The atmosphere of silence and ignorance that pervaded all things related to my1 family history have raised many questions in my mind, most of them have remained unanswered until today. Growing up as a child without a grandfather and a grandmother (both passed away long before I was born), is not an easy thing to bear. Yet one cannot regret the things that have been denied him, if he is unaware of what has been lost. This is how I grew up.
I never experienced the joy of being held in my grandfather’s arms, or warmly embraced by my grandmother. Scars have remained, of which I became progressively aware as the search for my family roots continued. I wanted to learn more about the past, but sensed that both my father (Matanya Hecht) and my uncle (Yacov Hecht) had scars of their own, painful memories that they avoided dwelling on and hid in dark corners. I always felt a special bond with Germany, not of hate, but stemming from the need to understand the circumstances that made me what I am today. I was lucky enough to be close to my father, yet I felt that many links in the chain (that comprised my family history) were missing. A chain that has only two links is hardly a chain at all. It becomes one when all the links are there, each attached to the one that precedes it. My own chain remains incomplete. The reluctance to enquire into my family history has haunted me, yet I was also tortured by my ignorance. It is just a tiny piece in a large puzzle. Each piece is a name. Behind each name a person is hidden. Each person is a world unto himself. I believed that I, at least, will be able to tell my children who they are and where they came from. I too was plagued by the demons that haunted my uncle (of which he wrote in his article). The silence silenced me. I, too, was overwhelmed by fear and by anger.
I never knew my grandmother. I knew her name but I didn’t know her life. Who was this woman? What did she love? What did she fear? A feeling of deep regret, of opportunities forever lost, fills my heart as I dwell on this subject, regret for not being able to overcome the anger and the fear. Yet this belated awareness, this insight, have been arrived at too late and my ignorance remains to this very day. The need to understand one’s inner self is shared by many. Mine is connected to the long chain that originated in Germany and branched off to other countries. Visiting my family’s birthplace, where my own self has originated, evoked feelings that are hard to describe. My father and my uncle’s courage in facing their fears endows me with the strength to come to terms with what I have been deprived of – my family history – and with the fear that stems from it, which lately has begun to dissipate.
I envy my friends (who were lucky enough to know their grandparents). I would like to understand where we went wrong. How can we make sure that the next generations, at least, will know where they came from? Uncle Yacov’s project is now our own (mine and my family’s). It’s never too late to begin: we have all embarked on a healing journey which will help us to come to terms with our own past.
This chapter was written by Lyran Hecht, son of Matanya, seventh generation descendant of the Hecht family ↩