In a week and a half, I (along with my family and many other descendants) will be returning to Hohenems for the 2017 reunion. For all descendants, the chance to return to connect with both family history and living relatives is exciting.
I will return to Hohenems with two months familiarity—having spent last summer at the museum as an intern—while many descendants will be visiting for the first time. For me, the beauty in Hohenems lies both in its rich history and its present-day community. While I liked looking through the museum’s archives and tracing the genealogy of many descendants, I also enjoyed learning about contemporary Austrian politics. I liked talking with peers my own age, comparing my American college education with their university experiences, wondering in the back of my head who I would be if I had somehow grown up differently.
At the same time, I know that my experience with Hohenems will be different this time around. Although I wrote many blog posts last summer about finding personal significance in the town’s past, some things are better when shared with people we care about.
I want to tour the Jewish Museum with my grandmother, and I can point across the street and show her where I used to work. I plan to visit the old cemetery with my family, and actually enter it this time now that the construction is complete. I want to walk down to the Swiss border, where I can remember how many Jews braved the difficult crossing, and show my parents the path I took by bike last summer. I’ll go hiking with my brother, up to the Ruine Alt-Ems, where I drank a beer and watched the sun set on my final night in Hohenems. I hope to introduce my mom to my former boss, my host mom, and all the other people about whom I told stories.
I also look forward to meeting other descendants—long-lost cousins and people with whom I share no blood relation, but still have the Hohenems connection. If you’ve stuck around the blog this long, I hope I can meet you too.
Schön, Sie wiederzusehen, Hohenems.