May 18, 2024
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“Famous” building! I was born there.

Surprise kosher lunch at a medieval museum.

Thursday was going to be an eventful day. While the group paid a visit to the Jewish Community Center (with kosher coffee table, and kosher cake furnished by Sohar, whose kitchen and dining rooms are located in the same building) we were again picked up by a teacher who took us on our second visit to Bad Homburg. I spoke this time in the Humboldtschule. Again 16-year-old students eased my language problem, which by the way became less of a problem the longer I was there and the more practice I had speaking German.

The usual questions followed, including a question that other students had also presented at previous occasions, namely—with my experience as I had described it—could I ever forgive the Germans and forget what had happened. I answered on both occasions the same way. “You the students and your parents are innocent, there is nothing to forgive. Your grandparents to the extent they were involved with the Nazis, must look to God and not me to forgive them. As to forgetting, no, I can never forget what happened to me as a boy, and the world should never forget the loss of six million Jews, including two million children, children just like yourself and your brothers and sisters.” I was happy to see the reaction of the students to that statement, with tears in the eyes of many, both boys and girls.

My wife said to one of the teachers that she would be interested in seeing what is being taught to the students about the Holocaust, and he produced three books from their library and said we could take them with us. I read one of the books on the plane going home and a second a few weeks later. I was very pleasantly surprised that they pulled no punches. Both books were history books and the chapters on the Holocaust described the treatment of the Jews, and other minorities, in specific terms without mincing any words. There were pictures, detailed description of the concentration camps, statistics and graphs so that a reader, such as a student, without any prior knowledge, would come away with a volume of truthful facts.

At noon we arrived punctually for an appointment in the offices of the mayor of Bad Homburg, Oberbürgermeisterin Dr. Ursula Jungherr, a lovely and very intelligent lady who spent two hours with us in her conference room talking with us about the town and its former Jewish residents. Upon leaving she presented my wife with a silk scarf with the Bad Homburg emblem and she gave me a tie with the Bad Homburg design, as well as a book, “Geschichte der Juden in Bad Homburg vor der Höhe” (“Story of the Jews in Bad Homburg”).

After saying our goodbyes to the mayor, she made her chauffeur and limo available to us for the remainder of our stay in Bad Homburg. We were taken to a villa on the outskirts of town that is now a medieval museum, for a surprise kosher lunch. It was a surprise since there are no Orthodox Jews in Bad Homburg and no kosher restaurant. In fact, there are no Jews in Bad Homburg that are willing to be recognized as such.

To explain how that came about I must digress for a minute to tell you about a wonderful young couple we had met in Frankfurt and with whom we became quite friendly. On the preceding Sunday, when we met with all the teachers to make arrangements for the school visits, a young man approached me, introduced himself and told me that he would meet with us in Bad Homburg. I must admit I did not know what he was referring to, but did not question him, since I was more interested to get the four teachers into a quiet corner so that I could speak to them all together at one time, instead of to each one separately repeating everything four times. I think we also met or at least saw his wife at that time, but I am not sure.

It was that lovely, strictly Orthodox couple, Jossi Bamberger and Gabriella Bamberger Schlick-Bamberger, who prepared the lunch in their home in Frankfurt and brought it with their own plates and cutlery to Bad Homburg for the surprise luncheon. There were about 10 people at the luncheon of which only the Bambergers and the Strausses cared about the food being kosher.

But everybody ate with gusto including the representatives of Bad Homburg who had come with us. We would meet with the Bambergers several more times during the remainder of our stay in Frankfurt. They both have doctorates; Jossi works for the city government in Bad Homburg researching the history of the Bad Homburg Jewish Community through the inscriptions on grave stones, and Gabriella works for the Jewish Community Center in Frankfurt with visitors and invitees.

From the luncheon we went to the Jewish archives where we were able to make copies of various family documents including a record showing that in 1927 Opa had two employees and one auto, and used one room for business in Bad Homburg and three rooms for business in Dornholzhausen; it also showed how much rent he paid, what taxes he paid and the estimated value of his property. Since the archives also had the original photos taken secretly during the Kristallnacht 1938 of the burning Bad Homburg synagogue and its subsequent tearing down, I was able to obtain clear copies for myself.

During the return trip we also stopped at the two houses we had lived in and at the Jewish cemetery. The apartment building I was born in, at 20-22 Kaiser Friedrich Promenade, was built in 1859 by a well-known architect, Edmund Heusinger von Waldegg, in a very unusual and unique Gothic style, and to this day is still standing in its original form. Angelika obtained for me from the archives of the city a publication covering just this building with newspaper clippings and the like. As an aside, the same architect also designed the Ritter’s Parkhotel on whose property stands the second apartment house we lived in at 11 Kisselefstrasse.

(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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