'I feel like a thief!'

  • February 17, 2010
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My mother's childhood home

Most Germany homes are handed down from one generation to the next. My mother’s childhood home in Stockstadt had been in her family for 200 years. But after the Holocaust, Nazis stole some Jewish homes; others became available for rent.

In the Kreis-Gross Gerau area, one family who rents a former Jewish home has lived uneasily in it since 1978. “We wondered what happened to the original owners,” the tenant told me.

The man who grew up in the home fled Nazi Germany for Palestine in 1936. When he returned for a visit when he was 79 years old, he told the residents that his brother and sister escaped, but his parents were killed in the Holocaust.

“It was strange when he was here because this was his house, his birthplace, the place of his youth,” the tenant said. “He stood for a moment on the last step of the stairs. It was emotional for him.

“I felt terribly guilty. I know that there is no reason to think it, but I felt like a thief.”

In 2000, my mother’s cousin returned to his home in Worfelden and told this story: “Early one morning, I went to the house where I was born so I could take a picture. As I held up my camera, a man stepped in front of me and asked, ‘Why are you photographing my home?’ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘it used to be my home.’ Then he invited me in. Only the attic and the basement were the same. Everything else was different. Then I noticed my cat wasn’t there either.

At that time, my mother and I spoke to the residents who now live in her childhood home in Stockstadt. The couple inherited the home from the man’s father. “We didn’t know this home belonged to your family,” he insisted. “My father never told us anything. We were shocked when we read the German edition of Motherland and learned about the house and your history.”

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