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Tracing back her ancestors

While the international meeting of Red Cross Societies was being held at the Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen, the Israeli Susan Edel researched into traces of her ancestors in Hesse on 28 April. She viewed records and files at the ITS archives and went to visit the Jewish cemetery of Breitenbach. “I am impressed by the documents and touched by my memorable visit here,” so Edel.

Heinz Vonjahr from the local history association showed the Israeli three graves of ancestors of hers on the Breitenbach graveyard, among them the tomb stones of Miriam and Feidel Japhet, Edel’s great-great-great grandfather deceased in 1871. Vonjahr handed to his visitor the book “Ölzweig und Eichbaum – Von der Verwurzelung der Schauenburger Juden” (Olive branch and oak tree – the roots of the Schauenburg Jews) including among other documents and photographs, a picture of the “Schutzbrief” (permit to stay/certificate of protection) issued for Feidel Japhet at the time.

Part of the family was drawn to Berlin later where Edel’s mother grew up undisturbed until the persecution through the Nazis began. Numerous members of her family and friends fell victim to the Holocaust. At ITS, Edel looked into some documents on their fate “Some details so far have been unknown to me and to my family. It is a good thing that we can obtain copies of the original documents now that the archives are opened,” observes Edel.

Her mother survived persecution through the Nazis by fleeing to England via Amsterdam in 1939. “She was one of the last ones who succeeded in getting out of Germany,” relates the Israeli resident. “Edel was born in England. In 1975, however, she moved to the Jewish state, “for idealistic motives” she recalls her decision.

For more than 20 years, she has been engaged as volunteer and employee of Magen David Adom (the Red Shield of David organisation, a member of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement). On behalf of their tracing service, she is committed to clarifying the fates of Holocaust victims and re-uniting survivors. “Our inquiries are similar to those received by the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen,“ Edel reports. The two institutions have been cooperating closely for years.