Donald Trump’s Family Hid German Roots — Especially When Selling to Jews by the Forward

Donald Trump’s Family Hid German Roots — Especially When Selling to Jews

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The Trump family consistently hid its German ancestry from customers and investors when it was building its New York real estate empire in the post-World War II era, according to an article in The New York Times.

After the death of Friedrich Trump — Donald’s grandfather — the family regularly claimed that it hailed from Sweden, and not Kallstadt, a small town near the German border with France, the paper reported.

Due to widespread hatred of Germans of America in the postwar period, Fred Trump — Donald’s father — didn’t mention that Friedrich was not only born in Germany, but had attempted to regain his citizenship in 1904, two decades after emigrating.

“I told Donald,” said John Walter, Donald’s cousin and the family historian, that “if Friedrich got his citizenship back, we wouldn’t be here.”

When Friedrich Trump was turned away from Germany, he returned to New York and put his money into empty lots in Queens and Brooklyn. In the interwar period, areas like Coney Island and Bayside began to fill up with middle-class Jewish families. Fred Trump, heir to his father’s investments, sold many single-family row houses to these Jewish families, all the while claiming his family came from Sweden.

The myth made it into Donald Trump’s 1987 book The Art of the Deal. In a section detailing his family history, he included that his grandfather “came from Sweden as a child.” Trump, surprisingly, was apparently loathe to stretch the facts of his family heritage.

“Do I have to do this Swedish thing?” Trump asked his father, according to John Walter.

Contact Ari Feldman at or on Twitter @aefeldman.

Donald Trump’s Lies About German Ancestry Made It Into The Art Of The Deal


Ari Feldman

Ari Feldman

Ari Feldman is a staff writer at the Forward. He covers Jewish religious organizations, synagogue life, anti-Semitism and the Orthodox world. If you have any tips, you can email him at Follow him on Twitter @aefeldman.

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