Re: Fairy Tales my Father Told Me #belarus

Erika Gottfried

I think a kinder (and actually more accurate) way of describing these stories is "family legends" or "family stories".  My sense is that a good many of these stories aren't made up from a whole cloth and will often contain a kernel of truth.  Here's my family legend:  The first Gottfried that came to Hungary (where my father’s family is from) was from Germany—a Catholic priest who got mixed up with the Reformation and then had to run for his life.  Somewhere between Germany and Hungary he fell in love with a Jewish woman and converted to Judaism. (That’s a lot of religions in one lifetime.)  And since that time all Gottfrieds in Central and Eastern Europe are Jewish.  My grandfather told my father this story. I asked my father if he thought it was true and he said, “I don’t know; but I do  know that your grandfather didn't have enough imagination to make it up." Of course, that hardly rules out earlier ancestors making up the story and passing it down to my grandfather.  And I've also heard that apocryphal stories of a gentile connection are quite common (not sure why).  Still ... while I know that there are gentile Gottfrieds from Central and Eastern Europe, nearly all Gottfrieds that I’ve encountered (via records and documents and in person) from that part of the world are in fact Jewish.  Even those who aren’t Jewish often turn out to be converts to Christianity.  So perhaps there’s a kernel of truth in this story there somewhere. It's been a goal of mine ever since I heard the story, at age 8 or 9, to see if I can track down the kernel--kind of my "white whale" you might say.  In my imagination I refer to this supposed ancestor as "The Priest."                                                                                                                                                                                            Erika Gottfried -  Teaneck, New Jersey

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