Losing One’s Roots

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Where do you come from ?  Who are your people, your family ?

How else do we find an anchor to place ourselves within the turbulent streams of time ? 

Understanding where I come from has become more important over the last few years and goes hand in glove with understanding who melody is.  Similar sets of questions with different time spans.

FamilyRootsThere’s a truth most people choose to ignore in the name of being modern and proud to be ‘civilised’.  It’s that all of us here are the descendants of those who performed the most barbaric and depraved acts possible in order to survive.  Some may even be descendants of the those who endured the most barbaric acts such as cannibalism, though most of those potential ancestors won’t have survived.  However, the chances are that mine and your ancestors murdered, raped, enslaved and performed genocide over the last hundred millennia or so and probably several times across the many generations.

In our modern world that thought is going to make a lot of people uncomfortable.

I often wonder at what my ancestors did or endured to result in me being here.

This question is only of quite recent importance and there’s a poignant gap in exploring the family roots that makes finding any answer impossible.  The idea of family lore being passed down from generation to generation is something of a social, even a racial memory.  It’s part of our mythology that goes back to tribal roots.  There’s a break in this link between my father and grandfather.

My father was only 15 when his father died.  Exploring and learning family history was not on my father’s priority list at that time.  From what I can gather there never was a father/son dialogue between the two of them.  Much has been lost.

The event that puts these questions in contrast is an evening meal around the dining table sometime in 1947.  My grandfather was reading a letter that had arrived that day and it sent him in to a fit of rage such that it stood out in the mind of the young boy my father was at the time.

We know that a branch of the family came to England in the early 1700’s from East Germany or possibly Poland.  And it seems that a level of contact between the branches was maintained over the generations.

Yes, the family was Jewish.  We believe that my grandfather was raised in the Jewish faith.  There’s no sign of religion in his later life nor in the upbringing of my father – WWI did strange things to a lot of people and their belief systems.

That dinner time letter that my father remembers was telling my grandfather that not a single member of the european family branch had survived the war and the camps.

I first heard this tale some 40 years ago just a few years older than my father was when that letter was read.  I had about the same interest in it as he did at the time – growing boys have much more important things on their minds.

This family hinterland has assumed much more significance as I’ve got older and I’ve pumped my father for anything he can remember, which is minimal and mostly conjecture.

It’s quite frustrating to consider so many unknown and unknowable family roots lost to history in so recent a time.

This post was written on Yom Kippur – the day of atonement


Written for the #WickedWednesday meme of “Roots”.  Why not go check out the other posts by clicking on the button.

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