“Roots” trip to Germany part 2

Here are more details from emails from Dad and David to the family in September 2005:

From Dad to his sisters:

We came back from our trip early Friday morning.   It was most
interesting.   We stayed in a hotel in Nurnberg from where we
did our trips.   First we went to Sulzbach.  The town has changed
 and yet not changed.  I found my way around it but not as easily as
 I had thought.   We met the Mayor and his deputy, the City Gardner
 (a man from England who lived there now 40 years) and the man
 in charge of the Archives.   they took us to the cemetery which was
 well kept, the grass mown etc., but alas almost bare of  gravestones.
 What happened to them ?  No answer.   What was left, were so
 old that the writing could not be deciphered.

 Then the archive man took us around to show us the old Synagogue
 which of course was sold off by the Jewish Community back in
 1935 when grandmother Pauline Prager moved in to us in Fuerth.
 She was the last Jew to live in Sulzbach.   However, the door still
 had a plaque on it saying it was the Synagogue.   And the Street is
 still called today Synagogenstrasse.

 Then we were shown were the Jewish school was, where the Mikva
 was, and also where the Arnstein printing works was.   all very
 interesting.   The Mayor had a nostalgic moment when he said he
 was delighted to meet us, the descendants of the Sulzbacher Prager
 family and it was his mother or maybe grandmother who had the
 key to the Synagogue and used to open it up.  Funny world !
 Afterwards we went to the Archive where we were shown a record
 book of the community going back to 1830 or 1840 maybe even
 earlier, which the Jewish community kept and recorded in handwriting  all the births, marriages and deaths of the community.

 For your info, your great-grandfather Prager was called Osher, and
 his secular name was Laemlein.  He married Caroline (I cant read her
 surname) on the 15th January 1862, 14. Shvat 5622 (if I read it
 correctly).   On the 25 April 1864 our grandfather Ludwig Leopold
 Prager (Aryeh ben Osher) was born, Monday, 19 Nissan 5624.

 Now here is a big problem.   Our grandfather had an older brother
 Moritz (Moshe) whose date of birth is 31.12.1860   How is that
 possible ?   and his birth is not registered in the book.  Was he
 born elsewhere ?   Was the Marriage only official in 1860, and
 there was a “shwartze chuppa” years before and not registered ?
 I have no answer.

 But it was an interesting visit.

 On the way back David absolutely insisted on visiting Schopfloch.
 It is such a “loch” that it isn’t even on a big map.   Anyway after
 2 hours driving and by-passing Nurnberg, we found it.  We parked
 the car.  The town or village consists of 3 streets says David, I
 say 5 streets.   A drunk sitting on a bench (and he was the only
 human around at the time – it must have been around 4.30 in the
 afternoon – told us where the Rathaus was.   It was deserted.
 Then as we were strolling along a man on a bike asked if he could
 help us.  So I told him my grandparents had a knitting factory here
 100 years ago and we are looking for it.   He said wait here I’ll
 be back in 5 minutes.   And he was, and he took us to the place
 where the factory was.  It still stands, a very big building now
 converted into apartments.   In the same yard was a big house
 where the Rosenfelders lived. (Max Heinemann’s wife Johanna
 was a Rosenfelder and the two families were partners in the
 factory).   As we stood there a woman comes out and speaks with
 us and says, yes her mother who is the 90s worked in the factory
 and after 20 years there she got a watch as a present. !

 Then they showed us where the Jewish primary school was, where
 the shul stood (it was burnt down and now garages are on the spot)
 .  All very interesting.    Then we drove 6 Km down the road to
 Dinkelsbuehl where our Mum went to high school on her bicycle.
 It’s mostly downhill and she used to shout to the cows, sheep and
 men who were on the street to get out of her way as she cant brake.
 Dinkelsbuehl is a lovely old city, really old, and quite lively still

 The following day we spent in Fuerth where the Rosh Hakohol –
 a woman – a Giores Zedek – took us around.   We went to the
 school building where we lived on the 2nd floor.  all the parts
 are now divided into flats, but part of our flat was empty and I
 walked around in the room where Judith and I slept !  A funny
 feeling.   In the building behind the yard used to be the Secondary
 school which is now used as a community centre.

 Gisela (Naomi) Blume, who is in charge of the community, is in her
 60s, and is frightfully busy with the community.   I don’t know the
 exact numbers of people there, but most are returnees from Russia,
 some from the old DP camps, and many of mixed marriages, some
 even outright goyim.  She goes to Strasbourg every 4 weeks by
 car to buy Challes, Wine, Milk, meat, chicken, etc. etc., for herself
 and the community.   She says that there is more choice there than in
 Frankfurt or Munchen and it is cheaper.   She arranges Levayas and
 she ensures that a Rabbi attends to give a hesped.   Now she is
 busy with Rosh Hashana  etc etc  and she speaks fluent English and
 Ivrit !!

She also looks after all the Matzevos in the two cemetaries and
 makes sure that fallen Matzevos are re-erected.  Right now she is
 collecting money because the “Ohel” a big building needs repair
 desperately and therefore she held a meeting yesterday to try and
 collect from various sources.   You might tell the various members
 of your Shul who came from Fuerth to see if they can contribute.

 We went to the Waissenshul – that’s where we davened, and I stood
 on the place where I had stood 70 years ago !  It was rather emotional  for me.   It is the only shul of the 7 that remained.   We also saw the Memorial to the other shuls in the centre of town, but I didn’t
 like it.

 After that I took David around and we walked the way I used to walk to our grandparents Heinemann, we passed the house where Koshlands  lived, we saw the square where we all stood on Kristallnacht, and also the place they marched us to early in the morning.  We wandered around various ways and finally went back to our  hotel in Nurnberg.

However, one important thing happened I must mention.   As we
 went to see the Waissenshul we saw a team of Camera people
 filming the place.   There was a lady journalist, a camera man and
 a sound man.   When they heard I used to live in Fuerth before the
 war, they went crazy and absolutely insisted on interviewing me.
 So I talked about the life then, in the school, Kristallnacht, etc etc
 for about 45 minutes.  They also wanted to know about Kissinger
 (they are making a special film about that) and I told them he was
 older than me by about 4 years, and I remember he kicked me in
 the schoolyard when we played football.  I also told them that when I
 asked daddy what he was like in school, he said he was nothing
 special, or outstanding.

 Then on the Wednesday we went to Michelstadt im Odenwald (that’s
 near Frankfurt) where we met up with the Mayor.   It is the town
 where Judith (my wife) was born.   He took us around first to the
 cemetery where we went to the kever of the Baal Shemtov of
 Michelstadt, then he showed us the synagogue.  It is no longer used
 because no Jews live there.   And inside there is a memorial plaque
 to those people who lived there and perished in the shoa.  Including
 Judith’s three brothers.

 Then he showed us where Judith was born.   You will never believe
 this.  She was born in a room in the castle tower – just like a princess
 in a fairy tale.   It was the apartment that the Jewish community had
 for their teacher, and it was built into the town wall.  All very
 fascinating and interesting.   The Nazis couldn’t burn the shul because
 had they done so, the whole of Michelstadt would have gone up
 in flames.   All the houses are very close to each other and many
 made of wood, so that prevented it being burnt.

 After this visit, we went to Frankfurt, and the hotel manager believe
 it or not, was an Israeli who spoke to us in Ivrit.   It was quite a way
 out of town and it’s just amazing where one finds these people.
 We went to visit the remnants of the Boerneplatz Shul, where they
 dug up remnants of a previous generation of a Mikve dating back to
 1711 or so, and another Mikva a little younger.   They dug this up
 because they wanted to build a tall building there, but when  they
 saw these excavations they turned it into a Jewish Museum.
 Right alongside about another 50 metres down the road is the old
 Jewish cemetery.   Again almost bare of Matzevos, but we found one
 of the “Pnei Yehoshua” – he wrote a commentary on the Talmud and
 was well known.    Then we found on the outside wall facing the
 street, running right round the whole cemetery, tiny little stone
 squares embossed with the names and dates of birth of all Frankfurt
 citizens who perished in the Shoa.   A truly remarkable sight.  And
 of course we found the three “mini-matzevos” of Judith’s brothers !

 We then went to the New Jewish Cemetery, that’s where Shimshon
 Rephoel Hirsch has his Kever.   However, we got lost in that
 Cemetery and never found his Kever.   We were very pressed for
 time to get back to the Hotel pick up our car and to get the night
 flight home to Israel.

 So there you have a small synopsis of our week in Germany.

From David to our aunts:

Dad sent me a copy of his summary of our Roots trip, and I’d like to add some details you might find interesting.

In Fuerth the TV crew were making part of a documentary that will celebrate the 1,000 year jubilee of Fuerth in 2006. This crew are responsible for the episode on the Jewish history of the city. They termed their interview with Dad as Gold from Heaven, especially as he has good recall of all the salient events and spoke a fluent Bayerische Deutsch which will be easy for their viewers to follow. They promised me to send me a copy of this section of the programme by video or DVD, in a few months when the editing is complete.

We saw in Fuerth houses of many of the wider family and kehilla whom I now know, like Hallemans, Felheimers, Koschlands, etc. The Koschland house is now a bank (didn’t they do well !) and one can still see on the stone doorpost the shadow of where their mezuza was once fitted into the stone – I’ve got a great picture of that.
Incidentally, it transpires that during the “troubles” they had a tenant on the top floor – Hermann Goering’s sister, no less ! Did you know that?

I took 268 digital pictures in all, and I’m going to produce an album in several copies and hopefully also a Powerpoint presentation of selected photos and accompanying explanations. Maybe the powerpoint I’ll be able to email to you in due course.
In the Fuerth cemetary we also saw the wall of remembrance on which are listed about 800 names of murdered Fuerthers – I photographed various Prager, Koschland, Cohn (Ilse Mannes’ forbears I think?) names, and there was also a Yizkor book with biographies and pictures – I photographed the pages of Pauline Prager and Rosa Cohn.

Schopfloch was amazing because we didn’t actually expect to see anything with a family connection, but by chance we found the factory, the elementary school and the site of the Shul, as well as meeting people who actually remembered or worked for my great-grandparents (Heinemann).

In Michelstadt we had arranged for the city to add to the memorial board, in the shul, the name of one of my mother’s brothers, which for some unknown reason had been omitted all these years, and the Mayor proudly showed us that he had executed this mission.
Frankfurt produced some surprises. We went to the Judengasse museum, really only to get hold of the key to the next door cemetery, but the museum itself was interesting, and when a docent told us there was a computer on the second floor we thought we’d have a look at it. It turned out to be a database of about 40,000 (I think) names of Frankfurters killed during the war with longish biographical details on each person, organized alphabetically. We found my mother’s three brothers on it, and lo and behold we found their yartzheit listed, which we hadn’t known for 62 years ! Even Yad VaShem didn’t have those details. And guess what – the date is Dad’s birthday – 6 Adar. Isn’t that strange???!!

The database also contained all sorts of information on the boys’ activities and movements between late 1938 and March 1943 – I found it all very moving.

All in all it was an extremely fascinating, interesting and moving experience, and I strongly recommend that anyone who can go and look at these sites do so, one can’t fully understand the family’s history without walking the same streets, visiting the shuls and the museums and looking at the buildings and neighborhood.
Hope this addition to Dad’s letter filled in some details.


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