April 16, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Part 37 (written 2014)

(Continued from previous week)

The Stadt informed me subsequently that they could not again allow the cash for miscellaneous expenses nor pay the airfare. Everything else they would cover. Not allotting me the cash was all right since having left early the year before, we had not spent much of it. On the other hand, someone had to pay the airfare if they wanted me to come. I think that I really did not want to go, and therefore made this demand, assuming that there probably would be no one willing to pay the approximately $1500.

To my surprise, in the spring of 2005 Angelika informed me that she had succeeded in getting the city of Bad Homburg, together with the district government and one of the schools in Bad Homburg, to raise the necessary amount. Considering the urging by so many that it was my obligation to go, I decided to accept once again.

We left JFK on Wednesday, July 6, and arrived in Frankfurt the following morning after an uneventful Lufthansa flight (packed like a can of sardines). Since our luggage had been marked with special ribbons supplied by the Stadt, we did not have to pick it up; they handled it for us all the way to the hotel. We only had to identify it before it was loaded on the bus. Passport control was waived for us and the Stadt representatives took our passports and arranged clearance. Our group of about 20 people who had come on the same flight was taken to the private VIP lounge again to await a few others arriving from other points of origin.

We had to wait a few hours, but in the meantime, we had refreshments galore, introductions from various Stadt representatives and orientation about what was going to take place. Also, they gave out packages to everybody containing program details; free concert, museum, theater and local transportation tickets; and 400 Euros per couple for spending money. As I mentioned above, the cash was not included in my package. I took the opportunity to daven (pray) in a separate room that was made available to me, since it had been impossible to do so on the plane. (I had never seen a sardine davening, so I didn’t feel so bad.)

When all the planes carrying other members of the group had arrived, we were shepherded to the bus under supervision of six Stadt representatives to make sure that no sheep strayed out of the fold. At no time did we get near to where the “common travelers” moved; instead, a bus took us to a deserted part of the airport where we boarded the bus that took us into the city.

Since we had been there two years earlier, I will not comment any further about the Frankfurter Hof Hotel where we checked in once again. Prior to leaving the US, I had my contact arrange for a room on a low floor (since we would not be able to take the elevator on the Shabbat) and we settled in, one flight up.

Since, according to the program of the following day (Friday), we would not be returning to the hotel until 4 p.m., our first order of business was to arrange for food for Shabbat. Henry Rosenberg (who had been in my department at PB) and his lovely wife, Vicky, who were also in the group, joined us in making those arrangements. We decided, not knowing any other option, to order the food for Friday night and Shabbat lunch to be delivered by the kosher restaurant “Sohar,” and considering the circumstances, it was acceptable although not very fancy.

The other days we always had breakfast in the hotel and there we also made (neutral) sandwiches to take with us for lunch.

On Friday at 1:45 p.m. the group was picked up by bus and taken to Villa Leonardi, a fancy former estate with huge manicured grounds for a reception by the Stadt for coffee and cake served by Sohar. The mayor of the Stadt, Oberbürgermeisterin Petra Roth, a very chic and modern lady, addressed the group and then also stopped at each table for a chat. We were also addressed by the president of the Jewish Community Council.

Angelika brought me a copy of a newspaper article she had written about me and our visit to Frankfurt, and which had appeared that day in the Frankfurter Rundschau, one of the major Frankfurt newspapers.

On Shabbat morning we walked to the Westend Synagogue, the only major synagogue in Frankfurt that was not burned down during the Kristallnacht. It only had some fire damage to the roof. It used to be a Conservative shul with an organ. It is now Orthodox and the organ has been disconnected. There I met Rabbi Klein, the Gemeinde Rabbiner (community rabbi) of Frankfurt, and I had the opportunity to question him about the kashruth of the Budge Heim (old age home), which was on our itinerary. He confirmed that although it was not under his supervision, the food there was absolutely kosher.

(To be continued next week)

By Norbert Strauss

Norbert Strauss is a Teaneck resident and Englewood Hospital volunteer. He frequently speaks to groups to relay his family’s escape from Nazi Germany in 1941.

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