But final yr, following an surprising advertising and marketing name, the 49-year-old businessman contacted a retired trainer in Israel to apologize for the actions of the grandfather he by no means met.
Rising up, Edelmann had heard rumors in regards to the household enterprise and suspected it had beforehand been owned by Jews who had been pressured to promote to his paternal grandfather, Wilhelm.
Fascinated, the salesperson relayed the story to the corporate’s analysis group.
Two weeks later, Edelmann acquired a name from MyHeritage. They’d unearthed two necessary data: Heidelberger’s 1942 naturalization document from British Obligatory Palestine, and his headstone alongside his spouse, Emma, in northern Israel. What’s extra, they’d found that Heidelberger had a residing granddaughter.
Hanna Ehrenreich, an 83-year-old retired trainer, knew all in regards to the retailer that got here to be generally known as Willi Edelmann. A lot so, that a black-and-white image of it — bearing the sooner identify of her grandfather — nonetheless adorns the partitions of her house in Israel.
Edelmann, who had misplaced contact with his father after his dad and mom divorced within the early 1970s, knew little about his paternal household historical past and had no reference to the affluent retail chain that had blossomed from the ironmongery store.
Whereas the shop itself now not exists, Edelmann’s household nonetheless owns the constructing, in addition to quite a few different properties within the city. He, nonetheless, has no stake within the agency.
Edelmann despatched a letter to Ehrenreich in English although MyHeritage — unaware that she really grew up talking German.
He wrote: “I consider that if my household supported the injustice your grandparents skilled, it’s our obligation to take this into consideration and take over duty no less than in getting in contact with you to pay attention and be taught. As I’m a part of the Edelmann household I would like to take step one and pay attention to you.
“I do perceive that you simply won’t see any profit for your self personally in speaking to me. However with me understanding and having the ability to educate my youngsters and presumably different relations in regards to the influence of explicit historic selections, this may assist them to make higher selections of their lives,” Edelmann continued.
“Presently, the political local weather in our nation is poisoned. There may be a new antisemitism upcoming. I would like to be sure that no less than my household won’t ever once more be accountable for injustice skilled by others, however get up to participate for the weak,” he wrote.
After receiving Edelmann’s letter, Ehrenreich agreed to discuss to him, and weeks later the pair spent 90 minutes discussing their households’ pasts on the phone, in German.
“It was a superb dialog,” Ehrenreich instructed MeSlop. “Thomas needed to hear how we had been. I mentioned we had been completely satisfied, and we’ve had a good life.”
Ehrenreich instructed Edelmann that Benjamin Heidelberger and his spouse, Emma — her paternal grandparents — used the cash from the pressured sale of their store to flee to Palestine in 1938, simply weeks earlier than the horrific occasions of Kristallnacht, the wave of violent anti-Jewish pogroms that took place on November 9 and 10.
Ehrenreich’s dad and mom had arrived in Israel earlier and she or he was born there in 1937. Sadly, her maternal grandparents remained in Germany and died beneath the Nazi regime.
“He was very moved and mentioned he was so completely satisfied to hear the story from my aspect — he was nearly crying,” she mentioned.
Ehrenreich, who was shut to her grandfather, shared his model of the occasions surrounding the takeover of the store with Edelmann, allaying a few of his fears and suspicions about what occurred.
She mentioned Heidelberger had typically spoken of his homeland and stored a diary in his mom tongue.
In it, he wrote: “My enterprise successor, Wilhelm Edelmann, got here each first of the month to pay the hire, and despite the fact that he was a member of the Nazi social gathering, he was a respectable man and never an anti-Semite.”
“Within the fall of 1937, we bought him our home for 10,000 Reichsmark, although my asking worth had been 15,000. In July 1938, we bought our store and warehouse for the discount worth of 28,500 Reichsmark, the identical sum for which I had purchased it 30 years earlier,” Heidelberger continued.
“Beneath completely different circumstances, I might have bought it for 40,000. However again then many Jewish companies in Dangerous Mergentheim had been bought beneath worth,” he defined.
“Sooner or later, Edelmann got here to me and mentioned I ought to go away Germany as rapidly as attainable,” he wrote. “There have been plans in place to act towards Jews and he felt obliged to warn me, his good acquaintance.”
Ehrenreich, who visited the store on a household journey to Dangerous Mergentheim within the 1980s, instructed MeSlop: “I knew Edelmann was certainly the one who purchased the store. I understood that he was a good man, though he was a member of the Nazi social gathering.”
Edelmann mentioned he was deeply moved by the decision and the pair have stayed in contact; he hopes to go to Israel sooner or later.
“It was such an emotional second after I heard Hanna on the cellphone and when she instructed me about her grandfather,” he mentioned. “Though her household was handled so badly she was very pleasant and did not maintain me accountable for something.”
However whereas happy to hear Ehrenreich’s model of occasions, Edelmann says he nonetheless has doubts about his grandfather.
“I do know my grandfather was a superb businessman. When he was a pupil in the course of the 1920s he was already a member of the Nazi social gathering, which was earlier than Hitler got here to energy.
“So I do not consider he was such a good man, I am not 100% satisfied. I doubt he did not benefit from the state of affairs.”
Edelmann feels that coming to phrases with the previous is a vital lesson for his youngsters, particularly his 15-year-old son, Finn, who began studying about Germany’s Nazi previous in highschool final yr.
“I would like him to perceive what historical past is, and what historical past means. Though he would not have something to do with this story, it is our ancestor who has impacted the lives of a entire household who had a life on this nation,” he mentioned. “I would like him to be taught and perceive that no matter selections he makes has an influence on another person’s life.”
Roi Mandel, head of analysis at MyHeritage, instructed MeSlop the corporate’s assist group is educated to look out for distinctive circumstances which will require further assist with analysis.
“Though we solely had the identify ‘Benjamin Heidelberger’ to work with, the burden of historical past lay closely on our shoulders,” he mentioned. “We’re delighted to have been concerned in such an necessary reconciliation.”