As in every year, the Interest Group Synagoge Altenkunstadt arranged a programme of events in the Synagogue. The first half of the year 2004 included -
25.01: A concert entitled Songs on a Winter Evening, with the Altenkunstadt group “Swing Low”.
10.02: An illustrated lecture by Klemens Wuttke, Nürnberg about the Tunis Journey 1914 by the painters Klee, Macke and Moillet.
10.03: A talk by Josef Motschmann, about the relation between Judaism and Christianity, based on the dictum by St. Paul: The Root that carries us.
28.03: Jewish and Christian liturgical music by the ecumenical singers Laudantes Deum from the area of Coburg and Kronach.
25.04: A concert entitled “Cello Dreams” by members of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra.
20.06: A Day Excursion to Lower Franconia: Visit to the Synagogue in Kitzingen, and to one of the WürzburgJewish cemeteries, and a variety of Judaica, among them mediaeval gravestones.
09.07-29.07: Exhibition in the Syna-gogue Altenkunstadt “Jerusalem - secret of its Soul”, by Shai Ginnot, Israel.
In the rest of the second half of 2004, the Interessengemeinschaft arranged two further events:
The memorial service at the Burgkunstadt cemetery took place this year on 5 October. The address was given by Josef Stark, the Mayor of Markzeulm.
Present were also the Mayors of Altenkunstadt, Burgkunstadt and Lichtenfels.
There was no newspaper report this year. Personal information from Josef Motschmann.
07.11: A tour through 700 years of Jewish history in Burgkunstadt, high-lighting the period from the middle of the 19th century to 1933, under the title of “Jewish entrepreneurs shaped the character of the town”. It was arranged with the local section of the Colloquium Historicum Wisbergense and led by our friend Josef Motschmann.
The excursion was attended by a record number of 100 people.
Motschmann and the Group stopped at five places in the town, where he explained different aspects of the history of the Jews in Burgkunstadt and Altenkunstadt.
He observed that in 1830, 430 Jews lived in Burkunstadt, probably as many or more than in Bamberg.
The excursion ended on the site of the former Synagogue, where there is a memorial stone for the victims of violence. The Deputy-Mayor of Burgkunstadt, Jürgen Vonnbrunn spoke words of remembrance.
Reported in the Obermain Tagblatt of 9.11.2004.
Bad Staffelstein - München - Altenkunstadt
We associate our good friend Josef Motschmann with the Interessengemeinschaft Synagoge Altenkunstadt, with the authorship of a number of books on the Jews on the Obermain region of Upper Franconia, with the many admirable activities in the restored Altenkunstadt Synagogue and in connection with the large Jewish cemetery of Burgkunstadt. But he actually does live in Staffelstein-Schönau.
His devotion to the cause of promoting an understanding of Jewish history, particularly in Upper Franconia, and his many efforts to promote reconciliation between Jews and Christians, will be well-known to readers of my Letters. His name has appeared in almost every one of the issues since 1986.
All his friends were therefore delighted when it was announced that he had been awarded the Federal Cross of Merit 2nd class by the former Federal President Johannes Rau. Josef received the Honour in Munich from the hands of the Bavarian Minister for Science, Research and the Arts Thomas Goppel.
At a reception by the Town in the “Old Mill” at Horsdorf, Mayor Georg Müller of Bad Staffelstein expressed his congratulations on behalf of the town and spoke of his personal pride in Josef’s Honour.
Josef spoke of the background which motivated him to become involved in numerous activities, most of which had a single purpose: reconciliation between Jews and Christians. (Reported in the Fränkischer Tag, Staffelstein edition of 28.07.2004, by the Neue Presse, Coburg and by the Heinrichsblatt, Bamberg, of 29.07.2004).
Motschmann and his wife were also invited to the festive end-of-the-year session of the Town Council, and to the dinner afterwards.
Motschmann had already been honoured on 25 January with the Silver Medal of Honour of the District Government of Upper Franconia. The Award ceremony, appropriately in the Altenkunstadt Syna- gogue, was conducted by the President of the District Assembly of Upper Franconia Dr. Günther Denzler.
The President underlined Motschmann’s willingness to put his strength at the disposal of other human beings and groups. I have already mentioned some of Motschmann’s achievements, but the President mentioned two more: his far from amateurish dialect poetry, of which I was only dimly aware, including his sermons in dialect. (Reported in the Heinrichsblatt, Bamberg, on 8.02.2004).
Dr. Hans Angerer, the President of the District Government has asked Motschmann to prepare a history of the Jews in the District, which will be handed to every school child in Upper Franconia on the occasion of the dedication of the Jewish Community house with Synagogue on 1 June 2005.
EbelsbachI have already mentioned that Schloss Gleisenau in the village is now where Cordula Kappner does her work and keeps her extraordinary archive of the Jewish families in the Landkreis Hassberge.
Friedel Hoffmann nee Gerstner, a Swedish descendent of that Jewish family, visited Ebelsbach, with her husband Ingmar. She had been to Ebelsbach before, on the occasion of Cordula Kappner’s exhibition On the Jewish History of Ebelsbach last year in the Hauptschule (Elementary school). On that occasion she did not have much time. This time she hoped to meet some locals who remembered her family and exchange memories and thoughts. Among others, Friedel met Babette Albert and her son Heinrich. Babette remembered Friedel’s uncle Justin, and the attempts made to save him.
Friedel’s father Alfred Gestner was the only one of three children who survived the Nazi murder machine, because he was able to escape to Helsingborg. He had visited Ebelsbach several times after the War before he and his wife died in the 1980s.
Cordula made Friedel very happy when she handed her the Matzos cover of her great-grandparents from Westheim. The press report does not indicate how Cordula came into its possession.
(Reported in the Fränkischer Tag, Haß- gau etc. edition of 27.8.2003).
ErmreuthThe 20 June 2004 marked the 10th anniversary of the completion of the restoration and rededication of the Synagogue in the village.
Between 10 in the morning and 7.45 in the evening, the day was filled with events:
10.00: Jewish Festive Service, (Jewish Community Nuremberg)
11.15: Words of Welcome to the Festival and the Exhibition (with Musical accompaniment by the trumpet chorus Ermreuth)
13.00: Film of the Opening Ceremony of the Synagogue on 19 June1994
14.00: Klezmer Group Massal-Tov
15.00: Jongleurs with the comic Max, followed by the release of balloons. A programme for children and youths
15.00: Jewish Cemetery, Guided Tour
15.30: Der Bluntschli, George Köhler sings and plays songs of the Viennese Cabarettist Georg Kreisler
16.00: Young people on the piano
16.30: Yiddish Songs and Klezmer Music with Igor Milstein and the Ensemble “Nechama”
17.00: “Franconian Sagas and Jewish Tales” by the Franconian Märchen and Sagenkreis, accompanied by yiddish songs with guitar and Celtic harp
17.45: Literary stage, with Rainer Streng. Humorous chassidic tales and rabbinic wisdom
18.15: Klezmer Music and yiddish songs by the Group “Passage”
19.00: Serenade by Oskar Schlummer and his Erlanger Group “Tibin Consort”, all sorts for flutes and horns
19.45: The Landis String Quartet: The world of dance from Minuet to Tango.
Many of the artists appearing had performed in the Synagogue before, but on this day gave their services. The entry fees will be devoted to the further development of the adjoining Schwarzhaupt House as a Museum.
The President of the planned Museum A. Derfuß spoke about the difficulty of raising money. Because of the prevailing views, that in times of financial stringency as those we live in, it was not sensible to devote money to new Jewish institutions.
(Reported in numerous newspapers in Erlangen and Nuremberg).
Synagogue and Jewish Museum
Ermreuth: - Programme 2004 (except for Remembrance or Anniversary events
07.03: Yiddish Songs and Klezmer Music with Igor Milstein and the Ensemble “Nechama”
27.03: Dr. Peter Hirschberg: “The whole of real Life is Encounter”. Martin Buber’s “Dialogue Philosophy” and the christian-jewish dialogue
25.04: A guided tour of the Ermreuth Jewish cemetery
08.05: Kletzmer concert by a ladies’ trio. All three had a University-equivalent education and were price winners of a chamber music competition in France
16.05: Participation in the International day of the Museum in the Jewish Museum Ermreuth
22.05: Rolf Kiessling reads from his new book “Jews in Forchheim”
06.06: “The Schwarzhaupts und ihr Haus”.
Opening of the exhibition in the future Jewish Museum in Ermreuth
20.06: An evening of Song: T. Diegrits, Baritone, G. Lang, Guitar
25.09: Yiddish Songs and Klezmer Music with the Ensemble Hopkele
09.10: Stefan Grasse Jazz Trio: “Tierra del Sur”
23.10: Talk by Alexander Nadler: über den balinesischen Hinduismus
30.10: An evening of Piano Music and song, with Daria Golubtchik
07.11: The Sound of the Source, Music and Word: creatively related in an unusual journey though time.
ForchheimRolf K. Kiessling presented his book “Juden in Forchheim” 300 Years of Jewish Life in a small Franconian town. Published by the Kulturamt des Landkreises Forchheim, 2004.
The author’s aim was to describe the history of the third Jewish Community, which established itself at the end of the 30 years’ War in 1648. Two earlier communities, going back to the late Middle Ages, did not last long because they were expelled.
Only twenty matricle places were available in 1813. Because of the small number of Jews in the town, the author was able to research and describe the history of each family in some depth.
The well-attended presentation, arranged by the Landkreis Forchheim, took place in the Herder Gymnasium in Forchheim. The musical frame was provided by members of the Forchheim Chamber Orchestra. Drinks were offered after the presentation.
The book enjoyed a lively sale both at the presentation and subsequently in the bookshops.
The appearance of the book has led to reflections in the town, how the deported and murdered Jews could be remembered in a dignified manner.
Pastor Bruske of the Baptists sug-gested the insertion of “Stolpersteine” (cobblestones) in the sidewalks. Other forms of remembrance are being discussed including the special role played by the Paradeplatz, from where the last eight Jewish citizens were deported.
Bavarian National ExhibitionThis year’s exhibition under the title “Noble and Free, Franconia in the Middle Ages” (up to 1500) took place in Forchheim. The exhibits of Jewish interest were some mediaeval gravestones from Würzburg, which had recently been discovered.
The Forchheim Section of the Society for Christian-Jewish Cooperation
As part of the Bavarian National Exhibition, a number of excursions to relevant places were arranged by different interest groups under the Motto “Kultour-Pfad Franken”. The section arranged a visit to the Baiersdorf Jewish cemetery, where the Jews of Forchheim and from other places in Franconia had been buried since 1348.
The Fränkischer Tag of the 4.11.2004 devoted a page to the “Kultour”, with a colour photograph of the cemetery.
Volkshochschule ForchheimThe Popular University had invited Prof. Daxelmüler, University of Würzburg, to talk about the history and culture of the Jews in Franconia. By means of testimonies spanning several centuries, he showed that the Jews were by no means the rootless nomads described by the antisemites, but on the contrary, were deeply rooted in their native heath. The Fränkischer Tag, Forchheim edition, of 29.9.2004 reported the lecture in a half-page article.
The New City Museum in the Forcheim Kaiserpfalz (Emperor’s Palace)
Mr. Kiessling has told me that the small Jewish section in the new museum has succeeded in documenting the history of the Jewish Community within its limited remit, i.e. during the Nazi period. The persecution of the Jews is shown in a special room. Photographs document the destruction of the Synagogue and the deportation of the Jews.
A Forchheim citizen had saved the Eternal Light of the Synagogue from a heap of ashes. He has presented it to the Museum.
Extracts from the judgment in the court case against those responsible for the November 1938 Nazi pogrom have been recorded on tape, which is available to any visitor to the museum.
KronachThe work of the “Aktionskreis Synagoge Kronach” is wholly admirable. Not only did the members restore the Synagogue with their own hands and mostly with their own money over a period of nearly 10 years, the use of the Synagogue is extraordinary. 50 or so events were offered during the year 2004, a major achievement for a private organisation. It was probably largely due to the energies and talents of Willy Zaich, the administrative secretary of the “Aktionskreis”.
It would stretch the frame of this Letter, if I were to mention each of these events, but I shall briefly mention those of Jewish interest and summarise the rest by category.
13.03: The Jewish Purim Festival, a talk by Eva Nickel, Berlin
14.03: When God created the world: Jewish Stories and Fairy Tales, again with Eva Nickel
21.03: Jewish and western Choral Music by the choir “Laudantes Deum” with inserted texts selected by Josef Motschmann
22.03: “When God and the World closed their eyes”. Otto Schwerdt, president of the Regensburg Jewish community talks about his experience in Auschwitz. The event was arranged by the Dr. Siegmund Loewe of the Realschule, Kronach
13.04 - 17.04: Excursion to the Jewish Berlin
18.04: Jeremia’s Song about Israel, in six stanzas. Readings and Songs with Claudia and Rainer Höfner, Kronach
20.06: Day excursion to the “Jewish Lower-Franconia”, to the Synagogue in Kitzingen and to places in Würzburg
26.06-25.07: Exhibition by the Branden-burg Trust, Places of Remembrance: “Jewish Prisoners in the Concentration Camp Sachsenhausen”
03.10: Klezmer Concert by the Trio “Mazal Tov”, Munich, on the anniversary of the completion of the restoration of the Synagogue Kronach
15.10: Illustrated report with pictures of the “Aktionskreis” Excursion to the Jewish Berlin in April 2004
Apart from the “Jewish” programme, the Synagogue is used for cultural events in music, literature and art. To give just a few examples:
“Mozart on his journey to Prague,” Exhibition of Artwork by Günter Grass, Lecture “Fundaments of Islam”,
Hitler and the women.
Almost all events were reported in the local press, some at great length.
Memmelsdorf (Lower Franconia)
now joined with Untermerzbach
The Synagogue in Memmelsdorf was mentioned for the first time in a document on 25 June 1729. 275 year later, almost to the day, the end of its restoration was celebrated on 27 June 2004 in the presence of a large and distinguished gathering.
Between these dates, the Jewish villagers - at one time a third of the total - suffered plunder, expulsions, deportation and murder. The Jewish community ended in 1939. The new owner looked after the building, until it was discovered and restored by a group of people headed by Hansfried Nickel, who was largely responsible for the foundation of the Träger-und Förderverein Synagoge Memmelsdorf. The group was helped by young volunteers from Germany, Poland, Israel, - Israel because Nickel’s school in Ebern was linked with the high school in Kyriat Motzkin.
But it was not the restoration alone which was celebrated on 29 June 2004, but the discovery of much material under the roof of the building and elsewhere, which made it possible to mount an exhibition in the Synagogue under the title “Fragments of History”.
The speeches at this event and a con-cert were reported in the Fränkischer Tag of 29 June in a full page piece, with three colour photos.
In a separate event the Synagogue was dedicated as a place of Learning and Encounter on 11 July 2004, again in the presence of a distinguished gathering.
The available space in the former Synagogue could not hold all those who had been invited, so that quite a few had to watch the proceedings by a television link in the former teachers’ quarters.
The event was brilliantly organised. As a result, it received so much media attention, that I could devote a whole issue of my Letter to the opening ceremony. But where to start? I shall have to condense.
The program began with a performance of two movements of the String Quartet in a minor op. 13 by Felix Mendelsohn-Bartholdy. The musicians were members of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, led by Peter Rosenberg, an Israeli of Russian origin.
- Words of welcome and congratulations were then spoken by Walter Eichhorn, Mayor of Untemerzbach, who added some thoughts of his own
Further speeches were made by:
- Dr.h.c. Susanne Kastner, Vice-president of the Bundestag (the Lower House of the German Parliament)
- Eberhard Sinner, Minister of State for European Affairs and Regional Relations
- Haim Zuri, Mayor of the twinned town of Kiryat Motzkin in Israel
- Rudolf Handwerker, County Councillor for the County of Hassberge
- Hansfried Nickel, President of the Society which promoted and completed the project.
Reflections, Perspectives and Reminiscences from:
- Daniela Eisenstein, Curator of the Jewish Museum of Franconia in Fürth
- Dr. Josef Schwarz, President of the Bavarian Association of Jewish Commu- nities.
This section of the programme was followed by another movement of the Mendelsohn String Quartet.
- Martin Rudolph, Cantor of the Jewish Community in Bamberg
- Herbert Becker, Vice-President of the society which promoted the project
- The remaining movements of the Mendelsohn String quartet.
An unexpected presence
A moving address was given by the unexpectedly present Emily Fleisher Beach from the USA who, with her husband, happened to be in Germany. In fact, they spent 9 months in Bavaria, not least to explore her roots, an enterprise in which she was much helped by a chance meeting with Cordula Kappner.
She discovered that her great-great- great-grandfather Benjamin Wolf Fleischer was born in Memmelsdorf and that he became a Bar-Mitzvah in the very room in which the “simcha” (celebration) was taking place.
“The restoration was in accordance with one Jewish principle”, said Mrs. Beach, “the Tikkun Olam, the putting together again a broken world”, and “given the intention that the restored former Synagogue should be used as a place of learning, another Jewish requirement was fulfilled”.
Mrs. Beach’s husband was a diplomat, which meant that she had to live in many places. When she first set up home in the State of Maine 25 years ago, people asked her where she came from, by which they meant, where the family originally came from. She would return to the USA in a few weeks time. If people asked her the same question again, she would know what to reply “From Memmelsdorf”.
Under the heading “Learning from History as an obligation for the future”, the Fränkischer Tag Baunach edition, devoted a full page with four colour photos to the event. Other reports appeared in the Neue Presse, Coburg, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Munich, Wochenpost, and Sonntagsblatt.
Other events in the Synagogue were reported by the Fränkischer Tag on 13.09.2004 and other newspapers.
Exhibition: “From the Jewish History of Untermerzbach” 2.11 - 28.11.2004
This exhibition, the 35th arranged by Cordula Kappner about Jewish life - and death - in the villages in the Hassberge area, was opened on 2 November.
One of the speakers at the opening was Israel Schwierz, Rector of an elementary school in Arnstein and Lay Leader of the Jewish Community of the US Forces in Würzburg.
“Like all exhibitions by Cordula”, he said, “the exhibits speak to us. The legends explain what one or the other visitor may not quite understand. Cordula had succeeded once again in combining judiciously the requirements of scholar-ship with much love for the life and suffering of the Jewish people”.
(Reported in a full page illustrated piece in the Neue Presse, Coburg, on 3.11.2004).
MühlhausenIt is not every year that I can report books on the history of Jews in two villages or groups of villages in Franconia. I have already briefly mentioned the book “Die Juden in Forchheim” by Rolf K. Kiessling and its presentation.
The main event in Mühlhausen during the year 2004 was the completion of the writing, publication and presentation on 7 November of Mesusa 4, another volume of history tracing the Jewish past in the area of the rivers Aisch, Aurach, Ebrach and Seebach by Johann Fleischmann and his colleagues of the Working Group “Jewish Rural Communities” in the area of the four rivers.
I was honoured to be invited to write the “Geleitwort” (a word meaning sending the book on its way). In my piece, I asked the following question: considering that Fleischmann and his colleagues had already published six volumes on aspects of the history of Jewish communities and individual families in the area since 1994, was there really anything of consequence left to research and report?
My question underestimated the many and varied experiences of individuals and single families, given in addition that they belonged to a religious and cultural minority. Even ordinary, everyday personal experiences, as well as achievements and failures, can contribute to the total picture.
Among the members of the 25 small and very small Communities in the area of the four rivers, there were both experiences and unusual achievements in the last 350 years worth recording.
Who would have thought, for example, that a Jew named Thomas Coen born in Mühlhausen in 1763 would one day be responsible for the good health of the toe nails of Napoleon and his first wife? Or that the village of Reichmannsdorf would nurture Isaak Lipmann, born in 1793, who would become a renowned scholar of the Chinese and Armenian languages and cultures and a Professor in 1831?
The life and experience of a Jewish soldier from Ühlfeld, Ludwig Schwab, born in 1896, is recorded in two essays and in his wartime Diary, which is reproduced in full in the original German language.
In his essay on the Diary, the grammar school teacher and author Dr. Helmut Haberkamm described the family background of Ludwig Schwab and how a copy of the diary came into his hands.
Haberkamm’s concluding sentence is worth recording, if only to show that there are Germans today of an entirely different stamp compared with 1933-1945:
“our country has not come to terms even today with the loss of the Jewish citizens, with their good education and talent, their spirit, humour and enterprise, through their expulsion and murder. And those who do not wish to remember this bitter inheritance and guilt and are not conscious of it, continue to deprive themselves and us of part of the best that this land has ever produced.”
Haberkamm also speculates why the Diary covers only the period 24.9.1915 - 24.12.1916.
Johann Fleischmann describes other wartime information on Ludwig Schwab. He subtitles his essay “Unique testimonies of a German soldier of the Jewish Faith from Ühlfeld”.
There are many interesting things in the 24 essay, of which 15 were wholly written by Johann Fleischmann.
The book contains 113 black & white illustrations, Reg. Nr. ISBN 3-933623-09-X (gb). It can be obtained from -
Johann Fleischmann Richard-Matthes Str.9,96172 Mühlhausen Germany.
It costs 18 Euros plus 1.40 Euros for packing and postage in Germany, 4.40 Euros elsewhere. It can also be ordered through the book trade.
The presentation of the book in the rooms of the local history society was preceded by a minute’s silence for Chriss Fiebig, who had died a few days before, and for the victims of the November 1938 pogrom and the Shoah.
(Reported in an extensive piece in the Fränkischer Tag, Landkreis Edition, of 11.11. 2004).
However important, the publication of Mesusa 4 was not the only notable event in Mühlhausen, nor the sole item of work by Johann Fleischmann and the working group worth reporting.
In January and February, Fleischmann copied the Jewish birth, marriage and death registers for Walsdorf, Reichmannsdorf and Aschbach, in the autumn he did the same for Burghaslach, in preparation for a future Memorial book for the local victims of the Shoa.
In the spring, Fleischmann conducted two separate groups through the Mühlhausen Jewish cemetery. The first group was made up of former soldiers of the Federal Army, who held a reunion in Mühlhausen. The second consisted of interested people from the district.
In the summer, Fleischmann accompanied Chriss Fiebig on a tour through the Jewish cemetery of Buttenheim for the Lions Club of Nuremberg.
Fleischmann’s working group is associated with the Local History Society. When the Society arranges exhibitions about its work, the working group takes part. Thus in July Fleischmann and his colleagues arranged a two-day exhibition on the history of the former Jewish community in Höchstadt an der Aisch, and in September, a one day exhibition about the Jews of Mühlhausen. The Bavarian Minister of the Interior Dr. Günter Beck- stein came and signed a copy of Mesusa.
On 5 December, Thomas Müller MdB, a young member of the German Federal Parliament, visited Fleischmann in order to inform himself on the history of the Jews in Mühlhausen, particularly their experiences during the Nazi period. Fleischmann took him on a tour of the cemetery and showed him the memorial to the Jews of Mühlhausen in the fore-court of the parish church. Finally they walked to the building which was once the Synagogue. Fleischmann pointed out, that it was the last one in the rural district. “If we do not restore and maintain it” he said, “we shall one day regret it”. At present in private hands, he suggested that, as part of a project of village renewal, it might serve as a house of culture and as a place of encounter of people of good will of all faiths.
(Reported by the Fränkischer Tag of 7.12. 2004)
The former Synagogue has been resto- red, but there is no evidence outside that it ever was a Synagogue. The interior is used a Kulturraum (room for cultural events), but again I have not heard of any Jewish ones being planned.
The sad part is that there is a good deal of material from the last two centuries stored in unsuitable places which has recently been found. It would be enough to make a good permanent display, even a small regional Jewish Museum.
At the beginning of the 19th century, Reckendorf was an important Jewish centre, with a larger Jewish population than Bamberg.
Financial considerations apart, the trouble seems to be that there is no permanent organisation of citizens, as there is elsewhere, which promoted the project and was willing to take responsibility for it after restoration, except for Ansgar Feldman. He was powerless on his own against the Council, which takes too much notice of the wishes and prejudices of the majority of citizens, who have not yet overcome the Nazi period.
I have discussed the situation with Can- tor Arieh Rudolf who visited the Mayor of Reckendorf but did not get very far. He tried but failed to make contact with Ansgar Feldmann. I have suggested two steps: 1. to establish the conditions for the financial support for the restoration from the government, and 2. to inform the person responsible for rural Synagogues at the National Bavarian Association of Jewish Communities in Munich.
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