‘My father’s home country was always present’
by Katja Walther, Sandra Vucic, Angelika Rieber
Discussion with students of the Ernst-ReutherSchule in Frankfurt
It was a strange feeling for Gisele Croituru-Federman to visit Germany, the country from which her family was forced into emigration by the Nazi regime. The first meeting took place in the decorated rooms of the ‘Alte Oper’ in Frankfurt. The programme for the visitors began with a first meeting with kosher strawberry cake and coffee. First contacts were made in bright sunshine, family histories exchanged and the wishes of the visitors taken down. Gisele Croituru-Federman and her Columbian husband wanted to see the sights of Frankfurt and get to know some of the people here. They asked a lot about the history of the city and about the group ‘Jewish Life in Frankfurt’ and its members. Gisele wanted to talk to people from Frankfurt and so she was glad to take the chance to talk to students at the Ernst Reuter School as a witness of the second generation. She met some of the students at the welcome evening of the group in the Jewish museum. She admitted that she was quite excited before the meeting began.
The meeting with students took place on a Friday when Gisele and her husband together with other visitors went to the school, which has a large number of students with a migration family background.
The guests from far away were warmly greeted. The students introduced themselves and explained where their families came from and mentioned many different countries. Frau Croituru-Federman talked with a smile about her own background. She was born in Brazil, her husband comes from Columbia, where they lived for a while. Now she lives in Florida, her father was born in Frankfurt. Gisele then told some stories that she had heard from her father and grandparents. Her friendly and warm personality won over the students and she explained just how much German culture and tradition she carried within her. She also told them how she felt on her visit to Germany, back to her German roots.
Gisele's father's family left Germany on February 3, 1937, before the November Pogrom Night. Her father Siegbert Federman was a small child, just two and half years old. Gisele, who is now 47, grew up with the stories of her grandmother of how the Gestapo came to their house in Friesengasse. The family very quickly packed up as much as they could but were forced to leave much of value behind. They had already found the house of her grandparents and her father in Bockenheim; the house is still standing, said Gisele.
Gisele was very moved as she explained that she had received her father's birth certificate the day before in the Town Registry Office. It was a very moving moment to hold in her hands the document that showed her father's roots in the city, she said. She had tried to obtain a copy of the document as she lived in Brazil but to no avail.
Gisele as daughter of the former Frankfurter Siegbert Federman also spoke of the busy life of her father, who married a Brazilian and lived with her in her home country. But he still kept some German traditions. He went to the October Fest of the German community in Brazil every year. She remembered vaguely some German words, one of which was 'Wurst'.
We feel inspired and encouraged
The students were able to understand the very difficult circumstances that Gisele's father faced in his new home in Brazil, and could sympathise with him as he had to solve the problems that he faced in a foreign land.
Many of the questions were related to emigration. 'What does it mean to leave one's home country?' 'How did her father manage to settle down in Brazil?' For Amalia dos Santos, the teacher, the discussion with Gisele Croituru-Federman was quite special and she could talk to her in her native language, Portuguese.
The history teacher closed the discussion with a final round of comments during which the students expressed their thanks and said how important the meeting had been for them. Gisele Croituru said that she had learned much during her visit, and had met young people with very different migration backgrounds. She was most impressed by the way in which the young people cooperate with each other and how they learn from each other. “Very inspiring” was her conclusion.
the class expressed the wish that there should be more such meetings like this one, as this leads to a lively and personal history lesson.
Siegbert Federman's daughter is very grateful for the invitation from the city of Frankfurt and for arranging a programme that allowed her to trace the history of her father in the city. But she had another most important task – she had to buy a Dortmund Football shirt for her son – proof that the family is well aware of their German roots.
Back to the roots. The children of former citizens from Frankfurt return.
by Sandra Vucic (Class 12 c)
After so many years to pay a visit to the country of their families, from which they had had to flee, was a strange experience for Gisele Croituru-Federman, a Brazilian with German roots. Feva Koch, an older woman recalled her childhood and the flight from Frankfurt to Uruguay. The visitors talked to students of the Ernst Reuter School last Friday about the impressions and feelings. The students listened with great concentration and attention to their stories during the two-hour meeting.
After the first introductions, our guests told us something of their lives, the families and their roots. They spoke very frankly, which made our conversation very lively and gave us a good idea of what life was like in those bygone days. It was above all Feva Koch's story that moved us. She had to leave Germany as a child with her parents and fled to Uruguay. She could remember very well the flight from Germany and how her mother could only pack a few things into a case. As a small child she could not understand why other children avoided her suddenly and why she could no longer go to the kindergarten, or why her parents had to travel so far away. We were given some idea of the way that suddenly a life could be completed transformed overnight.
Gisele, as a Brazilian with German roots, lives today with her Columbian husband in the USA. She could not tell us much about the National Socialist era or the flight of her parents and grandparents because she belongs to the second generation, but she could give us her impressions of the world in which she grew up and which she was educated in and also about her connections with German culture. She told us that it was strange for her to travel to Germany and how she felt as she received the birth certificates of her father and an uncle, both of whom were born in Frankfurt. She also talked about the life of her German-born father, who married a Brazilian and lived there and how she discovered some German traditions which she also lived by.
'Jewish life in Frankfurt' has organised this project with the support of the City of Frankfurt to bring eye witnesses and now the second generation to the city and on this visit to the Ernst Reuter School for whose students this was a very rewarding meeting. It would be a positive experience for other students if this visit could be repeated by more guests in the future. To meet somebody who was forced into exile and had to create a new life in a foreign country is a rare experience and one that should not be denied to other students.
Participation in the Visiting Program: 2012
Participation of brother: 2013
Family’s Home in Frankfurt:
The parents failed to emigratd to England. So they went to Brasil.
Questionnaire filled in by Gisele Croitoru-Federman
Recording of the meeting at Ernst-Reuter-Schule 1 on June 1, 2012
Ernst-Reuter-Schule 1, Angelika Rieber
Katja Walther, Sandra Vucic, Angelika Rieber