Among the many events in the
restored Synagogue, The Obermain-Zeitung of 17 April reported
enthusiastically about a concert by the Fagocello ensemble.
On 24 April, the 60th anniversary of the deportation of 13 Altenkunstadt Jews to Belcec and Sobibor, 150 people took part in a silent march of remembrance along the same route to the railway station in Burgkunstadt as the victims had to walk. Josef Motschmann lit a candle for each of the unfortunates in the synagogue, where a moving memorial service was held.
A 32 minute video film on the history of the Jews on the Obermain, made by the Kulmbach history teacher Alois Harbauer, “Zu erinnern und nicht zu vergessen” was shown for the first time. It won a medal at the 23rd Bavarian Film and Video Festival “as a ideal medium of instruction in schools”. Harbauer said that without the researches of Motschmann, the video, which was dedicated to him, could not have been made.
On Sunday 15 September, on the occasion of the Jewish High Festivals, a memorial meeting took place at the Burgkunstadt Jewish cemetery. Mr. Motschmann reported that it was very well attended. The memorial address was delivered by the General Secretary of the Bavarian Social Democrats and Member of the Landtag Susann Biede- feld.
(See Obermain Tagblatt Burgkunstadt edition, 27./28. April).
Our good friend Josef Motschmann, is the president of the Society which restored the synagogue, ensures its appropriate use and looks after the Burgkunstadt cemetery (see last year’s Letter about his book on the cemetery). He has for many years researched and written about the history of the Jews on the Obermain.
I was very pleased, therefore, that he was invited by
Dr.Jerry Rauh, a paediatrician at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, to spend
two weeks at the National Jewish Archives in Cincinnati, to enable him to
research the history of Jews from the Upper Main area who, like Dr. Rauh’s
forebear (in 1853) emigrated to the USA and settled mainly in Cincinnati. While
there he also gave a talk to give a more balanced view of Germany today.
He also brought with him material for an exhibit at the Centre for Holocaust and Humanity Education at Hebrew Union College, which was mounted under the title “Shouldering the Responsibility: The story of Josef Motschmann”.
His visit was covered by the American Israelite of 13
June under the heading “Motschmann proves one man can make a difference”,
by the Cincinnati Enquirer of 5 July, under the title “Exhibit
tracks one man’s mission”, and in Germany, by a full-page interview with
Motschmann in the Obermain Tagblatt of 18 June.
We congratulate him on the success of his American trip and stand in admiration.
Motschmann also talked about the history of the Jews on the Obermain at the adult education centre at Schloß Schney near Lichtenfels. This was covered by the Obermain Tagblatt of 18 July under the title “Jüdisches war ein Tabu Thema”. On 15/16 July, the same paper had featured a piece by Motschmann entitled “Antisemitismus nicht hinnehmen”, largely with reference to the Möllemann affair.
EbelsbachMrs. Anneliese Lotz who, among her multifacetted public work in the town, has so far conducted 10 tours of local people to Israel. She is familiar with and promotes an understanding of Jewish history and wamly welcomes former Jewish citizens and their descendents.
^Buttenheim I had a first opportunity this year to visit the Levi-Straus Museum, located in the house in which Levi lived and from where his widowed mother emigrated with all her children to the USA. It is beautifully arranged and shows Jewish life in the village in the first half of the 19th century, but also Levi’s business start in the USA and later development. Levi was successful beyond his wildest expectations and devoted some of his wealth to supporting charities.
ErmreuthThe restored synagogue is now also a Museum. It has become an attraction for people from far and near. Among the visitors were 27 forms from schools 39 groups of various ages with diverse social backgrounds. Added to this were people interested in museums, who were conducted on those Sundays when the museum was open. Until the beginning of December, the Synagogue-Museum counted 2440 visitors, the highest number ever. Dr. Nadler also conducts tours to the Ermreuth Jewish cemetery, about which she has published a book.
Ecclesia - Synagoga
Although the financial situation of the German communes will not enable im- mediate progress to be made with the museum project in the Schwarzhaupt house adjoining the Synagogue, Dr. Nadler would be grateful for material relating to Jews in the area, including documents, letters, postcards, laudations at burials and portraits etc., and, of course, donations. Her address is:-
Dr. Raja Nadler,
Zweckverband Synagoge Ermreuth
91077 Neunkirchen am Brand
Tel. Germany (0) 9134 9278
Fax: (0) 9134 90678
Following the initiative of her mother- in-law Eleonor Nadler, Dr. Raja Nadler has created a cultural institution in the village of Ermreuth which is becoming of importance for the whole area and beyond.
FürthThe Jewish Museum of Franconia was nominated as the best small European Museum in 2002, but was just pipped at the post by another small museum.
HassfurtEva Erben, a child survivor of the Holocaust from Prague, about whom I have written in previous Letters, first came to Hassfurt and other places in the Land- kreis in 1998 on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the November 1938 pogroms.
Although a memorial stone to the Jewish citizens of Hassfurt
killed during the Holocaust was erected in the Promenade Street in 1988, a group
of Hassfurt people came together ro realise an idea which Cordula Kappner had
discussed with Mayor Rudi Eck, an additional, per- haps more significant
This new memorial is a brick wall in front of the entrance to the Bibliothek und Informationszentrum (headed by Cordula Kappner since 1979), where every brick has the name of one of the Holocaust victims in the Landkreis painted on by a pupil of the local Regiomontanus Gymnasium. The names were based on a list prepared, after extensive resarch, by Cordula.
The site for the memorial wall and the material used were suggested by Mayor Rudi Eck. The memorial was dedicated on 12 September. Among the speakers was the Mayor of Hassfurt, the director of the Regiomontanus Gymnasium and Cordula Kappner herself. (See Haßfurter Tagblatt 26 April, “Jeder Ziegelstein trägt den Namen eines Ermordeten” and Bote von Haßfurth, 26 April, “Die Opfer nie vergessen”).
Retirement of Cordula Kappner
On Friday, 29 November, many people gathered in the Hassfurt
Library and Information Centre to bid farewell to Cordula and to wish her a good
retire- ment. Speaker after speaker mentioned and thanked her for her commitment
and achievement in building the Library and Information Centre into an
intellectual centre and spiritual place of refuge, an extraordinary institution
for a small town of only 14000 inhabitants.
Landrat Rudolf Handwerker (county councillor) for the Landkreis Hassberge, also touched upon her research, writing and exhibitions about the Jews in the Landkreis and their fate in the Holocaust, which was renowend all over the world. With this work, he added, Cordula had set her own memorial.
One speaker coined an apt word about her likely future. Going into retirement in German means “in den Ruhestand gehen, i.e. to enter the State of Rest. In Cordula’s case, the speaker anticipated that it would probably be more aptly called an “Unruhezustand”, i.e. a State of Unrest.
I am sure that all my readers would wish me to thank her for her devoted voluntary work in recovering Jewish history of the more than 20 Communities in the Landkreis (county), including Holocaust history, and for presenting her research in more than 30 exhibitions over the last 20 years. Her achievement has rarely, if ever, been equalled in Germany.
We wish her health and strength to go on with her work on Jewish history in the region. (See Haßfurter Tagblatt, 20 November, “Der Schatzmeister verläßt die Schatzkammer”).
Cordula stayed on at the Library for another week or two and then immedia- tely took a plane to Israel.
More about Cordula’s work in the next item
Cordula Kappner researched the life and suffering of the
child Gerhard Eckmann, born 1929 in Burgpreppach during the Holocaust and
presented her findings in an exhibition in the Primary School in Hofheim, not
far from Hassfurt, from 8 - 26 April, The 21 panels show the tragic history of
His parents had sent him to Belgium in 1939, in the belief that he would be safe there. When the Nazis overran that country, he had to flee to France. In 1944, he was arrested, together with other Jewish children and sent to Auschwitz, which he just managed to survive. Shortly before the end of the War, he was sent to a sattelite concentration camp of Sachsenhausen and murdered there, aged about 15.
The opening of the exhibition was attended by many
representatives of schools and politics, as also by Israel Schwierz, the
president of the American Jewish Military Community in Würzburg. They all
thanked Cordula and praised her for her extraordinary personal commitment over
more than a year in searching for the documents. Without her devoted efforts,
nobody would have remembered Gerhard Eckmann. Cordula thought of him as
representing the one and a half million Jewish children mur- dered by the Nazis.
The speeches all showed the significance of the exhibition for the education of the young in the area and for the future of the country. Thanks also went to Jochen Schmidt, who prepared the display pictures.
The press covered the event on three occasions.
(See Haßfurter Tagblatt, 5 April,”Ein junges, kurzes Leben lang”, & 9 April, “Lernen aus der Vergangenheit”, Bote von Haßgau, 9 April, “Dem sicheren Vergessen entrissen”).
KronachAfter existing for 10 years, the Aktionskreis Synagoge Kronach can be proud to have achieved its principal aim: the restoration of the synagogue. Uniquely for such projects, they received no financial support from official sources. Although there was an earlier synagogue in the town, the present building dates only from 1883. It was not, therefore, considered a Landmark building.
“We have returned the syna- gogue to the consciousness of the people of Kronach who accept and respected it as part of the 1000 year history of Kronach”.
(See Neue Presse, Coburg 18 May, “Wir haben in
diesen 10 Jahren unser Ziel erreicht”).
According to the manager and treasu- rer of the Group Mr. Willi Zaich, there are many ideas on how to use the synagogue appropriately. I have suggested to him to join the incipient network of restored synagogues in Franconia, in order to obtain information on speakers, musicians and other activities which might be shared for synagogue events, with a saving at least in travelling costs.
Mr. Zaich composed a brief history of the 1870 synagogue, and
separately, an account of the Aktionskreis since its beginning 10 years
ago. He was kind enough to send me copies.
The synagogue was formally opened on 4 October, in the presence of the the Mayor of Kronach Manfred Raum, the president of the District Government of Upper Franconia Hans Angerer, County Councillor Oswald Marr, Heinrich Olmer, president of the Bamberg community and its Chasan Martin Rudolph, Mr. and Mrs. Willy Zaich, Mrs. Odette Eisenträger-Sarter and the Direcor of the Savings Bank Dr. Klaus-Jürgen Scherr.
I shall not relate the speeches, all of which praised the remarkable efforts of the Aktionskreis. Chasan Rudolph recited psalms in Hebrew and German and a memorial prayer for the murdered Jews of Kronach and for all victims of the Holocaust.
(See full-page article in FT, Kronach edition, 5 October, “Nach steinigem Weg viel erreicht”).
The Anne Frank Exhibition, already shown in 35 countries to 6
million visitors, opened in the old Town Hall of Schney near Lichtenfels on 9
July. 20 forms from schools had booked tours before the exhibition opened.
Further bookings from Associations, groups and schools were expected. Girls and
boys from Bamberg and Lichtenfels schools were trained to act as guides.
The exhibition is so well known that I need not go into details of its contents,
(See FT Lichtenfels edition 11 July, “Aufruf zu Toleranz und Menschlichkeit, Ausstellung Anne Frank, eine Geschich- te für heute”).
On 23 December Lichtenfels Mayoress Bianca Ficher, received a donation of 1000 Euros towards the restauration of the Lichtenfels synagogue, although de- tails of the project have not yet been decided by the town council. The money came from donations on the occasion of a concert.
(See FT, Lichtenfels edition, 24 Decem- ber, illustrated inset, no heading.
The restoration of the synagogue and the building of ancilliary facilities is nearing completion. It is expected that the synagogue will open to the public in July 2003.
The indefatigable Johann Fleischmann published Mesusa 3 on 3
September. entitled Spuren jüdischer Vergangenheit an Aisch, Aurach, Ebrach
(Traces of the Jewish past in the area of the rivers Aisch, Aurach, Ebrach and Seebach).
This beautifully produced hard cover volume with many colour plates presents the results of 10 years of his research into the eight Jewish cemeteries in the area of 25 Jewish communities and the families buried there: the cemeteries of Aschbach, Burghaslach, Lisberg, Mühl- hausen, Reichmannsdorf, Uehlfeld, Walsdorf and Zeckern. But it is also a cultural history of the Jews in the area.
The book of 392 pages is dedicated:
to all those, to whom it was not granted to be put to their final rest in the guten Orten (good places, a name for Jewish cemeteries, followed by the names of the above- mentioned cemeteries).
Fleischmann was assisted in the trans-lation of inscriptions
on the headstones and by Jiddish notices on Tahara houses by experts. It is this
care taken which makes this volume so systematic and definite.
The grave registers he found list the addresses, i.e. house numbers, of those buried.
The Frankischer Tag devoted almost a full page to a description of the book, to Fleischmann’s work and to the presentation event.
(See Höchstadt/Aisch edition of the FT, 5 September, “Sprechende Grabsteine in Mesusa 3”).
The book, which costs 35 Euros + packing and postage, can be obtained from
9, Richard Matthes-Straße
Tel:(Germany( (0)9548 721
Fleischmann gave several talks about the Jewish past in his area, including one at the Jewish community house in Bamberg.
He would like to ask everyone who has any connections with the area to get in contact with him. He collects all kinds of documents and pictures concerning the former Jewish communities in the area.
Fleischmann also received a few visi- tors this year from as far away as Por- tugal and the USA, showed them the appropriate cemeteries and assisted them with genealogical information..
Two unusual visitors were Keith and Kathy Summers, two Mormons from Hawai. The ancestors of Kathy were Jews who lived in Karlindach and Adelsdorf. Johann Fleischmann showed them the cemeteries of Zeckern and Mühlhausen. Thanks to his researches, they were able to identify some graves of ancestors and they left with much information.
(See full page piece in the FT, Höchstadt edition 25 May, “Mormonen mit jüdisch-en Wurzeln”).
ReckendorfThe local Council gave the final approval for the restoration of the 18th century synagogue and its adaptation to a “House of Culture” at a sitting in September. 80% of the cost of 1.2 Million Euros was obtained from conservation and similar funds. Contracts for the work were expected to be let before the end of 2002. I hope to be able to report on progress next year.
Although the Synagogue will be used for general cultural purposes, there will be a permanent exhibition of material relating to the important Reckendorf Jewish community.(See FT 12 September, “Synagoge wird Haus der Kultur”).
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