31 March 2023
When she metaphorically stumbled on a ‘stumble stone’ online, back in 2005, Jackie Kohnstamm was to begin the long journey to piece together her family’s past.
In this interview, British author, Jackie Kohnstamm, speaks to Helen Tovey, editor of Family Tree, about her new book: The Memory Keeper: a Journey into the Past to Find My Family.
‘Stolpersteine’ (aka ‘stumble stones’) are miniature memorials, devised by artist Gunter Demnig, which have been and continue to be embedded in the pavements outside the last free home of former Jewish residents, before their Nazi deportation to camps and worse during the Second World War. They are intended to be an unavoidable visual every day reminder of the individual lives of those who were murdered in the Holocaust.
About Jackie's family
Jackie’s mother had escaped to England just in time, and it was here Jackie was born in 1947. The past was never far away, however, as Jackie grew up, nudging at the edge of family life, but the topic was not up for discussion, so raw and complicated were her mother’s memories.
Piecing together the past
Later in life, visits to archives, talks and presentations, serendipitous moments – online and in person – all helped Jackie to piece together and make sense of the past. They helped her research and reflect on the lives of her relatives, and their relationships to one another, their personalities, their choices, limitations and consequences. They help her understand her family, what they experienced and how they reacted to the chilling landscape of growing Nazi power, through the 1930s.
It has got to be one of the most moving accounts of Holocaust family research that I have read, insightfully penned by a British Holocaust descendant who does not wish to be defined by the past.
About The Memory Keeper
The Memory Keeper is published by Canongate www.canongate.co.uk at £18.99 (hardback), ISBN 9781838858018 on 20 April 2023. Pre-order ships 20 April 2023. Also available as Kindle £9.49, and audiobook narrated by the author £21.87. To find out more, please click here.