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19 th century stories
The first Jews of Dorsten
Dorsten 1820: "Violence in
the synagogue itself"
Eisendrath Family in Dorsten
The family name
Julia Eisendrath - portrait of
a Jewish Mama
Eulogy at the grave of
Julia Eisendrath
Jewish real property in Dorsten
Nathan Eisendrath emigrates
David Samson Eisendrath
Establishing in the USA
Migration of Jews from Europe
to North America
20 th century stories
Visits to Europe since the 1920s
1933: A Protest Letter to
President Hindenburg (1933)
The Letter in full text
The Eisendrath branch in Zaandam/Netherlands
The last jewish place in Dorsten
Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath
Charles R. Eisendrath: An
identity and family history that
are inextricably linked (1999)
21 st century stories
Adam Eisendrath: The German Heritage Quest - February 2000
Dorsten contacts and
visits 2001-2007
Family Reunion 2010
The journey of two prayer books
Who and why?
The Dorsten research group
and the Jewish Museum
of Westphalia
 
* The signature in the header above
is that of Samson Nathan Eisendrath
(from the year 1840)
 
 
Adam Eisendrath:
The German Heritage Quest (February 2000)


The Heritage Quest begins tomorrow. Never have I felt anticipation like this. I’m excited, very excited and not really cared at all. I know four words in German, and know no one in Dorsten, but something is waiting there for me, and I’ve already waited this long, so I don’t see any point in waiting any longer.
I’ll be taking the train from Paris-Gare de L’Est to Mannheim, and from Mannheim, I go to Oberhausen. From Oberhausen I go to Dorsten. I literally have train tickets and a backpack that I’m packing as we speak. I’ll either get German Marks tomorrow, or tonight and I’m brining traveler’s cheques of course…I don’t know anything about this town, but I soon will, and I see where my family, my heritage started.
So many things are taking a lower priority in comparison to this trip…
Later…
It’s been a couple of hours, well maybe and one or two and I’ve begun to feel really calm. I spoke with the Eisendraths in Belgium, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them, probably sometime this April. This family quest thing is really having an impact on me, I and feel it already. Paris is one thing, without a doubt, that really affects me, but in a different way, obviously. I’ve seen a lot of history in Paris, things left by kings and revolutions, but none of it really seemed to be, to have, a real connection to me. I have no idea what I’m going to find in Dorsten, but its history is kind of, in a way, my history. At least during the early 1800’s…we’ll see what happens in Germany.


I’ve officially begun my voyage. I’ve taken the train from Paris to a small town called Metz. I stayed on the train and now we go to Germany. Apparently there are a couple of stops before we reach Mannheim which is where I get on a different train and go to Oberhausen, and from there a local train to Dorsten.
I spoke with my father early this morning, and he gave some key names to keep an eye out for, as well as some literature to pick up. I’m really anxious to get there, even though I know I have something like another six and a half hours to wait…
It’s kind of bizarre going by train from Eastern France into Germany. I just can’t help getting a feeling that I’ve kind of felt when I read the books MAUS and MAUS II. I know the trains the Nazis used didn’t have windows, or even seats, but it feels like I’ve kind of been sucked back in time, seeing the gray sky and the industrial buildings around the train tracks and train yards. It’s probably not the most positive perception I could get on the way to finding my roots, but I can’t ignore the feeling. I guess in a sense, it brings me closer with part of my people’s history, two generations before me. I guess that was what part of this trip was about, finding my roots, regardless of their depth, from the 1800’s and Napoleon with the first Eisendrath, to the 1930’s and 1940’s when someone equally as influencing in Europe as Napoleon came to be and marked a point in time, and a people, only two generations before me.
Later…
It’s been a couple of hours and I’m almost done with the second third of my trip to Dorsten. When I got off the station at Mannheim, I can’t ever remember being so scared. No one spoke English or French…So now; I’m on my way from Mannheim to Oberhausen. I hope to God I make it there tonight.
I sat next to a nice German kid on the way down here until he got off the train at Köln. I passed the time talking with him, and calmed down a lot. I guess I hadn’t realized how much of stranger in a strange land I’d be in the places of my ancestors. Go figure, but then again, life is never what you expect it to be, and that’s what makes it fun.


I’ve been in Dorsten for a while now and even just walking around the neighborhood of the hotel, I think of gotten a sense of the pace of life here, at least on Friday and Saturday morning. It’s about 11:00am and things are pretty calm. The Heritage Quest, up to this point, seems to have been a success. I made it here.
…Later…
I’ve been in Dorsten since last night. After checking into a hotel called La Vie, oddly enough, a hotel with a French name, I got my bearings and went downstairs for some dinner…I eventually found myself at the bar drinking a “gut” beer.
Today, though, has been the most significant and the most moving. I found the Jewish Museum, which I quickly learned doesn’t have a single Jewish person working there, but they were unbelievably nice to me. I got brought upstairs and set down in a quasi-library. They actually gave me a copy of Jews in Dorsten to take home with me. In that book, man, they’ve got almost a complete family tree, up to Grandpa Marvin’s father, Nathan. My lineage was clear, in fact, it couldn’t be clearer.
I went to the street where the Eisendrath house once stood, Wiesenstrasse or Wiesenstraße. Oddly enough, and probably not coincidentally, the “underground” synagogue was only a couple of doors down from the Eisendrath house.
I met a cousin, Frau Johanna Eichmann. A cousin, albeit distant, who was also the director of the museum. Not Jewish, in fact a nun at Saint Ursula’s. She told me a lot about the history of Dorsten, how it was totally destroyed during World War II, including the original Eisendrath house. As it turns out, the most interesting part of the history was before
World War II.
Samson Nathan Eisendrath actually had 17 children with his wife, Julia, rather than the 21 that I had originally thought. The dissertation I had read two summers ago had some faults, which Frau Eichmann point out for me.
I really have begun doing what I came here to do. I’m learning about my family, specific details, though it would be nice if I spoke German. Since I don’t, I made due with a German/French-French/German dictionary. Oddly enough, they didn’t have an English dictionary, but I was able to decipher it after the translation into French.
Tonight, apparently, I’m meeting with a historian of some sort, with a particular interest in the Eisendrath family. She is supposed to show me the graveyard, Samson himself, and hopefully the family matriarch, Julia. It’s been a full day and there is more to follow. I couldn’t have asked to be treated nicer, and I feel very lucky to have met these people. The only question that is somewhat up in the air is when I’m going back to Paris. But, that is a distant thought amidst all these other events.
Being Jewish here in Germany really seems to be something different than in Paris and of course the United States. The Germans I spoke with in the bar last night were overly zealous about keeping the past in the past, and concentrating on the future. In principle, it makes sense, but it’s easier for a non-Jew to say. I didn’t feel any hatred, not to say I advertised my Jewishness. I just mentioned that I wanted to see the Jewish Museum. I didn’t sense too much discomfort with the people I was speaking with, except maybe for the whole confidence in speaking English thing.
On a less intensive not, I have to say that the little “stadt” of Dorsten is a lot cleaner than Paris, and as I’ve driven through this little town, I can’t help make the visual comparison between Dorsten and suburban Milwaukee. If the similarities are there now, I can imagine that they would have been there when the Eisendraths moved to the Chicago-land area. I could swear that I was in a more “industrial” section of Fox Point, particularly near that little area near Pandl’s, where the red church is on the curve. Dorsten is small. I feel good, and thankfully not as overwhelmed as I was when I got off the train in Mannheim.
I saw the cemetery. I saw the gravestones of Samson, Julia, and their first son Baruch. It was an interesting setting in a small forest called Jüdenbusch, the Jewish bush, also known as the “small forest”. The Jewish cemetery was small, with some very old moss and ivy covered tombs and gravestones. Apparently, WW II had taken its toll on this city as well as the surrounding area. The whole place looked a little worse for wear. I was moved though, and I can truly say that I’ve accomplished 80% of what I came here to do. As for the other 20%, we’ll see what happens tomorrow.
The Jewish family historian was Elisabeth Cosanne Schulte-Huxel. She was amazing, showing me some old documents concerning family history over a gradual period of time, with records of Eisendraths in Antwerp, Belgium.


Today is the last full day in Dorsten. I’m happy with what I’ve done here, and today I hope to finish what I came here to do. Today, I hope, will fill the void that I’ve had since I read that book two summers ago.


To date, I’ve learned quite a bit about Dorsten and my family. Dorsten’s history had a turn for the worse on March 22nd, 1945, when the Allies bombed it. It was because of this that the original Eisendrath house on Wiesenstrasse does not exist anymore. Dorsten is located on the Lippe River, and the Wesel-Datteln Kanal, two run-offs from the Rhine River. This region isn’t actually in Westphalia as I had originally thought. It is on the boarder, with it. It is actually in the Ruhrgebiet region. The region is known mostly for farming, but being on the Westphalian boarder, it also shows signs of heavy industry, such as coal, which is very evident, and oil.
Apparently, coal mining became popular in Dorsten around 1890, 10 years after the last Eisendrath had left this small town. Before that, shipbuilding was the popular trade, as there are records of it everywhere, like in the statues and on the fountains around the market place, as well as on the Rathaus, the town hall.
The air is fresh here, as the coal mining is done underground, and the people are nice. In a town of 90,000 there are 70 or so Jews, mostly new Russian Jews who aren’t intimidated by Germany and its history. The Jewish cemetery just outside of the city is small, and, in effect, represents the idea of Jewish community. Two men were buried next to Julia Eisendrath. One was liberal, the other more conservative in his ways of Judaism. Apparently, they were not such good friends for that reason in life. Now that they area buried next to each other, hopefully they’ve reconciled.
The condition of the cemetery itself is rather poor. I not only heard this before, but I saw it for myself. The lack of a Jewish community throughout the year, as well as the damage that was done during WW II, I’m assuming on March 22, 145, has left the place looking very worse for wear. The gravestone and tomb of Samson Eisendrath, our family Patriarch, is cracked and covered in moss and ivy. The Hebrew is still legible, but the stone looks fragile and I fear in another 50 years, it won’t be in such shape. Baruch Samson, the first son, and Julia Eisendrath’s tombstones and headstones are in better shape than Samson’s, but not by much. Baruch’s in particular, is faded and worn away, but I luckily was still able to read it. The Eisendrath family, together with the Meyer-Wolff family donated some money a while back, but other than two plaques on the old gate of the cemetery, it is hard to see where the money could have gone. Hopefully, I can facilitate something and have the local government do something, though I’m not too keen on the government’s so far.


I’ve been back in Paris for a full day now. I’ve really had time to reflect on everything that I’ve seen and experienced. As I said to myself back in Dorsten, I’ve accomplished 100% of what I went there to do…This morning, I was feeling very pensive about life in general and I realized that what I got to do was really specially; something one maybe gets to do once in a lifetime. As I keep repeating the details in my head, everything Schwester Eichmann and Elisabeth had told me, it feels like I’m still there. I hope I never lose these memories.

Adam Eisendrath visiting the Jewish cemetery (2000)

 
   
 

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