Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Lily's Love

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Lily's Love

Article excerpt

Octogenarian Lilly Wust recalls her passion for a Jewish woman during WWII, the real-life love story that became the movie Aimee & Jaguar

Sitting alone on a couch in a Manhattan hotel room, petite 86-year-old Lilly Wust cuts a diminutive and isolated figure. Of course, isolation is nothing new to Wust: It's been the way she's chosen to live for over 50 years now, since the Nazis came for her Jewish lover, Felice Schragenheim, in 1944.

First documented in Erica Fischer's award-winning book Aimee & Jaguar, the relationship between Lilly (nick-named Aimee during their affair) and Felice (nicknamed Jaguar) is also depicted in Max Farberbock's film, now playing throughout the United States. But before viewing the movie, one should examine the tree history, because Wust--and her all-consuming memory of Schragenheim--is still with us on that couch.

"That memory of that time is my most cherished moment of my life," Wust confesses of her first encounter with Schragenheim, in a cafe at Berlin's Bahnhof Zoo train station on November 27, 1942. "So it was worth the pain," she affirms. "I would never have changed that day I was at the zoo."

Until that day Wust's existence was that of a heterosexual Berlin hausfrau, although she admits she'd had crushes on other women since adolescence. "During the time I was already engaged to my husband, I had a very good friend, and we cared a lot for each other," she recalls. "We even walked the street hand in hand! But in my unconsciousness I didn't know what it meant. Had I known, I never would have gotten married or had children."

Married to an affair-prone soldier, Gunther, Wust took care of their four children while he was off to war or philandering. But when Schragenheim made a pass at Wust in her kitchen one night, life went topsy-turvy. "When I did realize [I am a lesbian], it happened all of a sudden," Wust gushes quickly, forcing her translator to hold up a hand. "It struck me like lightning, and suddenly I felt free; I knew who I was."

Later Schragenheim moved in, and she and Wust lived as a family, with a circle of lesbian friends who often visited. Of course, the occasional presence of Wust's Nazi husband led to tension for all involved. "My husband would come back every 14 days to the city, and that's the reason I asked for a divorce," Wust explains. "I was scared that he would ever touch me again." The tension continues to this day, as Fischer's book challenges Wust's complete denial of her own involvement with Nazism. …

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