Hidden Inheritance: Family Secrets, Memory and Faith

Hidden Inheritance: Family Secrets, Memory and Faith
Heidi B Neumark
Abingdon Press


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Hidden Inheritance is Heidi B. Neumark's journey of discovery after she discovers a puzzle in her history. Neumark, a Lutheran pastor, finds out that her father was Jewish, and though they were close, that fact was a tragic disconnect, a secret he'd kept from her. Her daughter's discovery (on Wikipedia) starts her on a journey of a combined exploration of history and personal philosophy with the assistance of experts, historians, survivors, and academics.

She travels to Germany where in Wittmund and Lubeck, she learns how her grandfather lost his business and died in a concentration camp after sending his son—her father--to the US. She wonders many things, like how her own faith might have grown innately from a part of her history she'd never known, as if religious feelings were coded in her DNA. The discovery does not turn her from her Lutheran faith, but does cause her to re-examine everything in detail, including developing insight about her eccentric Aunt Lore.

The history is interesting, and the perspective is unusual. Neumark remembers being a teenager considering her German heritage, never guessing that her lineage is Jewish, putting her family tree on the opposite side of the fence from where she thought she was. Because she is a preacher, it isn't unexpected that her self-examination begins to feel very preachy, as, among other things, she tries to apply her secrets, persecution, and prejudice to relate to her work helping contemporary LGBT youth. The holocaust destroyed many lives, and many of its survivors' lives were irrevocably damaged as a result. Perhaps Neumark was seeking answers and a way to cope with damage she'd never known extended into her own family. I admire Heidi Neumark's bravery in such a public examination of her family's deeply buried secrets, but do be forewarned that the spiritual navel-gazing begins to feel preachy.