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JONATHAN GOLDSCHMIDT: WHAT THE COMMEMORATION IN BOLLENDORF ON NOVEMBER 9 MEANS TO ME

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COMMEMORATION 1938-2008
JONATHAN GOLDSCHMIDT: WHAT THE COMMEMORATION IN BOLLENDORF ON NOVEMBER 9 MEANS TO ME
A SHORT HISTORY OF JEWS IN BOLLENDORF
MEMORIES OF BOLLENDORF
BELLA HEPPENHEIMER
MARTHE KRISTELLER
HELEN HERRMANN
DANIEL MAYER
WALLY MAYER
A MAP OF BOLLENDORF
IN MEMORIAM
PHOTOS OF BOLLENDORF, NOVEMBER 2008
STOLPERSTEINE PROJECT

A letter from Jonathan Goldschmidt.
 

Jonathan's grandmother Betty Levy was born in Bollendorf on December 16, 1920.   She lived there with her parents Daniel Levy and Klara Levy and her younger  brother Adolf (“Adi”), all  born in Bollendorf.  Adi suffered a sustained assault which left him brain damaged and he died aged 10. Betty emigrated to London.  Her parents were killed by the Nazis, Daniel in Auschwitz and Klara in Theresienstadt.

 

 

 

Last week my family came face to face with its ambiguous past. Like many families we have our artefacts: a silver Kiddush cup engraved with the letters A.L., very few black and white photos, a video tape my Grandmother recorded for the Spielberg foundation, a smattering of stories and other lost threads of information.

On Sunday the 9th of November, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the village of Bollendorf offered a chance for some light to be thrown on our unknown shadows. The village of Bollendorf on the German-Luxembourg boundary paid tribute to the Jewish citizens of the community who died both in the First World War on active service and between 1937 and 1945 at the hands of the Nazi dictatorship with a memorial service and the unveiling of two plaques. From what I can gather from various websites and emails from the organisers of the memorial the Jews in Bollendorf lived before the war in a gentle harmony with their catholic neighbours sharing a bakery and butchers - both with a kosher section.

The memorial service itself had a strong sense of closure about it.

It began with a piece of music from a local ensemble and was followed by speeches from both the mayor and local priest on the theme of remembrance and forgiveness. For me the prayer for those who died during the holocaust, 'the el male Rachamim' and following Kaddish proved to be the most moving element of the ceremony. Immediately after the unveiling of the two plaques, members of each family lit Yartzeit candles. The ceremony closed with another piece of music and we then had time to meet the locals, including some whom had know the Jews of Bollendorf. One, in particular, had been my Grandmother's next door neighbour. As I walked about the village I noticed that without the plaques and those few shared memories there would be no trace of Jewish life ever having existed, here was a community attempting to come to terms with its past and putting to rest old guilt in order to move forward. The search for peace within their collective identity stirred something within me and brought me face to face with my memories of the recent death of my Grandmother.                 

 

Earlier this year I returned from Jerusalem to be with my Grandmother as she departed from this world. In truth, she had begun her journey many years earlier and had been slowly fading deeper into age and senility. I replayed memories from my childhood of an independent, outgoing woman with a sharp mind, playing hours of bridge, receiving what seemed like hundreds of postcards from various countries and talking me through the hours of photographs contained in the cupboard.

 

By the time I was old enough her illness made it impossible to ask her the questions that confronted me. In more recent years, as I begun studying Torah and finding a sense of connection with my Jewish roots, more questions came to mind. The Spielberg interview she had recorded answered some but prompted many others, I wondered what her feelings were behind each recorded detail, I wondered about the life she had left behind.

 

My Father relates to me that when I was very young we returned with my Grandmother to Bollendorf to see what remained. Now I have returned to see for myself - to try to catch a glimpse of what lay behind the veil of years, to share the common experience of children and grandchildren who have known those who survived, those whose lives before the war were sometimes mysterious and often totally unspoken. How much of them survived their experiences now depends entirely on us. As each of us turns to meet the ever approaching end, we know that the meaning of our lives is expressed in the purely human dimension, whatever remains is what we have imparted and brought to this world, in the lives we have touched and continue to touch. 

 

I raised that engraved Kiddush cup and greeted the Sabbath Queen several times in the still peace of that hospice that was to be her final stop on this particular voyage.

 I drew comfort from the stillness and peace that she radiated and hoped that my songs and prayers would not disturb that tranquillity.

 

On Yom Kippur we say "the whole world is judged, both the living and the dead", the living for their deeds and the dead for their continued influence on the world which left. As I stood together with my extended family more than 40 people who had come from Israel, America and Europe to simply be there, as we swapped tales, memories and ancient fading photographs, I saw that we had come together for one day to be those Jews of Bollendorf who had never fully perished but instead become living breathing monuments to the past contained within us.

 

Jonathan Francis Goldschmidt

 

 Copyright 2011 Suzanne Mayer Tarica

Email: suzanne.tarica@gmail.com