Ilmenau is a small town in the German state of Thuringia. By 1929 Helene and Samuel Gronner have reached economic success and social prominence. Their newly-constructed landmark building features two stories of showrooms. The interior is brightly lit by floor-to-ceiling windows that help showcase a wide selection of stylish men's and women's fashions. Following years of inflation, the Gronner enterprise wins accolades for injecting the local retail economy with new optimism.
But within a year, longtime customers and neighbors of the Jewish couple begin to shun them. Following local elections, Nazi ideology grips the town, prompting a boycott of Jewish-owned businesses. Before long, Jochen, their ten-year-old son, is subjected to anti-Jewish harassment by schoolmates. By the time he is sixteen, his parents resolve to send him to Palestine in order to pursue his education toward a degree in mechanical engineering.
Then World War intervenes, and communication with the family left behind virtually ceases. Not until the Allied victory in 1945 does Jochen learn that his parents were killed after being rounded up and deported.
In Loss and Legacy, Sam A. Gronner meticulously probes unresolved questions about his father's post-war metamorphosis. The story culminates in the 2010 death of John H. Gronner, the American name he had assumed upon naturalization.
With the help of a trove of documents, photos and memorabilia, and aided by extensive personal research and collaboration with members of his extended family, the author juxtaposes his own childhood memories alongside his father's unrelenting quest: to reclaim the family's inheritance stolen by the anti-Semitic laws, and to restore the Gronner reputation in Ilmenau—the family name that the Nazis sought to obliterate through murder.
Following the narrative laid out by the author, readers join the expedition into the past as he relates details of his father's arrival in Palestine; his British Army wartime service against Nazi Germany; his clandestine role during Israel's war for independence; and how, to the consternation of his Israeli-born son, he decided to return to Germany, only to uproot the family again two years later by immigrating to the United States.
By virtue of his journey into the past, Sam A. Gronner comes to a belated realization that although his father never spent one day in Nazi captivity, he was indeed an eyewitness and victim of the Holocaust. What's more, with most of the first-hand witnesses to the events leading to and culminating in the Shoah now gone, the author recognizes the duty that has befallen on him as a member of the Second Generation: remembrance and vigilance against the hate visited upon their parents. In Loss & Legacy, Sam A. Gronner vividly relates how the legacy of his father's dogged pursuit of justice has shaped his own life and values.