The death of Chriss Fiebig
The situation in Israel apart, the sudden and unexpected death of Chriss Fiebig shocked me and many people and certainly remains uppermost in my mind among the events of 2004. It touched me the more, because we had a long telephone conversation the evening before she died, when we reviewed the future of our Jewish projects in Bamberg.
I lost not only a dear friend of almost 20 years, but a wonderful and ever-ready collaborator. The Letter from Bamberg would not have been possible without her inputs. I called her “my Bamberg Jewish News Agency”. Who can replace her?
I have not yet checked, but I think that references to the work of Chriss appeared in every one of the 18 annual Letters since the first one in 1986. If you have kept the Letters which have appeared so far, you can test the validity of this observation.
In some fields Chriss is irreplaceable. Her Jewish educational work for schools, colleges, Universities, for all kinds of societies and associations is one of these. Because of her special approach to the teaching of Judaism, she became the focus of interest of people of good will in interfaith activities, with the result that she knew more than anyone else what was going on in this field in and around Bamberg and elsewhere.
I had to undergo an operation to replace my right knee a few weeks before Chriss’s death and was unfortunately unable to travel to Bamberg for the funeral.
I spent the days before the funeral in composing the eulogy, which Cantor Martin Rudolph would read on my behalf.
I could not but reflect on Chriss’s life and work, to recall how much of Jewish life and interfaith relations in Bamberg depended on her. Quite a few people have written to me since the funeral. Here are two examples: Werner Oppelt, before his retirement the director of the E.T.H. Hoffmann Gymnasium, in Bamberg, wrote: All of us and Bamberg are the poorer by Chriss’s too early death, and Dr. Rajaa Nadler, who was largely responsible for the restoration of the Synagogue at Ermreuth near Forchheim 10 years ago and its loving use since, now also as a museum, wrote: It makes me sad and hurts, that with the death of Chriss the soul has departed from Bam- berg. I shall miss her very much.
She will be a very hard act to follow, if indeed there is any single person in view, who can take up her manifold activities.
The prayer Hall of the cemetery could not hold the approximately 200 people who attended her funeral. Quite a few had to remain outside and were unable to hear prayers or eulogies.
Because many people have asked for a copy of my eulogy, I have added it as an appendix to this Letter.
Chriss’s death occurred shortly after she had found out through Professor Henry Wassermann of the Israel Open University, that her grandfather Professor Fiebig at Leipzig (on the non-Jewish side of her family) had been an eminent scholar in Judaistics! Wassermann had recently sent her references to her grandfather’s published works, but she had not yet started to look for them. She was going to tell me more on my next visit to Bamberg in May 2005.
Chriss’s death and funeral were reported, together with brief appraisals of her life, in the Fränkischer Tag of 5 and 9 November, and in the Heinrichsblatt on 21 November.
My inability to travel also meant that, for the first time in many years, I was unable to attend the remembrance meeting at the Synagogue memorial on 9 November. I was sad that there was not present any other member of the pre-War community.
The situation in Israel continued to worry us greatly, particularly those of us who have children there, as did the inconclusive end of the War against Saddam Hussein, which I for one saw as necessary, if only by reference to the situation in Germany in 1936. The parallels were frightening. I set out my views in a paper.
I was pleased with the presentation of my Letter on the Internet, as part of a website by my friend Thomas Starz, the address is: www.juden-in-bamberg.de
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