I decided to research and document my family’s history, not only because of personal curiosity but also for my children and grand-children as well as my extended family members, so that they will know where their ancestors came from, what their background was and, given the period they lived in, what was their fate.
People live their private lives, raising their families, developing a career, possibly a hobby. Yet they live within a specific political and socio-economic context, which structures and tremendously impacts their lives. Wars, economic crises, political upheavals dominate personal decisions people make regarding their own and their families’ lives. Thus, a family story such as this one has to try and look into the contexts in which the persons we are describing lived in and find intersections between processes and events we read in history books and private lives of individuals: The places where the public and the private spheres intersect. Obviously, there is no scarcity of those in the 20thcentury, when most of my family’s history takes place.
My ancestry is naturally divided into two. The sequence of my work on my family history started with my mother’s side – the Gottfeld and Lewin ancestry, for reasons to be elaborated in the next chapter. Only later, once I had some idea on how to go about this kind of family research, did I start to work on my father’s side – the Gradwohl ancestry. Despite the fact that both families stem from Germany, their stories, as will be shown, are very different. Still, there is a common denominator between the two: There are issues that are not talked about openly. This family research has brought those to the open as is shown in the document.
The work is based on official documents, pictures and family stories, found in private and public archives. It also includes recent pictures of places linked to my family’s life.
An accompanied document is the family tree, with its detailed information about dates of births, marriages, deaths, etc.