I was around six years old when my grandmother first told me the story of how she’d immigrated to the United States from Austria. It was a watered-down version of her tale; she didn’t want to scare me so she emphasized the food on the boat, not the reasons why her family had left.
When I was six, Austria seemed like a mythical place to me, like a Narnia or Hogwarts. But I grew up, found Hohenems on a map, and eventually learned how to spell it. I studied the Holocaust in school. The word diaspora entered my vocabulary. Shortly after my eleventh birthday, I visited Hohenems for the first time. The next time my grandmother told me the story, she told me about Kristallnacht and how difficult it was to get an American visa.
Having finished my first year at university, I’m returning to work at the museum this summer. Now, of course, I know that my family’s story isn’t unique. Hohenems is a very real place and my ancestors’ history in the town intersects with that of so many other people. As a member of the diaspora, their legacy impacts me too. And the broader concepts at play in Hohenems—issues like coexistence and migration—affect nearly everyone.
I look forward to spending the summer in Hohenems. More importantly, I look forward to deepening my understanding of Jewish history while connecting with and learning from other members of the diaspora.
You’ll definitely be hearing more from me. I’d love to hear from you too—don’t hesitate to reach out.