Sylvia (Guggenheim) Griffiths has written a personalized and warm tour de force in The Guggenheim File, Die Akte Guggenheim. The book is autobiography, family history, German Jewish history, Holocaust and Nazification and the WWII diaspora tracking. She moves away from the academic and cold timelines of history, see, e.g., http://fcit.usf.edu/holocaust/timeline/nazifica.htm, and describes real people in those situations, her people, family anecdotes, research, discoveries, connections, introspections. German history becomes animate after being there. The history was especially meaningful for us because we went to the Guggenheim home(s) in Hamburg, saw Worms, and the ancient Jewish Graveyard there; we went to the transport, labor and death camps -- Theresienstadt, Buchenwald, Auschwitz, Mauthausen, Bergen-Belsen. Members of her family, or their friends, also passed through that way, only some surviving. For us, the book was like sitting in a room and hearing first-hand stories filling in what had been statistics, hard facts. Her story is a kind of Beowulf -- a saga of origins -- but here documented well in history, and needing only the "Hwaet!" to get our attention around the fire during the long night. Note to editor: Add Hwaet.
- The joy of travel is ongoing deepening interest after return in places, individuals, history. I have not met Ms. Griffiths, but we spoke by telephone and emailed when she found my reference to her family in a 2008 post regarding the beer business in Plzen, CZ -- see Czech Republic Road Ways: Pilsener Urquell: The Brew. Who Got Pilsner Urquell after Nazi Confiscation. With her leads, we then went to Germany and found her family home in Hamburg and shared the photos.
Family in maelstrom of Holocaust. The places of the stories extend into Britain, where Jewish children were sent by panicking parents as other routes to safety for adults were cut off. Names were changed to protect the children. Some were reunited. Parents then fled, if they could, and the Guggenheims, this branch, went to Brazil, after high hurdles in countries' foreign policies, and what to do with the Jews. The Final Solution: For many, it was.
The horrors and injustices, and the accomplishments and deep ties, of this one German Jewish family are recorded beginning in 1580 or so, a time of riots in Jugenheim. Then came family branchings (another branch is known for the Museum, for example), and then the panic and disbelief and expulsions of Nazification and the Holocaust.
Ms. Griffiths' last entry is in 2011, with her return to her family's home in Hamburg. There is a ripple effect when someone records, particularly in this unpolished, honest way. Others are drawn in and appreciate the history through others' experience. The directness shows no sign of overarching editor interfering with tone, feeling, the writer's own words, a unique voice. You can hear it., visualize the impact of the whirlpool of dislocation, destruction, and then the heriosm and love that emerges despite it.
This interest in the German Jewish experience is not from my own background, but has become a living part of my every day. When you are there, do go to the State Records office in Hamburg where the Guggenheim files were found. The Germans were methodical and meticulous in safeguarding records despite bombings.
We found a non-ancestor at the Hamburg Archive, we are sure there is no relation, but someone with with our name, his will from the 1100's. Who here can read German Gothic? Family history. Worth exploring.
Thank you for your work, Ms. Griffiths. It helps makes us whole.
* Search for Transmission of Transgenerational Trauma, See http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-244X/12/134