As a young girl, Dina Gold
was frequently regaled with stories of life in prewar Germany by her grandmother, Nellie Wolff. On top of mesmerising sketches of Weimar-era decadence, Nellie told her their family had been extremely affluent, the source of which was a fur company established by Dina's great-great-grandfather, Heimann Wolff, in 1850.
What's more, Nellie assured Dina they'd be rich once more in future, as the headquarters of the family enterprise, a grand building in the centre of Berlin, had been owned by the Wolffs before they fled the country in the 1930s. While it was then-barricaded in the German Democratic Republic, Nellie insisted when the Berlin Wall finally fell, it would be theirs again.
Dina's mother, Aviva, dismissed Nellie's tales as fantasies and fables, the product of wistful longing for a fantastical, idealised past – and when Nellie died in 1977, she left no photographs of the property, let alone any paperwork relating to its ownership. Even its location was a mystery.
However, imaginings of the building Nellie oft-reminisced about never left Dina, and when the barrier separating East and West Berlin fell at last in 1989, she set about attempting to track it down. While her father
told her to "forget it" because "you can't fight the German government", she was undeterred, and more than made up for in determination what she lacked in documentation.
In 1990, she visited Israel with her husband Simon, while he served a two-month fellowship at Tel Aviv University. While there, she became acquainted with her cousin Leor Wolff for the first time, and told him of her quest - it just so happened he had a suitcase full of old photos and papers he'd inherited from their forebears. Together they scoured the contents for clues as to where the building might be, and finally came across a singed letterhead dating to 1920 identifying their great-great-grandfather Heimann as trading from Krausenstrasse 17/18 in Berlin.
The enormous property, which served as the headquarters of Deutsche Reichsbahn, the by-then-former GDR's state-owned railway, was a mere five-minute stroll from Checkpoint Charlie, the key crossing point between Berlin's eastern and western segments throughout the Cold War.
So it was Dina visited Krausenstrasse on a bitingly chilly day in early December that year - "I've come to claim my family's building!" she declared.