Do I feel hunted as a Jew in the streets of Berlin?
Or is it the Jewish identity that chases me while I`m running over the Berlin cobblestones.
The first thing I wanted was to find a woman that is already dead. I wanted to know if I could bring her back to life.
The second thing was to write to Ori.
Ori Drumer was the head of my department at my college in Jerusalem.
He is for me a mentor and an inspiration and he is dealing in his own way with the German-Israeli history.
So I wrote to him.
He wrote me back, and told me about his mom, Judith.
I knew very little about her, he had written a book about her (Ori- ×¢××¨Â´ "Gvanim" publishing house 1996) and also a theatre play, and still, the details he told me were vague, and some of them, without him knowing it, were not true. His mom, Judith, died in 1990, 58 years old. She told him almost nothing about her past (like many from that time).
He gave me a name, Axel, his mom`s cousin. He told me that this would be a good start.
I still don`t know what I`m trying to do here, maybe its about Judith`s identity, with the direct relation to mine. Maybe it`s about what is left from one`s identity after one dies. Or maybe I`m just trying to bring Judith`s identity back to life.
Â© Michal Fuchs "He wrote me back, and told me about his mom, Judith"
In my blog, which I took with me into this project, there are a lot of identity questions around my personal experience as a little fox, who came two years ago from the wild desert of Israel to Berlin. Through my drawings, which I combine with text, I`m trying to transfer the paradox in situations I experience as being Jewish, Israeli, and a foreigner in Berlin, almost every day.
These are the facts I got from Ori:
Judith Drumer (Abramovich), Ori`s mom, born in 1932 to Johanna Noebel (christian who converted to Judaism before the war), and to Dov Abramovich, a non-Orthodox Jew. Johanna and Dov got divorced.
Johanna and Judith ran away from Latvia to Germany and stayed in Berlin through the war and after.
Johanna remarried a German who didn`t want a Jewish girl in his house, so he sent Judith to Flensburg.
In 1948 Judith came to Israel. She died there 22 years ago from cancer. She had two children, one of them is Ori, my ex-teacher.
Ori never met Johanna, his grandmother.
Norma, Judith`s step sister from Johanna`s second husband, and Axel, their cousin, still live in Berlin.
(Notes to myself):
The Wandering Jew... (to read "Mendele Mocher Sforim" stories)
Ask Ori about books on the `Wandering Jew`
Ask Ori if I can meet Axel before he (Ori) comes to Berlin
I managed to trace Judith`s cousin, Axel.
I called him yesterday. Well, Hannes, my boyfriend, called, so he could talk to him in German. His wife answered. Hannes introduced himself and told her we were calling regarding Judith Drumer, Axel`s cousin. She said: "We are not interested" and hung up. Later, when we call again, we will understand that it was a misunderstanding. She thought he was a sales man.
What is a Jewish identity?
What were the consequences of being converted to Judaism in those times?What made Johanna do it? Did she regret doing so? Did it chase her all through her life? Or her daughter`s?What did Judith feel when she came to Israel in 1948?
Â© Michal Fuchs "Facts I got from Ori"
Judith Abramovich died 22 years ago.
She had taken parts of her secrets with her in to the ground. They might still lie there, being digested peacefully.
The dead are dead, they wouldn`t discover or tell anything new. And even more, it is easier to distort facts, the dead cannot defend themselves, it becomes a one-sided trial.
Is the truth so important in these cases? When the subjective facts become the absolute truth?
If I will not open this story, maybe Judith Abramovich`s identity (with her son`s) is going to stay buried there, next to the rotten secrets, wrapped in white sheets.
Important questions to ask Axel, Judith Abramovich`s cousin:
What was the reason for Judith`s mother, Johanna, to convert?
Where did Johanna and Judith hide during the war?
What made Judith finally come to Israel, and why only at 1948?
We arranged a meeting with Axel.
We are going to meet him this Sunday morning, in his Schrebergarten.
According to the Jewish religion, every child of a Jewish woman or converted mother, is a Jew.
According to the Israeli law of return, everyone who`s a child of a Jewish or a converted mother, or was a Jew by the NaziÂ´s definitions, is a Jew.
According to the Nuremberg Laws, the Nazis classified people as Jews if they had three or four Jewish grandparents. A person with only one Jewish grandparent was a "2nd-degree Mischling" (a crossbreed, of "mixed blood"), and a person with two Jewish grandparents was a "1st-degree Mischling".
My email to Ori (information from the interview with Axel):
Johanna Noebel (Abramovich, Heidrich):
Your grandmother, Judith`s mom and the sister of Charlotte (Axel`s mom).
Johanna had three children:
Judith Drumer (Abramovich), died in 1990, father: Dov Abramovich.
Ruth E. (Abramovich) (still alive) is in a good contact with Ori, father: Dov Abramovich.
Norma H. (still alive), father: Otto Heidrich.
Johanna didn`t convert to Judaism (as Axel claims). She was born in Altenburg (Germany) and met there Dov Abramovich, an unorthodox Jew, who came there to work for the "Bosch" company. They married, moved to Riga (Latvia) and had Ruth (I don`t know when she was born) and Judith (around 1934).
Â© Michal Fuchs "Mischling (a crossbreed, of "mixed blood")
Somewhere before 1938, Dov Abramovich and Johanna divorced, and in 1938, Dov and Ruth, the older daughter left to go to Israel. Johanna and Judith stayed in Riga until 1943.
(questions to myself):
When did Johanna get married to Dov?
When and why did they get divorced?
In which year did the family move to Riga? Did they run away from the Nazis, out of Germany?
Riga was occupied by the Nazis in July 1941, while Johanna and Judith were there. Dov had already left with Ruth to go to Israel before then, in 1938.
In October 25, 1941, all Jews were sent to the Riga Ghetto and on 30 November and 8/9 December, the Nazis shot and murdered about 27.500 Latvian Jews from the ghetto at pre-dug pits in the nearby forest of Rumbula.
Ori said that in Riga, Johanna was investigated by the Gestapo. What helped her to bargain with the Gestapo over her and her daughter`s life was the story about her brother, Werner. He was killed in the beginning of the war, when the German troops came to France.
Also, Judith was a 1st-degree Mischling and not a "complete Jew".
To be a 1st-degree Mischling was not necessarily enough to save her life from the Rumbula massacre?
By doing rough calculations, Judith was around 7 in those days, did she have to keep her identity a secret?
Was Dov originally from Riga? If so, then people must have known he was a Jew and so was his daughter.
In 1943, they took a suitcase and the dog and ran away to Johanna`s sister, Charlotte and her son Axel in Germany, Pritzwalk.
Did Johanna run away with Judith to Pritzwalk, because Judith`s identity had been exposed?
During that time, Johanna, so Axel said, hid Judith`s Jewish identity. She changed Judith`s family name from Abramovich to Noebel, her name before the marriage.
Judith also took part in the BDM, a Nazi youth organisation for girls. In the new German small town, people were never suspicious concerning Judith identity. Maybe because her grandfather, Johanna`s father, was in the Nazi party, or maybe because Charlotte was the owner of (the only?) grocery store in the village. Charlotte herself knew and hid this fact from everyone else. Axel, her son, didn`t know in those days.
In Pritzwalk Johanna met Otto Heidrich, a Nazi soldier. They married and had Norma.
In 1946, after the war, the family left to go to Flensburg (West Germany) because their fear of the Russians (maybe especially because Otto father was a big Nazi officer)
Otto, as Axel said, used to hit Judith with a belt, he said he was a bit crazy.
Because of that, Dov, Judith`s dad, asked to take his daughter to him to Israel.
In 1948, Judith moved to live with Dov and Ruth, her sister in Israel (the British allowed only children under 12 to join their parents in Israel. Judith was 14, but they made her look younger.)
Johanna and Otto (with Norma? or before she was born?) moved to Berlin a few months before Judith left for Israel.
Â© Michal Fuchs "In 1948, Judith moved to live with Dov and Ruth, her sister in Israel"
Johanna died in Berlin in 1954, without having been in Israel even once.
Judith had two children in Israel, Ori and his sister, and died in 1990 around 56 years-old, from cancer.
Norma doesnÂ´t want any connection with Axel, because of the bad way he talks about her father, Otto.
Did Otto know about JudithÂ´s Jewish identity? Did Judith come back to Germany to visit her mom? Is it possible that Judith lied to her children about her mother having converted so they could live safely in Israel as "complete" Jews?
Axel said that he will be happy if you call, I told him a bit about you. He said that he tried to contact your Dad few times, but there was no connection. If you want to call him, let me know and I`ll send you his number.
Ori`s reply mail to me: (my rough translation from Hebrew)
I knew there was a good reason why I asked you not to tell me the story on the phone, most of the story was unknown to me.
They told me other facts and of course not the details, although I knew that the second husband was a Nazi, but not more than that. Not about the different cities, the fellowship in the Hitler youth movement etc. She didn`t tell me anything, of course. I didn`t know about the beating she had from her father, which is an abuse, or about the mother that gave up her child, which is another abuse. This information is very hard for me and I`ve been crying for some time now, maybe over my mother`s misery, that she never told to anyone, and maybe not.
I had for many years suspected a deeper Nazi connection without knowing anything, but now, the story getting clearer. I actually always suspected my grandma was not Jewish, deep inside it didn`t make any sense to me, and I never believed in the stories saying she was Jewish. It doesn`t really matter to me, what matters is that I lived for 46 years in a lie.
I`m waiting for Ori to come to Berlin
This Jewish identity of mine gets more and more vague ...
Judith was Jewish enough to hide her identity from the Nazis but not enough Jewish when she joined the BDM. She was enough Jewish to make Aliya to Israel but if her mother did not convert, then, she was not Jewish enough to be Jewish.
Â© Michal Fuchs "This jewish identity of mine gets more and more vague"
What if Ori`s grandmother (or mother) did lie about the conversion, what is he then? He has lived half a life thinking he is Jewish, his surrounding and his country recognized him as Jewish. Maybe that`s enough?
He wrote me that beside the fact he lived in a lie, the questions around his Jewish identity doesn`t really matter to him. Would something like that had mattered to me?
Although I`m not religious, nor I believe in any kind of god - if someone asked me "are you Jewish?" my mechanically, dry answer will always be "Yes". Why is this thing so hard for me to peal off? Maybe it`s because of this history that follows us from behind, heel after heel and landing on our shoulders only when its suits her, so heavy
... and yet,
we are born and then we die. Years go faster as they pass. Why do I need to carry 6 million people on my small shoulders every time when I watch a movie at the end of the day, on my blue couch, with my German boyfriend?
Â© Michal Fuchs "Untitled"
Maybe because I left Israel, maybe because after you leave borders, family and friends behind, you want to be belong to something. You need to be belong to something.
My therapist said that a part of us dies every time we "get rid" of a strong feeling, believe or opinion that had been assimilated into us since forever. Maybe that`s why my fear of death is so strong lately and the end look so close. Maybe parts of me are dying, and it hurts, and my flesh is slowly exposed, this flesh thats look exactly like everyone else`s.
and so, although I do want to remember the past and to learn from it, I don`t want to live it.
maybe that`s why Drummer Ìs mom didn`t tell her son about her past and his future,
maybe she didn`t want to make his shoulders hurt, maybe that`s how she died.
And maybe that is why this story is so sad.
I`m still waiting for Ori to come to Berlin â¦
Â© Michal Fuchs "Why is this thing so hard for me to peal off?"
Two short stories:
Story Nr. 1
A few days ego I saw a bald man in the subway station, with a tight black uniform, high black shiny boots, a military black cap with a small pin and a black tie with the Wermacht symbol on it. He had a big black dog with a muzzles (×××¡×× ×¤×).
I passed next to him. He didn`t see me and I stared at him till I began to see small black dots. I felt dizzy. Then our eyes met. I was terrified. I held a book in Hebrew. I went faster to the other side of the very empty station. I looked in his direction and waited for him to come, but he didnÂ´t come.
On the train I sat where I could see him.
I stared openly at him.
I thought about things I could say to him.
Â© Michal Fuchs
Story Nr. 2
As I rode my bicycle today, I went down the road and rode in front of a car too early. It was my mistake, but not such a big one.
The driver got very angry and shouted something in German. I didn`t look at him. I continued driving, feeling a bit bad, but not too bad, because it was all not that bad. The driver slowed down his car, drove next to me and shouted at me more and more. I got more and more angry until, without looking in his direction, I shouted to him in Hebrew: "Tamshich linsoa, ya Nazi" (Keep on driving, you Nazi). The driver became quiet, stayed there for few long seconds and then continued driving.
Only at that point, I saw the driver was not a man but a woman and she was very old.
Â© Michal Fuchs
Michal is an 29 year-old Israeli. She is an artist, a graphic designer and an illustrator. She graduated in 2009 at the digital art department in Musrara College, Jerusalem. She moved to Berlin two years ago, and today she is working on art installations in her studio in Kreuzberg, and keeping an autobiographic illustrated blog.
Read also the German Version of this article
Das Projekt "JÃ¼dische Frauengeschichte(n) in Berlin - Writing Girls - Journalismus in den Neuen Medien" wurde ermÃ¶glich durch eine Kooperation der Stiftung ZURÃCKGEBEN, Stiftung zur FÃ¶rderung jÃ¼discher Frauen in Kunst und Wissenschaft
und der Stiftung Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft (EVZ)
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