May 25, 2024
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Schmitten, Germany Marks Holocaust Remembrance Day

The following are excerpts from letters received by Jewish Link contributor Norbert Strauss, from the daughter and son-in-law of the Protestant minister who, during Hitler’s reign, maintained the Jewish cemetery in Schmitten, Germany, the village in which Strauss’ father was born. There was a commemorative ceremony held at the site of the “stumbling stones” that memorialize Strauss’ family members who were deported and killed during the Holocaust. These stones are embedded in the sidewalk in front of the family’s hotel/restaurant building in Schmitten.

Dear Norbert,

We hope this email finds you well and healthy. May age and the coronavirus have left you unaffected.

We are writing today to send you our warmest thoughts on the occasion of Auschwitz’ memorial day. A memorial event was held today in Schmitten at the house of your deported and murdered relatives. It was initiated by a neighbor of No. 10 who takes care of the commemorative plaques. Maybe you remember we call them “stumbling blocks,” since they are dedicated to get passing people to think about those who have been displaced and murdered.

The event was attended by nearly 50 people, among them the vice-mayor of Schmitten, and a lot of representatives of both Christian Confessions and of Schmitten’s Civil Society. Some brief speeches were given, surrounded by Klezmer music pieces, performed by a member of the Frankfurt Jewish Society playing clarinet. He chose three pieces, apparently well known in the Jewish community, and explained a bit about their background. One of them, named “Blood,” is about the unborn children. The melody of “Hope” was even known to us, and, of course, a fitting title on such a day.

***

Dear Mr. Strauss:

Under normal circumstances, I would not have wanted to make a fuss about the fact that I started caring a bit for the “stumbling blocks” which were installed thanks to the late parish priest’s initiative. However, I had a very unpleasant encounter with today’s owner of your uncle’s premises. Therefore I decided to go public and to arrange a remembrance ceremony for your relatives.

Even though we have never met, I would like you to know how deeply I commiserate with your family’s—and millions of others’—cruel fate, while feeling deeply ashamed for the unprecedented crimes by my parents’ and grandparents’ generation. My visits to Auschwitz in 1980 and Yad Vashem in 2017 have further strengthened my dedication to fight antisemitism and Nazism—evils we continue to face in today’s Germany.

I am happy to share with you the corresponding article in today’s “Taunuszeitung” issue, the daily newspaper for Bad Homburg and the area.

I do not know whether you feel comfortable to still travel great distances. Should you consider visiting Schmitten another time—if the pandemic and personal health allow—be sure you will be highly welcome.

All the best for you and your loved ones.

***
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