No. 9: Wandering Jews

I’ve started to fill out my Application for Naturalization According to Article 116 (2) Basic Law.  The Federal Republic wants to know all about me, as well as information on my son, my parents, and my grandparents.  Where is everybody born?  When did everybody land?  Where and when did my parents get married and divorced?  What about my grandparents, where did they live in Berlin?  What were they wearing?  What color was their parachute?  Is it true that Orthodox Jewish girls give the best head?

Occasionally I suffer from poor reading comprehension, an outshoot of my impatience that’s rooted in my chronic rage, and yet I swear to you the National Archives told me to look at the State Archives, and the State Archives sent me back to the National Archives.

Jesus, research is so annoying and time-consuming.  I could be here all day on the archival merry-go-round, I could be here all year, I could write a PhD.  Can’t the Federal Republic of Germany just hand me my papers and send me on my way to Berlin Gay Pride?  I want Esquire magazine to pay me to party to Turkish hip-hop, goddammit!

Bottom line: Just another plot against the Jews.

I don’t even think a wildly functional family group has all this info on one another, which brings to mind existential questions about how fleetingly each generation stays in the mind, let alone the files, of the next.  We’re here so very briefly, and only maybe, maybe our grandchildren are going to have a clue about the tracks we left, even if we do a great job as parents.   Do you have the address where your grandparents were living when they got married?

This supports my general argument that all children should be given family names.  Unless you want to accelerate the process by which you unload and reject the past, in which case Cody and Madison are perfect choices.

So now I am asking my mother to help me fill in the blanks.  What does she remember?

It seems kind of unfair that I am asking her to help me make sense of my father, since he left and she provided the food, shelter, clothing, holidays, reading list, bat mitzvah invitations, and the terrific pots and pans she gave us as wedding gifts.  On the other hand, if I blog about Henry then she’s off the hook where some of the darker chapters are concerned, at least for now.  This could be a good thing for the whole family.

My mother is concerned about the tax implications if I become a New German Jewess.  She wants me to contact her tax attorney to discuss.  This is maternal advice I will be ignoring.  On the other hand, my mother also tells me that I have a distant cousin, a young Israeli photographer living in Berlin, and that he has asked her about doing an apartment swap.  Maybe he would like to swap apartments with my family in Los Angeles?  Yes, please, mother dear, work that Jewish Geography and let’s cook up a little cultural exchange.

Then I found out from my dear friend Haley that a friend of hers, a prolific director of film and TV (see today’s image for a hint), is also first-generation German Jewish, and he got his dual citizenship, and in fact if McCain had won he’d be there now, hitting the Berlin party circuit with Brad Pitt while I sit here being given the high hard one by the National Archive.

So I dashed off a little note to him:

Hey [Haley’s Besty]:
I’m a writer and a first-generation German Jewess trying to address all sorts of deep-seated personal issues by applying for German citizenship through the Federal Republic’s “We’re Sorry About The Holocaust Please Come Home” Program, which I understand from Hallie you know a thing or two about.

This is a long-procrastinated personal project that I even decided to start a blog about, despite my blog ambivalence, or blence, as I think they’re now calling it.

If you have any time to share with me your own process of pursuing dual citizenship, I’d be very interested to hear about it.  The main piece of advice I’d like to ask (before even hearing if you have any time to share on this, but, you know, ask and ye shall receive), is how much geneological research and leg-work you did in advance of submitting your application.  I’m neck deep in naturalization records, because I’m not sure of the exact date that my father and his family landed in NYC (and there are other holes in the story that I might be able to supply the bureaucratic process if I search diligently enough), and I’m not sure if I need to be.

I would be utterly delighted to come to your neck of the woods for some face-time and provide caffeine, alcohol, pretty much any mood-altering substance if you give me enough heads-up, or perhaps a pile of marzipan (did you grow up on the stuff as I did?) so that I’m not just take-take-take.  Or a phone chat would be splendid, too.

Thanks for the possibility of penciling me in,

Kathy Ebel


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