Having just completed “A Pocketful of Miracles: A Tale of Two Siblings,” I could finally trace my mother’s wartime experiences. She was passing as a Polish Catholic with a childhood friend in a forced labor camp, the Kurz barrel factory, which was about three hours by train from Munich. The barracks where she had lived had been saved from demolition and stored in 2000 with the help of the Hohenlohe Open Air Museum and the House of History. These former standard barracks of the Reich Labor Service in Schw√§bisch Hall-Hessental were rebuilt on the grounds of the Freilandmuseum Wackershofen, a village of farmhouses, in 2012 and 2013. This is the only forced labor barracks from the Nazi era in a German open-air museum. At the exhibit, there is a list of women who were forced laborers, and my mother’s name is mentioned twice – her false name, Helene Matusik, and her married name, Helene Covensky.

A total of around 350 foreign men and women between the ages of 15 and 60 worked in the barrel factory. The exhibit states that they were confined in the dirty and stuffy barracks, and the forced laborers eked out an existence at often extreme temperatures.

There is also a memorial located directly at Schwäbisch Hall-Hessental train station, a nearby village, where the actual barracks existed near the Hessental Concentration Camp. In the film, my mother talks about harvesting apples when they were allowed out of the factory once a week and secretly throwing them to those in the concentration camp. I could not locate the apple trees as the factory was demolished and the town has been built up. The memorial pictured below is dedicated to those who died at the camp.

I also made a great discovery yesterday in Munich, thanks to my friends, actress Senta Berger and director Michael Verhoeven. I had sent them a link to the footage I found of me as a young child with my parents, and I was identifying it as taken in Berlin where I was born. But Senta quickly identified the address and zoo in the footage as being in Munich, where we had moved after Berlin. Sure enough, Senta and Michael drove me to the house, and the present owner gave me a grand tour. I recognized the curved banister on the staircase, the circular alcove on the first floor, and the address sign that were in the footage taken around 1947 or 1948. I am so glad that I came to Munich because, besides being a great actress and director, my friends helped me find my childhood home. And it turns out this house had several apple trees in the backyard that were not quite ripe. I can only imagine the powerful memories that came to mind when my mother, Hanka Ciesla, saw the apples ripen.