On the occasion of Rosh Hashana (the serious New Year Festival) there was a memorial meeting on 5 October at the Burgkunstadt cemetery. Josef Motschmann, the president of the Interessengemeinschaft (Association) Synagoge Altenkunstadt recalled the tradition, that Jews visit the graves of their departed relatives during the high Festivals. Anita Hermannsdörfer and Ursula Nützel recited verses from Psalm 130.
Numerous citizens participated in the ceremony. Among them was the deputy Land Councillor Peter Riedel, the third Mayor Gerlinde Konrad from Burgkunstadt and the second Mayor Werner Schütz. Peter Riedel gave a brief memorial address. (Reported in the Obermain Zeitung of 7 October.)The tenth anniversary of the restoration of the Synagogue was remembered by the Interessengemeinschaft during a memorial hour on 19 October.
The aim had been to create an Ort der Begegnung, des Gedenkens und der Kultur. (a meeting place for the Faiths, a place of remembrance and of culture).
The programmes over these years show how well the original aim was met, largely by the devotion and commitment of Josef Motschmann
Motschmann pointed out that the Jews on the Obermain (the upper reaches of the river Main), where there had existed many com- munities, had a history of more than 700 years.
Motschmann thanked the former Mayor of Altenkunstadt Eugen Braun, the second Mayor Robert Hümmer and Councillor Robert Fiedler for their support of the restoration project and the subsequent activities. Reported in the Obermain Zeitung of 21 October under the Heading “Geschichte bewahren, Barrieren abbauen” (Preserve history, remove barriers).
Lore Holmes, a descendent of the Vinegar and Mustard manufacturer Lindner visited Burgkunstadt with her family and was welcomed in the town hall by Mayor Heinz Petterich. She was shown all places of Jewish interest, including the ancient Burgkunstadt cemetery, where she visited the grave of her great-grandfather Leopold Lindner.
Lore is a Chemist and works at the renowend research Institute, the Brookhaven National Laboratory, New York.
Reported on the Obermain Tagblatt of 29 August under the heading “Dem Holocaust Knapp entkommen”). (Barely saved from the Holocaust)
A long piece in the Heinrichsblatt of 26 January under the heading “Das Leben eines ganz normalen Deutschen” described an exhibition in Cincinnati which featured Josef Motschmann’s 25 years of research into the history and life of the Jews on Obermain and the links of the region with Cincinnati, where many Jews emigrated. Entitled “Shouldering Responsibility, the story of Josef Motschmann”, the exhibition was put together by the department of Holocaust and Humanity Education at the Hebrew Union College under the direction of Prof. Racelle Weimann, with material largely supplied by Motschmann
As for an event of Jewish interest in the Synagogue, Josef Motschmann spoke on the subject “Man and Woman in Judaism, Christianity and Islam” on 2 May.
Between 26 and 20 October the Interessengemeinschaft arranged a study tour to Berlin, with the main object to look at Jewish Berlin.
Judging by the attendance at the opening the exhibition aroused a lively interest in the village. It was attended, among many others, by Konrektor Israel Schwierz as representative of the US Army’s Jewish community in Wüzburg, and amazingly, by the 95 year old Dr.med. Hanna Striesow, who had travelled from London for the occasion with her son Michael and his wife. Dr. Striesow’s parents, the Kohns, had lived in Ebelsbach until they moved to Bamberg in about 1906.
The speeches did not reveal anything that was new or unusual on such occasions, except perhaps the fact that Cordula had researched the history of the Jewish community and the fate of each Ebelsbacher Jew under the Nazis. This was evidently at the centre of her interest. The headings of the newspaper reports summarised the theme of the speeches.
It may be added, that the exhibition was mounted during the 1200th anniversity year of Ebelsbach.
The opening was reported by the Fränkischer Tag (Haßgau edition) on 11 November under the heading Lebenslinie jeder Familie beschrieben, (Family Tree of each Family described), and in the Hassfurther Tagblatt of the same day with a headline “Erinnerung an jüdische Gemeinde soll nicht untergehen” (The memory of the Jewish community must not be lost).
Later in the year, Cordula showed Werner Loval, an Israeli and Ruth Stanton, an American lady with roots in Maroldsweisach round the market town, as well as the Ermershausen cemetery (Reported in the Haßberge Echo of 8 June).
Dr. Raja Nadler reported to a meeting of the Neunkirchen council that in the first half year, several thousand people had visited the events and exhibtions in the Synagogue, including youth groups and school classes.
The Newspaper “Die Welt”, published a full-page article with colour illustrations in the magazine section of 2 July, headlined “Schwarzhaupts Haus”, about the relations between Christian and Jewish citizens of Ermreuth, which it called an “unusual story”
The Nazis not only failed to incite Christians against Jews. They paid no attention to the instructions of the Nazi Mayor, indeed, one Christian gave him a good hiding. They even accompanied the last Jews to emigrate to the railway station in Nürnberg and pulled out their handkerschiefs. Is this not only an unusual but a unique story in Germany?.
An article on similar lines about the Jews of Ermreuth appeared also in the Donau Kourier. Dr. Nadler found the piece a little over the top.
The Schwarzhaupt House across a beck from the Synagogue, which had been acquired by the Synagogue Association but is in a bad state of repair, attracted the attention of the Städtebauförderung (an organisation supporting the restoration of important buildings in towns and villages). It offered 60% of the restoration costs of the house, which is to be turned into a Museum of Jewish Life in Emreuth and the villages in the area. Some contributions are expected from the USA. An architect has been instructed to prepare plans and costs.
Perhaps the highlight of the year was the major exhibition “Blickwechsel: Begegnung Juden-Christen” (Change of view: Encounter of Christians and Jews) , which opened on 30 March in the Synagogue.
It was organised by the Protestant Society for Begegnung von Juden und Christen (Protestant society for Encounter between Jews and Christians), and was apparently strongly backed by a number of highly-placed Bavarian Protestants and Protestant organisations.
The object of the exhibition, was to examine the history of Christian-Jewish relations and to try to remove prejudices. The lead theme was to change the notion, that only one’s own faith guarantees salvation.
The moving spirit was the young theologian Jürgen Müller.
While the parents inspected the exhibits, their children came along to make Treidels from air-hardening model material under the guidance of Dr. Nadler. The children evidenly enjoyed it.
While I did not visit the exhibition, I received a copy of the well-designed Catalogue when the exhibition first opened in Regensburg some years ago. It is intended to move it around in Bavaria and we shall meet it again in Memmelsdorf.
The exhibition closed on 23 April with a Harp recital by Angela Hammer and Angelika Glückert. Joining irish-keltic Music with old Jewish music they established a link with King David, who enjoyed playing the harp.
The musicians demonstrated the ancient music of the Temple, which was banned from Synagogues many centuries later as profane.The progamme of events at the Synagogue was as interesting as usual.
Much of March and April were taken up by the mounting of the Exhibition “Blickwechsel”, to which I have referred above. Of the five events in the spring and summer, only one was directly of Jewish interest: an evening of Klezmer Musik by the ensemble Masel-Tow” on 24 July.
The Synagogue participated, however, in the “International Day of the Museum” on 18 May, and Dr. Nadler arranged a hobby afternoon for children and their parents on that afternoon. The products of the childrens’ efforts were shown on 13 Juli
Of the seven events in the Synagogue in the autumn, I have already mentioned those on 8 and 9 November under “The 9th of November in Ermreuth”. There were three others of Jewish interest.
On 21 September there was a performance by the Swing and Klezmer Trio Cologne; On 12 October, a Classic Klezmer Concert by Alex Jacobowitz, “a master of travel-story- telling and musical magic”. On the 26 Octo- ber, Dieter Dörner related the experiences of the Jews in towns and rural areas so far as they can be inferred from information at Jewish cemeteries.
All events in the Synagogue were reviewed in the Erlanger Zeitung, some also in the Fränkischer Tag, but the cuttings received by Dr. Nadler did not show the dates.
In January photos turned up which had been lost for 60 years, although their existence was remembered by surviving eye witnesses. They show six women and two men in an open lorry being transported to Bamberg on 27 November 1941, from where they were deported with many others on 29 November to the Jungfenhof extermination camp near Riga. Reported in the Fränkischer Tag, Forchheim Edition, 6 March 2003, under the heading Über dem Küchenstuhl auf die Ladefläche (the deportees had to mount the lorry with only the aid of a kitchen chair). Unbelievably, one of the women vic- tims had visited the hairdresser before her deportation!
The event was also reported in the Nordbayerische Nachrichten of 6 March under the heading “Document des Grauens” (document of Horror). Both papers reported at length.
At the invitation of the Society for Christian-Jewish cooperation, Rolf Kiesling read from his forthcoming book on the Jews of Forch- heim. The discovery of the photos was dis- cussed on this occasion. Mr. Kiesling has asked those who can identify one or more of the eight persons to let him knwo.
The curator of the new town Museum in the restored Kaiserpfalz Mrs. Fischer has confir- med, that the fate of the Forchheim Jews will be documented in the museum.
I reported in my last “Letter”, that Bernhard Purin, the director the Jewish Museum of Franconia in Fürth (with a branch in Schnaittach) had been appointed Director of the major Jewish Museum to be built in Munich and that he would leave on 1 March 2003. I ventured to write that, as he and the Jewish communities in Fürth and Nuremberg were in disagreement on almost everything to do with his work, starting with the concept of the museum itself, because insufficient material had been shown on the Holocaust as it affected Fürth and Nuremberg Jews, and later with some of his temporary exhibitions and films, he will have been relieved to go, particularly to a much more prestigious job.
An appreciation of Purin’ work appeared in, the Allgemeine Jüdische Wochenzeitung of 24 April 2003. It noted that Purin had turned the house at Königstraße 10, (the 18th century home and works of a Jewish printer), together with its satelite branch in the former Synagogue in Schnaittach, into an internationally respected museum, which was runner-up in the competition for the “Small European Museum” of 2000. It became more than merely a regional museum.
Purin’s adversaries, including if not led by Arno Hamburger of the Nuremberg Community, effectively wanted the museum to become a commemorative museum of the Holocaust. While such an institution is very necessary and important, there was not adequate room in the house to recount the suffering of the almost 20000 Jews in both cities, not even if the museum were to ignore the rest of the 250 year history of the Jews of Fürth. One can only hope that space will be found, as close as possible to the present museum, for a permanent memorial to the victims of the Holocaust from Fürth and Nuremberg
The Jewish Museum in Munich will become only less important in Germany than the much admired Berlin museum. Purin’s new job will make other museum directors green with envy, because he will be involved from the ground up, so to speak, i.e. with its design and the plans for its construction.
Purin’s successor at Fürth is the 33 year old American Daniella Eisenstein. She had studied Judaistics and History at the Jewish “University” at Heidelberg and the Hebrew University in Jerualem. Before coming to Fürth, she had worked at the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt-am-Main.
The Fränkischer Tag devoted an article on 21 February to her selection and an inter- view with her on 5 April. It remains to be seen how she will get on with the people who made Purin’s life so difficult. She will certainly need to muster all her strenth and diplomatic skills to survive, particularly as she seems to have indicated that she would continue the general line of Bernhard Purin.
In September, Cordula Kappner undertook yet another initiative. A march against forgetting, in the form of an unusual town tour on 13 September.
Before she showed members of the Historical association each house in which Jews had lived, she mentioned that three Jewish families lived in the town in 1427, in 1740, there were four households, in 1824 six. In 1925, there lived 125 Jews in Haßfurt.
She then moved round the town, stopping at each house in which Jews had lived, and using the location to relate the history and the everyday life of Haßfurt Jews right up to the deportations.
After stopping at the former Synagogue in the Schlesingerstraße, the tour ended at the Memorial created by Hannelore Heiman (Ghana Pines), in the Promenade, on which is engraved a moving sentence from Genesis.
(Reported in the Fränkischer Tag, Haßgau etc.Edtion, 15 September “Um diese Menschen nicht zu vergessen” (That these people are not forgotten), and in the Haßfurter Tagblatt of 17 September ”Auf den Spuren der jüdischen Bürger in Haßfurt” (Tracing Jewish citizens of Haßfurth).
As a number of Bamberger Jewish families hailed from Kleinsteinach (for example the Saalheimers), I might mention that under the heading “Ohne Schmuck und Zier” (without adornment or decoration), the Haßfurter Echo of 31 July reported a tour of the Haßfurth History Society to the large district cemetery at Kleinsteinach, guided by Cordula Kappner and Thomas Schindler of the Haßfurt Town Archive. He has done much study of Jewish life and practice and spoke about the Jewish cemetery in its historic and ritual context.
The Aktionskreis arranged about 45 events during the year, mainly in the Synagogue.
I shall briefly recount those of Jewish interest.
In March, Otto Schwerdt, the president of the Jewish community Regensburg, talked about his lost youth in Auschwitz to pupils of the Realschule (Reported in the Neue Presse on 21 March, under the heading: “KZ Überlebender ruft Teenagers auf: Schaut nicht weg wenn Unrecht geschieht. Otto Schwerdt erzählt Realschülern was geschieht wenn man schweigt”, (Survivor appeals to teenagers: Don’t look away when insjustice is perpetrated, Otto Schwerdt tells pupils what happens when one is silent) and in the Fränkischer Tag of the same day under the heading “Erfahrungen eines Überlebenden: Lesung zum Thema Holocaust” (Experienriences of a survivor: Readings about the Holocaust).
A four day visit to Amsterdam and other places with the theme “Jewish Netherlands” took, place from 22 - 26 April. (Reported in the Neue Press of 7 May).
“Die Bibel im Sinne des Judentums neu entdeckt.” (The Jewish Bible newly disco- vered). The Aktionskreis Kronacher Synagoge presented a new exhibition on Trees and Plants in the Bible). Reported im “Fränkischer Tag” vom 17. September.
On 26 September, the Neue Presse reported a talk by the Bavarian Forestry President Olaf Schmidt on “The Hebrew Bible provided for ecological care of forests”.
A talk by Willi Zaich: “Heute ist für Juden der erste Tag im Jahr 5764: Rosh-ha Schana, ein Gutes Neues Jahr.” (Today is a New Year for Jews [...])
At the same time, he spoke about Yom Kippur and Sukkot and Simchat Thora. (Reported in the Neue Presse vom 27. September).
The dedication of the Synagogue 120 years ago was remembered in the Fränkischer Tag on 3 October and in the Neue Presse on 5 October headed “May we be allowed to pray as we were taught”.
Other events were a Klezmer concert reported in the Neue Presse on 4 October (Music which came from the stomach and the heart and descended into the feet”,and reported in the Fränkischer Tag on 8 October (Intensive world of sound. Klezmer Music in the Kronach Synagogue”.
The first anniversary of the reopening of the Synagogue was remembered in the Fränkischer Tag on 3 October and in the Neue Presse on 5 October.
An ecumenical reading of the Hebrew Bible lasting 12 hours, by readers from schools, the theatre and politics was reported in the Neue Presse on 3 November,
The pogrom of 9 November 1938 was remembered in the Synagogue (see under events of the 9 November under Kronach).
On 21 November, there was a talk about “Rabbi Dr. Leopold Stein, German-Jewish poet, patriot and reformer” by Rainer Domke, in collaboration with the Volkshochschule (Reported in the Neue Presse, Coburg on 1 December).
Leopold Stein was District Rabbi in Burgkunstadt for nine years from 1835.
The work of the Aktionskreis probably moved the editors of the “Stadtlesebuchs”, published on the occasion of the 1000th anniversary of Kronach, to include a chapter on the Jews in the town. In Josef Motschmann they found a competent author.
The chapter on the Jüdischkeit zu Cronach (Kronach Jewry) by Josef Motschmann, and the festive speech the Kronach Synagogue “in exile”, by Willi Zaich at the rededication were published as a most attractive colour brochure by the Aktionskreis and presented in the Synagogue. (Reported in the Fränkischer Tag of 8 October).
Most of the many other events were reported either in the Fränkischer Tag or in the Neue Presse, Coburg.
I feel sure that the citizens of Kronach appreciate the creation of a new venue for cultural events in the Synagogue. Much credit is due to the Aktionskreis and particularly to Willi Zaich. The sillver medal of Honour he was awarded by the town of Kronach was well deserved.
The restoration of the Synagogue seems to have been completed. The photos I received from Hansfried Nickel of the Träger und Förderverein Synagoge Memmelsdorf (in Unterfranken) showing the way in which the dust of the ages has been removed from the Ahron Hakodesch (Thoraschrein) and on part of the walls, where the paintwork has been restored sensitively. The teachers’ for- mer apartment has been converted into a large information room.
The Synagogue will be formally dedicated on 11 July 2004. The reason for the delay is that some building work is still to be completed in the Judenstraße, and a small square is currently being created in front of the Synagogue
I have received an excellent paper, describing the Project, giving a cronicle of the community and Synagogue, the guiding concept for Conservation and Restoration, and proposals for the use of the Synagogue.
Nickel draws attention to the special care given to work with young people, the cross- regional and international efforts, and to the partnership of the Friedrich Rückert Gymnasium in Ebern with the High School at Kyriat Mozin in Israel.
Pupils of the Friedrich Rückert Gymnasium took part in a Germany-wide didactic project which turns a monument like the Synagogue into a Lernort, i.e. a place for learning about the past. (Reported in the Fränkischer Tag on 16 May).
Events in the Synagogue included the exhibition “Blickwechsel” Jews and Christians-Christians and Jews, which I have discussed under Ermreuth above, and an appearance of the Choir “Inspiration”, which specialises in Hebrew liturgy, Yiddish and Israely songs. You will remember that I presented the choir with the Award of the Wiener Library London three years ago. It was an interesting evening, because each item was explained. Peter Rosenberg, the alternate leader of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra came to give a talk on Mahler nd Schönberg, illustrated with musical examples played on his violin.
& Working group Jewish past on the rivers Aisch, Aurach, Ebrach & Seebach.
The translation of the first-War diary of Ludwig Schwab, born in Ühlfeld in 1896, was completed. In 86 pages, he showed his patriotism, but also noted the antisemitism he experienced. The gravestone of his parents Ignaz and Ida Schwab are illustrated on page 236 in Mesusa 3.
For more than a year, Johann Fleischmann attempted to find information on the Haas family, particularly Dr. med. Manfred Haas, born in Mühlhausen in 1885, a soldier in world war 1 and a practicing doctor in Munich and Leipzig. In his circular letter 1/2003, Fleischmann described the circuitous route by which he eventully found Haas’s descendents and his life story.
Johann’s principal activities this year were related to educational projects. There was first of all the surveying, photographing and documentation of the large Zeckern cemetery by pupils of the Höchstadt Realschule, With the help of his friend Lothar Lehmann, a teacher at the school, two classes of pupils were able to spend four days doing this work. The 12/13 year olds were highly motivated and interested, and at the end of the four days, they expressed the hope to be able to come back next year to complete the work.
Apart from that, Johann carried out guided tours of the cemeteries in Mühlhausen, Reichmannsdorf and Burghaslach in the summer, and three tours of the Mühlhausen cemetery in the Autumn.
But the most fascinating story of the year must be told at some length:
After trying several other places named Mühlhausen, two French families, those of Andre Meyer and Bernard Lyon-Caen, homed in on Johann Fleischmann with a request to find out more about their ancestor and told him an astonishing story, showing once again the success of a Jew from a Franconian village.
Their ancestor, one Tobias Seligman, born in Mühlhausen in 1763, emigrated to Paris in 1793, where he adopted the family name Koen. He was a medically-trained chiropodist, a Chirurgien-Pédicure and in time found his clientele among the leading men and women of post-revolution France.
Among them was Napoleon’s first wife Josefine Bonaparte from 1799, who wrote a testimonial in 1803 confirming his skills and good service over the four years. Soon Napoleon himself became a client and in February 1810, Koen was appointed Chirurgien-Pédicure in the emperor’s service, with a large salary and the right to wear a uniform and sword! Koen even looked after the feet of Pope Pius VII while he was on a visit to the Emperor at Fontainebleu!
After the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo and his second banishment to St. Helena, Koen lost his job in the State health service, but his reputation ensured him continuing employment in the highes aristocratic circles until his death in 1849, aged 85 years. He was buried at the Cemetery Pére Lachaise, next to his wife Thérèse nee Kohen, who predeceased him by 34 years.
His gravestone shows his profession to have been a Chirurgien-Pédicure, and lists his most impotant noble clients. Five of his of his six children survived
The family remaining in Mühlhausen adopted the name Oberfelder in 1818 and their graves are in the Mühlhausen cemetery.
During the visit of the French descendents in Mühlhausen, Fleischmann talked about their ancestor to the local history association.
Following the visit of the Frenchmen, Johann Fleischmann and the Arbeitskreis received an invitation to visit Paris.
The story was reported extensively in the Fränkischer Tag & the Nordbayerishe Nach- richten. For dates call Fleischmann on e-mail address Johann.Fleischmann@mesusa.de.
Meantime, the descendents of the maternal line of Tobias Koen from America made con- tact with Fleischmann and supplied an extensive family tree.
Just outside the region of the working group lies the village of Diespeck, near Neustadt an der Aisch. The retired teacher Ilse Vogel has written a book about the Jewish past of the village. It will be published next September at 15 Euros, if ordered before the summer through Johann Fleischmann.
Ilse’s other project is the documentation of the Diespeck Jewish cemetery. She would welcome the help of anyone who would like to correct her manuscript. Write to Johann Fleischmann in the first place.
It is not intended to restore the inside of the the synagogue to its original state - unlike that in Altenkunstadt and Ermreuth, but there will be vitrines to show artefacts and documents in the women’s gallery. The Synago- gue itself will be equipped as a Kulturraum, i.e. a space for cultural activities.
The documentation of the history of the Synagogue, and presumably of the important Jewish community, will be carried out by the voluntary archivist Adelheid Waschka. Her presence in the village is a real piece of good fortune. She also wrote an excellent history of the origin of the Community in ca 1705 and of the Synagogue.
I reported some years ago, that many box- es of documents found in the Synagogue were taken to Fürth. In the meantime, the building work has unearthed 30 more cartons of documents and some artefacts. A surprise was the discovery of more material from the Reckendorf Genisa (store of religious books etc, which Jewish Law does not permit to be destroyed) at the railway station. These will require restoration, but because of the present financial situation of the commune, as of so many others, this will have to be deferred, unless donations are received.
Another piece of good luck for making possible the writing of the history of construction and subsequent changes of the Synagogue is the work of research students from the Institut für Denkmaklpflege (Institute for the Care of Monuments) at the University of Bamberg in 2001. Among them was the civil engineer Dipl. Ing Hans-Christof Haas, who was so fascinated by the subject of rural synagogues that he commenced his studies for a PhD degree on this subject at Bamberg University last year. Meantime he has sur- veyed the Reckendorf Synagogue, studied old plans, and made new ones. As part of his Thesis, he has already written a brief history of rural synagogues, particularly the ritual requirements, again with special reference to Reckendorf.
Direct references to the Synagogue project in the village Council this year were reported in the Fränkischer Tag on 12 April “2.2 Milllionen Euros for Investititonen” (2.2. Million Euros für Investments), and on 18 July, “Synagogengeschichte wird dokumentiert” (The history of the Synagogue will be recorded).
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