Hiring a researcher for German Ancestry #germany
Over the years, we have been able to trace my husband's paternal family quite comfortably, but his maternal side is quite a mystery with no family that we have ever found. We do have some records but are missing a big part of the picture. I am leaving much out in the following description but this will give an idea as to the complexities involved.
His mother, who was born in Passau, identified herself as being Jewish, but after her death, we discovered much to my husband's shock that none of this was quite reality. When we visited the Passau archives we learnt that she was born to an unmarried Catholic woman, was baptized and her mother put down the name of a Polish Jewish man as the father. She married him thirteen years later but our sense is they were not together for much of that time period. They lived in Dusseldorf and then fled to Amsterdam, living in the area the Jews were kept during WW11 (the man was sent to Westerbork but was released, a fascinating historical story) where they both died in the 1940s. Last year we found that they were buried in a Jewish cemetery near Amsterdam with Hebrew gravestones. As they left Dusseldorf, they were able to send my mother-in-law to live with that man's brother and wife in the United States.
When my husband had his DNA tested, we discovered that it was impossible for this man to be his grandfather. Not quite certain why his grandmother used this man's name as the father, but we do have some theories. Every person who we have looked up as being a relative have basically all come up on my husband's paternal side. It is as if his maternal side never existed.
I know that these missing pieces of his background are weighing on him. I was wondering if anybody has a researcher they could recommend that we could work with to find some answers in a case like this.
Thank you very much in advance for any assistance.
I would also be interested in hiring a researcher (private investigator?) to work on a mystery of a German relative, preferably someone who is local to Magdeburg, or who works with people who are.
Wolfgang Dehne (nee Klappholz) was my first cousin, born in Magdeburg in 1934 to my father's brother Alfred Klappholz and his non-Jewish first wife Ilse (nee Jordan). When Alfred and Ilse divorced in 1941, Wolfgang remained with his father and was subsequently put into a Christian orphanage for protection. In 1943, Alfred married Else (nee Lecker). In 1944, Alfred and Else were deported and murdered at Auschwitz. Wolfgang came under the care of a a non-Jewish foster family, the Dehnes. When given the choice in 1947 to stay with the Dehnes or move to the U.S. to be with our grandmother and other relatives, he chose to stay with the Dehnes. Wolfgang was never adopted by the Dehnes, but when he was in his 20's he legally changed his surname to Dehne.
I know a little bit about Wolfgang - that he married and divorced Hannelore Mollt in Magdeburg and was married a second time (not in Magdeburg), but I do not have details. He was thought to have had a least one daughter (not sure by which wife), but again, I have no information. Wolfgang died in a nursing home in Magdeburg in 2012.
I have been helped enormously by a prominent Magdeburg citizen who has been instrumental in raising funds to plant the solpersteine and to rebuild the synagogue. She helped me obtain documents regarding Wolfgang, but we've both hit a wall. And, she has been so kind that I hesitate to ask her to do more.
I have more information - old addresses and neighbors' names - and have written certain organizations and people who have not responded. So, those would be leads to follow up. My goal is to locate any friends or relatives of Wolfgang's (or the Dehnes) and to learn more about his life, such as profession.
It is known that he refused to acknowledge his past or Jewish. In 2007 Wolfgang attended a solpersteine ceremony in Magdeburg commemorating his father and stepmother, after initially denying that he was Wolfgang Klappholz. However, he refused to greet his stepmother's relatives who came from Israel for the ceremony. This tells me his past abandonment continued to traumatize him throughout his life, despite the fact it saved his life.
I am also coming to terms with the fact that my late father (his uncle) never mentioned him to me nor apparently kept in touch with him. I just found out about Wolfgang during the past year. I would now like to find out as much as I can.