Had it been left to me, my family’s painful past would have remained in the past, undisturbed.
But a persuasive friend convinced me otherwise. I am glad she did. It led to a family album that pays tribute to the entire Abrahamson family. The album will join others in the Wir Waren Nachbarn (We Were Neighbours) exhibit about deported and murdered Jews from my childhood home, Berlin’s Schöneberg neighbourhood. Part of a permanent display at Schöneberg city hall, the albums, filled with private photos, personal accounts and official documents, reveal the despair our families experienced more than 75 years ago.
In December 2011, my friend and former colleague, Maria von Finckenstein, visited the exhibit and gave my name to exhibit team member Simon Löber, the album’s eventual author.
“Eventual” because, initially, I was totally indifferent to the project. When Simon contacted me, I referred him to the German translation of Dorit Bader Whiteman’s “The Uprooted: A Hitler Legacy” which told my story. I had nothing to add, I said. But in the end, I took part, providing Simon with first-hand accounts, working with the editor and translating text into German. Members of my late sister’s family, especially Daisy’s eldest daughter, Ruthi Gafni of Tel Aviv, and her husband David and son Noam, also spoke with Simon.
The album is a tale of two siblings whose widowed mother saved them by getting them out of Nazi Germany. My sister, then 17, left for Palestine in 1938. I was 12 when I left for England on a Kindertransport a few weeks before war erupted. It did not occur to me that I would never see my mother again.
In January 1942, she was deported to Riga. The many letters that she wrote to Daisy and me after we left home are the final memories we have of her.
It was my mother’s wish that our family should always stay in touch. This album has helped us do that, with nephews, nieces, great-nephews and great-nieces becoming more interested in their family history.
At Maria’s urging, I also restored the graves of my father, Wilhelm, and my grandparents, Isidor and Sophie Abrahamsohn, at the Jewish cemetery in Berlin-Weißensee. Family members from Israel have travelled to Berlin to visit the We Were Neighbours exhibit and the gravesites.
On behalf of my Israeli relatives (the Dan, Gafni and Kenig families), I thank the album’s caring and sensitive author, Simon Löber, for creating this valuable album and showing such warm hospitality to visitors from our clan. Simon has become a friend to us all.