If you’re not a banker, you might not have much of a reason to visit Frankfurt am Main. But my sister and I just participated in the city’s “Visiting Program for Former Jewish Citizens and their Descendants.” No longer novices in the art of tracing our family history, we didn’t go to Frankfurt expecting to uncover any new nuggets of information about our father’s family. Instead, we made the trip to learn more about the region’s Jewish history, connect with the other German Jewish families, and spend time together. Our week of peering into the past with our fellow group members had many highlights, but the biggest highlight was the discovery that some of them were related to us.
During the first night of the program, my sister thought she heard one of the participants mention the Wachenheimers from Biebesheim. But it wasn’t until the end of the week that we determined they were the very same Wachenheimers who also married into our own Adler family from Altwiedermus. While my father’s family fled to the U.S. in the 1930s, this branch of the Wachenheimer family fled to Argentina, and their descendants were members of our group. I think both of our families were emotionally stunned by this unanticipated connection. We’re now quite happy to embrace these newest members of our extended familia!
As the descendants of former Jewish residents of both Frankfurt and Hamburg, my sister and I have had the opportunity to participate in both cities’ visiting programs (see Three Generations visit Hamburg). Hamburg is by far the more beautiful of the two cities, but our family’s roots in the Frankfurt area are much deeper. The many Frankfurt program officials, educators, researchers and Jewish community members who spent the last week with us are quite dedicated to helping Jewish families re-connect with their roots. This reconnection to the place where Anne Frank was born and where 30,000 Jewish residents lived before the Nazi era is an important part of the continuing efforts towards Holocaust reconciliation.
I’m back in Berlin where I’m feeling almost as much a Frankfurter as a Berliner, with a little bit of Hamburger mixed in as well. In case you missed the recent piece I wrote for the Jewish Writing Project, here’s the link: Where I’ll Celebrate Passover Next Year