The roots of Baddiel

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Speaking at genealogy extravaganza, Who Do You Think You Are Live in Kensington Olympia on Sunday, the writer and comedian explained how valuable tracing his roots had been.

He appeared in the first series of the BBC show Who Do You Think You Are, which follows celebrities as they trace their family tree, in 2004. In his programme, Baddiel discovered that his Great Uncle may have died in the Warsaw Ghetto and locates the remains of his German grandfather’s brick factory taken by the Nazis. He also attempts to make contact with the ultra-orthodox side of his family.

Baddiel said: “I don’t really have a religious bone in my body but culturally I feel very linked to Judaism.

“The experience was really valuable in terms of finding out what has happened to Jews in the last century. My whole story was about what it means to be Jewish and surviving, It was really valuable to me.”

He revealed that he was relieved to have avoided the ultra-orthodox side of his family, “That side of my family are celebrities in the ultra-orthodox world, to them I am this renegade off the television. I was pleased they didn’t meet me as essentially they are Jewish fundamentalists, I didn’t know how they would treat me,” he added.

The BBC show isn’t the only occasion when Baddiel has looked into his past. In 2004 he wrote a novel titled The Secret Purposes, loosely based on his grandfather’s experiences as an internee on the Isle of Man during the Second World War after fleeing Nazi Germany.

“When you look back at what happened during the war you end up thankful to Great Britain for what they did,” he added.

The Bank Holiday event also saw the launch of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain’s new database on Jewish mid-19th Century Britain.
The new database, the culmination of ten years of research, documents Anglo-Jewish residents registered in the 1851 Census. It includes profiles on prominent figures such as Karl Marx and Benjamin Disraeli.

Site editor Petra Laidlaw told the Jewish News: “It is bringing in a thousand users a day. We have had very positive feedback. It is easy to navigate and people are pleased at the sheer mass of people, we are helping to unlock many mysteries.

“The database will help get a complete picture of the community. How much do people really know about their great great grandparents, some of them may be found on this site.”

The site can be found at www.jgsgb.org.uk.

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