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

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

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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“Never Tell Anyone”: Frannie Sheridan’s Story

by Frannie Sheridan Frannie contacted me a few weeks ago in response to Marc Stevens’ very dramatic story, “The German Jew Who Bombed Berlin” When she told me hers, I had to add it to this collection because we all share the same elements in our families of origin: fear, shame, family secrets, discovery and learning to adjust to our own new reality. Yet every story is unique. I grew up in a picture postcard perfect family…or so I thought. My six … Read More

The German Jew Who Bombed Berlin

by Mark Stevens Like Ilonka Alexander’s story, Marc Stevens’ bears some similarities to mine in that none of us knew about our Jewish heritage until later in life, plus both of our fathers came from Hannover. But you will find in Marc’s account some extraordinary differences. This is his very unique and dramatic story: Escape, Evasion and Revenge Growing up, I had been told that, even though my father spoke with a very cultured British accent and had been a … Read More

The Pain of Family Secrets: Ilonka’s Story

by Ilonka Venier Alexander Forward by Pete Vanlaw Ilonka Alexander’s story is very special. She recently found me on one of the genealogical groups that ran my post, “The Day I Learned I was a Jew”.  Although not a blogger, her story is unique and had to be told. I also realized that it’s about “the need to belong “; another reason why I wanted to share it with you. Here is Ilonka’s story: Late in 2008 a good friend by … Read More

How Genealogy Solved the Mystery of My Grandpa Adolph

 Adolph a Bad Word As a kid growing up during WWII, the only Adolph I knew of was Adolph Hitler. So, you can imagine both my surprise and embarrassment when I learned that we had an Adolph in our own family. The middle initial, “A” in my father’s name – Curtis A. Vanlaw – stood for Adolph. The German custom – I later learned that it was really a Jewish custom – that the son takes on his father’s first … Read More

Walter Wicclair & Why My Father Hid His Identity

 No! Not a Pastry When I was around 8 years old, my father began to talk about a friend of his, a fellow German immigrant who had – what was to me – a silly sounding name. It was Walter Wicclair*.  Dad and I used to laugh about it because it always made us think of chocolate éclair. Then, about a year later I got to meet Walter for the first time. It was while Mom was in the hospital … Read More