me. I’m Else.”

It was as if she wanted to save everyone the trouble of looking for Else.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Written by Danielle Berrin and Dikla Kadosh

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