Happy 4th of July!

English: Statue of Liberty Gaeilge: Dealbh na ...

English: Statue of Liberty Gaeilge: Dealbh na Saoirse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy 4th to all of you who live in the US!

I know my country isn’t perfect. I have never been blind to the mistakes our country has made nor am I blind to our continuing problems with racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, and violence. And I know, especially after traveling this summer, that people all over the world love their countries and are proud of their history, their culture, and their heritage despite the mistakes and problems of  those countries.

But this is my home, and I am deeply grateful to my brave ancestors who had the courage to come here to seek a better life and freedom from oppression and prejudice and violence.  I am so grateful to my immigrant ancestors: Hart Levy Cohen, Jacob Cohen and Rachel Jacobs, Bernard Seligman, John Nusbaum and Jeanette Dreyfuss, Gerson Katzenstein and Eva Goldschmidt, Isadore Schoenthal, Joseph and Bessie Brotman, and my grandfather Isadore Goldschlager, who came by himself as a teenage boy and walked across Romania to get to this country, leaving his parents and siblings behind.  How can I ever take that for granted?

So today I say happy birthday to the United States of America and thank you for giving my ancestors a place of refuge and opportunity and a home for their children, their grandchildren, and all their descendants.

English: Fireworks on the Fourth of July

English: Fireworks on the Fourth of July (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Mystery Photo: One More Try

Although my stats show a lot of visitors, I’ve gotten very little feedback on my last two posts (and I am very grateful for the feedback I did receive), so perhaps I am just asking questions that can’t be answered—or that need to be answered by an expert.  But here is one last attempt to figure out who these people are in this photograph.  Please let me know what you think.  On the advice of my cousin Pete, I consulted a few web sites providing fashion information for the purpose of dating photographs, and it seems very likely that this photograph was taken sometime between 1890 and 1905.  I can’t narrow it down much more than that based on the clothing.

Who are these people?

Who are these people? When was this taken?


Today I am focused primarily on the man on the right, who is labeled Onkel Adolf.

Onkle Adolf


I have only found two Adolfs in the extended Seligmann family.  One is Adolf Arnfeld, Bettina Seligmann‘s husband, but this is Bettina, and she is not in the group photo, so that makes no sense.

Bettina Arnfeld nee Seligmann

Bettina Arnfeld nee Seligmann


The second Adolf was Adolf Seligman, my three-times-great-uncle who immigrated to Santa Fe and settled there.  He did make a trip to Germany in 1900, so this photo might have been taken then.  Adolf was born in 1843, so if the photo was taken in 1900, he would have been 57.  Certainly the man in the photograph looks about that age.

adolf 1894 europe trip

Date: Saturday, November 10, 1900 Paper: New Mexican (Santa Fe, NM) Volume: 37 Issue: 226 Page: 4

Fortunately, Adolf’s granddaughter Davita recently contacted me after finding the blog, and she sent me this photograph of her grandfather on a trip to Egypt.  Adolf died in 1920 when he was 77, and I would guess he was between 65 and 70 when this photograph was taken.  Is this the same man as Onkel Adolf in the group photo above?

Adolph Seligman in Egypt

Onkle Adolf

To me there is similarity in the eyes, mouth and ears, but the older man has a fuller face (just as the older “Babetta” has a fuller face than the younger one).  What do you think?

The other man in the group photograph is labeled Onkel Jakob.  Since I can’t find a Jakob Seligmann who would fit into this photograph, I am wondering whether it could be James Seligman, the brother who immigrated to England and whose estate was the reason for all those Westminster Bank family trees.  Perhaps James was born Jacob and Anglicized his name when he immigrated?  Since I have no birth record for James, I do not know.

(UPDATE:  I checked with some people from the German Genealogy Group, and several people confirmed that James was not a name used for boys in Germany in the 19th century; the German equivalent was Jakob.  James was an English name.  Thus, I am now persuaded that this was in fact James/Jakob Seligmann.)

Onkel Jakob


If the two men are Babetta’s sons Adolf and James, it would make sense that the two women are either their wives or their sisters. Adolf married Lucille Gorman in 1902 when she was nineteen and he was sixty.  The woman standing next to Adolf does not look that young nor is she labeled with any name that looks like Lucille or Lucy.  James Seligman’s wife’s name was Henrietta, and the name above the woman next to him does not look at all like Henrietta.

So could they be sisters of Adolf and James? Could the two women be two daughters of Moritz and Babetta whom I just had not yet found?  After all, I had no birth record for James, but only learned of him because of the settlement of his estate.  Perhaps there were other children born to Moritz and Babetta.  There is a six year gap between Pauline’s birth in 1847 and James in 1853, time enough for two more daughters.

One other reason I think this is possible is that Davita told me that her grandfather Adolf’s favorite sister was Minnie, depicted with him in the photograph in Egypt.

gramdfather Adolph and great aunt Minnie_rev


But I have no record of a sister named Minnie.  Both Bernard and Adolf named a daughter Minnie, so this does seem to suggest there was a Minnie in the family.  But….neither of the women in the group photo is labeled Minnie.

Here is a closeup of Minnie from the Egypt photo and a closeup of the woman on the left in the group photo.

Minnie Seligmann


Is this Martha Oppenhimer?

Same person? The nose and mouth are similar, as is the hair.  Again, the woman in the Egypt photo has a fuller face, and it’s hard to compare the eyes since she is squinting into the sun, but it could be the same person, couldn’t it?

But that name above her head doesn’t look like Minnie to me.

Tante Glori

So who are these people? I am as confused now as I was when I started.  Please let me know what you think!

Mystery Photos II: Oppenheimers

I learned something important from my first Mystery Photo post.  Keep it simple.  Too many photos makes it too confusing for people (and for me).  Although a lot of people read the post, almost no one commented.  I did go to Facebook and got some feedback about whether or not these two photos are both Babetta Schoenfeld Seligmann.  Most people said yes, some said no.

old babetta closeup

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

For my second post involving the mystery photos from the Michel album, I want to start with some photographs that are clearly labeled as members of the Oppenheimer family and that present no mystery.  The Oppenheimers were the children of Pauline Seligmann, sister of my great- great-grandfather Bernard.  She and her husband Maier Oppenheimer had five children: Joseph, Martha, Anna, Ella, and Moritz, according to the Westminster Bank‘s family tree for Pauline.

Pauline Seligmann Oppenheimer Family Tree by Westminster Bank

Pauline Seligmann Oppenheimer Family Tree by Westminster Bank

The Michel album included clearly marked photographs of the two sons, Joseph and Moritz, and one of the daughters, Ella.

Joseph Oppenheimer

Joseph Oppenheimer


Joseph Oppenheimer from Butzbach, son of Tante Pauline

Joseph was born in 1875 and died at Dachau Concentration Camp in October, 1940.

Moritz Oppenheimer

Moritz Oppenheimer

I wrote about Moritz Oppenheimer in detail here.  He was the wealthy industrialist who owned the horse breeding farm and who died in May 1941, under suspicious circumstances after being “questioned” by the Gestapo.  Moritz was born in 1879.

How old do Joseph and Moritz appear to be in these photos?  I am guessing between 25 and 35, meaning the photographs were taken between 1900-1910.  Does that seem right?

The third clearly labeled Oppenheimer photograph is this one:

Milla Oppenheimer

To Wolfgang and me, this seemed to say Milla Oppenheimer.  But neither Joseph nor Moritz Oppenheimer married a woman named Milla and there was no sister named Milla.  I posted the photograph on Facebook for some feedback, and one member of Tracing the Tribe pointed out that the M could really be an E, except for the dot over what seems to be an I.  Then another member pointed that the “dot” was really part of the framing around the photograph, not part of the name written on the side.  So I believe that in fact this is Ella Oppenheimer.

According to the family tree for Pauline Seligmann Oppenheimer prepared by the Westminster Bank, Ella never married or had children and died during the Holocaust, although I cannot find her in the Yad Vashem database.  I did find in the JewishGen database entitled “German Towns Project”  an entry for Ella Oppenheimer from Butzbach,  who had been born there June 21, 1878 and had moved to Frankfort in 1939,    (That database was created by asking officials in numerous Jewish towns to list their former Jewish residents and their fate, if known.)  But that database had no information about how or where she died.

So these three photographs are pretty clear to me.  The next possible photograph of one of the five Oppenheimer children is the woman at the center of the photograph I posted last time.

Who are these people?

Who are these people?


Here is a closeup of her face.

Anna Oppenheimer maybe

It certainly looks like it says Anna Oppenheimer over her head, doesn’t it?

label for Anna maybe

Anna, another sister of Joseph, Moritz, and Ella, was born in 1877, and she died in 1908.  In my earlier post, I assumed that the older woman in this photo was Babetta Seligmann, meaning the photo would have been taken in about 1890 or so since Babetta was born in 1810.  But Anna certainly does not look thirteen in this photograph.  How old does she look?

If I guess that she is 30, that would mean the photo was taken in 1907.  That would make Babetta almost a hundred years old.  Or maybe it’s not Babetta.  Maybe the older woman is Pauline Seligmann Oppenheimer, who was also born in Gau Algesheim.   Paulina was born in 1847, so she would have been sixty in 1907.  That woman could be sixty (not that sixty-year old women look like that today).   But then why is she labeled Grandmother?  Pauline was not Franziszka Seligmann’s grandmother; she was her aunt. In the photo of Joseph Oppenheimer, she is referred to as Tante Pauline.

Franziska’s grandmother from Gau-Algesheim was Babetta.  Fred Michel’s maternal grandmother was Rosa Bergmann Seligmann; she did live in Gau-Algesheim.  She was born in 1853 and died in Gau-Algesheim in 1899.  But that woman does not look 45, does she?  I still think the elderly woman is Babetta.

But then how could that be Anna Oppenheimer?  Am I misreading the name above her head?

So my only question for today: could that be Anna Oppenheimer?

That’s it for this post.  I will return to the other people in this photo in a later post once I have some feedback.  I am trying to narrow down the date so I can piece together the other parts of this puzzle.


Mystery Photos: Part I

In Fred Michel’s album there are a number of photographs that are either unlabeled or labeled with names that we (Wolfgang, Suzanne, and I) cannot match to a person.  I am hoping to get some input from all of you to help us in this endeavor.  Please leave your thoughts in the comments so others can respond.

First, this photo of two women appears to be labeled either Anna or Minna (on the left) and Franziska on the right.  I cropped and enlarged the face of Franziska.   First: Is it Anna or Minna? Anna makes more sense since there is no Minna in the family as far as I can tell.

And is the woman on the right the same woman as the woman in the two photographs below it? That woman is Franziska Seligmann Michel, Fred Michel’s mother.

Anna and Franziska


Franziska who

Fred Michel and Franziska Seligmann Michel  Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Fred Michel and Franziska Seligmann Michel
Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Franziska Seligmann Michel

Franziska Seligmann Michel

If it is Anna and Franziska, then the Anna could be Franziska’s sister Anna, who married Hugo Goldmann, and whose family including their three children were all killed in the Holocaust.  Perhaps the little girl in the photo is their oldest child Ruth, who was born in 1918.

Next mystery set.  The first photograph is of Emil Ochs and his wife Bettina Erlanger Ochs, discussed in my last post; I then cropped just to Bettina’s face.  Is the woman in the photo below, which is unlabeled, the same woman?

Emil Ochs and wife, daughter of Mathilde Erlanger geb Seligmann

Emil Ochs and wife, daughter of Mathilde Erlanger geb Seligmann

Bettina Erlanger Ochs

Bettina Erlanger Ochs

Unknown---is it Bettina Erlanger Ochs?

Unknown—is it Bettina Erlanger Ochs?

The men do not appear to be the same man, do they? If it’s not the same woman, there certainly is a strong family resemblance, but Bettina did not have a sister, as far as I’ve found.

Finally (for now), there are these two photographs.  The first is definitely Bettina Seligmann Arnfeld, the daughter of Hieronymous Seligmann:

Bettina Arnfeld nee Seligmann

Bettina Arnfeld nee Seligmann

The same dog appears to be in this photograph.  But is it?

Who are these people?

Who are these people?

According to Wolfgang, the label on the bottom right says Grandmother Gau Algesheim, so perhaps this is Babetta Schoenfeld Seligmann.  Here is Babetta in an earlier photograph:

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Could these both be the same person?

old babetta closeup


I think they could both be the same person.  Do you?  I don’t know when Babetta died, but she was born in 1810.  Even if she is 80 years old in the later photograph, the photograph would have been taken by 1890.

If so, who are all those other people? The man above Babetta is labeled Uncle Adolf, I think.  The only Adolf I’ve found in the family is Adolf Arnfeld, the husband of Bettina.  That might have made sense, given the dog appearing in both the family picture and the portrait of Bettina.  But Bettina was born in 1875, and she didn’t even marry Adolf until 1900.  And the woman next to Adolf does not look like Bettina.  And the name over her head appears to be Anna Oppenheimer.

And I don’t think the woman on the left is Bettina either.  Here’s a close up of that woman.

Is this Bettina Arnfeld?

Is this Bettina Arnfeld?

Finally, the names in the left hand margin.  The man appears to be labeled Uncle Jakob, and I can’t read at all the name for the woman sitting below him—-Tante (aunt) something?  Ends with an I?  Not a clue.  I can’t find an Uncle Jacob or anyone to match the Aunt he is paired with.  More on this photo in the next post.

As for the dog, if Bettina Arnfeld was a young woman when holding that dog, what year would this be?  Bettina was born in 1875, so if she is twenty in that photo, this could be around the same time as the large group photo with what appears to be the same dog.  I am confused!

So…please do share your thoughts with me.  It often takes a fresh set of eyes to see what I may be missing.



My Ever-growing Seligmann Family Tree

Of all my family lines, I have had the best luck with my Seligmann line. First, early on I found my cousin Pete, Arthur Seligman’s grandson, who had a wealth of information about the New Mexico Seligmans.  Then I was lucky to find people in Germany who provided me with the copies of vital records for Moritz Seligmann and his family as well as a book about the Jews of Gau-Algesheim.  From those sources, I learned the names of many of my German ancestors.

Then my cousin Wolfgang found my blog, and he has provided me with invaluable information and documents as well as his continuing help in deciphering and translating what he found in his cousin’s suitcase.  From there I was able to find my cousin Suzanne, who has provided me not only with more information and more documents but also with priceless photographs of many of my Seligmann relatives.

And now I have connected with two more cousins: George, an American descendant of Hieronymous Seligmann, a brother of my great-great-grandfather Bernard, and Davita, a descendant of Adolph Seligman, also my great-great-grandfather’s brother, who also settled in Santa Fe..  And from George and Davita I hope to learn even more about the family.

Right before I left and then while I was away, Wolfgang and Suzanne sent a bunch of new documents and new photographs that I want to share.  I am not even sure where to begin.  I think I will start with the newly discovered Westminster Bank document revealing the names of all the children of Hieronymous Seligmann; it answered some of the questions left open by my posts about the list of heirs to the estate of English James Seligman.

Westminster Bank family tree for Hieronymous Seligmann

Westminster Bank family tree for Hieronymous Seligmann

This must have been the family tree that Elsa Oppenheimer had found erroneous as described in her letter of July 9, 1984.  She had asserted that Hieronymous did not have a daughter named Johanna or Elizabeth (Bettina, on the tree), as the Bank’s tree indicated.  But Elsa also said that Moritz did not have a son named Adolph, and she was wrong about that.  I now think she was also wrong about Johanna and Bettina.  How do I know she was wrong?  Because there are pictures of both of these women in the photograph album that belonged to their cousin, Fred Michel.

First, here is a picture of Johanna Seligmann Bielefeld from the Michel album.  Despite Elsa’s protestations, Johanna was clearly the daughter of one of the Seligmann sons, and there is no reason to think that she was not a sibling of Jack, Rosina Laura, and Mathilde, as indicated on the Bank tree, and thus a daughter of Hieronymous.

Johanna Bielefeld nee Seligmann

Johanna Bielefeld nee Seligmann

As I posted earlier, Johanna married Alfred Bielefeld, and they had two children, Hans and Lily, both of whom immigrated to the United States.  Alfred and Johanna were both deported to Terezin, where Alfred died.  With the help of the archivist at Terezin, I was able to locate Alfred’s death certificate.

Albert Bielefeld death certificate from Terezin

Alfred Bielefeld death certificate from Terezin

From what I can interpret here, Alfred died from myocardial deterioration and cellulitis.  Johanna did not die at Terezin, but was later transported to Auschwitz, where she was killed.

As for Bettina, this beautiful photograph appears in the Michel photo album.

Bettina Arnfeld nee Seligmann

Bettina Arnfeld nee Seligmann

Wolfgang located a page in German for the stolperstein placed in her memory in Muelheim-Ruhr.

Stolperstein for Bettina Seligmann Arnfeld

Stolperstein for Bettina Seligmann Arnfeld   By RalfHuels (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

According to this page, Bettina was born in Gau-Algesheim on March 17, 1875, the daughter of Hieronymous Seligmann and Anna Levi.  She attended school in Bingen and married Adolf Arnfeld in 1900.  Adolf was in the fabric and clothing business in Mulheim-Ruhr, and he and Bettina were living there when their son Heinz was born in 1902.  Adolf died in 1927, and Bettina was still living in Mulheim when she was deported to Terezin on July 21, 1942.  She died six months later at Terezin from pneumonia.  Here is yet another chilling death certificate issued by the Nazis.

Bettina Seligmann Arnfeld death certificate from Terezin

Bettina Seligmann Arnfeld death certificate from Terezin

Unfortunately, I was not able to locate these death records while at Terezin so was unable to locate the specific gravesite where Albert Bielefeld and Bettina Arnfeld were buried.

Bettina’s biography also discussed her son Heinz.  After initially working for his father’s company, Heinz became an attorney and worked as a clerk in the court system until dismissed in 1933 under the anti-Semitic laws adopted by the Nazis.  He was imprisoned for a period of time in 1938 at Dachau (mostly likely in the aftermath of Kristallnacht), but was released.  He immigrated to England in 1939, where he married Liselotte Schondorff in 1945.  Heinz died in England on May 4, 1961.  I have not located any descendants.

Based on the photographs and the other information and documentation, I think it is quite evident that both Johanna and Bettina were the daughters of Hieronymous Seligmann, the younger brother of Bernard Seligman, my three-times great-grandfather.

There were two other names I was not certain about when I wrote about the list of heirs to the estate of English James Seligmann: Anna Wolf and Bettina Ochs.  I think I now have answers for those as well, with the help of Wolfgang and the photographs from Suzanne.

The list of heirs to English James Seligman’s estate had listed Anna Wolf right below Johanna Bielefeld and Bettina Arnfeld and referred to Johanna as her aunt.  It also indicated that Anna had died in December 1935 in Mulheim-Ruhr, the town where Bettina had lived.

heirs list p 1

On the Hieronymous family tree from the Westminster Bank, depicted above, one of his daughters, Mathilde Wolf, is listed as having a daughter Anna, who died in 1935. This certainly seems to indicate that the Anna Wolf on the list of heirs was the daughter of Mathilde, sister to both Johanna and Bettina.  That assumption is further supported by this photograph of what appears to be a stock certificate with the name Mathilde Wolf geb. (born) Seligmann written upon it.  I don’t know what happened to Mathilde or her husband or why she herself is not listed as an heir instead of her daughter Anna.

Mathilde Wolf geb Seligmann

There are several photographs of unidentified couples from the Michel album.  Perhaps one of these is Mathilde Seligmann Wolf and her husband; perhaps one is a photograph of Bettina Seligmann Arnfeld and her husband.  I don’t know.  I will post some of these in a subsequent post and ask for help from all of you.

As for Bettina Ochs, I had been quite perplexed by her name on the list of James Seligman’s heirs.  As I wrote, she is listed as Frau Bettina Ochs from Milan, Italy.  Ochs thus appeared to be her married name, so I had thought her birth name must have been Seligmann or Oppenheimer, but the list names her brother as Arthur Erlanger, suggesting that Bettina’s birth name was Erlanger.  So who was she, and how was she related to the Seligmanns?

Heirs List p 2

I was stumped.

Until I saw this photograph:

Emil Ochs and wife, daughter of Mathilde Erlanger geb Seligmann

Emil Ochs and wife, daughter of Mathilde Erlanger geb Seligmann

It says “Emil Ochs and wife, daughter of Mathilde Erlanger nee Seligmann.” So Bettina Ochs was the daughter of a Mathilde Seligmann, who had married someone named Erlanger.  But which Mathilde Seligmann?

Thanks to Wolfgang, I now have an answer.  Wolfgang found a page on Geni.com, another genealogy website, for Mathilde Erlanger nee Seligmann, which identified her as the daughter of Moritz and Babetta Seligmann. I looked back at my notes for the children of Moritz and Babetta, and sure enough there was a daughter named Mathilde for whom I had had no information beyond her birth date of January 31, 1845, which came from the records I’d obtained from Gau-Algesheim.  Now from the Geni page, the list of heirs, and the photograph, I know her married name and the names of her children, Bettina and Arthur, and I know Bettina’s husband’s name, Emil.  Unfortunately, however, I do not know what happened to Mathilde, her husband, Arthur or Bettina and Emil.  I don’t know why Bettina was listed as living in Milan or why she had an English lawyer, according to the list of heirs.  I don’t know why her brother was only listed as a secondary heir.

The only other record I have for Bettina so far is from the JewishGen database labeled “Switzerland, Jewish Arrivals 1938-1945,” which includes a listing for “Bettina Ochs-Erlanger (Bettina Oberdorfer).”  That listing says her nationality was Italian and that she arrived in Switzerland on August 5, 1944.  Where did she go from there?  Why is she also listed as Oberdorfer? What happened to Emil?  I don’t know.

So as always, some questions have been answered, leading to more to be answered.  Next post I will look at some of the other photographs from the album of Fred Michel.

Thank you and Back to work

First, I want to thank you all for the kind words of comfort I received about Cassie—from those who emailed me or commented on the blog or on Facebook.  It really did help to know that others understand how our pets are family.  For those who are interested, I have added a few photos of Cassie when she was younger to the blog post.

Secondly, it’s time for me to get back to the real work of this blog—genealogy.  It’s been over a month since we left for our trip and since I’ve done any serious genealogy work.  I think having a break like this was really important.  I tend to be compulsive about what I am doing, and I love the genealogy work so much that, unlike when I had a real job, I could spend endless hours lost in my research and then blogging about it.  I have been driven to keep digging, keep blogging, since I retired a year ago, and I think I worried that if I stopped, I would lose steam and never get back to it.

So taking a month off was probably a very good thing.  Now I have new motivation for continuing my work, having seen so many new places and learned so much about Jewish history and history in general.  And I have a whole new branch of my family to begin—my paternal grandmother’s family.

But before I do that, there are some other new things to report and to share.  My Seligmann family tree continues to provide me with new members and new documents and new photographs.  I am trying to be sure I understand who is who before posting, but will share those soon.  I also have new documents to share regarding my Schoenfeld family tree as well as various other tidbits here and there.

So tomorrow there will be a post with new information about my Seligmann family.  Thank you all once again for your thoughts about Cassie and for following my adventures around Europe.

Cassie  July 2000-June 2015




We said goodbye to our wonderful dog Cassie this week.  It was a terribly hard and upsetting decision, but she was failing, and her quality of life had deteriorated to the point where we knew we had to make the right decision for her.  We are at peace. She lived a good and  long life for a dog.  But we are also incredibly sad.

Cassie was a pound puppy.  We got her at the Thomas J. O’Connor animal shelter in Springfield, Massachusetts, in the summer of 2001.  The police had picked her up after finding her tied to a tree in a trailer park in Chicopee, and no one would claim her as theirs.  She had been in the pound for only a few days when I saw her on Petfinders.com and suggested we go take a look.

She was skinny, dirty, and overly excited.  Harvey and Maddy were skeptical, but I was in love, and I knew right away that she was sweet and gentle and loving.  And I was right.  Cassie never once growled at a person or a cat, and she only growled at dogs if they invaded her space, which wasn’t very often.  She never, ever hurt anyone.  She loved everyone.  When we told family and close friends that she was gone this week, everyone described her as loving and sweet and gentle.

August 2001

August 2001

Our vet estimated that she was about a year old when we adopted her at the end of July, 2001, so we assigned her a birth date of July 31, 2000.  She took almost no time to adapt to living with us.  She was clean and playful and smart.  She could run like the most graceful of animals.  The first time we took her to the beach, she ran all the way up a high dune.  We raced after her, fearful we’d never see her again, but there she was waiting for us at the top.  It took a long time before she was ever let off the leash again.

Cassie was with us during that dreadful fall of 2001 in the aftermath of 9/11.  She was such a positive distraction.  When my family, all shaken still by the events of that September, gathered for Thanksgiving, it was Cassie who made us laugh.  She was still new and puppy-like, and she’d run from one member of the family to another, excited and happy.

My dog and me November 2001

My dog and me November 2001

November 2001

November 2001

Once she settled in, she became calm and unflappable.  No matter where we took her—to the Cape, to a new house, to a temporary apartment before our new house was ready, to our cottage—she adapted almost instantly.  We even once dragged her all the way to Geneva, New York, so she could visit Maddy at college.  She was great in the car, great with children, and great with us.  I often felt badly that she was growing up in a home with no small children since she would get so excited any time she saw a young child.  And children loved her.  She would kiss them, and they would hug her.

So gentle with Nate as a five month old

So gentle with Nate when he was a five month old


And with Nate when he was three

About the only thing she didn’t like were elevators.  Can’t say that I blame her.  She liked going to the groomer, she liked going to the vet.  She liked strangers, she liked anyone.  She didn’t bark at people at the door or those who entered our home. She never jumped on people or pushed them around, despite the collie herding instinct.  She was definitely not a watchdog.  She was a love dog.

Cassie and Maddy


And our cats Smokey and Luna adored her.  From when they were little kittens, they would curl up on her, and to the very end of her long life, Smokey still treated her like his mother, kneading his (clawless) front paws into her belly and nuzzling his nose into her fur.  The only thing that seemed to light up Cassie’s eyes as she declined was Smokey.  She would even chase after him a bit to play.


Look how gently she handled Smokey as a kitten






Cassie and Smokey


Cassie was an incredible companion—on long walks in the neighborhood or the woods or the beach (even though she didn’t love the beach much) and just being with us in our home.  She was always right there with us wherever we went.  I can’t tell you how much we will miss her and how much we agonized over her decline and our final decision to give her peace.  But she had been there for us, and we had to be there for her.

So we are at peace.  She is no longer distressed and confused, and we can look back with deep love and gratitude for the fourteen years we had her with us.  Goodbye, Cassie.  You will always be our dog, and we will always keep you in our hearts.


Happy Fathers Day!

Today I want to pay tribute to all the fathers in my family tree, in particular my own father, who is always a source of inspiration for me.  He is passionate about many things—most of all his family, but also art, music, politics and human rights, the environment, cats and dogs, food and drink, and, of course, architecture.  His passion for all of these things is matched by his knowledge about them and his continuing curiosity about everything, except maybe computers.

Happy Fathers Day also to my husband, Harvey, with whom I also celebrated our 39th anniversary this weekend.  I could not have asked for a better father for my own children.  He’s been my parenting partner from the beginning—a totally engaged, loving, caring, and attentive father.  My daughters are sweet and kind and compassionate because they have him as their father.

Happy Fathers Day also to my son-in-law Brian.  He is a wonderfully devoted father whose face lights up with joy whenever he is with his sons.

And Happy Fathers Day to all the other fathers out there as well.

What follows are photographs of all the fathers in my direct lines for whom I have a photograph or at least a photograph of their headstone.

amy and john 1954 abt

My father and me

Eva Schoenthal and John Cohen, Jr. 1923

Eva Schoenthal and John Cohen, Sr. 1923  My paternal grandparents

headstone for emanuel, eva and john n cohen

My great-grandfather Emanuel Cohen’s headstone, as well as that of my great-grandmother Eva Seligmann Cohen and their son, my grandfather, John.

Jacob Cohen headstone by Todd

Jacob Cohen, my great-great-grandfather

Bernard Seligman

Bernard Seligman, my great-great-grandfather

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Moritz Seligmann, my 3x great-grandfather

Isadore Schoenthal, my great-grandfather

Isadore Schoenthal, my great-grandfather

Isadore Goldschlager

Isadore Goldschlager, my grandfather

Moritz Goldschlager

Moritz Goldschlager, my great-grandfather

Joseph headstone ABC

Joseph Brotman, my great-grandfather


Impressions of Vienna and Some Concluding Thoughts on our Trip

To be honest, Vienna was not originally on our itinerary.  We wanted to go to Prague and Budapest and, of course, Poland, and we felt that given the number of days we could travel that that was already an ambitious itinerary.  But we could not find non-stop flights even out of NYC to any of those places, and we hate layovers, so we decided to fly in and out of Vienna.  It may not make sense to those of you who are regular jetsetters, but getting me on a plane is a big enough accomplishment; making me change planes might send me…flying?

Anyway, we were going to fly in and out of Vienna so we added a day to our trip.  It seemed crazy not to spend at least 24 hours in one of the world’s great cities, even though we knew that 24 hours would not be enough to scratch the surface of what there is to see there.  It would take some intense prioritizing and great organization to pack even a few top sights into our day.

We actually ended up with a day and a half, as our train from Budapest to Vienna arrived around 2:15 pm, and we were able to check into our hotel (Radisson Blu) quickly and be on our way.  The hotel was extremely well-situated for us to see many of the important sites just a short walking distance away.  It’s not the Boscolo, but it is a very clean, contemporary, and small boutique hotel.

Just two blocks down the street was the Hofburg Palace where the Habsurgs lived in Vienna.  An outdoor music festival was going on that day, and there were crowds gathered to listen to the music—young choral groups performing primarily American music.  A bit incongruous—standing in front of an Austrian royal palace, listening to a group singing, “When the Saints Go Marching In.”  Our global world at work.

Hofburg Palace

Hofburg Palace

We wandered through the streets, passing many chic stores on Kohlmarket, and reached Graben, where there is a huge square lined with cafes and more fancy shops.  We stopped to see St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the all glass Haus Haus across the street.  Unlike the Hilton in Buda, this modern structure somehow blended in with the older buildings surrounding it.

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We just had to stop and have some Viennese pastry, right?  It’s mandatory, I think. If one must drink beer in Prague, one must eat pastry in Vienna.  It was very much worth the unnecessary calories.  Vienna’s streets were packed with tourists, and there was lots of good people-watching to do from the café.

But we had miles to go in order to see at least some of the city, so off we marched towards the Opera House.  Like the Opera House in Budapest, it was a stately and beautiful building.  We opted not to do the tour inside this time, preferring to use our time to visit one of the art museums.


It was already late in the afternoon, and we realized that we only had an hour until closing time, so we opted for the smaller Leopold Museum rather than the tremendous Kunsthistorische museum.  We were very glad that we did.  The museum focuses on the works of Gustav Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka as well as that of some of their less well-known contemporaries, and it does a masterful job of teaching about their art, their lives, and the politics and psychology that lie behind their art.  The room dedicated to the influence of Sigmund Freud was particularly well-done; a plaque with a quote from Freud hung near each painting, leaving it to the viewer to see the connection between the words and the art.


We stayed until the museum closed and then wandered back to our hotel, not even realizing how close it was.  (We had basically walked a full circle from one side of the center of the city to the other and back without realizing it and were essentially behind the Hofburg Palace when we exited the museum quarter.)  We were amazed by how much we had seen in the few short hours since we’d arrived in Vienna.

The next day was jam-packed on my itinerary, but I quickly realized that there was no way we would get to the Schonbrunn Palace, even though I had pre-purchased tickets to go there.  It’s about 20 minutes outside of the city center, and since we were seeing the Hofburg Palace that morning, we decided that if you’ve seen one palace, you’ve seen them all. (Where is Spiro Agnew when you need him?)  Eliminating the Schonbrunn from the agenda loosened up our day considerably.

The Hofburg Palace was worth seeing; it tells the story of Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife Empress Elizabeth, commonly known as Sisi.  In particular, it tells the story of Sisi, who grew up as a young and independent child and married the emperor somewhat reluctantly, knowing that she would lose her freedom by doing so.  Eventually she became very unhappy living such a restricted life, and after one of her children died, she became severely depressed.  Although she contemplated suicide, in the end she was assassinated in Geneva by an Italian anarchist.  Her life story is well-told in the first several rooms in the palace.  After that, you then can see many of the lavish rooms where the emperor and empress lived and entertained in the palace.

After the palace tour, we went to see the performance of the Lipizzaner stallions at the Spanish Riding School.  This was another event that, like the baths in Budapest, several people said we could not miss.  We had standing room tickets, and the place was packed.  Within five minutes of the show starting, I almost left.  The first “act” involved some newer horses, and it was clear that at least one of them was not at all happy performing.  I couldn’t watch as the horse bucked and resisted his trainer’s attempts to control him.  We did stay for the next hour, and although the rest of the show involved more experienced horses, I just couldn’t shake the idea that these animals were being forced to do something they were not intended to do.  The horses are gorgeous, and if you love horses, you will either love this event or you will hate it.  I still am not sure how I feel about it. (We were not allowed to take photos, so I’ve inserted one from the internet.)

After lunch, I went to see the jewels at the Imperial Treasury while Harvey went to finalize our boarding passes for our flight the next morning.  The jewels were amazing.  I will let the pictures reveal what I saw.


This opal was the size of a large pear. My Aunt Elaine would have loved it.

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The last thing we wanted to do before leaving Vienna was see some evidence of the Jewish world that once existed there.  Vienna had a large and thriving Jewish population before the Holocaust, including many famous artists, writers, musicians, and, of course, Freud.  Yet unlike Prague or Krakow or Budapest, there is almost nothing left in what was once the oldest Jewish section of the city to let you know that there once was a vibrant Jewish community there.  In that place, called Judenplatz, there are two reminders of the Jewish community: a museum which contains the remains of a medieval synagogue and a Holocaust memorial sculpture.  The museum’s exhibit is fascinating.  You can actually walk through the remains and see where the bima was, where the ark was, where the men sat to pray.

As for the Holocaust sculpture, it stands in the center of the square, and it is a large cube placed in the center of a larger platform.  On the sides of the cube are engraved the names of all the concentration and death camps.  I think it is supposed to evoke the sense of being locked inside, given the locked door on the exterior.  What was very disturbing about the memorial was the fact that there were many people sitting on the platform, idly eating ice cream and chatting, seemingly oblivious to the purpose of the sculpture.



The memorial to the 65,000 murdered Austrian J...

The memorial to the 65,000 murdered Austrian Jews in the Holocaust at Judenplatz in Vienna. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That perhaps is itself a metaphor for the Austrian attitude towards the Holocaust for many years after the war: denial.  As we learned at the main building of Jewish museum, it was not until fifty years after the war that Austrian officials apologized for their country’s role in the Holocaust.  They refused to acknowledge their complicity with the Nazis in the persecution and eventual murders of their Jewish citizens.  What had been a large and wealthy and intellectual community had been almost entirely wiped out.  Today there is some revival of Jewish life in Vienna, mostly made up of immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

We ended our trip going to the Musikverein, a great music hall in Vienna, where we heard Haydn, Poulenc, and Sibelius.  The sounds were as clear as could be, and the music was just wonderful.


Musikverein Concert Hall

Although we saw so much of great beauty in Vienna—the buildings, the pastries, the jewels, the art, and the music, our visit to Judenplatz and to the Jewish museums put an overall damper on my feelings for Vienna.  Perhaps I am not being fair; we were there for such a short time, and perhaps a longer visit would have provided me with more perspective.  We had no guides in Vienna, just our handy Rick Steve’s guidebook and TripAdviser. I understand that there are a number of stolpersteins in the Second District where the Jewish community was located right before World War II.  We did not get there nor did we see where the current synagogues are located or talk to anyone familiar with the city and its history as we had in the other cities.  I am sure there is more than what we saw in such a short time—an important lesson to keep in mind in visiting any place.  You can’t see it all in a short visit as a tourist.


Thus ends my travelogue of our trip to Central Europe.  Some concluding thoughts:

  1. The best way to learn about the history, values, and people of another country is to go there and walk where they walk. If you do, be sure to find a way to talk to someone who lives in that place.  Guidebooks are great, group tours may be fine—but nothing beats developing a personal relationship with someone who knows that city like you know your home town and your history. Talk to them about their families, their personal history, and you will learn so much more than you ever could from a book or recorded tour.
  2. Take notes, take pictures. Memories vanish very quickly.  In writing this, I had to go back to my books, notes, photographs, and, yes, the internet, to be sure I had the right name for the right place and the right numbers and dates.
  3. Travel the way you want to travel.  I know many people prefer to travel on organized tours or at least with a group of friends.  Call us anti-social, but we have learned that traveling with others means compromising our own priorities.  We don’t get to travel as often as we’d like, and when we do, we want to go where we want to go, eat when and where we want to eat, and see and hear what we want to see and hear.  It’s really not that hard to research and plan your own trip.  Just my opinion, of course.  I fully understand that for other people, traveling with others is more comfortable and more fun.  Like I said, travel the way you want to travel.
  4. There is both incredible beauty in the world and incredible evil. Human beings have created incredibly awe-inspiring buildings, music, and art.  Each place we visited was a testament to man’s ability to create beauty.  Sadly, each place was also a testament to man’s ability to do incredible evil.  We tried always to let the beauty remind us that for the most part, human beings are good.
  5. If you know where your ancestors lived, go there, even if it’s a small town in the middle of nowhere where no traces are left of your ancestors or their community. I understand that some people have too many feelings of anger about the past to do this, but if you don’t feel that way and can go, go there.  You will be forever changed.

Thank you to all who have followed me through this telling of our trip.  I will now return to a focus on genealogy, but I felt a real need to write about this trip for so many reasons, not the least of which is to keep a record for me about what I saw and what I felt.  It is not an experience I ever want to forget.



Three Days in Budapest

Although leaving Poland was hard, arriving in Budapest was delightful.  We weren’t even ripped off by the cabbie this time.  We arrived at our hotel at 9 am after another overnight train, and when we walked into our hotel, the Boscolo, we were a bit in awe.  We’ve never been in a hotel as beautiful as the Boscolo.  The atrium in the lobby is glamorous and gorgeous.  It may be a bit ornate for our usual taste, but there was no denying the way that large, well-lit, and finely decorated space made us feel.  After a breakfast in their famous New York café, we were able to get an early check-in to our room, which also stopped us in our tracks—-a very large and well-appointed room with a little balcony.  It felt like we were in some fantasy world.

The Boscolo

The Boscolo

Breakfast at the New York Cafe in the Boscolo

Breakfast at the New York Cafe in the Boscolo

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Although it would have been tempting just to enjoy our surroundings, we had things to see and do.  Although the concierge at the hotel warned us that our destinations would require a long walk, we were not intimidated.  And as it turned out, although we walked quite a bit, we did not regret it.  We love walking in cities (and beaches and just about anywhere); only by walking do you get a feel for the scale of a city and its buildings and only by walking do you make eye to eye contact with the people around you.  So we ventured out for our first day in Budapest.

First, we went to the House of Terror, a museum that primarily tells the story of what life was like in Budapest under Soviet domination.  The museum is in the building which the Soviets used as their headquarters and where they also imprisoned, interrogated, and tortured prisoners.   The cells and the instruments of torture are still there.  It is a powerful museum; the use of symbols is particularly effective.  We were very moved by our experience there.

Our next stop was the Budapest Opera House, where we had tickets for a tour and a mini-concert.  The opera house was impressive and uplifting, especially after the darkness of the House of Terror.  The gold and red colors which ran throughout the building gave it a truly regal feeling.  And the mini-concert was fun—one opera singer came out and performed two arias for us.  (Don’t ask me what they were—-I am not really an opera fan.)

Hungarian State Opera House

Hungarian State Opera House

IMG_2741 Budapest Opera IMG_2748 opera house boxes IMG_2749 mini opera

We headed to our final stop for the afternoon, the Parliament, where we also had tickets for a tour.  The Parliament is huge—I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a large building.  It sits right on the Danube River, extending fairly far along its shore, and there is a huge open plaza surrounding the building.  We strolled around, looking at the not-at-all blue Danube and across the river to Buda and then entered the building in time for our tour.

Hungarian Parliament

Hungarian Parliament

IMG_2754 Danube

Danube River

The security to enter the building was more intense than what we had gone through at any airport, which was a bit unnerving.  But once we were in, the guide led our group through the building, which was originally intended to be finished for the 1896 Millennial Celebration, but was not finished in time.  Hungarians believe that the Magyars arrived from Asia to the Carpathian plains where Hungary is located around 895, but because plans for the millennial could not be completed in time for 1895, they postponed it a year and claim now that the country was founded in 896.  Like so many countries in Central Europe, Hungary was subjected to many invasions and wars over the year, eventually becoming part of the Austria-Hungary Empire as the result of a compromise with the Habsburgs in 1867.  The Parliament building was originally meant to be the Habsburg’s palace, but after World War I and the end of the Austria-Hungary Empire, it became the home of the Hungarian Parliament.

Like the Opera House and the hotel and many of the other buildings we would see in Budapest, it is an ornate and beautiful building, conveying a sense of prosperity and power.  The crown jewels sit in a case under a large dome (we were not allowed to photograph them), evidence of the royalty who once ruled the land.  We also saw the chambers of the Parliament, equipped with modern digital voting machines at each desk—a strange mix of the old and the new.  It was a very interesting tour and gave us a quick overview of Hungarian history.

IMG_2758 parliament budapest IMG_2760 Parliament staircase IMG_2764 chamber

By that time we were a bit tired and hungry and ready to find a place to eat.  We strolled along the river watching the Viking Cruise and other companies’ “river boats,” then turned to walk through the center of the city, where we happened upon a restaurant called Rezkaka.  The menu looked creative, and the atmosphere seemed relaxing, so we took a chance.  It was our best meal of the trip.  The violin and piano playing in the background didn’t hurt either.

As we left the restaurant, the night sky was getting dark (it was about 9 pm), the ferris wheel in the city center was lit up as were many of the buildings.  It was magical.  We decided to keep on walking (despite what the concierge had said), and we passed the Dohany Synagogue, all lit up.  We were using the GPS on my iPhone to guide us back to the hotel, and it led us through the Jewish quarter, which has become a hip place, filled with “ruin bars” patronized by 20-somethings.  It was an entertaining walk back, and by the time we reached the hotel, we were quite proud of ourselves for the distance we had walked and quite enamored with Budapest.

St Stephen's Basilica, Budapest

St Stephen’s Basilica, Budapest


Dohany Synagogue


Our next day started with a tram ride (we decided to give our feet a little break) to the Central Market in Budapest—an amazing place filled with fresh fruit, vegetables, meat of all kinds, paprika, and flowers.  And it’s a real market—not a tourist joint.  We could see regular people with shopping bags and carts, buying their groceries.

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From there we walked somewhat aimlessly through several streets and squares, passing the university buildings, a street of touristy shops, a street of high fashion designer shops, and the second McDonalds to open behind the Iron Curtain.

McDonalds in Budapest

We were aiming for the Holocaust Memorial on the river.  During the Holocaust, Jews were rounded up and brought to the river, where three people would remove their shoes, be tied together, and one would be shot, forcing all three to fall into the river and die.  The memorial captures this atrocity very simply and poignantly with sculptures of many pairs of empty shoes, lining the wall that abuts the river.

Holocaust Memorial, Budapest

Holocaust Memorial, Budapest




For the afternoon we had signed up for a tour of the Budapest Jewish Quarter with Budapest Jewish Heritage Tours.  It was supposed to be a group tour, but luckily for us, no one else had signed up at that time, so we ended up with a private tour.  We actually had three guides.  Ann, our first guide, gave us a general introduction; she then brought us to the Jewish Museum, which is right next to the Dohany synagogue.  At the museum we were guided by Esther, who works for the museum.  After we finished at the museum, Fatima met us to take us to see the synagogues in the quarter.  Each guide was knowledgeable and personable, and we learned a great deal about the history of Budapest’s Jewish community.

There were Jews in Budapest from as early as Roman times, though not a permanent settlement.  As in the other countries in Central Europe we visited, Jews came to Hungary as traders and bankers.  They faced a great deal of violence and anti-Semitism, and for a long time were required to live on the Buda side of the river while working on the Pest side.  Eventually they were allowed to live on the Pest side, but outside the city walls.  The area where they settled in the 18th century became the Jewish Quarter where even today there are numerous active synagogues, kosher restaurants, and other Jewish institutions.  The community flourished in the 19th century, and by the 1930s there were over 200,000 Jews in Budapest.

Perhaps the best indication of the size and prosperity of the Jewish community in Budapest is the Dohany Synagogue, the second largest synagogue in the world and a magnificent structure built in the middle of the 19th century.  It was built for a congregation that wanted to be more modern in its practice of Judaism. They called themselves Neologs (new law).  Although men and women were still separated for services, there was an organ (played by Franz Liszt at the inauguration of the building), and the interior was designed to be more church-like than like a traditional synagogue.  Like the Spanish Synagogue in Prague, the design reflects a Moorish influence both inside and out.

Dohany Synagogue

Dohany Synagogue

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Our guides pointed out, however, that Hungary had a long history of anti-Semitism, and in the 1920s a law was passed establishing quotas at the universities.  In the 1930s. Hungary adopted laws stripping Jews of their rights even before the Nazis began their occupation of the country.  Although Hungarian Jews were among the last to be deported to concentration camps, our guide in Poland, Tomasz, had explained that that was simply because the Hungarians wanted to exploit the Jews for free labor, not because they were trying to protect them.  In the end, most of Hungary’s 600,000 Jews were killed, 400,000 of them at Auschwitz on some of the last transports to arrive there.

The Dohany Synagogue survived the war because it was used by the Nazis both for storage and as a place for radio towers since it had the two high spires on its roof.  Behind the Dohany Synagogue is a memorial garden dedicated to those who were killed in the Holocaust.  I found the sculpture of the Tree of Life that resembles an upside down menorah particularly moving.


We saw two other synagogues after leaving the Dohany.  First we visited the Orthodox synagogue, built in 1912, another very beautiful building, and then we saw the Rumbach Street synagogue.  From what Vatima told us, this last synagogue was formed by a group that spit off from the Neologs; they felt the Neologs had moved too far away from traditional Judaism, but they also did not agree with the strict practice of the Orthodox synagogue.  This building was under renovation and not open to visitors, so we only got to see its exterior, which was quite beautiful.

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Rumbach Synagogue

Rumbach Synagogue

Overall, our experience in the Jewish Quarter in Budapest was much more uplifting than in either Prague or Krakow in large part because we learned that there is still a very substantial and active Jewish community in Budapest, consisting of about 80,000 people.  Although that is less than half of the Jewish population of Budapest in 1939, it is nevertheless a promising sign of rebirth and hope for the future.

Our day in Budapest ended with a quick dinner and an organ concert at St. Stephen’s Basilica, the largest church in Budapest—and yet again, a magnificent building.

St Stephen's Basilica

St Stephen’s Basilica

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For our third and last day in Budapest, we had arranged for a driving tour to see those sites that really are too far for walking, even for us.  Our guide Magdi took us out to Heroes Square and through the City Park, two more spaces that were developed specifically for the Millennial Celebration in 1896. We saw Hungarian soldiers practicing for a parade while we were there.


Legend says if you touch this guy’s pen, your writing will be successful. FIgured it was worth a try….

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Then we crossed the Danube to Buda where the Castle is—where once again we learned that almost everything there was either built or redone for the Millennial Celebration.  What impressed us most were the incredible panoramic views we could see from the Fishermen’s Bastion and from the Castle itself.  Magdi did point out some older buildings in Buda that dated back to earlier times, but overall most of what we saw dated from 1896 or so.  The glaring (literally and figuratively) exception was the Hilton, a modern building of reflective glass that just does not fit into the setting.

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Finally we went to Gellert Hill, where we were able to view Budapest from yet another perspective and see the fortress built there.

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Our tour ended by dropping us off at the Gellert Spa and Baths.  Everyone had told us that we had to try the baths while in Budapest, and so we did.  It was an interesting experience—soaking in a hot pool with a bunch of elderly Hungarian women who did not really look so pleased to have us invading their space.  But we were glad we tried it, and that hot water was very relaxing.  After all the walking we had done in our three days in Budapest, our feet certainly deserved the break!

Looking back on our time in Budapest, I would say it was the city where we had the most light-hearted moments in our trip.  Maybe we just needed to focus more on the beauty, less on the tragic, after seeing Terezin, Krakow, and Auschwitz.  Maybe it was the Hungarian people or the energy of the city, where the streets were crowded with young people at night.  Maybe it was all the beautiful buildings and breath-taking views and sights we saw.  For whatever reason, we left Budapest the next morning feeling uplifted.

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Our trip was almost over.  We had a train ride to Vienna and a day and a half in that city before returning home.   And home was starting to sound like a good place to be.