A Holocaust survivor pays his respects to the Nazis' victims during ceremony at Auschwitz-Birkenau
A Holocaust survivor pays his respects to the Nazis' victims during a memorial ceremony at the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp on June 14, 2010. Photo by AFP
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Seventy years after Jewish writer Jonas Kreppel was murdered at Buchenwald, his memory has brought together his descendants in Israel and a German Christian family of the same name. Kreppel was widely published in German and wrote an 800-page tome on the history of the Jews.

At an emotional gathering last month in Augsburg, Germany, about 50 people from generations of two Kreppel clans came together to try to unravel the connection between the two families.

Members of the Israeli delegation, some of whom are relatives of Holocaust survivors, found themselves in the same room with Germans named Kreppel. Any feelings of discomfort dissolved quickly, displaced by keen curiosity.

Rivka Kreppel-Ilam of Haifa recalled the warm welcome she received at the three-day get-together. About half the participants were Germans born after World War II. Kreppel-Ilam recounted a sense that the German participants were seeking forgiveness and the opportunity to put a dark past behind them.

The initial contact between the two Kreppel families was made about 25 years ago by a German theologian and historian, Klaus Kreppel, who sought out relatives of the writer Kreppel. He was joined in his efforts by Horstpeter Kreppel, a judge for the European Union.

Rivka Kreppel-Ilam said Klaus Kreppel, who has done extensive research on the life of the writer, was the connection that ultimately drew her to the conference.

Jonas Kreppel was arrested in 1938 and accused of writing anti-Nazi material. After spending a number of months at Dachau, he was transferred to another concentration camp, Buchenwald, where he was murdered on July 21, 1940.

His ashes are buried in the Jewish cemetery in Vienna. Klaus Kreppel was dismayed to see the sorry state of the writer's grave on a visit there two years ago, and Kreppel-Ilam said he and other Kreppel family members undertook to restore the gravestone.

She said Klaus Kreppel's in-depth research fascinated the people at the conference. The conference agenda also included a visit by the Kreppels - both from Germany and Israel - to the Jewish museum next to the main synagogue in Augsburg. The synagogue was severely damaged on Kristallnacht in 1938 and restored in 1985.

The conference concluded with a visit to Dachau. During the visit, Kreppel-Ilam recalled, the participants stood at the camp "silent and teary-eyed, adding, "we, the Kreppels, stood together."