About Full Circle

biopicWhat is it like for an American of German Jewish descent to live in Germany today? I started this blog in the summer of 2010 to explore that question and to share our family’s journey with anyone who is interested. Some of my favorite topics include: reclaiming my German citizenship, exploring my German and Jewish identity, learning about my German Jewish ancestors, and discovering how Germany has addressed the legacy of the Holocaust.

Thanks for visiting my blog and I look forward to hearing from you.  If you prefer not to post a comment on the blog, feel free to contact me at dswartho@aol.com.

21 thoughts on “About Full Circle”

  1. The Reas said:

    Thanks for the updates!

  2. Hi Donna! Catching up on your posts. Thanks so much for keeping this blog. I’ve spent a little time in Berlin as well; will share some thoughts sometime. Meanwhile, just great to see what you’re up to, how you’re adjusting, what you’re learning. All the best to your family. Good Shabbos!
    -Anika

    • Hi Anika,

      It’s great to hear from you. I hope all is well with you in Bozeman and that you’re enjoying the early snow. We do miss everyone back home….the time is going by so fast though……hard to believe the holidays are just around the corner!

      Thanks for reading my blog and stay in touch!

      Donna

  3. Howard Singer said:

    I read about you on line in Der Spiegel. While it isn’t wrong not to hate Germans (other than those in nursing homes who perpetrated the Holocaust), it is plain nuts to want to live among them when you have other viable options. The only reason that Der Spiegel features you is that your identifyinf with Germans is plain peculiar.

    • Howard, I am German. Both of my parents were German. All of my grandparents were German. I do not wish to suppress who I am. I see nothing peculiar about that.

      • I restored my citizenship over the summer. I applied from Boston; it took a bit over a year. The process was simple, I sent an application and a number of documents in, some notarized, others accepted by Kirsten Hardt in Boston, without certification anyway. She certainly understood the difficulty of producing original birth certificates and marriage certificates, and so on. In perspective, it wasn’t even that long a wait for me – getting housing from the local housing authority in Northampton, MA takes a lot longer. So I was excited about this and coming to the consulate, the officers were, too! I expected beauracracy in receiving my Einbürgerungsurkunde, but the officers were so excited! So I felt very, very welcomed.

        My father’s family dates ourselves back at least 4 generations as Berliners and in my visits to Berlin I’ve always felt a sense of peace and home – it’s quite strange. I’ve also felt that I have more of a claim on Berlin than many Germans!

        I’d be delighted to be in touch, Donna. You don’t leave a contact form and an email, perhaps for privacy, I prefer transparency. I read about this blog in Der Speigel, which is pretty heavy on German-Jewish stuff, but of course, we know it’s difficult for many.

        One last thing: it is perfectly normal to be interested in living in and moving to Germany, in visiting, in taking interest in one’s history, one’s culture, one’s ancestors. Denying Germany’s humanity is to deny our humanity. After all, where would have Schoenberg, Einstein, Rosenzweig, Mendelssohn, Adorno, so, so many German Jews who contributed to German life, be without Germany – the real one, the one that exists as America does, for peace and culture and people.

        The truth is that it is peculiar to close the door. You can reach me at deanrosenthal@gmail.com. All best!

  4. Hallo!
    ich bin der Josef und habe ueber Ihren Blog im Spiegel gelesen. Ich find’s wunderbar, dass andere Leute zurueck zu den Wurzeln blicken/gehen! Meine Mutti hat’s versucht, uns zweisprachig zu erziehen, ohne grossen Erfolg. Aber seit meinem 17. Lebensjahre bin ich doch mit Deutschland total begeistert…
    I will follow your blog with close attention!
    Viel Spass in Berlin!
    LG,
    Josef, 25, Cambridge, MA

    • Josef, Ich glaube Ihre Mutti war sehr erfolgreich oder vielleicht haben Sie Deutsch in der Schule gelernt. Ich bin noch nicht fliessend aber es gefaellt mir jeden Tag etwas Neues auf Deutsch zu lernen. Danke fuer Ihre Interesse an meinen Blog! Donna

  5. Donna,

    My family left Germany in the 1800s; nonetheless, I also feel very at home in Berlin.

    I went to school there (Freie Universität), worked there (for Lufthansa) and of course speak the language fluently.

    I am Jewish and also very seriously considering moving to Berlin. I know there’s a lot of red tape involved but think it will be worth.

    Alles Gute!

  6. I just found your blog! We are a Jewish-German-American family that has roots in Berlin. I look forward to reading more about your experiences. Still, I find it a bit odd that someone from Montana would be surprised by neo-Nazis: there are more of them, and more dangerous, too, in the Western USA than in Berlin.

    • Hi Cary, Thanks for your interest in my blog. I did not write the line in the Tablet article about not anticipating the neo-Nazis — the editors added it in without my knowledge. Of course I did know there were neo-Nazis here. However, the discovery of the Zwickau cell that had been operating for so long with the knowledge of some officials who either turned a blind eye or tipped off the cell members about surveillance did take me by surprise.

      • Ah, that explains it. I guess they needed an “angle.” It’s very difficult for Americans to understand “German-Jewish” other than exclusively through the lens of Nazism.

  7. I think it’s a crime that Tablet reanimated your article. This reinforces two stereotypes – the overreaching Jewish public enforcing the defensive and outdated principle of “us against them” and the stereotype of Germany as the “other” – a place that still cannot be trusted to experience by Jews. Very disappointing and very disappointed.

  8. Jeff Weitzenkorn said:

    I just discovered your blog. I too have reclaimed my German citizenship. Both of my parents, their parents, siblings, and my mom’s grandmother who was still living all were able to leave Germany in the mid to late 1930’s to start a new life in Washington Heights. I knew all of my uncles and aunts, my grandparents, and my great-grandmother who died when I was three. As things came to pass, I had a career in the US Air Force and was stationed in Berlin from 1976-1977 and spent a very enjoyable Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur at the Pestalozzisrtasse Synagogue with Obercantor Estrongo Nechama who also used to come to our Erev Shabbat services at the US Army Chapel on Huttenweg in what was then the American housing area, exchange, and commissary area near the US Consulate. In all, I spent five years in Germany and have been able to return on three occasions in 2005, 2007, and 2008 and hope return again.

    • It’s nice to hear from you, Jeff. I don’t recall if this is mentioned on my blog, but my father’s family also settled in Washington Heights and I have very fond memories of spending time there with my grandparents and great grandmother (Oma Betty) when I was a child. Thanks for visitng my blog and being in touch! Donna

  9. Jeff Weitzenkorn said:

    I do believe you did mention Washington Heights. Members of my family lived there well into the seventies. Most were members of Shaaray Hatikva on 178th St (leading to the GW Bridge). I remember going to Schild Brothers for wurst as a child.Somewhere I even have my ticket for High Holy Day services from 1976 at the Pestalozzistr Synagogue; I’d be happy to send you a scan of it…. Berlin and Germany hold very fond memories for me; as a matter of fact, when I first arrived there in 1973, I had the feeling of returning home and completing the cycle since my father was about the same age when he left in 1935…

    • I remember my Papa used to take me to a store called Dykman’s (sp?) so I could pick out a toy. I always loved making the trip from NJ to visit my grandparents in Washington Heights.

  10. Hi Donna,
    I just discovered your blog and have taken a quick glance but look forward to reading it in more detail. I am currently collaborating on a book project with my mother about German-Jewish cuisine — it will contain history, memoir and recipes — and will be the first book on this topic in print in many decades! She was born in Bavaria, emigrated to U.S. as a baby in late 30s and grew up in Washington Heights. We would love to be in touch with you, I’m going to send you an email now.
    best,
    Sonya Gropman
    our website is http://www.germanjewishcuisine.com

  11. p.s. The most recent post on our blog is about Bloch & Falk, the much-loved meat shop (Wurst und Aufscnhitt) that was in Washington Heights (and a few other NYC neighborhoods) up until the 1990s.

  12. I renounced USA last Sept but I should have a pic of all my expired USA passports. I was in Frankfurt a month ago. I like Germany so much. Kermit

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