Gassenheimer – a touching story

They have returned to their roots – members of the Jewish family Gassenheimer. In Themar, some of those who scattered all over the world scattered all over the world personally met.

Von Wolfgang Swietek

THEMAR. “What I have seen here on this trip to Themar and Hildburghausen, as well as to a few other places in the region, has touched me that has touched me very much,” confesses Peter Gassenheimer. “Much of it I did not know I didn’t even know, I only learned about it here on site. New surprises came to me almost every day. Whether at the Jewish cemetery in Marisfeld, where we searched for the graves of family members who had died, or in Bibra, where I think Bibra, where probably the origin of our family lies I’m sure it will take me a long time to come to terms with all this. my relatives will certainly feel the same way. my relatives will certainly not feel any differently. Some of them have met in person for the first time here in Themar, after having been in contact they had only recently been in contact with each other by e-mail.”

The fact that this contact came about at all is thanks to a woman – Professor Sharon Meen from Canada. For many years, she has been researching the lives and tragic stories of tragic stories of Jewish families, including those from Themar. That they are commemorated, among other things by the laying of Stolpersteine, can be traced back to her research. her research, as well as her many publications on the Internet. There also Peter Gassenheimer discovered his name -and that of other people who also bear this name. The name is so rare that he came to the conclusion: “Whoever is called Gassenheimer is certainly related to each other.” And so he sought contact with other Gassenheimers. So far but almost only by e-mail, without personal encounters.

From London to Themar As early as 1992, Peter Gassenheimer decided to travel from his home in London to Themar. He wanted to learn more about his grandfather Ernst Gassenheimer, who had run a well-known agricultural machine had run a well-known agricultural machinery factory in Themar. There had also been a factory in Hildburghausen with the same name and roughly the same production, run by Ernst Gassenheimer’s brother. Although Peter Gassenheimer had not registered for his first visit in Themar visit to Themar, he was warmly welcomed and was even able to visit his grandfather’s his grandfather’s former home.

In contrast to his trip in 1992, the current visit unlike his trip in 1992, the current visit did not come about spontaneously. Was organized by the members of the association “Themar Meets Europe”, who had had put together an extensive program and lovingly looked after the five members of the family members of the Gassenheimers who had accepted the invitation cared for. In Bibra they were, where the first records of the Gassenheimer family are dated in 1658. Exactly who they were in each case is difficult to trace – because at that time Jewish citizens had only first names, and it was not until 1811 that they were they were also given surnames in the records. In Marisfeld they visited the Jewish cemetery in search of graves of their deceased family members.

Of course they also visited the still preserved agricultural machines from the from the two companies in Hildburghausen and Themar, for example, in the Henneberg Museum in Kloster Veßra. Other stations of their visit were Bauerbach and Berkach, a place with a once predominantly Jewish population. In 1990 the mikvah there was restored. There each of the five Gassenheimers – some of them are the some of them are the fifth generation of the family that once lived here – could get a vivid picture of how Jewish families had lived here one hundred years ago.

A special experience for the guests was the evening at the Amtshaus in Themar. “Whether the inhabitants of Themar are at all interested interested in our family history?”, Peter Gassenheimer was unsure. But to his surprise, the hall had filled up quickly. At first, Joachim Hanf, who took over the chairmanship of the evening at short notice, was also uncertain. who had taken over the chairmanship of the evening or had to take over, because Sharon Meen, who probably knows the history of the Gassenheimers better than some of the family members themselves, had traveled from Canada, but was ill in bed these days. This was regretted several times that evening. She was thus denied the experience of experience of what scientific work can achieve in practical life. In other words, her work was not not only in the literature about that time, but also but how it brings together people who are now scattered all over the world. And now – only thanks to the work of Sharon Meen – learn a lot about their ancestors. Who survived because they managed to escape from Nazi Germany, or who found their way to one of the extermination camps? from where he did not return. “We first learned through Sharon Meen who from our family was murdered that, for example, the six-year-old twins were also murdered,” says Nonie Akman.

The ancestors, no matter where they had to emigrate, whether to Spain, South Africa or the or to the United States, always remained German, the Gassenheimers assured. “Sharon brought our family back together again,” says Barbara Mason.  “and we have her to thank for the fact that we were able to get to know each other personally. and now have contact with each other again.” So we got to know each other in Themar. That’s how this small Thuringian town will remain in their special memory. Actually this is a good thing for a town.

But the city, according to Joachim Hanf, very restrained in looking after the guests, to say the least. The hosts were the members of the of the association “Themartrifft Europa”.Good that the town has such an active association.

Anne Bettak from Themar owns an old ironer from the Gassenheimer company. She showed the guests in the Amtshaus a photo on her smartphone. Photo: Wolfgang Swietek
Peter Gassenheimer translated the story of Nonie Akman, who now lives in the USA and does not speak German, for the audience at the Amtshaus Themar. Photo: Wolfgang Swietek
At the Jewish cemetery in Marisfeld, the descendants of the Gassenheimers searched for the graves graves of their deceased family members. Photo: Wolfgang Swietek