According to a report in the Fränkischer Tag of 6 July, the Jewish cemeteryin the village. was visited by members of the American Jewish Committee.
As every year, the Interessengemeinschaft Synagoge Altenkunstadt (the group which restored the synagogue and runs it as a cultural centre) held a Psalm service on the Sunday between New Year and the Day of Atonement at the Burgkunstadt cemetery. In spite of the rain, the attendance was large, and as usual, it included the Mayors of Altenkunstadt und Burgkunstadt as well as local and regional politicians. The service was followed by a guided tour of the ancient cemetery.The event was special this year not only because Heinrich Olmer, the president of the Bamberg Community participated, but also because of the presence of two Americans, Albert L. Brown and his wife Marian from Cincinnati. They visited the graves of Mr. Brown's ancestors, the Rau family. As you may know, the Jewish community of Cincinnati largely originated from emigrants from the Upper Main area of Franconia (see Appendix 26).
The visitors expressed surprise at the age of the cemetery. The oldest gravestone is dated 1626!
It is good to know that local students have now taken it upon itself to care for the cemetery.
There were a number of events of interest to us in the Altenkunstadt Synagogue. On the occasion of a ceramics exhibition in September, people were encouraged to impress a finger into wet clay. This was then fired, and broken into pieces suitable for leaving at the cemetery after the Psalm service.
The Interessengemeinschaft held its annual meeting on 9 November, on which occasion the night of terror 1938 was remembered. On the same evening there was a talk about Chagall - painter of dreams, painter of the Bible.Mr.Josef Motschmann has asked me to point out, that a new, six-page "flyer" in full colour is now available, giving information on the restored Altenkunstadt Synagogue and the Burgkunstadt cemetery. For a copy, which also gives information on access to the cemetery, write to
Reundorfer Straße 13,
96231 Staffelstein, Germany,
Tel (Germany) (0)9573 7999
Dr. Raja Nadler, who with her mother-in- law Eleanor Nadler is largey responsible for the splendid restoration of the synagogue (and for the book on the cemetery), has sent me enough material to fill my "Letter" entirely! I will try to do her extraordinary work justice in a few paragraphs.As I have reported before, the house and shop of the Schwarzhaupt family adjoining the Synagogue across a small beck was acquired some years ago by the district council and the most essential things - like the roof - were repaired. Dr. Nadler has now put forward a detailed concept for turning the house into a Museum of Rural Jewry, with the emphasis on Ermreuth. The concept shows her remarkable knowledge of and feel for things Jewish, and the fruits of her many years of research into the history and personalities of the Jews in Ermreuth. Her renown has also enabled her to obtain promises of material on loan for the museum. Her current researches into aspects of Jewish life in the village are too numerous to mention.
Dr. Nadler has written aGuide to the Synagogue Ermreuth, a publication requested by many of the 2320 people from all corners of Germany who visited the Syna- gogue and cemetery this year.
During the year, Dr. Nadler led 63 tours of the synagogue, including 12 for schools
On 21 October Dr. Nadler was honoured by the Erlangen Freemasons and awarded the "Prize for humanitrian Engagement" She has donated the prize money of DM 3000 towards the internal work required to turn the Schwarzhaupt house into a museum (see Appendix 27). The newspaper report gives a resume of Dr. Nadler's career. As I have reported regularly on her work, readers may find this interesting.
This year, Dr. Nadler arranged a special exhibition in the synagoge entitled "The Golden House of G'd in the Siniai Desert". It featured a model of the Stiftshütte (the tent with the Arc of the Covenant) with its ritual items, covers and curtains. She will be able to retain the model on permanent loan for the Museum.
I have often made the point, that the proper and regular use of restored synagogues in places where there are no Jews left is a permanent and therefore more demanding task than the restoration itself. Dr. Nadler has evidently succeeded. In Appendixes 27 and 28 will be found press reports on some of the events in the Ermreuth synagogue during the year.
In the Stadtanzeiger of 9 November referred to already, there was also a two page article on William Kleemann, a benefactor of Forchheim whose house of birth was visible on the picture mentioned.
Kleemann learned his first banking skills in the Wassermann Bank in Bamberg. When I met him in New York in 1966, not long before his 100th birthday, he was still full of amusing tales of his apprenticeship years.
His daughter Herta married Moritz Schloss, a first cousin of my father.
On 8 November, the local Trade Unions arranged a public meeting to discuss the form and the causes of rightist extremism and the means possible to fight it. For press report, see Appendix 29).
For 12 years, the Gymnasien in these small towns have exchanged pupils with the high school in Kiryat Motzkin, Israel. The exchanges are part of the partnership scheme between the Hassberge District and Kiryat Motzkin.
On the 53. Independence day of Israel, the town opened its new Amphipark.16000 people attended the event. County Coun- cillor Rudolf Handwerker attended the event. on behalf of the Hassberge partners. On his return, he said "it was enormously important that we showed the flag precisely now that Israel has big problems". Nice!
During the year the former Synagogue has been used as a Forum for activities against fanatiscism. The literature circle of the local high school has filled the synagogue with cultural life.
In December, the Landesstiftung (County Charitable Trust) contributed DM 5000 towards the restoration of the synagogue, which is to be taken in hand in 2002. While this work is going on, the synagogue will be closed to the public.
In an account of the present situation in the town and the planned improvements, Mayor Winfred Bogdahn mentioned the town's intention to restore the former synagogue and to make it available to the public in an appropriate form in the next few years.
The erection of a memorial to remember the achievements and suffering of Lichtenfels Jews at a fountain in the town was discussed by the towen council in August.
A folder outlining the history of the Lichtenfels Jewish cemetery was published in the autumn with the title "Spuren des Lebens und Sterbens" (Traces of Life and Death). Some readers may remember that the cemetery was vandalised during the Nazi period, all but about five headstones were used for road-building.
Castle Schney near Lichtenfels
I have already mention this education centre in connection with the visit from the Brandeis University students.
On 10 December the formation of the North-East Bavaria regional branch of the Verein "Gegen Vergessen - für Demokratie (Association against Forgetting and for Democracy) was formally announced by Martin Becher of the Frankenakademie.
The foundation takes account of the fact that there are now many history workshops, private persons, trade unionists, church groups and school children who research local events during the Nazi period. But these groups and individals work largely in isolation, without any mutual sharing of their findings.
The new branch will attempt to connect the various initiatives, to share experts, and to promote the further education of teachers. Opportunities for further education of young people and adults are also being planned.
I find it interesting that Martin Becher reported a decline of opposition to local research of the Nazi period. "Nobody today" Becher said, "can afford to object to memorials" (particularly to Jewish victims, I assume), as some presumably did not so long ago (see press report in Appendix 30)
I am sure the new organisation will assist local researchers. I have another hope for it: that it will help those responsible for regular events in restored synagogues to coordinate speakers, performers and events. This will also reduce travel costs for individual syna- gogue organisers, particularly for speakers or perfomers from far away or from abroad.
Contact person is Mr. Martin Becher of the Frankenakademie, Tel (0)9571 / 9750 -13.
Memmelsdorf/Untermerzbach nr. Coburg
Mr. Hansfried Nickelhas told me, that the service buildings have been completed and that the progress of the restoration of the 1746 synagogue should enable it to be opened to the public early in 2003. As you will recall, some of the Baroque painting on parts of the walls is still in a state where it can be restored. The Monument Protection Service has decided to restrict the restoration to one wall, where the original painting is best preserved. An earlier idea to attempt to recreate the painting throughout the synagogue has been abandoned, as much for lack of authenticity as cost.
On 17 December, a conceptual plan for the final restoration and eventual use was presented by an art histrian and a conservator. The synagogue and the adjoining rooms will become a place of learning for young people and adults alike. The womens' gallery, the teachers' apartment and the recent additions will be used a seminar rooms. The prayer hall itself will show visitors aspects of the history of rural Jewry back to the 18th century. History can thus be shown as a process. The historic role of the synagogue as a place of learning will be revived by relating other rooms and displays to this function.
Some of you may remember my mention of the young Vicar Dominik Bohne, who spent some years in Israel and was therefore able to help the researches of my friend Johann Fleischmann, Mühlhausen, with the Hebrew inscriptions on the headstones of the cemetery. Bohne performed the same - voluntary - service for the Jewish cemeteries in Walsdorf, Burghaslach, Reichmannsdorf, Uehlfeld, and Zeckern.
Before leaving Mühlhausen for a position in München, Bohne published a book on the life and work of the Mühlhausen Pastor Hopf. Chriss Fiebig, who attended the presentation of the book, expressed pleasure, that the brave stand of Pastor Hopf in the Nazi period has now been acknowledged.
Johann Fleischmann has informed me that Mesusa 3, to be published in 2002, will deal entirely with the Jewish cemeteries in the area of the rivers Aisch, Aurach, Ebrach and Seebach.
A number of people from the USA with roots in the village have visited Johann Fleischmann, who showed them the cemetery and the former synagogue building. Some also visited the Bamberg Jewish cemetery.
The acquisition of the preserved synagogue building by the local council does not appear to have made much progess this year.
So far as I understand from the record of a council meeting in February, the acquisition of the former synagogue (built in 1732) has not yet taken place, in spite of urgings of a small group interested in the restoration of the synagogue, foremost among them Mr. Ansgar Feldman. The regional Office for Monument Preservation is now involved, and at its suggestion, students of architecture at the University of Bamberg are carrying out investigations as part of their diploma dissertations.This procedure is said to have financial advantages for the village.
I sense that the council is not exactly endowed with much sensitivity for the Jewish interest. A proposal by Feldmann and his friends that part of the building should be used to exhibit aspects of this old Jewish community - more important than Bamberg in the 18th/early 19th century -, have so far not received much response. Feldmann and his friends plan to establish in the womens' gallery a small museum on the history of the Reckendorf Community.
I have just heard from Mr. Feldmann, that the funding of the project has now been secured, and since the plans have been agreed with the Monument Protection Service, restoration can, in principle, begin soon The start will be deferred however until after the local government elections in March, in order to give the new Council freedom to act as it sees fit.
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