The history of my mother’s family is actually rather complicated. My ancestors are remembered, some I knew and loved like my grandmother and aunt Toni. Others remain names in the Ahnenpass. Ahnenpass, a genealogical document required in Nazi Germany listing birth and death dates, occupations, where lived, who they were married to – all to prove they were of the pure Aryan race. There it is, behind photos of Maria Margarete Rost, known as Meta, my mother’s mother, and my grandfather, Adam Vollmuth, lawyer who worked for the railroads.
As in all families, there were many stories to be told, stories now forgotten unless someone wrote them down before it was too late. At least the Ahnenpass gives me some idea and I learn that one of my ancestors had 25 children, although not all with the same wife. Generally the children in a family were five or three. My mother’s grandparents, for example, had five. Grandmother Rost was married again to a man named Kolb, with whom she had three children before he left her for a showgirl. The two girls, half sisters to my grandmother, eventually became nuns (in America) to atone for their father’s sins. All three girls were sent to America for a while and my mother remembers her mother speaking English with an American accent.
Perhaps the most notable of my ancestors was Georg Rost, with his fine beard, perhaps 80 years old at the time. Born in 1870, professor of mathematics, astronomer, Rector of the University of Wurzburg., I got to know him in 1955. What I remember most is his telling us that during the bombings of the university he and his wife, Tante Seeli, who was in a wheelchair, fled at night and were covered with soot.
His sister, Maria Margarete Rost, was my mother’s mother. She was to marry a lawyer, Adam Vollmuth, who was several years older. She fell in love with someone else and they tried to elope but were caught up with on the train and in the end she married Adam and bore him three children: my mother Margarete, her sister Toni, who became a dancer, and their younger brother Hans, who disappeared in the fire bombing of Dresden, leaving a wife and three children, all of whom then lived with my grandmother. There were stories of how they would gather mushrooms in the woods, as well as branches for the fire, for these were hard times.
And so it goes. I have a few real objects that make these ancestors real, There is a ring that my daughter in law now has. A Chinese coffee cup was my grandmother’s, a crystal glass with a red foot was used to drink a toast to my mother’s family when she was in America. Even the linen tablecloth has been inherited and crossed the Atlantic more than once.
My Great Uncle
Here is Georg Rost, with his searching gaze.
“Ah yes, I was a professor of mathematics, collaborated on the Theorie Der Prym’schen Funktionen, and was rector of the University of Wurzburg. So you are the daughter of Margarete Josephine Eva Vollmuth. She also did honor to our family for she received her PhD in Biology before going to the United States. You ask me about the war years – I can only tell you how when the university was bombed my wife Tante Seeli and I one night had to flee the burning buildings and were covered with soot.
My sister was also a Margarete, and she had married a lawyer, Adam Vollmuth. They were your grandparents and much more information is there in the Ahnenpass, a geneological document required in Nazi Germany listing birth and death dates, occupations, where lived, who they were married to – all to prove they were of the pure Aryan race. None of this mattered to me, however. There it is, behind photos of Maria Margarete Rost, known as Meta, and Adam Vollmuth, a lawyer who worked for the railroads. Margarete Rost had been taken to the United States by her stepfather but then she was sent back to Germany and my family.
If you want to know more, just leaf through the Ahnenpass. It will tell you that Adam’s father was a master mason, and that Rost was a bookbinder. Not always are the professions listed, and generally only of the men.”