Hannah & Hannah

Born in 1905, Hannah lived through 20th century Europe’s tragedies and triumphs; may Hannah, born in 2017, grow up safely in Israel…


Hannah born in 2017

Hannah born in 2017

Hannah is my first granddaughter. She was born in Rosh HaAyin near Tel Aviv. Hannah is named after my mother. That Hannah was born in 1905 in Galicia, in the east of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Her life spanned 85 years, to 1990; in other words, almost all of the 20th century, with its tragedies and triumphs. My mother took part in both.
When Hannah was nine years old, the great war that would become the World War broke out in Europe. Months later, Russian troops shelled the house in which Hannah, her sister Esther with her family and their mother Malka were staying. When the shell hit, Esther and her family were killed instantly. Malka extinguished my mother’s burning hair, saving her life. At the war’s end, Hannah went with Malka to Berlin. She worked as a seamstress and cared for her sick mother until her death in 1924. Then Hannah lived with her sister Sima and her family. Besides her job she had to do domestic work for her relatives. Following the brief hiatus of the 1920s, hard times returned with the Great Depression. Hannah lost jobs repeatedly and had to keep looking for work. The economic disarray sent unemployment soaring. That led to political radicalization. More and more Germans turned to the Nazis. The party’s leader in Berlin, the future propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, actively incited anti-Semitism among the people. Hannah watched as more and more Jews were persecuted in public, on the streets. When Hitler became Reich Chancellor in 1933 and the Nazis seized power, Hannah fled to Palestine. The British Mandate administration turned down her application to emigrate legally, so she acquired forged papers. That made it harder to find work. Delicate Hannah had to take any job she could. Once Hitler started World War II, her illegal existence in Palestine became potentially life threatening. The British were deporting Jews back to Europe. But Hannah was lucky. She fell in love with Ludwig Seligmann who had emigrated from Bavaria and married him. Finally, she could reside legally in Tel Aviv.
After the war ended in 1945, Hannah learned that nearly her entire family had been murdered by the Nazis. She was left traumatized. Yet, two years later, Hannah became a mother at age 42. She loved me with all her strength. In 1948 war came to Israel. In the space of a few years, the young state of Israel took in millions of Jewish refugees. That threw the economy into crisis. My father lost his job. He wanted to return to his German homeland. My mother refused to go back to the “land of the murderers.” In the end, it was necessity that prevailed.

Peace and security
Hannah 1905–1990

Hannah 1905–1990

Hannah and Ludwig immigrated again, to West Germany. In Munich, my father found professional esteem. For the first time in years, he and my mother lived something other than a hand to mouth existence. Yet the old wounds remained. Hannah never warmed to Germany. When, however, following my father’s death in 1975, I suggested we return to Israel, Hannah was afraid. She feared even more difficulties. She kept clinging to me and forbade me to go to Israel.
However, my daughter Yael performed Aliya, the emigration to Israel. She served her time in the army, studied IT at Beer Sheva University, married a Zabar, an Israel-born man, and works in a startup. Hannah is Yael’s second child. Since its inception, Israel has fought a permanent struggle for its existence, through wars and terror. Yet a new generation of self-assured Jews is growing up. These Zabarim know neither the constant hostility of anti-Semitism nor the diaspora Jews’ pleading for recognition. Israel has achieved amazing things. It will, in the end, make peace with its neighbors. It is my wish that Hannah – unlike her ­great grandmother – grows up in peace and security.■

Photo Credit: Privat

What Next?

Related Articles