Utrecht Visit March 2012
Utrecht is the name of a city and a province in the Netherlands (known to outsiders as Holland). The city of Utrecht is the 4th largest city in the Netherlands. My friend and student, Iris, invited me for a day to explore this interesting city with a long past. I had been here brief twice before to visit my cousin, who also happens to be the rabbi of the city.
With my cousin Rabbi Aryeh Leib, chief rabbi of Utrecht.
Iris with the bicycles.
In the center of town we find a monument to Anne Frank. Although she lived in Amsterdam, after escaping from Germany, she is remembered here as well.
My cousin tells me a little of the Jewish history of this town. Before the war there were over 1,200 Jews here. This area was caught by surprise and all the Jews were "arrested". An old closed down train station outside of the main part of town was reopened. The advantage of this station was that it was away from the public view and the deportations could be carried out with less protest and fuss. Very quietly and quickly the Jews of Utrecht were no more. They were all gassed at Auschwitz.
On this sign, in Dutch, there is a brief mention that this station was temporarily reopened to deport more than 1200 Jews of Utrecht.
The train station; the final solution for the Jews of Utrecht.
I stand in front of an unmarked monument to the Jews of Utrecht. To me this looks like two Jews covered in a talith, a prayer shawl. Together the also form an image that is the Torah, the holy scrolls.
Iris and I stand here. I say to her, "Just imagine, more than 1,200 terrified people were right here, right here where we are standing now. Children holding on to their mothers skirts asking - where are we going? Wives looking to their husbands for answers. People looking to their leaders for solutions. But no one knows what is going on. They are terrified, they have no idea where they are going or what to expect."
Iris says to me, "and this is the last time they say their home town." Indeed, this was their home, and this spot, where we are standing was the last time they stood here in their hometown.
I am thinking, they probably cried out to heaven, to humanity, called heaven and earth and said; how could this be happening? Does no one hear our cries? Does no one care?
We are here, we are standing in their footsteps and telling them; we hear you, we see you, we feel you and we share your pain. You are not forgotten.
One of the symbols of the Netherlands; the windmill, I see many of them during my visit.