Man Leben – interview


In the previous posts you have given a brief description of your life. I may pose several questions on this description before I introduce myself.

“Your life is deeper than I have ever imagined. In your perception your life already starts more than 4000 years ago. In 1933 your parents have moved from Frankfurt am Main to Amsterdam to start a new life in a foreign country with a foreign language and culture. I assume that at home you have spoken German in Amsterdam”, I say.

“That is in partly correct. My parents continued speaking German, but I am raised bilingual. This is extraordinary, because the Dutch of my parents has had a very German accent. In that time I have felt ashamed for this accent, and now I feel ashamed for that shame”, you say.

“In your description the farewell from your parents has appeared relative easy in 1942”, I say.

“In that time I did not have the words and the knowledge to express my feelings. I have experienced this farewell as an adventure or a kind of natural and exciting change. Now I can see clearly that my parents and my aunt have presented this farewell to me as a transitional rite. My mother has said that I would stay away a long time. She said: “From now on you are no longer a boy but a real Man, you are now a real Herr Mann”. She has predicted that it will be a very dark time, but that I need to trust that at last everything will be fine. I have stayed one night at my aunt house. Afterwards a journey of a couple of weeks started before I have come to live in South Limburg”, you say.

“Your change of name, how did it happen?”, I ask.

“I don’t know all the details and I cannot tell the details, because there are people involved who might still be alive. My change of name has happened rather easy.  A boy moves from the population register – under his original name with a personal license including an old photo – in the first city to another city. A few weeks later the same boy – under a new name with a new personal license  including a recent photo – moves from the second city to a third city. The old name is left behind in the second city. Later the old name is probably registered with “whereabouts unknown”. I have moved in this manner several times within a few weeks in order to cover the moves”, you say.

“What did your parents do to find you later. How may your parent show that they are your real parents?”, I ask.

“My new name is closely related to the names that I have received from my parents and family. My parents gave me my first name “Levi”, named after the third son of Jacob and Leah in the book of Genesis. From the twelve sons of Jacob and Leah, the 12 tribes of Israel originated. Levi means: “He will connect” [1]. I have done this my entire life. Looking back, I see with shame that I have often been arrogant”, you say.

“I don’t think you are arrogant”, I say.

“Arrogance has many faces. Later I have read that scholars think that the name Levi is a loanword meaning “priest” or that the name refers to people who are connected to the Ark of the Covenant [1].  When moving in the desert, the descendants of Levi did bear the Ark of the Covenant. The first high priest is also a descendant of Levi. Some scholars think that Levi refers to a tribe that is not of Jewish origin, but consisted of immigrants who merged with the Jews [1]. The descendants of Levi were the only tribe that had no territory in Canaan. Moses and his brother Aaron, Samuel, Ezekiel, Ezra, John the Baptist, Matthew and Marcus are descendants of Levi [2]. According to Chapter 49 verse 7 of Genesis from the Old Testament, the children of Levi will be spread over the Earth. In the testament of Levi [3] – an apocryphal writings that is connected with the Bible – the priests who are descended from the first high priest Aaron (and also from Levi), will be accused of pride. This pride will cause the Apocalypse or the end of times. My whole life I have done my best to avoid arrogance, but many times I failed. Pride is also the main cause of the collapse of my family. Although my grandfather and I are no people of violence, the prediction for the fate of the descendants of Levi also has become our destiny. Apart from violence, the name Levi resembles the way of my life rather well. My new surname is derived from the first name that my parents have given to me. My new first name is closely connected with my family name. Piet Janssen was formerly often named “Johnson’s Peter – or son of John, Peter”. Probably my parents have thought that this reversal would later be successful to show that I am their legitimate son”, you say.

“A human in a dark time sometimes must make difficult choices, if one does not wish to leave the choices to others. I respect your reservation for showing the choices of your family and foster family in South Limburg. May I ask why you moved with your aunt to Holland after your happy and carefree time in South Limburg?”, I say.

“That is obvious. My aunt is the younger sister of my mother. They resembled each other, also in their way of doing. For me she was very familiar. We have started again in Holland. That was not easy as strangers in a country under redevelopment after the war. My aunt had no choice; after the war she was obliged to my parents to take care for me. I missed my life in South Limburg, but nearly every holiday I stayed with my godparents”, you say.

“Let’s continue later with the interview if I may”, I say.

“That is good”, you say.

The following message continues with further questions about your life.


[1] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levi

[2] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levite

[3] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testament_of_Levi. The Testament of Levi is is part of the Testament of the Patriarchs.

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