MyHeritage Helps German User Track Down a Jewish Family’s Descendant to Make a Long Overdue Apology

MyHeritage Helps German User Track Down a Jewish Family’s Descendant to Make a Long Overdue Apology

MyHeritage enables millions of users to discover their past and empower their future, and we have played a part in many incredible stories. Recently, a German MyHeritage user, Thomas Edelmann, spoke with us and requested help. His motive? To make a long-overdue apology. Today, we’ll be sharing Edelmann’s story, a moving tale that was recently featured on CNN

Born in Germany over 25 years after the Allies defeated Hitler, Thomas Edelmann found himself on MyHeritage in search of someone he had never met and that he never knew existed. He was in search of someone connected to a story dating all the way back to 1930s Nazi Germany. Upon contacting MyHeritage, Edelmann explained that his grandfather, a man named Wilhelm Edelmann, was the owner of a hardware store that had been located near Northern Bavaria in Bad Mergentheim. As a retiree, Edelmann had found himself interested in genealogy and used MyHeritage on a regular basis to build his own family tree.

Thomas Edelmann

Thomas Edelmann

Growing up, Edelmann had always heard rumors about the family business. He had suspicions that the business may have been Jewish founded before being confiscated by the Germans during WWII. Uncovering Nazi Gestapo tax records, Edelmann was able to recently confirm this fact. As it turns out, the Jewish founders had been forced to sell the business back in 1938, following the Nuremberg Laws. In these same records, Edelmann was able to find the name of the original owner, a man by the name of Benjamin Heidelberger. Upon making this discovery, Edelmann became determined to track down this man’s descendants to make a long-overdue apology, resulting in him reaching out to MyHeritage for help.

How MyHeritage Helped Thomas Edelmann Make Contact

In recent years, MyHeritage has played an important role in a series of genealogy breakthroughs. When a member of our support team was on the phone with Edelmann, Edelmann mentioned his search. Captivated, that sales member then relayed the story to our company’s research team. Upon hearing the story for themselves, our researchers became determined to help Edelmann on his search for the descendants of Benjamin Heidelberger.

Setting out to find any information about Heidelberger and his family, MyHeritage’s researchers were able to unearth two very important records: Heidelberger’s gravestone located in northern Israel, as well as Heidelberger’s naturalization record from British Mandatory Palestine. Using these records, our research team set out to do what they do best: build a family tree.

Gravestone image for Benjamin and his wife

Gravestone image for Benjamin and his wife

After building Heidelberger’s family tree using the platform, our researchers were then able to locate his living descendants. This was no small task, as the MyHeritage research team only had the name “Benjamin Heidelberger” to work with.

Still, with 12.7 billion records available on MyHeritage, the team was hopeful. With a little hard work and ingenuity, they were able to discover that Heidelberger had a living granddaughter, a woman in her 80s named Hanna, who was living near Haifa, Northern Israel.

Reaching out to the descendant Hanna

After locating Hanna, MyHeritage reached out to her on Edelmann’s behalf. Initially suspicious, Hanna became excited when she was made aware of the reason she was being reached out to. As it turns out, Hanna had visited her grandfather’s original shop in Bad Mergentheim in the 1980s and even had a photo of herself standing outside.

Hanna outside the shop during a 1980s visit to Germany (Hanna center) (Hanna Ehrereich credit).

Hanna outside the shop during a 1980s visit to Germany (Hanna center) (Hanna Ehrereich credit).

She also had a photograph of her grandfather’s shop framed on her wall to remind her, she said, of her family’s heritage on a daily basis. 

Benjamin and his wife, Emma

Benjamin and his wife, Emma

After speaking to the MyHeritage team, Hanna said she was aware that her grandfather, Benjamin Heidelberger, had been forced to sell the property by the Nazis and that the money he received from the sale had been used to purchase German exit visas for Benjamin, his wife Emma, and their son (Hanna’s father).

Edelmann was anxious to speak to Hanna and asked MyHeritage to facilitate a call. Before the call, Thomas wrote the following to Hanna:

“I believe that if my family supported the injustice your grandparents experienced, it is our duty to take this into account and take over responsibility at least in getting in touch with you to listen and learn.

 As I am part of the Edelmann family I want to take the first step and listen to you. I do understand that you might not see any benefit for yourself personally in talking to me. But with me understanding and being able to teach my children and possibly other family members about the impact of particular historical decisions, this might help them to make better decisions in their lives.

 Currently, the political climate in our country is poisoned. There is a new antisemitism upcoming. I want to make sure that at least my family will never again be responsible for injustice experienced by others, but stand up to take part for the weak”.

After receiving this letter from Edelmann, Hanna agreed to speak with him and, soon after, the pair talked for over 90 minutes. On this telephone call, they discussed their families’ stories in German. The conversation was moving, according to Hanna, who told MyHeritage, “He was very moved and said he was so happy to hear the story from my side he was almost crying.” Edelmann was able to make his own apology for the injustice that Hanna’s family faced in Nazi Germany, an apology that he felt he was responsible for making for so very long. This motivation to make this apology was what fueled his desire to use MyHeritage to track down Hanna and it is simultaneously what fueled our team to help in the search. Edelmann shares that he was deeply moved by the call and that the two continue to stay in touch he even plans to travel to Israel in the future.

Uncover Your Past With MyHeritage

This story is but one of many when it comes to our users using MyHeritage to uncover their past and form a greater appreciation for history’s events.  

We’re happy to have helped Edelmann make contact with someone he searched for so tirelessly, forming a friendship that they can remember forever. It is our honor to have played such a crucial role. 

We hope that you will be inspired to uncover your own family history, forming an appreciation of your ancestors and the hard times that they faced. What stories will you discover on MyHeritage? What doors will you open? We’re here to help you find out!





The email address is kept private and will not be shown

  • Peter J Anderson

    November 21, 2020

    Wonderful story. I am an Air Force veteran (retired after about 28 years of service, 10 years active duty and the remainder — about 18 years in the active reserve) who never served in Germany BUT very interested in Germany and its history in the 20th century. My oldest grand daughter — Alison Sue Thompson — now works in Berlin and lives in Cottbus, where she achieved her second Masters degree.

  • Barbara Anthony

    December 13, 2020

    Thank you to MyHeritage staff for their hard work and for sharing this story – I wish there was a way for MyHeritage (and similar organizations) to reach out to holocaust deniers?

  • Debbie Gadouas

    December 13, 2020

    Is Shona Wise related to the Breckinridge family. My father is a Wise, born in Abingdon, VA, related through his grandfather who married a Breckinridge. The Breckinridge family originated in Scotland.

  • Janis Fisher

    December 13, 2020

    I have been trying to trace my maternal grandfather. I’m having a hard time finding information. My mother told me he was full blooded Cherokee Indian. I would like to find his heritage.

  • Thomas E Hamilton

    December 13, 2020

    It made me remember there was a Japanese family that had to go to the US internment camps so they sold their plant nursery in SoCal to my great-grandfather. I’ll have to check with my aunt to see if the Japanese family bought it back after the war.

  • Karin Stålhammar Hansson

    December 13, 2020

    I must have relatives in USA. But where do they live? And WHO are they? When my grandmother Mina Svensson went to China as a missioner in 1898, her halfbrothers emigranted to the States 1902. They were four siblings I think. So where are they?. I have the namns and their date of birth, And I think it would be possible to find them through MyHeritage. Is it?

  • C. Thomas Molson

    December 14, 2020

    I’m sorry to say that an apology is not enough for all the wrongful doings, (to many to list here) the Nazi regime committed on the Jewish people. I feel an appropriate apology Mr. Edelmann should make, is to give back the property that was wrongly taken away from the Heidelberg family. Now that’s an “Apology”.

  • iris j dempster

    December 16, 2020

    Hi agree that the property should go back to who it belongs to the family that way its closure for every one

  • Bryan Fishkind

    December 16, 2020

    Great and inspiring story! Thank you.

  • Teresa Pollin

    December 17, 2020

    To: C. Thomas Molson
    Thank you very much for your comment. You are the only one mentioning reparation for stolen property. If not giving Hannah the store, at least return to her at least half of the value of the store. Her grandfather, Benjamin, son of Josef Hildberg did not live long enough to see the apology. On the other hand, Thomas Edelmann, is certainly a righteous man – kudos to him.