As I settled into my seat on Monday afternoon for the train ride from Cologne back to Berlin, I waited for the the familiar words to float through the intercom: “Wir wünschen Ihnen eine angenehme Reise.” The Deutsche Bahn can always be counted on to wish passengers a pleasant journey, and indeed it was pleasant to be shuttled along at 200 km an hour knowing that my efforts to illuminate the meaning of reclaimed German citizenship for German Jews were starting to yield results.
The year has gotten off to a good start with some new submissions for my book, an expression of interest from a publisher, and a number of inquiries from journalists who are tracking the growing interest in European citizenship from American and British Jews. Two articles linking current politics and the citizenship trend appeared this week: Putting Past Aside, Jews Seek German Citizenship in the Age of Trump and Trump is Driving Some American Jews to Reclaim Citizenship in Europe.
My trip to Cologne fulfilled an important goal for my book: interviewing a federal official responsible for naturalization claims from members of families persecuted during the Nazi era. I felt like I hit the jackpot when I entered an office and found not one, but three Bundesverwaltungsamt officials seated around a table prepared to answer my questions. I had spent a lot of time preparing the questions in German and was pleased to get answers to most of them. The hard part was understanding the full meaning of the responses that covered a fair amount of legal and technical details. I’m grateful to Agnieszka, my friend and colleague who came along to help with interpretation.
The working trip to Cologne also doubled as a quick mother-daughter getaway. We enjoyed lots of sunshine, a Sunday morning stroll along the Rhine, and some great Thai food. I even got to experience what it’s like to be a millennial by taking selfies with Olivia. I’m still working on my technique, but we had fun taking this one in the elevator of our hotel.