October 21, 2014
Visiting a new location is exciting but returning a second time is like coming home.
I first visited KÖNIGSBACH last year. See Königsbach 2013
This time I was already looking forward to seeing dear friends and visiting familiar places.
Friday night was a special experience. A few of us arrived early and were staying at the same hotel, Europäischer Hof, a wonderful family owned hotel managed by the "energy bunny" Greta.
My dear friend Greta greeted me like family and was only too happy to provide whatever I needed.
Our host Jürgen Köhler and his wife invited our little group over for dinner, Shabbat dinner. But first I wanted to visit the synagogue.
It is my practice of course to pray in a synagogue, our house of prayer, every Friday night. And so we went to the synagogue.
Konigsbach synagogue as it looked before the Nazi era.
The synagogue, which belonged to the once thriving Jewish community, was destroyed on Kristallnacht in November 1938. The holy books were burned and soon later the entire Jewish population, more than 10% of the total population, was deported.
Today Konigsbach has no Jews. As the Evil One wanted it, it is now Judenfrei, "Jew free".
But last Friday night this was not the case. This past Friday night, perhaps for the first time in 76 years, a Jew came to the small synagogue, the "shul", the house of prayer.
We looked at the star and we talked about the Jews who once prayed here.
This star, directly across from where the synagogue once stood, marks the spot where the Holy Scrolls were burnt. It stands as a reminder of the little House of Prayer that is now gone, and the people that once prayed here.
We stood there and we talked; a Jew, English and German. Together we recounted what had happened. We discussed the tragedy of mankind.
We stood in solidarity with those that prayed here.
There is no longer a house of prayer but I stood there with those that once prayed here. I tried to feel their presence, perhaps hear their prayers....so many years have passed but our people do not forget. Here we are again, back at the shul, the house of prayer, standing where we once stood, praying where we once prayed.
Here up to 76 years ago, every Friday night, every Sabbath the Jews of Konigsbach gathered to pray.
Here after services they must have chatted. Perhaps young men and women met.
Here, 76 years ago nearly to the day, it all ended.
After the synagogue we walked to the home of Jurgen and Simona and their children. We had wine from Israel, and home made Challah, the traditional Sabbath bread, Vegetarian food, all kosher.
I made Kiddush, the traditional blessing on the wine and in my mind I kept thinking...Shabbat in Königsbach, like so many years ago.
I imagined the Jewish families of Konigsbach, who lived right here, observing Shabbat and enjoying their Shabbat dinner. Once again Shabbat is observed and celebrated in Königsbach.
I looked out the window and imagined them walking on the streets in their Sabbath outfits...but they are no more...they went up in the chimneys of Auschwitz, but perhaps something remains... a spirit...the human soul cannot be destroyed.
We sat around the table, Christoph presented Jurgen with a Jewish Hebrew prayer book as a gift. We recited the blessings. Shabbat is celebrated in Konigsbach once again!!
I cannot put into words the feeling, I have no words, I fall short to describe what this meant. After 76 years the flame of Shabbat is lit again, the human soul and spirit cannot be crushed.
And from the four corners of the earth the remains of our people are coming home, and there is hope...
"And there is hope for your future declares God, your children shall return to their country , (Jeremiah 31)
Shabbat in Königsbach, hope for mankind.
I came to visit family in the city of Freiburg.
This city dates back to the year 1120 and is known for its incredible tall cathedral. Construction began in 1200 and was completed in 1513.
Of course I am always interested in the Jewish sites, the Jewish community and World War Two history.
Turns out this city was accidentally bombed by the Germans in 1940, resulting in 57 deaths. Plus they were bombed by the allies. RAF bombing destroyed most of the city center in 1940.
Today it is a thriving city with its own Starbucks mug.
Like all Jewish communities in these countries the Jewish history comes to an abrupt end in 1940. Just like in Konigsbach it was October 1940 when the Jewish community came to end. But here there is an active Jewish community and a synagogue, although the numbers are very small and dwindling. It appears there is no Jewish future here.
One of the daughters of Freiburg now lives in Israel, married to my nephew.
On 22 October 1940, the Nazi Gauleiter of Baden ordered the deportation of all of Baden's Jews, and 350 Jewish citizens of Freiburg were deported to the southern French internment camp of Camp Gurs in the Basses-Pyrénées. They remained there under poor conditions until 18 July 1942, when the majority of the survivors were sent to their deaths at Auschwitz. The cemetery for German Jews who died at Camp Gurs is maintained by the town of Freiburg and other cities of Baden. A memorial stands outside the modern synagogue in the town centre. The pavements of Freiburg carry memorials to individual victims in the form of brass plates outside their former residences,
Moshe outside the synagogue of Freiburg
"Earth cover not my blood...."
"Under the Nazi dictatorship on October 22, 1940 the local Jewish citizens and the citizens of the the city of Frieburg were deported to Gurs in the South of France.
The city remembers in shame and sadness."
I very much appreciate how the German people acknowledge the past, unlike many other countries.
"Remember God what happened to us"
Inside the synagogue, memorial to the 350 Jews from Frieburg who were deported and never came back.
Under the list of names are stones with names of some of the victims and some of the places where they were taken to be killed.
Inside the sanctuary. It is only used on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. A few Jews gather for prayer. They are doing what they can to survive as Jews.
Defense vs Knife threats
Defense vs Stick attacks
Jürgen Köhler with Moshe Katz
Group photo day one, some of the more than 70 participants from all over Germany, the Netherlands, England and Poland.
Day Two, outdoor training, over 70 participants.
IKI Krav Maga Instructors