On Sept. 19, the Fayette County Genealogical Society hosted a program concerning one family’s German history and the tragedies suffered at the hands of the Nazis for being of the Jewish faith during the Holocaust.
William “Bill’ Otten, whose German name is Ottenheimer, presented the program. Prior to the Nazi takeover of the German government, Bill’s grandfather and great uncle owned a very successful textile business and factory. They were forced to sell their factory and business to the Nazis and then were taxed out of any money received from this sale. Most German Jews were lucky if they were able to retain enough money for visas and passage out of Germany.
Bill’s father and his uncle were able to escape out of Germany as young men. Bill’s father obtained a visa to the United States and his uncle retained one to Cuba. You ask why Cuba? The Jewish German people got visas from any country they could to escape. Soon after losing almost everything, Bill’s grandfather died, a death brought on by the loss of his home and business. His uncle obtained a visa for their mother for Cuba as well, but the Nazis would not allow her leave. The Nazis were afraid she still may have money from the sale of the business. She was finally taken to a concentration camp where she was killed. It took Bill’s uncle eight years to find out what happened to their mother after WWII when she was reported as a missing person in the Holocaust.
Bill also shared the history of his family included in books that told of the Ottenheimer family, a prosperous and prominent Jewish family before the Holocaust, maps of the area in Germany, and documents detailing his family. Bill did much of his research at the Columbus Metropolitan Library which has an extensive genealogical department on the third floor with thousands of books and directories. Bill recommends the use of this library to anyone researching the genealogy of their family.
To top off this very well-founded history of his family, Bill and his wife Susan took a river cruise in Europe and took a side trip to Goppingen, Germany, the ancestral home of the Ottenheimers. While there, Bill and Susan were well-received by the townspeople and got to tour the factory that his family once owned, which is still in operation today. The officials of the town also arranged for a ceremony to lay a plaque with the names of his grandfather, grandmother, father and uncle on it in front of the house where they once lived to commemorate what the family had lost during the Holocaust.
The ceremonial group then moved to the gravesite and memorial of his grandparents to pay their respects. Bill related that he was glad to have been able to piece the story of his family together, find family members he didn’t know existed, and make this pilgrimage to Germany. However, he wants the telling of his family’s story to help prevent anything like the Holocaust from ever happening again. This was a program well worth attending.
The Society has an upcoming program you will not want to miss, especially if you have obtained your DNA analysis from Ancestry or one of the other companies or anticipating doing so. On Monday, Oct. 16, Kelli Bergheimer will be presenting Genealogical DNA for Beginners. You will learn how DNA can help you find out your ethnicity and break down brick walls in your research. You will learn how to determine genetic relationships and determine which type of test you should take. If you have your DNA results, you will learn how to make sense of your matches and get the most out of your Ancestry DNA, Family Tree DNA, and 23 & Me.
Kelli is a writer, teacher, editor, small business owner, and nature photographer. Her two small businesses are Geo-Centric Learning, a geography-based middle school curriculum company, and Mess on the Desk, a genealogical organization company with an accompanying blog. She holds a bachelor’s in biology, and master degrees in both education and business management. She is pursuing a PHD in industrial and organization psychology. Kelli is a member of the Association of Profession Genealogists, and the Genealogical Speaker’s Guild. Kelli is the Central Ohio DNA Interest Group Facilitator. If you are researching the genealogy of your family or thinking you might like to, don’t miss this program.
Kelli Bergheimer will be presenting her program at 7 p.m. on Oct. 16 at the Fayette County Genealogical Society meeting at the Carnegie Public Library at 127 S. North St., Washington Court House. Please enter the building using the doors on the Catholic Church side of the building. The Society’s business meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. to give ample time for Kelli’s presentation. If you have any questions about this meeting or the Fayette Country Genealogical Society, contact Cathy Massie White at ReunionMassie@yahoo.com or 740-333-7227.