It is a small world – the amazing connectivity of the Web

woman and her niece a photograph found through internet connectionsThe woman you see on the left in this photocopied photo is Anneliese Thiemann, a mentor of mine. She is standing with her niece Marianne from South Africa. This is the story of how internet connections brought this photo to me.

Last Fall, I was profiled for “She Shines,” the newsletter of the YWCA of northern Rhode Island. In the profile, I spoke about my journey to activism in this social betterment (aka nonprofit) world. That interview was posted on the web (you can read it here  see page 15.

As part of that conversation, I was asked about my own role models. I mentioned this extraordinary activist that I came to know in the 70s and 80s through my activism with Group 49 of Amnesty International USA. Her name was Anneliese Thiemann.

A activist for justice all her life, as a social worker in Germany, Anneliese did what she could to bravely resist the Nazis and escaped them by the “skin of her teeth” which led to her refuge in the US. Anneliese was not Jewish, but she risked her own safety to do what she could to help protect her Jewish friends and co-workers. After her name appeared on an arrest list, she escaped with barely the clothes on her back.

I came to know her in her retirement. She is the reason that I registered to vote and have voted in just about every election since 1977. You can read more of Anneliese’s story as I remember it in the She Shines interview.

Finding a lost internet connection.

Sadly, I lost touch with Anneliese after she returned to Germany sometime in the 90s. We corresponded for a while when she first moved back to Hamburg, but then lost each other after she moved.

A few months after the story appeared, I received an email from a woman Marianne, in South Africa. It turned out, she was the niece of Anneliese and was trying to put together the details of her late aunt’s life from a very sketchy family history. Marianne told me that Anneliese refused to visit her brother’s family in South Africa while it was an apartheid country, which made it difficult to know much of her story. While doing research on the web, Marianne found my interview and through this internet connections contacted me.

One of my great regrets is that I never had a photo of Anneliese. (I’m not so great at carrying around a camera). Marianne was able to send me a few photocopies of photos that she had acquired.

Meeting Marianne online was such a gift to me… and I think my ability to share some of her aunt’s life was such to her. Without the internet, it never would have happened. Without the YWCA posting their newsletter online, Marianne and I would not have connected.

Thank you, YWCA and thank you, Marianne.

In peace,


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