Eric ‘Enrico’ Lamet at 93

Beloved Member of Berkshire International Club

By: - Oct 17, 2023

Eric ‘Enrico’ Lamet was a colorful, beloved, entertaining, talented and at times rambunctious member of the lively Berkshire International Club.

His wife Judith “Cookie” Kazer Lamet is currently co-chair of the organization. Last year they generously opened their home for a BIC picnic. Another was planned but got rained out this summer.

On a hot summer day I sat in the shade with him surrounded by a circle of friends. Typically, he regaled us with anecdotes and jokes. He was known to burst forth with arias in a lovely tenor voice.

On this and other occasions he would aptly be described as the life of the party. It was in fact the subject of one of several books he published. ("You Can Be the Life of the Party") The book imparts insight on how best to be lively and entertaining. His other books discussed internment in Mussolini’s Italy. The books are listed at the bottom of this remembrance.

“Eric ‘Enrico’ Lamet died on October 4, 2023, in Pittsfield, MA. He was born Erich Lifschutz in 1930 in Vienna, Austria the son of Markus Lifschutz and Carlotte Szrya Brandwein Lifschutz.

“In 1938, he and his parents fled to Italy when the Germans invaded Austria. He and his mother were later interned by the Italian government as foreign Jews and, although their lives were limited, they were not harmed and he remained Italian in his heart until his final days. In 1950, he immigrated to the United States

”He and his wife, Judith ‘Cookie’ Kazer Lamet moved to Pittsfield in 2013. They loved to travel and spent two months in Italy this past spring. He also loved the opera and could still sing the words of his favorite Italian operas. In Pittsfield, he was an active member of the Berkshire International Club, the Cappucinno Club meeting weekly to speak Italian and Temple Anshe Amunim.” (obituary from the Berkshire Eagle.)

I spoke with Cookie who generously shared memories and insights.

Initially, in Florida they connected by phone. He asked if there were anything she had never done but wanted to do. “Knowing nothing about him” she said “I answered that I had always wanted to see an opera.” That was the right answer.

She was a single mother with two children attending law school. He had two children from a first marriage and from a second one. Then 49 she was somewhat younger. The first date was a Mensa meeting and the second an opera. They married in 1981.

War had not broken out when the family fled from Vienna to Milan. He was a child when he attended his first opera at La Scala. He grew up surrounded by music and that continued with Tanglewood in the Berkshires.

Cookie recalled that he was a friend of Luciano Pavarotti. Eric had season tickets to the Florida Grand Opera. The young and then unknown tenor was a last minute substitute. They went back stage to meet him. Pavarotti at that time spoke no English and was delighted to converse in Italian. They became friends and enjoyed cooking together connecting regularly when he was in Miami. Luciano affectionately called him "Enrico Viennese."

After a year the visas expired in Italy and the family spent a year in Paris until visas again expired. His father visited Poland to see family and subsequently disappeared. The child Eric and his mother returned to Italy where they were confined in a remote camp.

These wartime memories were the subject of two books: A Gift from the Enemy: Childhood Memories of Wartime Italy, 2007 and A Child al Confino: The True Story of a Jewish Boy and His Mother in Mussolini's Italy  2010. His important work received the endorsement of Eli Wiesel.  

Having survived the war he and his mother opted not to remain in Italy where they were not eligible to become citizens. They settled in Philadelphia where, as a young man, he pursued sales and business to support them.

I asked about his education. It was denied him as a Jewish child in Italy under the racial laws. He was tutored by elders in the internment village. Later, he attended Drexel University in Philadelphia but dropped out feeling that he was repeating what he already knew.

Though lacking degrees and formal education he is aptly described as a brilliant and talented man. He spoke five languages- German, English, Italian, Spanish and Yiddish. A prolific public speaker he also published books.

As a member of  BIC he was active in the German and Italian clubs. These are meetings of native speakers who gather to share language and food. My German born wife Astrid and I hosted a meeting and joined others.

The Italian club dubbed him Enrico which is how I knew him. Cookie said “I always called him Eric which was the name he took coming to America. That’s what our friends in Florida called him.”

When a hurricane destroyed their home he negotiated a lump sum insurance settlement. They bought a mobile home and eventually  decided to take it on the road. They shared a travel lust which took them around the world with Italy as a common destination. On one of their road adventures they camped in Pittsfield. Eventually, they settled in the Berkshires.

I have numerous fond memories of Enrico from BIC gatherings. It was a hoot when former chair Ellen Croibier attempted to deliver remarks. His interjections and their resultant banter was hilarious.

The last such occasion was a Chinese New Year brunch at Panda. We were seated opposite to Enrico and Cookie. As usual he was witty and entertaining.

Our final memory was a spring gala for the Berkshire Immigrant Center at Shakespeare & Company. They were the first to dance before others followed.

“We loved to dance” Cookie recalled. “He was very graceful and also an avid skier and tennis player.”

Fondly remembered, Enrico leaves a void in our hearts and minds.

Enrico’s books

A Gift from the Enemy: Childhood Memories of Wartime Italy Hardcover – January 1, 2007

by Eric Lamet (Author), Risa B. Sodi (Foreword)

Five days after Hitler marches into Vienna, Eric Lamet and his parents flee Austria for safety of Italy, then France, then Italy again. There Eric, then aged eleven, is interned with his mother in a remote mountain village for much of the war. In this memoir, Lamet relives his boyhood in an Italy torn by war and chained by Fascism.

Through a remarkable feat of memory and imagination, Lamet recreates the Italy he knew from the perspective of the child he was. We see the hardships and terrors faced by foreign Jews in Fascist Italy, but also the friends Eric makes and his mother's valiant efforts to make a home for him.

In a style as original as his story, the author candidly recalls a dark time yet imbues his recollections with humor, humanity, and wit. Very few Holocaust memoirs address the plight of Jews sent into internal exile in Mussolini's Italy. Lamet offers a rare and historically important portrait, one the reader will not soon forget.

 A Child al Confino: The True Story of a Jewish Boy and His Mother in Mussolini's Italy Hardcover – January 1, 2010

by Eric Lamet (Author), Risa Sodi (Foreword)

4.3 4.3 out of 5 stars 172 ratings

3.8 on Goodreads

1,138 ratings

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You Can Be the Life of the Party
Paperback – February 15, 1999

by Eric Lamet (Author)

Humor. Learn to be funny!

'You Can Be the Life of the Party', not a joke book, is a must for anyone wanting to become a good storyteller and grab the attention of your listening audience.

When friends asked me to teach them how to be good at telling a joke and not finding anything on the subject in print, I decided to write about what I had learned over five decades of telling stories both on stage and at private parties.