I am happy to tell you that after having researched my family genealogy for some 40 years I now feel that the time is right to publish the narrative.
I believe that it is a remarkable story in that it traces one family’s trials, tribulations and achievements in Germany since the 1400s – in fact it could be the history of central European Jewry during that period of the middle ages.
At the beginning I describe how I used different methods of research beginning with the conventional approach of approaching various archives in Germany to confirm family documents which my father had left me which took me back to the 18th century. I made great use of the internet liaising with others who were researching the same families which I was. Institutions such as Yad Vashem, the Leo Baeck Institution, the Duckesz Institute, the Museum of the Jewish People in Jerusalem were amongst resources where I gleaned a great deal of information. Later internet technology enabled web based programs such as Geni.com and MyHeritage.com to crowd resource information and cooperatively collate it into well formed structures of family genealogies.
The largest breakthrough occurred when I had my DNA analysed by a company called Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) who are based in Texas. The results proved a close yDNA (110 out 111 markers) with a gentleman living in Long Island, New York. I contacted my genetic match and it did not take us long to establish that based on the match and our both conventional researches that we shared a Most Common Recent Ancestor (MRCA) within the past 20 generations. Further analysis using FTDNA’s BigY testing and analysis narrowed the window to pinpoint the match to within 2 generations. We were also greatly assisted by the Levite DNA Group in establishing this. Being Ashkenazi Levites narrowed the field down by 95% and the fact that we are descended from a well known Rabbinical family who had carefully documented their genealogy proved invaluable.
I also tell the stories of other branches of my family who lived for centuries in Oettingen in Bavaria, Lüebeck in Schleswig-Holstein, Hagenow in Pomerania-Mecklenburg, Dannenburg/Elbe in Lower Saxony, Ludwigslust in Parchim, Hamburg and Berlin. Most of my forefathers were reals movers and shakers in their communities and were establishers of synagogues and cemeteries and the running of these.
Amongst my cousins were a Russian KGB agent who planned and assisted in the murder of Trotsky in Mexico, an internationally renowned nuclear radiologist and an Israeli Air Force war hero in the Yom Kippur War. Amongst my religious forefathers are the MaHaRaL of Prague, HaARi (Yitzchak Luria the founder of contemporary Kabbalism) and many other illustrious Rabbis and judges.
Sadly my story includes the detailed narratives of my father and his parents during the period 1900 to 1939 and the persecution they endured under the Nazis. This information I found in the aforementioned papers of my father as well as from the Restitution documents housed at the Schleswig archives in northern Germany. Fortunately my immediate family managed to flee their homeland to South Africa but they had been traumatised and financially ruined.
In compiling and writing this narrative I had the assistance of some very remarkable people such mainly my good friend genealogist Paul Cheifitz, translator Dr. Ute Benyosef who has a tremendous insight into German culture and my editor Gwynne Robins. There were many others who gave me invaluable information regarding our family history and other related data. And of course my wife Charlotte and our children, who had to endure traipsing around cemeteries in Germany and listening to my tales.
Initially I intended this work to be for my family only – as it developed and grew over the years I realised it would be selfish to constrict it to a limited readership. I believe that it could be of great value to other German Jewish genealogists looking to discover their roots as well as to other interested students of the related history.
For various reasons I decided not to publish it in the form of a book but rather to incorporate it into a website. This will allow me to update it with future new information I might receive and also for my descendants to continue the story in time to come. As it has been a labour of love I do not want any payment for it – it is my appreciation to my ancestors for being there for me so that I and my descendants may continue their legacy to our people. Also it is a way of expressing my gratitude to all who shared their information with me so freely and sincerely.
You can download the full book in PDF format on this website. Should you find it interesting and inspiring I have no problem with you sharing it with those you feel might be interested in this subject.