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January 22, 2019

Death Metal Grandma: The Story of a 97-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor Who Is Now Fronting for a Death Metal Band

Inge Ginsberg survived the Holocaust and became a spy for the Americans during World War II, smuggling arms to fight the Nazis. She married a composer and they wrote songs together in the 1940s and ’50s that were sung by Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Doris Day, and Rosemary Clooney, among others. 60 years later, she got back into music and fell in love with Heavy Metal, which she now performs with world-renowned Classical musicians Lucia Caruso and Pedro da Silva – a.k.a. the TritoneKings.

Ginsberg was born in 1922 and grew up in Vienna in an affluent, assimilated Jewish family. After the annexation of Austria by the Nazis, her family was separated. Her father made it out of Europe on the St. Louis, the infamous ship that set sail from Hamburg, Germany on May 13, 1939 carrying more than 900 Jews fleeing Nazi persecution. The ship was denied permission to land in Cuba, Canada and the U.S, and was forced to turn back to Europe. Ginsberg’s father was fortunate to be among the refugees allowed to disembark in the U.K.
“We didn’t know that my father was in England because the war started. We didn’t hear from him for seven years,” Ginsberg said.
Ginsberg, her mother, her younger brother, and her fiancĂ© (musical composer Otto Kollman, who would become Ginsberg’s first husband), were stranded in Vienna. Ginsberg said the family avoided deportation because her brother and Kollman were assigned essential work as grave diggers.

In 1942, Ginsberg’s mother was able to turn to a family friend, a count whom Ginsberg said was involved in smuggling. In return for all of Ginsberg’s mother’s jewels, he smuggled the family into Switzerland, where they initially ended up in a refugee camp. As recounted in a German-language memoir by Ginsberg, she was later tapped to manage a villa set up by the American OSS to spy on Nazis and coordinate operations by partisan groups fighting the Germans.

The excitement in Ginsberg’s life did not end there. Several years after the war, she and Kollman moved to the U.S. They settled in Los Angeles and worked in Hollywood. Ginsberg, who studied piano for many years in her youth, worked with her husband in composing songs for pop stars such as Dean Martin, Doris Day and Nat King Cole, as well as for European singers.

By the late 1950s, Ginsberg tired of Hollywood life, which she characterized in the New York Times film as “all fake.” At a certain point she parted with La-La Land, and also with Kollman, with whom she had her only daughter.

Inge Ginsberg in 1960

Things continued to be interesting for Ginsberg. She moved to Israel for 10 years and married again. A third marriage was to a man with whom she lived in Quito, Ecuador. And at some time along the way, she also acquired two homes in New York — one in the city and one upstate.
“I’ve been married three times legally [each time to an Austrian-born Jew], and I’ve had a lot of boyfriends. At one time I had four at the same time – one to live, one to laugh, one for fun, and one to cover the whole game with his name.,” Ginsberg said.
Ginsberg said that what she values most is freedom, especially the ability to determine where she wants to be and when. Although Ginsberg now relies on the help of a personal assistant, she still travels between her homes, spending four months every winter in Tel Aviv, where she is well integrated socially and culturally. (Hebrew is just one of the seven languages she speaks.)

In addition to writing hundreds of poems in English and German, Ginsberg worked as a journalist, filing weekly articles for the Swiss weekly publication Die Weltwoche for 20 years.

According to Ginsberg, the best thing about reaching her age is still being alive with her cognitive faculties intact, especially when so many of her friends have either died or are no longer as sharp as she.

As she approaches 97, she said she has no regrets, and doesn’t concern herself with what others think of her pursuits — heavy metal or otherwise. She neither plans on leaving a legacy nor cares if or how people remember her.

Ginsberg said she doesn’t have a lot of photo albums or souvenirs. The past doesn’t interest this unique metalhead. “I believe in today and tomorrow,” she said.

(via The Times of Israel)



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