It’s been almost a year since our family history tour took us to Altwiedermus. And it’s taken about that long to process most of what we learned on that important trip. The stunning discovery that I had a great-aunt Meta who was left in Frankfurt when my father’s family emigrated to the U.S. reverberated for weeks after our return to Berlin. Our trip into the past shed new light on my German Jewish family history and raised many new questions about my family.
There were two outcomes from this trip. One was the decision to dig into my family’s past and learn why I had never been told about Meta. This was something I tended to only sporadically over the past year when I had time. I still don’t have a clear answer and only very slowly came to understand that there was an unspoken family rule to remain silent about Meta. I’ve learned not to take the previous generation’s account of the past for granted and will soon share a piece I’ve written about the experience of uncovering Meta’s story.
The other outcome was our decision to create a memorial for Meta. This has been slightly more straightforward than my efforts to dig into the past. Our family has been deeply impacted by the stolpersteins (brass stumbling stone memorials) scattered across Germany and other European countries. We felt Meta should have her own stolperstein. I honed my German language skills during months of countless emails to discover the details of Meta’s fate and seek approval to place a cobblestone memorial in the ground for her. Our son Avery also learned Meta’s story and then raised the 120 euros for her stone as part of his preparation to become a bar mitzvah.
On July 2, 2012 Meta’s stolperstein will be laid in Altwiedermus. The Ronneburg community plans eleven stones for Altwiedermus and Huettengesaess. These will be the first stolpersteins in this rural Hessen area and the artist Gunter Demnig will be present to mark the occasion. Our family will be there as well. I’m grateful to many people in Germany, including readers of this blog, for helping us learn what happened to Meta. Her stone will join the more than 32,000 stolpersteins dedicated to victims of the Holocaust.