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

Dedication to Rashi.

Rashi’s chair (made from a single piece of stone).

Worms Cemetery.

On Sunday afternoon, July 10, in one of the hotel banquet rooms, the group was the guest once again of the hotel with coffee and cake (non-kosher, but good coffee). The manager of the Frankfurter Volkstheater (People’s Theater) entertained the group with jokes, poems and short stories by Adolf Stoltze, a well-known writer, in Frankfurter dialect. This was a repetition of our first trip. Opa used to love to quote Stoltze when we were children. I have recorded from memory many (almost 100) sayings of Opa, including much of Stoltze, and it is available by email to anyone interested.

At 8 p.m. that same day, the Gesellschaft invited the group to a special event in the Jewish Museum, which was just a few blocks from the hotel. The purpose of the event was to introduce members of the group to their school project, “Jewish Life in Frankfurt,” and afford us the opportunity to meet with students and teachers, as well as with other organizations who were interested in meeting with the group. At that time, I was able to meet with the teachers who represented the four schools where I was going to speak and was able to make specific arrangements with them regarding place and time of pickup at the hotel. I had insisted that we be picked up by car and brought back to our hotel whenever I was going to speak at a school. This all was a repetition of our first trip two years earlier.

On Monday the group was going on a sightseeing tour of the city but instead the two of us were picked up in the morning for my first “school assignment” at the Kaiserin Friedrich Gymnasium in Bad Homburg, the city of my birth. (Kaiserin is the wife of the Kaiser whose name was Friedrich. This strange female/male combination title came about due to the popularity of the Kaiserin amongst the people. With the permission of the Kaiser she was able to use that title.) This was the first of the two schools in Bad Homburg where I was going to speak, neither being the school that I attended as a boy in 1933 and 1934. Three classes totaling about 75 16-year-old students had assembled with their teachers. Since the students all had had three to four years of English, I was able to address them in English.

(The prefix “Bad,” meaning bath, in front of Homburg is a designation allowed to be used by several towns in Germany since those towns had mineral baths, which were a great tourist attraction. In the case of Bad Homburg, the letters “v.d.H.” after the name stand for “vor der Höhe” or “in front of the Heights” referring to the Taunus Mountains just north of it.)

I told them my Holocaust story, covering 1933 to 1941, followed by unending questions mostly asked in German and answered by me sometimes in German, sometimes in English, and often a mixture of the two.

Afterwards another teacher drove us back to Frankfurt, making stops in Bad Homburg at the two buildings where I had lived, as well as at the memorial to the synagogue that had been burned down during the Kristallnacht.

On July 28 an article appeared in the Bad Homburger Woche about my visit.

The whole group in two buses took a trip to Worms on Tuesday that included a guided tour of the famous Jewish cemetery there, the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe, dating back to 1076.

We also visited the ancient synagogue, the Rashi Yeshiva, including the famous Rashi chair, made out of solid stone, on which he probably never sat, and the ancient mikvah, which had been destroyed in bombing raids and had been rebuilt after the war.

Afterwards the buses took us up into the Odenwald Mountains for a picturesque landscape view, stopping at a restaurant on top of a mountain for coffee and cake (not kosher). This was a typical place where German families go on a Sunday afternoon outing. We arrived back at the hotel at 7 p.m.

On Wednesday was my second school visit while the group had a guided tour of the Jewish Museum in the morning and a coffee table at the Stadtwerke cafeteria in the afternoon.

We were picked up again at the hotel by a teacher who took us to the Philipp Reis Schule in Friedrichsdorf, a small town located between Bad Homburg and the Taunus Mountains. It is a town that never had any residents who recognized themselves as Jewish, until the Nazis brought it to their attention. Consequently, they never previously had any speakers from any of the groups in Frankfurt. Although I had no connection to that town, I agreed to speak there since they had begged the Gesellschaft to provide someone. Therefore, the reception was quite warm, and the students and teachers listened intently to what I had to say, followed by many questions. Again, these were 16-year olds, who understood English.

When I questioned a teacher about the history of Jews in Friedrichsdorf, he handed me a book about the town and told me that the little that is known I would find in the book. Reading the book later, the only reference that I could find to something Jewish was the existence of the Haller’s Friedrichsdorfer Nudelfabrik, manufacturing kosher noodles on order from the Frankfurter grocery wholesaler, David Bauer. Kosher supervision was given by the rabbi in Bad Homburg. Shortly after 1933 the owners were told by the Nazis to stop the manufacturing of kosher noodles.

As we were leaving the school, the students presented me with a book with many pictures of the district Hessen, in which Frankfurt, as well as Bad Homburg and Friedrichsdorf, are located. In front of the book the students had attached a photo of the class and every student had signed his/her name on the page.

The following day the local newspaper the Tages Zeitung printed an article about my talk, although with a terrible picture of me.

We were driven back to Frankfurt by another teacher.

(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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