Georgina Meyer-Düllman. Identity Through Art
My Jewish Roots: The Book Childhood Adulthood Germany 1 Israel 1 Germany 2 Israel 2 Yad VaShem Gallery

First Stay in Germany

My stay in Germany was also a trip back to my Jewish roots and I hoped that my relatives in Switzerland and England and those who had returned to Germany after the war, would be able to answer all the questions I had.

My parents who wanted someone to keep an eye on their daughter all alone in far way Europe, had informed a couple of my relatives that I was staying in Munich and soon I began to receive invitations to spend my holidays with them and their respective families. Since I hoped to find out as much as possible about our family's history, I gladly obliged. Especially I loved to visit with my father's cousin Karl Herzfeld in Munich, and Walter Meyer, in Bad-Pyrmont. He and his wife would invite me to spend the winter holidays with them and I enjoyed the walks in their company in the snow covered, beautiful landscape. But most of all I enjoyed the interesting talks I had with Walter about our family.

In his possession were documents, old letters and a diary that had belonged to his and my father's aunt, the young Rebekka Meyer, one of Rabbi Samuel Eprahim Meyer's nine daughters. When I was ten years old my parents took me with them on one of their trips to Europe and I remember visiting Rebekka Steinthal nee Meyer, in her house in London; she must have been in her nineties then.

Though my great-grandfather, Samuel Ephraim Meyer, had been the Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Community of Hanover for forty years and his wife, my great-grandmother, Lina Meyer, nee Siesskind, was a descendent from the family of the well-known and greatly respected Sage Rabbi Akiva Eger, The Older (1720, Halberstadt - 1758, Pressburg), most of Rabbi Meyers's children, nine daughters and four sons, completely assimilated later in life.

Sadness, Destruction
I hoped that Walter Meyer would be able to answer some of my questions including why a Rabbi would give his children such typical German names as Max, Klara or Siegmund; only four of them had been given Jewish names. When our daughter was born, I gave her the name of Rebekka, after Rebekka Meyer.

Georg was the Rabbi's youngest child and my grandfather whom unfortunately I have never met; his name inspired my parents to give me the name of Georgina.

Georg Meyer studied mechanical engineering and worked for the Siemens plant in Erlangen, he planned and managed the construction of a bridge near Nuremberg and became an imperial officer during WWI.

On Friday evenings he would proudly wear his captain uniform to synagogue trying to make also his friends understand, how important it was for them all to feel as German Jews and defend their German fatherland. On December 15th, 1916 he was killed by a grenade at Verdun and Field Marshall Paul von Hindenburg sent a condolence letter to his brother, Dr. Siegmund Meyer, then a counselor with the Hanover Senate, in which he deeply regretted the family's loss. In his letter, Paul von Hindenburg also appeasably referred to the shameful command to count the Jewish soldiers serving in the German army (die Judenzaehlung) , issued only a couple of months before in order to prove that Jews were shirkers, avoiding to do their duty to the country.

Even though my father had been only four years old when his father fell, he was always very proud of him and this might have been also the reason, why he remained in Germany until 1939, he was convinced that as the son of a Jewish officer who had fallen for his fatherland, he would be spared.

City in Brazil
At the beginning of the sixties I began to realize how deep my connection to Judaism was and I decided never to leave it, but to develop and strengthen my ties with my religion as much as possible. I strongly felt then as I continue to feel now, that only if I believe in G-d and follow His path and commandments, have I the chance to become a better human being. Of course I realized how little I knew about Torah and Judaism and how much I would have to learn yet. But my love for Judaism made me feel very close to Rabbi Meyer, my great-grandfather, and a wonderful feeling as if he wanted me to follow his path and was giving me his spiritual legacy, came over me.

During the summer holidays of 1965 my parents visited me in Munich and from there took a trip to Israel. I can still remember the many tears of frustration that I cried when I waved them goodbye at the train station, as I was not allowed to join them. Only in the autumn of 1973 would I eventually make my dream come true and travel there myself.

In May of 1966 I finished my studies and returned home to my parents in Brazil and I then went to work for several years in various companies in Rio. But since I very much wanted to start working on my own and I also needed more time for my Torah and Judaism studies, eventually I resigned from my last position as the manager of the printing dept. at a big publishing house and returned to live in my parents' house in Petropolis, My parents allowed me to use the guest room in their house as a studio and I started by giving art lessons to four children. I then organized the first art exhibition for my students, and though rather small, it received the attention required to attract enough students and enabled me, to open an atelier of my own. With my parents' financial help, my brother built for me a beautiful atelier where the next five years I would, with much success, teach fine arts, graphics and ceramics to almost hundred children and adults.

Much to my regret, due to an illness I had to postpone again my plans to travel to Israel in 1971, but in 1973 I eventually made up my mind to go and even though I loved my job dearly and knew I would miss my students and loyal assistants, I decided to take a break from work of five months and spend them all in Israel. I realized that except for some Hebrew lessons that I took with this dear old Jewish lady from Russia, in Petropolis, I wasn't getting to my Jewish roots any closer.

I advised my three assistants who would be running the school in my absence, made all arrangements needed, packed five suitcases and with a big drawing portfolio under my arm I was all set to go.