Splitting up families and brothers - again.
My Mother Vera Solomon (nee Apt) was forced to leave Germany for the UK in early 1939 aged 13. She had lived in Berlin since birth. Her Parents, Fritz & Lisa Apt, eventually managed to join her later in 1939, just before the outbreak of war. Her father had to leave his mother in Berlin as she was unfit to travel. This broke his heart. He was interned on arrival in England. Other members of the wider family escaped to the USA, South America and South Africa. Sadly, family who stayed in Germany did not survive the war.
The family had lived in Germany for many generations. Documents and letters relating to the Apt family in Germany have survived from 1814 (Merkel Apt) until 1939.
My grandfather Fritz and great grandfather Richard were Doctors of Pharmacy. The family owned and ran the Brunnen Apotheke in Badstrasse Gesundbrunnen, Berlin from 1883 to 1939 and the Apotheke is still in existence. Please see the pictures accompanying this letter. The following is an extract from the published history of the Pharmacy quoted on the website:
“Bis 1889 wechselten Haus und Laden acht Mal den Besitzer. Mit Richard Apt bekam die Apotheke 1889 einen Inhaber, der seinem Geschäft wie auch der Badstraße treu blieb. Die Familie Apt war bald aus dem Vereinsleben des Kietzes nicht mehr wegzudenken. Fritz Werner Apt, der die Brunnenapotheke von seinem Vater Richard übernommen hatte, verpachtete die Brunnen-Apotheke. Die Familie Apt blieb bis 1939 in der Badstraße. Als das generelle Verpachtungsverbot für Juden am 20. Dezember 1939 in Kraft trat, entschloß sie sich zur Emigration. Apts konnten vor der drohenden Vernichtung nach England entkommen. Das Haus in der Badstraße 11 wurde im 2. Weltkrieg total zerstört. Fritz Werner Apt bemühte sich von England aus, das zwangsverkaufte Grundstück wiederzubekommen. 1951 ging die zerbombte Parzelle an die Alteigentümer zurück. Apt sorgte dafür, daß das Grundstück schnell mit einem einstöckigen Fadengebäude bebaut wurde. Die neue Apotheke eröffnete 1952. Er selbst kam nicht nach Deutschland zurück. 1960 starb er in London. Seine Frau behielt das Grundstück bis 1986."
Despite my grandfather winning the Iron Cross in WW1, he was imprisoned in 1933 for anti-Hitler/Mussolini sentiments. Luckily he was released part way through his sentence on Hitler’s birthday. He was interned at the Hyton Camp on arrival in the UK
Friendships & German Life
My parents and grandparents maintained close friendships with non- Jewish friends in Germany after the war. As children, our family holidays were spent in the wine growing areas of the Mosel around Mulheim/Bernkastel-Kues. We attended primary school there in these holidays. The friendships have extended through the succeeding generations. We were thoroughly immersed in German life, sounds, smells and attitudes in these early years. We felt very much included, part of the family, warmly accepted and welcomed in Germany.
My brother studied German at school/university and now works in Vienna for ORF. My Partner Helen was brought up in Germany, is intensely European in attitudes and is fluent in German. She spent her professional life teaching English to children on TV in Germany. These programs are still available today. German is spoken in our house every week.
Thus, you can see that Germany plays a huge part in my heritage, I feel already integrated and part of the community.
Brexit has starkly highlighted the division of attitudes in the UK. Isolationism and racial intolerance are on the increase and concern is mounting as to the direction the country is taking. My family are strong believers in a united Europe with all the positive changes it has brought. We value highly the role this unity has played in maintaining peace over the last 60 years, championing tolerance and stability in society. We would like to continue to identify with these principles.
Encouraging closer ties
Brexit has such potential to damage the relationship between our two countries that any effort to move to closer understanding can only help.
I believe the closer the ties that can be made between our two peoples the better for all, and this can only be helped by more people with a similar outlook on life and especially joint nationality so that despite what happened with all the hurt and destruction, we still wish for German Citizenship and healing of the wounds.
I also believe in the longer term that the best way to increase the connections between our two countries is to engage with the children of both countries as Helen has tried to do and as I benefited from in Germany.
Personal circumstances and natural justice
The applications for me and my children, although not yet rejected, are likely to be so as the law currently stands, because of my date of birth – 9th February 1953 – 7 weeks before the date of the changed legislation.
The evidence submitted with my application is exactly the same as that submitted by my brother Andrew, date of birth 5th June 1955, who received his Einbürgerungsurkunde on 19/7/2018 and now has his German Passport.
It seems particularly unjust that within our family, following the same application, one brother is granted naturalisation whilst the other is not, because of a discrepancy of seven weeks. In effect, this would seem to separate two brothers in a way that appears to fly in the face of the spirit of the rules and surely cannot have been the intention of the legislation.
My German is not good in comparison to other members of my family but this is a function of academic choices made at school and a career in medical practice in central London caring for the poor in the immigrant population here. Should this count against me? – given all the circumstances this would seem unfair.
My family would be very proud to be German Citizens. and ask that this situation is brought to the attention of those in a position to effect changes to bring the law more in line with its spirit, natural justice and modern values, to the benefit of all.