Willkommen: Walter opines on citizenship opportunity

Willkommen: Walter opines on citizenship opportunity

Obviously, a lot has happened to all of us in the last week or so since I called the German Consulate in NYC and spoke to a representative who confirmed that Dan, Joanne and I would qualify for German and European citizenship based on Helga our mother and Elli our grandmother, having been born there and having fled the Nazis in 1938. Dan, Joanne and I had a wonderful skype session on Pesach to grapple with the implications. One thing is clear; there seems no discernable downside to commencing the application process. We are, after all, eligible to receive German citizenship and retaining our U.S. citizenship, without having made a decision to actually move there at all. But securing German and EU citizenship opens enormous possibilities for all of us and our children both in terms of expanded horizons and access social services--especially health care--that may not be available to some or all of us if the five right wing judges on the Supreme Court strike down parts of all of Obama's Heath Care plan as it appears all too likely they will.

The whole prospect of taking German citizenship and considering moving there at some point in the future raises multiple issues--both practical and psychological--that I will grapple with off-line, as I prepare a manuscript on the subject. Obviously, neither Elli not Helga ever considered such a possibility even though from what we have learned, they must have been aware that they were eligible for renewing their German citizenship almost from the foundation documents of the Bundesrepublik Deutschland (West Germany) in 1949 or thereabouts. For them--especially Helga--America was the Promised Land and such a step would have been inconceivable--an obscenity. However,as a political liberal with a social conscience, she also believed that health care is a human right, and certainly also considered obscene the premise that anyone, very much including her own children and grandchildren, might be denied access to life-saving health care because of an inability to pay. Given that outlook, I believe she would have supported the notion of her loved ones taking an carefully thought-through step to ensure that they and their children would be eligible for coverage, even in the event of loss of job, insufficient income, etc.

It is indeed a topsy-turvy twist of fate that Germany, which brutally snuffed out the life of our great-grandmother, Betty Katz and six million other European Jews in the inferno of the Holocaust, would now appear 70 years later as a kind of angel of mercy and succor, and that America, the then-promised land, the land of safety and security from the inferno of Europe--has become such a pinched,parsimonious and inhumane place. I for one feel a personal responsibility to make whatever small contribution I can to fighting for Obama's re-election and fighting the Republican scourge that threatens all of the values that I hold dear.

Yet those same values--especially on the issues of mutual acceptance between people of all backgrounds and spcifically between Jews and Muslims--an issue in which I have become deeply involved both personally and professionally in the last five years--needs to be nurtured and fought for in Europe, as well as in the U.S. I'd like to spend the rest of my productive life making a contribution on this issue and others on both sides of the Atlantic. Taking European citizenship would certainly enhance my ability to accomplish both.

Dan and I spent much of the afternoon going over the issue of whether Helga's maternal grandfather was named Julius (Bette Katz's husband) or Isaac (see Dan's last few postings). I seem to remember very clearly (as clearly as I remember anything these days :)) that Helga identified him as Julius when I interviewed her for "The Early Lives of Stanley and Helga Ruby" which can be read elsewhere on this blog. Yet it turns out that he is identified as Isaac in Elli's death certificate in 1981 (for which Helga would have provided the information)...One question; could his German name have been Julius and his Hebrew name Isaac? It seems unlikely, since Julius would have been more likely rendered as Yehuda, not Isaac...Also, as Dan writes, Elli carried a photo of the gravestone of an Isaac Volgemuth who died in 1929, yet I had received the impression from Helga that hwer grandfather Julius had been alive until much later, or that he was possible still alive in 1938 and ended up dying in the Holocaust like his wife Bette

Yet the preponderance of evidence now is that Helga's grandfather was named Isaac and he died in 1929. If so, where did the name Julius come from and why did Helga so identify him in 2004? We may never know, but given Dan's amazing investigative skills he may be able to track down an Isaac Volgemuth who was in the moving business in Danzig, just as he has made so many other amazing discoveries that have deepened and enriched our understanding of our roots in Germany and Europe, even as we contemplate a future that may contain a much greater connection to both than we could have imagined even a few days ago...

Indeed, I have a sense at this moment of multiple connections on the space-time contiuum and some wondrous, deeply mysterious karma at work...also a deep sense of gratitude that, to paraphrase the Hebrew prayer--that I--and Dan and Joanne and Tanya, my beloved--and Bill, Gene, Twyla, Lani, Zach, Gene's mom Mila and so many others near and dear to us all--have been privileged by Hashem (God), destiny or whoever or whatever :) to live until this day, and to have the prospect of many exciting and fulfilling days to come...

Warmly and Whimsically,