Bnai Brith Magazine Spring 2012 : Page 27
On Unique Website, Son Fills in the Blanks The Changing Relationship With Germany Torkel has maintained contact over the years with Ruth Wächter (maiden name Visser), who mar-ried (and later divorced) Torkel’s father in Sweden in the early 1940s. She was a German-Jewish refugee who had fled to Denmark in 1941 and then to Sweden in 1943. Torkel refers to Ruth, who also lives in Stockholm, as his “bonus” mother. In 2000, Torkel asked for her help to sift through the materials from his parents’ attic. The post-cards were written in an old Ger-manic script known as Sütterlin, so he asked Ruth to translate. Though she was familiar with the script, it had been years since she’d used it. Translating the letters stagnated, but Torkel eventually contacted the Sütterlin-Schreibstube, a group of elderly citizens at a senior center in Hamburg who were able to deci-pher the old Germanic handwriting. Then, determined to learn Ger-man, he left his family in Sweden for two weeks to enroll in a course at the Goethe-Institut in Rothen-burg, Germany. But on the second day, he got into an argument with the teacher “for no reason, just because he was German and I had this history.” Torkel soon left, but the teacher, a compassionate man who seemed to grasp what was going on, set Torkel up in the Munich branch of the Goethe-Institut for the remainder of his two-week visit. “That was the beginning of my changing relationship with Germany,” Torkel said. As Torkel learned more about his family’s history, he traveled to Hamburg from time to time. On one of these visits, he went to the Fuhlsbüttel Memorial, the site of the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp in Hamburg where Walter had been incarcerated for seven months in 1935. Torkel informally shared his story about uncovering the postcards with other visitors he met as well as the memorial staff, who wanted to hear more. For about a year, Torkel exchanged e-mails and had con-versations with the staff, whose offices are at the Neuengamme B’Nai B’rith 27 A photo taken at the wedding of Max Wächter (Walter Wächter’s brother) and Dora Nibbe on Sept. 12, 1931. On July 31, 1938, Max moved to Argentina, where he remained until his death in Buenos Aires in 1970. His Christian wife Dora and his daughter Jessie remained in Hamburg. He never saw Dora or Jessie again.