April 15, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Memorial to Agnon in Bad Homburg.

Temple of King Chulalongkorn of Siam, an annual visitor to Bad Homburg.

The following day we took a walk through the Kurpark, a well-known park with a lot of historical points of interest, including a building in honor of King Chulalongkorn of Siam who had regularly visited Homburg for his vacation, and who had donated the building. We also “enjoyed” the waters that Bad Homburg is famous for. I had a drink and it reminded me of my youth. Esther tried it and would rather not try it again. Dorothy chickened out. It is high in minerals, especially sulphur. To say the least, it has an unusual taste, which must be acquired. Visitors come to the “Bad” and sit in the Kurhaus drinking glassfuls for their health.

The park also has statues of Friedrich III when he had become kaiser and his wife, Elizabeth, who, due to her popularity with the people, received permission from the kaiser to have the unusual title Victoria Kaiserin Friedrich. Another well-known statue from WWI is that of a fallen lion with the inscription “Den Gefallenden zur Ehre, Den Lebenden zur Mahnung” (In honor of those who died, a warning to the living).

In the park is also something that you would not expect to be there—a memorial wall to Samuel Joseph Agnon, the Israeli poet, who lived in Homburg from 1921 to 1924.

Then we proceeded to “Das Gotische Haus” for a reception in our honor by the city of Homburg, including a kosher lunch arranged for by Gabriella. I also spoke (in German) to a group of about 30 people about my Holocaust story. Interestingly, after I finished speaking, a man who had been sitting in the back of the room came up to me and handed me a photograph. It was a picture of my class in Homburg in 1933 or 1934, a picture that I already had. A number of people still wanted to talk to me, and when I was finished I looked for that man but he had disappeared. Nobody there could identify this person. I wanted to talk to him, since the only thing he said when he handed the picture to me was: “What you said about the class was all true.” Maybe he was a classmate of mine?

The following day we went to Schmitten. I do not recall who took us there and back. It might have been Pfarrer Hoffmann since he was with us there. We visited my ancestors’ Hotel Strauss building which is now a private home. We looked at the three Stolpersteine in front of the building in memory of my uncle, aunt and cousin who used to live there. Stolpersteine are small rectangular, brass plates inserted into the sidewalk in front of a building where deported Jews had lived. One can find these Stolpersteine in many cities around Germany. Literally translated, the word means “Stumble Stones.” The small building where my aunt Bertha had lived and where we as children had stayed during visits was now a parking lot. From there Martin (Pfarrer Hoffmann) took us up into hills to the Jewish cemetery, where we found everything (thanks to the ongoing effort of Martin) in excellent condition.

As we had done on our previous visit to Schmitten, we once again visited the memorial to the shul of Schmitten, which had been erected, thanks to the efforts of Martin.

Martin then took us to the Evangelischen Gemeindezentrum (Protestant Community Center) in Arnoldshein, a small village near Schmitten, where Martin, since retiring, now lived. There, I spoke again (in German) about my Holocaust experience to a group of about 30 people. I also met a very pretty young lady who, years earlier, as a student, together with others, had been responsible for raising money to have the above-mentioned Stolpersteine made and inserted in the sidewalk in front of the Strauss Hotel building.

On October 30 in Frankfurt, we visited the “Festhalle,” the infamous building to which my father, my uncle and thousands of other Jews were taken on Kristallnacht and then transported to the Buchenwald concentration camp. I was able to show Esther and Dorothy the exact spot where, to the best of my recollection, we had come by taxi the following day to try to bring food and coats to my father and my uncle. Next stop was Börneplatz, where the shul stood that we attended and which was burned down on Kristallnacht. Then to the old Jewish cemetery with Gabriella, who is also a professional tour guide, showing us around and explaining everything that we were looking at. The cemetery is surrounded by a wall, which on the side, facing the sidewalk, contains about 12,000 small brass plates, each one containing a name of someone who had been deported by the Nazis from Frankfurt. I found the names of all but one of my relatives.

We also stopped at the place where the Friedberger Anlage Shul had stood, which now houses a small museum underground. This is the shul that we saw when my brother and I were on our way to school on the day after Kristallnacht and saw that it was still burning. It was from that shul, in 1939, and the one mentioned before at Börneplatz, that I picked up two little stones, one night, months after Kristallnacht and preserved them. The stones are now in the Jewish Heritage Museum in lower Manhattan.

The next day, October 30, was going to be our last day in Germany. We packed our bags and went to Frankfurt after saying goodbye to Rabbi Rabinowitz and family and his showing us the little shul he was maintaining for the still small Jewish community. Since he would not accept any payment for his kindness, we bought toys for his two daughters and I eventually sent him a check for his shul once I was back in the US.

In Frankfurt we had lunch in Sohar with Gabriella, her husband and her daughters and then went to the airport for our flight to Israel.

(To be continued next week)

By Norbert Strauss

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