15 February 2008

The face in a photo

Boston's Jewish Advocate has produced some interesting genealogically relevant stories recently. Just published was "A familiar face in an old photo," by Lorne Bell.

A Holocaust book connects two families' pasts

While reading through author Marianne Meyerhoff’s new book, “Four Girls from Berlin,” Brookline resident Dr. Margot Segall-Blank made an amazing discovery: In a 1936 photograph of the Bar Kochba club – an all-Jewish gymnastics group to which many German Jews flocked after the Nazis barred them from participating in the Olympics – stood a then-10-year-old Segall-Blank.

“I felt like a survivor,” she said. “It made me feel victorious because the story of the [1936] German Olympics is linked with a lot of injustice.”

Segall-Blank recalls her disappointment after qualifying for, and subsequent banning from the Olympics.

Meyerhoff's book also tells the story of her mother, Charlotte Wachsner, and three non-Jewish friends who helped preserve the family's legacy.

After Wachsner escaped Berlin, her friends made regular trips to Meyerhoff’s grandparents’ residence, each time leaving with a new family artifact tucked into the lining of their jackets by the author’s grandfather.

“When I was five years old, a package arrived from Germany with family memorabilia, documents and hundreds of photographs going back to the 1800s,” said Meyerfoff.

The collection is now at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (Washington, DC).

Segall-Blank also tells another story of bravery, that of a non-Jewish classroom teacher who defended her after she beat up an SS officer's anti-Semitic daughter following a playground altercation.

The teacher could have been sent to a concentration camp but was spared, while Segall-Blank and her parents escaped to Australia after another non-Jewish woman helped with visas. Eventually, she arrived in the US in 1960.

Read the complete story here.

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