08 July 2009

Germany: Unexpected success story

Immediately before I left on my trip to the US, our Jewish Family Research Association Israel (JFRA Israel), a Jewish genealogical society, held a board meeting.

Susan Edel, representing JFRA's Petah Tikvah branch, shared with us the story of her recent trip to Germany and the amazing story of what she discovered.

The story is now reported in the Jerusalem Post.

Born and raised in the UK, she's a a volunteer at Magen David Adom's Tracing Services department, which is associated with the International Committee of the Red Cross and helps families determine the fates of their relatives who were Holocaust victims and survivors.

In the spring, she and a colleague attended a Red Cross conference in Germany, and she was assisted in locating graves of her father's family in a nearby town.
"They bent over backwards to help me," Edel said, about the conference leaders who assisted her. "Their attitude to me was just unbelievable."
In April, she became her own success story.

More than 30 international representatives attended a Red Cross tracing services conference hosted by the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen, Germany, home to an archive documenting Holocaust victims.

Susan shared with us at the board meeting that she had mentioned her search for paternal ancestors in Breitenbach near Kassel, about 45 km from Bad Arolsen, to an ITS archivist and wondered how she could get the key to the locked cemetery.

The next morning, ITS told her that they had located the man with the key, drove her to the cemetery and later helped find online documentation on her family.

Vandalized in the 1970s, intact tombstones in the cemetery were few, but Susan discovered three graves for her paternal family. The oldest was from 1871, with the others from 1901 and 1929.

When Jews visit cemeteries, we leave small stones on the gravestone to show we were there. Susan couldn't find any stones on the ground, but the archivist sent the driver out of the cemetery to find some for her.
"I was beside myself, very emotional," said Edel. "I never expected to get to the cemetery and certainly never to find legible tombstones of my family."
Read the complete story at the link above.

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