Finding Max Blumenfeld and His Family: A Postscript

Yesterday I Zoomed with four of my Blumenfeld cousins—Richard, whose been my research partner for quite a while now, his first cousin Jim, who is also a wonderful genealogy researcher, and the two surviving grandchildren of Max Blumenfeld, Max and Omri. We spanned three continents—Omri in Israel, Richard in Switzerland, and Max, Jim, and I in New England. We chatted for an hour, but could have gone on much longer and hope to continue the conversation another time.

During our conversation, we uncovered the answer to a question we still had been unable to answer despite all our research: when did Anna Grunwald Blumenfeld, Max Blumenfeld’s widow and Omri and Max’s grandmother, leave Italy and immigrate to Israel/Palestine? The records that Richard had obtained from Merano said she’d left in 1939, but Max had pointed out that that wasn’t possible since he and his sister were cared for by their grandmother Anna during World War II while their mother Edith worked with the Italian Resistance. Their father Josef had immigrated to the United States on November 1939.

For our Zoom, Omri had prepared a wonderful slide show of family photographs, some of which I’ve already shared on this blog, and some that were new to me. Among those photographs was one that helped to answer the question of when Anna arrived in Palestine. The photograph shows Anna in Palestine with two of her grandsons, Omri’s brothers Gideon and Hillel. Anna was holding Hillel, who was just a very small baby, and the photo was inscribed in Hebrew with the words, “Hillel is born! Oma [Anna] arrives! 29 May 1946.” So now we knew that Anna had only recently arrived in Palestine in May of 1946.

Here is another photo taken the same day showing Anna with Gideon and Hillel and their parents Fritz and Dora.

But then how do we explain the records that said Anna had left Merano in 1939? Well, Max had the answer to that question. Max explained that Anna and her daughter Edith and the two grandchildren, Max and his sister Margherita, all left Merano in 1939 and moved to Milan. Max has no memories of life in Merano since he was only a toddler when the family moved. But that would explain why the Merano records report that Anna left that place in 1939.

Max and his family stayed in Milan for several years, and then when Italy adopted laws persecuting the Jews in about 1942, his mother Edith was able to use her connections to obtain permission to leave Milan and move to the countryside outside of Milan.  The family remained there for the duration of the war, hiding the fact that they were Jews. They spoke Italian (although they all could also speak German) so that they could pass as Italian, and Max and his sister went to church on Sundays. In fact, Max and Margherita were not aware of the fact that they were Jewish and also didn’t know that their father was still alive—all to prevent the children from accidentally revealing the fact that they were Jews.

After the war, Edith took her children to America so they could all be reunited with Josef, and Anna went to Palestine to be with her son Fritz and his family, as depicted in the photograph above.

We spoke of many other interesting things during our Zoom, and there were many stories and many moments of laughter interspersed. It was truly a delightful hour and one I will always cherish and remember.

Thank you to Omri, Max, Richard, and Jim—all of whom are my fifth cousins, four people I never would have known if not for doing genealogy research.

And that, dear readers, is the magic of genealogy.

18 thoughts on “Finding Max Blumenfeld and His Family: A Postscript

    • And aside from Max, you were the only one who picked up on that contradiction in the story about when Anna left Italy. And yes, it is horrible to deny your children not only their faith, but even worse to have to tell them that their father had died.

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  1. Just had a get together at my home in California with newly discovered 3rd cousins from Manchester, England. Your stories are like reunions with distant cousins for me. This one is phenomenal! Yasher Koach! Thx. June

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Friday’s Family History Finds | Empty Branches on the Family Tree

  3. Hi Amy, how awful for the Blumenfeld family (Max and Margherita) – that they had to live a lie to survive. Nobody should have to do that but sadly history keeps repeating itself. Long live democracy.
    Lovely for you with all your cousin’s on the zoom call, you must be delighted.😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • History certainly does keep repeating itself. And I fear that democracy as a practical matter is seriously threatened by populist leaders like Trump and Boris Johnson who fool ordinary people into believing that they will best represent their interests when all they really want is power.

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