Photo: Friedel Scheer
Breisach. The conference lasted five days and was attended by descendants of the Geismar family as well as by numerous hobby genealogists from six countries. They occupied themselves with genealogical research and the history of the Jews in Breisach. Excursions with knowledgeable guides to locations in the region were also on the programme. Arno Cahn, doctor of chemistry, took part in the conference along with his wife Barbara and daughter Janet. Friedel Scheer got the chance to talk to him.
Is genealogical research one of your major pass-times or were there other reasons why you wanted to participate in this conference?
Cahn: At the beginning of the thirties, while most people were looking for their four Aryan grandparents, I decided to look for my four non-Aryan grandparents. At that time I was able to trace my forefathers back into the 18th century and collected all the documents I could find. I did not continue the research though and later spent no time at all doing genealogical work. I am taking part in this conference because it was an opportunity to attend a small family get-together. I have met members of my family here, who I had never met before.
BZ: Do you have direct descendants from the Geismar family?
Cahn: Yes, my grandmother Berta Geismar came from Breisach. She married my grandfather Hermann Kahn and moved to Cologne, where I was born, by the way. I did not know her as she died young. In addition to that I have other family links to Breisach. I even visited the town as a child. I stayed with my parents at the Hotel Bären, which was owned by Emilie Schwab, an aunt of my fathers.
BZ: Had you already heard of the work of the Association for the Promotion of the Former Jewish Community House and what are your thoughts about it?
Cahn: I have a nephew in Israel, who drew my attention to the Association and its website. I think it is fantastic, what is being done here. There must be lots of other things the people who work here could do with their free time. It certainly cannot be taken for granted. On top of that the work here is often met with resistance from the local population. It is always easier to say “no” and allow everything to remain the same.
What are your thoughts on the discussion concerning the red circle in the street leading up onto the hill, in which a swastika can just about still be seen?
Cahn: I think it should be taken out. The traces of the Nazi rulers should be removed. The discussion over the renaming of Rheintorstraße as Judengasse, is however in my opinion not so important. It is enough that there is an additional sign, on which the previous name is shown. The most important thing is that the “Blue House” is here and that the plans, which have been developed, are carried out.
BZ: What kind of an impression of the conference will you be taking home with you?
Cahn: They were very touching days. I have met many nice people and have learnt a lot from people, like Günter Boll, who knows a great deal. And of course it was great to meet all the relatives.