Ron Bronitsky plays Herr Schultz in the current production of CABARET. His family’s personal connection to a terrible time in world history makes his role in the show that much more meaningful. Huge thanks to Ron for sharing his story, and to the Albuquerque Journal for letting readers know about it. If you haven’t seen CABARET yet, you have one more weekend (11/4 – 11/6). Don’t miss Ron’s wonderful performance in this compelling and unforgettable show!
Jewish mother of ‘Cabaret’ actor fled Austria a few years before it was annexed by Germany
Copyright © 2011 Albuquerque Journal
By Olivier Uyttebrouck
Journal Staff Writer
Hedwig Alexander Bronitsky remembered seeing one of her medical school friends thrown from a balcony in her native Austria.
She carried images of fellow classmates being beaten just because they were Jewish.
Bronitsky, who fled to the United States, died several years ago, but her memories are coming alive in an unusual way for her son, Ron Bronitsky.
Bronitsky, an Albuquerque physician, is playing a Jewish character in a local production of “Cabaret,” a play depicting the terrors of Nazism in pre-World War II Germany.
“Every night, it puts a profound sense of sorrow in me,” Bronitsky said of the role, “not only for the Jews, but for all other groups the Nazis targeted for annihilation.”
Bronitsky, 60, plays the role of Herr Schultz in Albuquerque Little Theater’s production of the dark musical set in Berlin in 1930. The play’s theme of fear amid violent social change resonates with his own family’s history.
Bronitsky’s mother was born in Vienna in 1910 and grew up in a middle-class family of observant Jews. Her father, an organist and composer, raised his daughter with an appreciation of music and culture.
“She really had everything that Vienna and culture had to offer,” Bronitsky said of his mother, who died in 2006 at age 95. The family often hiked in the mountains around Vienna. “She really lived what seems like an idyllic life as an Austrian child.”
Hedwig Alexander watched Austrian society take a fearful turn when she attended college, then entered medical school at the University of Vienna in the early 1930s.
Her friend who was thrown off the balcony survived after suffering critical injuries, but many other people the young woman knew would die later in Hitler’s concentration camps, Bronitsky said.
Hedwig Alexander met an American medical student, Jacob Bronitsky of Brooklyn, N.Y., while the two were classmates in 1933.
“They met in an anatomy lab dissecting the same cadaver,” Bronitsky said. His mother realized she wasn’t suited to be a doctor and left medical school after one year.
The couple married in 1934 and emigrated to the United States the following year. In 1938, Nazi Germany annexed Austria, an event called the Anschluss.
Also that year, Hedwig Bronitsky’s father emigrated to the United States, leaving behind virtually everything he owned. He was part of a Jewish exodus that reduced Vienna’s Jewish population from 192,000 in 1938 to about 57,000 late the following year.
By the end of World War II, only about 7,000 of Vienna’s Jews had survived.
In 1955, the Bronitskys moved to Albuquerque, where Jacob Bronitsky worked for years as chief of orthopedics for the New Mexico Veterans Administration Medical Center. He died in 1986.
Today, Ron Bronitsky is a pulmonologist at the just-opened Presbyterian Rust Medical Center in Rio Rancho. He also plays bassoon and began an amateur acting career at 40.
“My mom gave me my musical side,” he said. “My dad gave me my practical side.”
In “Cabaret,” Bronitsky plays a Jewish character who refuses to believe that his native Germany is descending into Nazism until his non-Jewish fiancee gives in to threats and cancels their engagement.
Many have complimented Bronitsky on the authenticity of his German accent in Cabaret. “Well, that’s because I was raised with an Austrian who spoke German in the house,” he said.
Bronitsky and his mother visited Austria in 1994. The visit was bittersweet for his mother, who considered herself an Austrian until her death.
“I could tell the whole time we were there, she had a deep sadness for Vienna, for her homeland.”
If you go :
WHEN: Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and 2 p.m. Sunday.
WHERE: Albuquerque Little Theatre, 224 San Pasquale SW
HOW MUCH: $24 general public, $21 seniors, $18 students in advance at the ALT box office or by calling 242-4750 or by visiting www. albuquerquelittletheatre.org . Season tickets also available.