Blog

“Paul and Lily”

by Leslie Zurla

This is a guest post written by my friend and colleague, Leslie Zurla. She was inspired to write it after seeing this simple picture – four people standing on a wood pile. But this one included my mother and her brother, taken circa 1916 somewhere in Germany. That this simple photo could inspire such feelings . . . that’s what I find beautiful about it.

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Eight People Who Changed My Life

I count eight people who in one way or another changed my life. Had I not discovered at age 52 that I was really a Jew, I would never have had the pleasure of finding so many wonderful friends. Each one added valuable insight and information that helped me uncover the mosaic of my family’s history. Some were in my life only briefly, some for longer and with some I continue to remain in contact. But all of them have had a lasting impact Ironically, it all began with my … Read More

Willie and Kurt Weinlaub

Anatomy of a Family Feud – Act 2

To recap where we left off at the end of Act 1, Lily’s recent return from her six week sabbatical back home to Hannover was not a happy one. First she was greeted with the news that Kurt had lost what remained of their savings because of some bad investments he’d made. Then she learned that her trip back to Hannover did not sit well with her mother-in-law, Gertrude, who accused her of turning her back on her favorite son, just when he needed her support the most. … Read More

Anatomy of a Family Feud – Act 1

feud | fyood | noun: a state of prolonged mutual hostility, typically between two families  Take a fistful of jealously, add a  share of resentment, some greed and mistrust, then inject a mother’s suicide, wrap it all in a cloak of secrecy and you have the makings of a full blown family feud. And that’s exactly what I discovered when at age 50, I suddenly learned the truth behind my father’s firmly entrenched secrets, beginning with the fact that our family was Jewish. … Read More

What Suddenly Put an Octogenarian on the Speakers’ Circuit?

….or Pete & Linda’s Excellent Adventure! Reporting about a recent week in my life is not a subject I normally blog about. But it was a special week crammed with memorable events and marvelous people. Within the span of nine days I experienced enough truly positive adventures that I now feel compelled to share them with you. It all started with an obscure note on my Linkedin page, a page I rarely look at. It was from an unknown source, asking if I’d be interested in … Read More

The 30 Year Search for Mike Zanger

Few Jews were Marine Corps pilots in WWII – Mike Zanger was…!   The story behind the search for Mike Zanger has intrigued me ever since I heard it from his niece, Marcy Hanigan, back in 2011. Like so many stories that came out of WWII, it had a hero’s death, a family’s heartbreak, and the need for closure. But hers was like no other I’d ever heard because this one also had a level of serendipity that I’ve seldom – if ever – observed: It all happened because … Read More

Puttkammer’s List – The Extortion of Dutch Jews

A Letter from the Shoah Foundation? It was an uneventful day back in 2002 , until I happened to go out to our mail box. That’s when I noticed a strange envelope postmarked “the Netherlands”, stuck in between the usual collection of bills, magazines and direct mail advertising. Inside was a letter written in Dutch. I could only decipher a portion, but it said it had something to do with the Shoah Foundation. When I finally had it translated, it looked … Read More

From Kreuzburg to Hollywood: Finding Walter Wicclair

This was posted in JewishGen’s “Success Stories” on June 2, 2015    As incredible as it may sound, I didn’t learn that my family was Jewish until I was 51 years old. That secret was sustained while I was growing up as an only child, knowing only my parents, and with little knowledge about any relatives living or dead. Forget about their history because there was precious little information forthcoming from my parents. But after their passing, I decided to get … Read More

Ruth Levy Raymond aka “Mamaroo”

The Passing of a Dear Friend Ruth Levy Raymond was a woman of many talents. She was an artist, a cowboy poet, a singer, and an author of children’s books. But beyond that, she was best known as a world class race car driver and competitor in a man’s sport. She was also a very dear friend. Sadly, Ruth passed away just two days before Christmas, last December 23, 2014. This is not the usual context from which I blog, because this time I’m coming from the … Read More

Margot Rehfisch Redux

One Amazing Lady – Marion Blumenthal Lazan

Marion Blumenthal Lazan is a Holocaust survivor who has dedicated her life to delivering a message of racial and religious tolerance to audiences all over the world. I finally had the opportunity to meet this incredible woman in person, just a few weeks ago, when she spoke to 500 students at Cope Middle School, in Redlands, CA. Telling her story to school children, high school and college students, as well as young adults is something she’s been doing for over twenty years, motivated by … Read More

Bendorf-Sayn and My Cousin – An Update

Since I wrote my original post, Eugenics, My Cousin and the “Final Solution”, enough new information has crossed my desk that I feel it’s necessary to write this update. The original post began with my discovery of a cousin by the name of Felicitas Weinlaub, who died in 1942 as a patient in an insane asylum known as the “Jacoby’she Anstalt” or Jacoby Institute, and was buried in a cemetery in a place called  Bendorf-Sayn. But I had no information about her other than her birth … Read More

Who was Sally Rehfisch? – Tombstone Tuesday

This headstone is in the Weissensee Cemetery in Berlin, Germany. It helped me solve a long term question of mine, who is Sally Rehfisch? Or more specifically, what was Sally Rehfisch’s gender. I must give credit to a fellow Jewish Genealogical Society member, Bert de Jong, for helping me find the answer, plus a whole lot more. Bert, who lives in Amsterdam, claims he’s been photographing headstones since he was twelve years old. In 2012, his hobby took him to the Weissenssee … Read More

The Day I Learned I was a Jew

 Shock & Awe So, how would you feel if you learned at the ripe old age of 53 that you were a Jew? Probably come as a shock, right? It did for me, but not in quite the way you’d expect. It happened 27 years ago. But before I get into it, you need to know about the events that happened two years earlier, after I’d suffered a heart attack. It was during my hospitalization when my parents had come … Read More

Lucile Avenue Revisited

Because of a Wishing Well It was dark when Linda and I arrived at our host’s apartment. We were in an older section of Los Angeles called the Silverlake District, an area that had been known as a showcase for the houses designed by the noted Viennese architect, Richard Neutra. But we were blocks away from any Neutra houses, on a street, where the recent gentrification that had begun on Sunset Blvd. years earlier, was only just now reaching it. The apartment was on the street where … Read More

A Study in Denial – Sharon’s Story

by Sharon S.

“My husband tried to tell me his mother was a German Jew, a few months before we were married. I was shocked, but tried to focus on the German, ignoring the Jewish part.” 

Sharon S.

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Living with an Insane Parent

Life with an Insane Parent – Part 2

 Part 1 introduced the notes I took in 1993 regarding my mother’s mental state nearly fifty years after she’d been institutionalized. That’s when she finally revealed to me the secrets within the netherworld that she had created inside her head. Part 1 also introduced the “Heroes” or “Good Guys”, who were some of the inhabitants of her secret place. In Part 2 we get to the “Villains” or “Bad Guys”, the other inhabitants. It would have been so much easier to believe that my mother was NOT insane, just seriously … Read More

Life with an Insane Parent

 Life with an Insane Parent – Part 1

In 1944 my mother suffered a severe emotional breakdown, and was committed to a mental hospital in Compton, CA. Although released seven months later, she never fully recovered. But it would be another 50 years before she finally allowed me into her secret nether world, the place into which she frequently retreated after she returned home. That was in 1993, when I began writing down her diabolical descriptions. It was the only way I could follow the incredibly complex inner world that she created as her sanctuary. These conversations continued periodically for the next four years. … Read More

Eugenics, My Cousin and the “Final Solution” – Madness Monday

During my family research, I discovered that I had a cousin by the name of Felicitas Weinlaub, who died in 1942. There was very little additional information about her other than her birth date, date of her demise and the fact that she was buried in an unmarked grave at a cemetery in Germany in a place called Bendorf-Sayn. That naturally prompted some immediate questions: Who was she? What was Bendorf-Sayn? And why was she buried there? The first thing I learned was that … Read More

Family Friends Friday – The Natzlers

Dr. Adolf Natzler and his wife, Hedwig, were names from my childhood. As dear friends of my parents, they would visit us at least once a week, unless we were visiting them. He was a highly regarded orthopedic surgeon from Germany, who came to America with his family about the same time as my parents. But Adolph Natzler died in 1939, when I was only five, and by 1945 my parents had lost track of his wife and daughter Then just a few years ago, I happened to … Read More