Beth’s tragic tale is the stuff of fiction
The tragic case of Beth Schlesinger (Alexander) continues to play out in Vienna.
It is a human tragedy of the first degree, involving a young Manchester mother scarcely being allowed any access to her four-year- old twins, who quite obviously need her love and attention.
Beth, who is separated from her Austrian husband but divorced only in Jewish law, has been denied custody by the Austrian Supreme Court.
As we have continually reported, the original decision to grant full custody to her husband, Michael, was based on a flawed psychologist’s report.
It suggested that she was mentally unstable — a conclusion reached mainly because she was unable to respond rapidly enough to questions fired at her in German, which is not her native language, and because the court accepted the rumour, falsely propagated by a former friend, that she was suffering from post-natal depression.
This is also a tale of intrigue, private detectives who have swapped sides, a Jewish judge who was not involved in the case allegedly discussing it with the presiding judge (according to Graham Stringer MP, who raised the matter in the Commons last week) and lawyers summarily dropping Beth as a client.
It is also a story of friends suddenly wanting nothing further to do with her, and the apparent intransigence — even heartlessness — of the Austrian legal system, which will not allow a young mother the opportunity to present her side of the case.
The story thus far, when related by Beth, sounds like the stuff of the most far-fetched novels.
And those hearing it from her could be forgiven for accepting that she is deluded at the least and seriously disturbed at worst.
She is neither! Having researched the story extensively in Vienna and met or spoken to most of the key players, I am shocked by what has gone on and continues in the name of so-called Austrian justice.
I have covered tragic news stories and injustices of all types in decades as a journalist, but never have I encountered a miscarriage of justice on this scale, which is why I have become personally involved in the case of Beth Alexander, with the full weight of the Jewish Telegraph behind her campaign, until her beloved twins are returned to her.
Those who have met her sons Sammy and Benjy confirm Beth’s assessment that their educational development has been retarded by at least a year. Apparently, at not short of five years old, they are unable to communicate other than in disjointed words.
Both have lost a number of front teeth. Beth knows not how. Those who have seen Beth with her twins report the youngsters’ sheer joy when they are reunited on their oft-cancelled six-hourly Tuesday visits or fortnightly Sunday reunions.
Beth has been forced by the Austrian system to pay nearly £50 each time for a supervised handover. The access centre is closing next week and so far no other facility has been agreed.
Her husband will not accept the offer of Chief Rabbi Paul Eisenberg to facilitate access visits free of charge. Beth is presently faced with not seeing the twins at all.
Beth was also left penniless after her husband kept their joint savings when they parted.
The twins are allowed to visit but not stay overnight in her apartment, which has a bedroom for them with two tiny beds side-by-side, that have never been used, and a playroom packed with toys and books. Beth’s life has been on standstill for several years, but she will not break.
I have met her several times both here and in Vienna and she is determined to remain strong to continue her fight for full custody by breaking the apparently impenetrable ring of steel around the Austrian judicial system, which, until now, has prevented Beth from making a reasonable appeal and putting her case.
She would like the twins to be psychologically assessed, but she is not allowed to arrange this. She would like to take them to a dentist, but she is barred.
She would love to see them at the Chabad kindergarten they attend, but she has been told that there is a legal document that prevents her so-doing. She has never seen it — and seemingly neither has anyone else.
The daily tragedy unfolding in Vienna, even as fiction, would seem barely credible. Sadly, it is happening and even rabbis, oddly, are reluctant to become involved.