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

Marriage & Work in Germany

After the wedding we moved to Bonn since Michael meant that there, in the former German capital, we would be able to open an art school and teach children of all nations.

He rented for us a one room apartment in the center of town and began to study political sciences at the university. I found work as an operator at the South-Korean embassy, right across the street from the synagogue we went to for Sabbath services.

Eventually we moved to a newer and larger apartment in Bad-Godesberg, one of Bonn’s nicer neighborhoods; I started a new job at a company that produced aerial photos and I also gave art lessons at the children’s forum in town.

Nonetheless, by the time we had been in Bonn two years I couldn’t stand living in Germany any longer and returned to Israel alone, hoping that Michael would soon follow.

Uncle Walter had his apartment on Mount Carmel, and invited me to stay with him; for a short period I worked in one of Steimatzky’s bookstores and later I found a full-time job teaching art in various schools in town. I called Michael in Bonn regularly hoping that he would change his mind, but he refused to join me. Since I definitely did not want to harm our relationship after only two years of marriage, and Michael wasn’t yet sure what he wanted to do about his conversion, I decided to give us both another chance and returned to Bonn.

Synagogue in
Bonn, Germany
I was surprised and delighted to hear upon arrival that Michael had decided to carry on with his religious studies in order to complete his hard conversion to Judaism.

Our Jewish wedding ceremony took place on the 17th of September 1978 in the synagogue of the Jewish Community in Bonn, two months after Michael’s completed conversion.

In the meantime we had moved to a bigger apartment and on December 7th, 1979 our daughter Rebekka was born. In our new home, where we would remain together for the next sixteen years, we lead a Jewish life; we kept Kashrut (Jewish dietary Laws), observed all Jewish festivals and regularly attended prayers at our synagogue.

Our community would often ask Michael to address school classes after Sabbath services on a variety of Jewish issues and they elected him to join the congregation’s representation.

We were both very actively involved in community life; we entertained and were invited by many people as well. Michael would teach me all he knew about Judaism and every Friday evening I would read the weekly Torah portion, an experience I cherish and observe to this day.

Still, I kept hoping that my husband would change his mind and agree to return with me and our daughter to live in Israel. With the help of my friends there and material I got from the Israeli embassy, I tried to keep in touch with the country and to learn and better my knowledge of Hebrew as best as I could. Michael would periodically even start making plans for our move to Israel, but in 1993 I had to realize and finally accept the fact that he would never go with me, his attachment to Germany was much too strong for that.

This time I had no doubts anymore, I had given Michael enough time to make up his mind, I had waited long enough and now I had to make my own decisions.

On March 21st, 1994 shortly before Passover, just the two of us, fourteen year old Rebekka and I, arrived in Israel. Michael did neither keep his promise to join us here later and since I had nothing left for some kind of postal marriage arrangement I wrote to Germany and asked him for a divorce in June of 1994. The procedure took three long years and made adjusting to our new life even harder, especially for Rebekka who had never been here before.

Michael joined the green movement in Germany in 1979 and became very active in the organization’s offices in Bonn while I chose to stay home and take care of our daughter. After the Tschernobyl catastrophe I joined a group of women within the Bonn Anti-Atom and Peace movement. Like me, these women were mothers and we were all deeply concerned about the environmental conditions our children were growing in.

Even though Michael expected me to work again, I did not take up a job until Rebekka turned five years old and I could send her to the local kindergarten. I then went selling vacuum cleaners or I sold cosmetics and taught Portuguese at home. When Rebekka grew older I gave her and other children art lessons at the Jewish Community until Rebekka’s jealousy and aggressiveness forced me to stop this project.  Michael had been working in a metallurgic plant for a couple of years and because of Rebekka I had taken only a part time job.  Now that she was older I worked a full time job as an assistant for the Green political group at the Bundestag. My interest in this issue lead me closer to the green movement. Through a peace education painting exhibition organized in the town hall of Bonn, I got a full time job at the green movement. Between 1984 and 1988 I worked for three Green Party deputies in the Bundestag and functioned as their counselor for Brazilian issues. In 1989 I was sent to Brazil on behalf of the German green movement, where I worked for a whole year at the Rio de Janeiro Mayor’s office.

In 1992 Michael decided to start training as a geriatrics nurse and has been working at the geronto psychiatric ward of the Rhein Clinic in Bonn ever since.

With Michael’s consent Rebekka and I took between 1981 and 1989 a yearly trip to Petropolis to visit my parents. When Rebekka was still a little girl we would sometimes fly over and stay in my parents beautiful country house for five long months, when she grew older and had to go to school we would stay for four to six weeks. Only once, in 1981 did Michael come over for a visit.

During the year I worked in Rio de Janeiro in 1989, Rebekka and I stayed the first six months in my former atelier in Petropolis, the rest of the time we moved to Rio; while there poor Rebekka broke a leg and since she wished to return home, in July of 1990 we flew back to Germany. The same year in September my parents came for a visit to Bonn and in October my mother passed away. My father moved to a nursing home in Sao Paulo where I would visit him regularly from Bonn and take Rebekka with me, later I would fly from Israel to see him. When he passed away in July of 1997, I was in the hospital standing by his bed,  since then I only returned to Brazil only once.

Hope in the Future
As much as the Land of Israel and Judaism were main issues in our marriage, so were our active involvement on behalf of a better and safer world for our children, our tireless concern and collaboration in projects to establish a better ecology and better social and cultural conditions for all human beings. These were the solid fundaments our life as honest and believing Jews should be built on. To our regret, most community members did not share our feelings in this respect and their sympathy for us turned soon into open dislike. As members of the green party and the peace movement, we were suddenly seen as scatterbrains, communists and even as traitors of the Jewish state. Especially in 1982 during the war in Lebanon which we regarded as an Israeli invasion, they tried to drive Michael away from the community under the accusation that he was an anti-Semite. The two of us had taken part in a rally against the Lebanon War carrying a self-made banner on which we had written: “Bonn Jews for negotiations with the PLO/against Begin’s and Sharon’s Politics in Lebanon”.  In this manner we wanted to protest against the statement made by Heinz Galinski, the late president of the Central Board of the Jews in Germany, saying that all Jews in Germany would support the Israeli Government and the war in Lebanon. The Jewish Community even went to court against us and though we won the case, Michael was made to resign from his position with the congregation representation and his membership card was taken away from him. Eventually he was thrown out of the synagogue by force, the board of the synagogue called the police and Michael was dragged out of the building before our very eyes. The only right he was still entitled to was to be buried at the Cemetery of the Jewish Community.

To Be
I helped Michael the best I could during this difficult time, I wrote letters, made phone calls and talked personally to every person I knew, hoping to no avail,  that Michael’s rights as a member of the Jewish Community would be returned to him.  As much as I felt for Michael, I also deeply regretted the fact that now I too would have to stay away from the synagogue and the services I loved so much.