Random Connections May Not Be So Random

Jakob Ehrlich's stone

In 2012, I visited Vienna with my daughter. I went to visit my mother’s childhood home but was not able to access the inside. I took a photo of the address list on the outside of the building, noting that one occupant was a film producer. Later, once I was back home I sent an email, asking if I could visit the interior of the building the next time I was in Vienna.

And then, years passed, four, to be precise. On morning in the spring of 2016 I got an out-of-the-blue email from Franz Novotny, owner of the film business I had contacted in 2012. And event was happening at the building, the installation of a Stolpersteine (“stumblestone”) plaque outside the building to honor a former inhabitant of the building who had been deported to Dachau and murdered in April 1938. The announcement of the event jogged his memory, and he emailed because he thought I might be related to Jakob Ehrlich. I wrote back to tell him that I was not related to Ehrlich but my mother had grown up in the building and her father had run a paper goods factory in the rear courtyard. Franz wrote back to tell me that his film company was located in my grandfather’s former printing factory.

From thousands of miles away I could hear the door to Number 22 Weimarer Strasse open wide.

Franz welcomed me inside and we have been connected ever since. He is of Czech descent, one of many who came to Vienna to make a new life. I am the descendant of Galician Jews who came to Vienna to make a new life. So perhaps, what at first seemed like a miraculous random connection wasn’t so random after all.

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