A German man who discovered that his grandfather had forcefully taken over a Jewish family’s store during the Holocaust tracked down their descendants to apologize.
Thomas Edelmann, 49, told CNN he got a marketing call last year from a genealogy website — which eventually led him to the Israeli granddaughter of the original owner.
“I believe that if my family supported the injustice your grandparents experienced, it is our duty to take this into account and take over responsibility at least in getting in touch with you to listen and learn,” Edelmann wrote to the woman.
In recent years, the father-of-two said he had found Nazi tax records confirming that his paternal grandfather Wilhelm had bought the hardware store in Bad Mergentheim in 1938.
The former owner, Benjamin Heidelberger, had been forced to sell the shop to Wilhelm under the anti-Semitic Nuremberg laws, which largely barred Jews from the German economy and made it legal to confiscate their property.
Edelmann happened to mention the records to a salesperson from the online family tree building site MyHeritage, who had called up to discuss his subscription.
The company’s research team was able to unearth Heidelberger’s 1942 naturalization record from British Mandatory Palestine and his gravestone alongside his wife, Emma, in northern Israel.
They also found that he had a living granddaughter — Hanna Ehrenreich, an 83-year-old retired teacher.
She knew all about the old family shop and had a black-and-white photo picture of it hanging in her apartment in Israel.
Her paternal grandparents had used the money from the forced sale of their store to flee Germany for Palestine in 1938, just weeks before Kristallnacht, the wave of violent Nazi pogroms that took place on November 9 and 10 of that year.
The two exchanged letters and then spoke by phone weeks later.
“It was a very good conversation,” Ehrenreich told CNN. “Thomas wanted to hear how we had been. I said we were happy, and we have had a good life.”
“He was very moved and said he was so happy to hear the story from my side — he was almost crying,” she said.
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