Celebrating My Father's Life
By Alice Diamant, TCC Client
“My father, Alfred (Freddy) Diamant (1917–2012) was a man of vision who worked towards a better, more just world. I believe the experiences, relationships and interactions of his long, eventful life informed and shaped both his ethos and his life’s accomplishments. In order to give witness to this life and the surrounding times, I turned to The Conservation Center to help me preserve and conserve select documents and artifacts from his life for future generations.
Born in Vienna, Austria to a Slovakian Jewish merchant family, my father grew up in Vienna during the rise of Nazism. He dreamed of teaching history, but was forbidden to do so by discriminatory laws and instead entered the business world of his family, studying textile production and managing a mill in Eastern Europe. With the Anschluss (German annexation of Austria in March 1938) Nazi persecutory practices escalated dramatically, precipitating his emigration to the US in 1940. Like countless others, most of his immediate and extended family were not as fortunate as he and perished in the Holocaust.
Prior to escaping from the Nazi regime, my father arranged to work at Diamond Textile Mills in Taunton, Massachusetts, which he did until the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. As told in the memoir my father penned with my mother, Ann Diamant, Worlds Apart, Worlds United: A European-American Story, The Memoirs of Ann & Alfred Diamant (AuthorHouse 2010):
". . . there was no doubt in my mind that I had an immediate and personal stake in the evolving conflict, and that I should contribute to the resolution of that conflict directly and not just on the home front. If I did not contribute directly to fighting the Third Reich, why should others with much less at stake? The action was not in any sense heroic. I saw it as an act of duty."
Although my father felt he had a score to settle with the Germans, little did he understand how that single act of volunteering for the U.S. Army would transform his life forever. After basic and technical training he was assigned to Headquarters Company at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, Indiana where, in 1942, he met Ann Redmon, the civilian property clerk in the Quartermaster’s Supply Office. My mother and my father quickly found they shared many interests, including world events and the arts, and especially a passion for classical music and for each other. They were married March 18, 1943 in Indianapolis.
During WWII, my father was a lieutenant in the Military Intelligence Service and a parachutist in the 82nd Airborne Division. During the Normandy invasion he was shot and captured. Miraculously, he survived, but sustained a lumbar fracture from a bullet that remained in his body for the rest of his days.
After retiring from the army, my father went on to achieve his dream of an academic career. He received an AB summa cum laude in History and a Master’s in Political Science from Indiana University, and a PhD in Political Science from Yale. His over 40-year career in political science linked him to generations of students and researchers, and took him to academic institutions across Europe and the USA, including the University of Florida, Haverford College and Indiana University.
I brought these very dear and most meaningful items to The Conservation Center because it was and is important they be available and accessible for my family and me and for future generations. Through incomparable expertise, focused passion and ingenious and artful methods, the goals of preservation and conservation have been achieved, helping celebrate the truly remarkable man that was my father, Freddy Diamant.”
In curating her father’s papers, both academic and personal, Alice deeded the bulk to Indiana University’s rare books collection at the Lilly Library and to the Indiana University Archives upon his death in May 2012. However, there were some artifacts which she determined to keep in the family, including:
• Rare newspaper clippings which describe Freddy Diamant’s heroism
• Mr. Diamant’s military medals, the Bronze Star and Purple Heart
• The one remaining love letter that Mr. Diamant sent Ann Diamant while stationed overseas and awaiting orders for D-Day in the now all-but-disappeared WWII format, v-mail
For both the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, our conservators removed surface particulates by carefully vacuuming them through a fine protective screen with low power. The metal areas were also carefully cleaned using dry, mechanical techniques in order to restore some of their sheen. The ribbons were flattened as best as possible, without compromising the fibers.
So that the family could keep the metals safely on display, a custom mount was fabricated. Following the cleaning process, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart and their cases were mounted to a museum board covered with decorative Belgian linen. The pieces were hand-stitched to the mount as required to properly support and distribute the weight of the pieces. The mount was then installed in custom UV-filtering Plexiglas vitrine with a coroplast backing board to provide additional protection.
As for the newspaper clippings, letter and envelope, The Center’s custom framing staff designed a multi-opening mat, where each sheet was float mounted to reveal the edges, and installed with a 4ply top mat to conservation standards – using acid free, archival materials. The paper pieces were then assembled into the frame with UV Plexiglas, a conservation grade acrylic glazing that protects against UV light rays. An acid free corrugated backing board was attached to the reverse of the new frame in order to provide additional protection.
It was a pleasure to work so closely with Alice and her family on the conservation and preservation of her father's items, chosen by the Diamant family to keep in their collection as a historical record of Freddy Diamant and his remarkable story. It is very rewarding as conservation professionals to learn the stories behind the works we are challenged to conserve, and to help preserve a family's history for future generations.