Fotoeins Fotografie

location bifurcation, place & home

Posts from the ‘Jewish-Euro History’ category

Past and present histories of Jewish communities and culture in AT, DE

The Joys of Yiddish, Mel Bochner, Haus der Kunst, Muenchen, Munich, Bayern, Bavaria, Germany, fotoeins.com

Fotoeins Friday: The Joys of Yiddish (Munich)

Around the facade of the building for Munich’s Haus der Kunst (House of Art) is a long-term public sculpture by American artist Mel Bochner. His piece is called “The Joys of Yiddish.” Here’s how the Haus der Kunst describes the work:

A word chain in bright yellow letters on a black background contains Yiddish slang words that have found their way into contemporary American English. The colors are reminiscent of the armbands and patches the National Socialists used to stigmatize the Jewish population. An inherent tension exists between their visual impact and the words Jewish ghetto residents used to express unity and defiance during the Third Reich. This connection between the perpetrators’ color and the victims’ language is typical of the subtle provocation that runs through Bochner’s work.

KIBBITZER, a wise guy
KVETCHER, a chronic complainer
NUDNICK, a pain
NEBBISH, a sad sack
NUDZH, a pesterer
MESHUGENER, a crackpot
ALTER KOCKER, a crotchety old man
PISHER, an immature brat
PLOSHER, a blowhard
PLATKE-MACHER, a troublemaker

The Joys of Yiddish, Mel Bochner, Haus der Kunst, Muenchen, Munich, Bayern, Bavaria, Germany, fotoeins.com


I made these two photos on 23 February 2017. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-9vI.

Old Jewish Cemetery, Grosse Hamburger Strasse, Berlin, Germany, fotoeins.com

Fotoeins Friday: Intl. Holocaust Remembrance Day (2017)

January 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day:

•   United Nations
•   Yad Vashem
•   US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Outside the Old Jewish Cemetery near Hackesche Höfe in Berlin’s Spandauer Vorstadt is Will Lammert’s sculpture “Jüdische Opfer des Faschismus” (Jewish victims of fascism). The sculpture shows men, women, and children with horror and despair on their faces, directly confronting visitors with an equally direct question: “why?”

More from me in Berlin

•   City’s oldest Jewish cemetery
•   Grunewald train station, track 17
•   Memorial to murdered Jews in Europe
•   Memorial to murdered Sinti and Roma

I made this photograph on 21 November 2012 with the Canon EOS450D, 18-55 kit-lens, and the following settings: 1/25s, f/5, ISO800, and 28mm focal length (45mm full-frame equivalent). This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-8WN.

Juedischer Friedhof, Heiliger Sand, Jewish Cemetery, Holy Sand, Worms, Rheinland-Pfalz, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, fotoeins.com

Worms’ Holy Sand: The Rabbi and the Patron

From Worms to Rothenburg, and back to Worms.

Located near the entrance to Worms’ old Jewish cemetery are gravestones of two important figures in medieval Jewish-German history. The cemetery is also called “Holy Sand”1, and is one of many places of interest in the medieval ShUM league of Jewish cities. The gravestones for Rabbi Meir ben Baruch (centre) and Alexander ben Salomo (right) are shown in the picture below.

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ShUM, SchUM, medieval Jewish cities, Speyer, Shpira, Worms, Warmaisa, Mainz, Magenza, Germany, Ashkenaz, Rheinland-Pfalz, Rhineland-Palatinate, fotoeins.com

ShUM, Jerusalem on the Rhine: Speyer, Worms, Mainz

When threats of destruction to property and life follow and linger over a group of people through no fault of their own over centuries, there’s something to be said about an eternal need to keep a watchful eye. Words like Verfolgung, Vernichtung, and Vertreibung1 have been etched into memory. I have all this in mind as I explore Jewish history in Germany as part of my need to answer the following question:

How did a nation of people which fostered composers Bach, Beethoven, Handel, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Strauss; and writers Goethe, the Brothers Grimm, Heine, Hesse, Heinrich and Thomas Mann, and Schiller sink to the worst depths of human atrocity and depravity in the first half of the 20th-century?

It’s easy to forget Jewish people have lived in what is now Italy and southern Europe since the middle of the 2nd-century BCE and inhabited southern Germany from the late 10th-century AD/CE2. During the High Middle Ages, three important bishopric (and cathedral) cities of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz along the Rhine river formed an important league or federation of Jewish communities (Kehillot) from the end of the 10-century to about the mid-to-late 14th-century. The word שו”ם or ShUM (SchUM in German)4 is an acronym consisting of the first letters of the Hebrew names for the three cities:

•   Shin (ש), Sh for Shpira (שפירא) → present-day Speyer;
•   Waw or Vav (ו), U for Warmaisa (וורמש) → present-day Worms;
•   Mem (ם), M for Magenza (מגנצא) → present-day Mainz.

The ShUM cities became centres for learning, training, religion, culture, and trade within medieval Germany (Ashkenaz3) and throughout Europe. Today, the three ShUM cities establish key destinations for historical travel, provide rich examples for continuing research on medieval Jewish life, and add up to a comprehensive project in recognizing an important chapter of the history of Jews in Germany.

The ShUM/SchUM was inscribed as World Heritage Site by UNESCO at the 44th meeting of the World Heritage Committee in July 2021. ShUM is Germany’s 1st all-Jewish world heritage site, a big acknowledgement to the centuries-long presence of the Jewish community along the Rhine river.


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Römerberg, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, fotoeins.com

Fotoeins Friday: Heine’s warning about book burning (Frankfurt)

Most visitors to Frankfurt am Main will stop at the historic Römerberg square for pictures of the surrounding buildings with bank towers in the background. But a glance down onto the cobblestones near the Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen (Fountain of Justice) reveals a writer’s stern warning. In the tragedy “Almansor“, the German-Jewish writer Heinrich Heine warned readers about the dangers of burning books:

Das war ein Vorspiel nur. Dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen.
– Heinrich Heine, “Almansor” (1820-1821)

Heine wrote how burning books is a dangerous omen: “where books are burned, people aren’t far behind.” A little over 100 years later, this prescient line played out as the Nazis took over and targeted in particular Jews. On 10 May 1933 in Frankfurt and in other cities across the country in plans orchestrated by the Propaganda Ministry, tens of thousands including university students loyal to the Nazis gathered to burn books by writers who were Jewish or who were deemed ‘unpatriotic’ or ‘un-German’ to the Nazi ideal. Books by Bertolt Brecht, Sigmund Freud, Heinrich Heine, Erich Kästner, and Heinrich Mann among others were thrown into the fire. The Gedenkplatte (or Gedenktafel) Bücherverbrennung is a memorial and modern reminder for constant vigilance against the dangerous reasons for book burning and the consequences beyond.

Gedenkplatte Bücherverbrennung, Römerberg, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, fotoeins.com

Gedenkplatte Bücherverbrennung: memorial plaque to 1933 book burning

I made the photos above on 9 May 2015. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-79O.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber: Jewish history since 1180 AD/CE

After their stop in town, most visitors depart Rothenburg ob der Tauber with memories of a romantic medieval town that seems almost frozen in time.

But a careful measured walk also produces a deeper examination of the town’s history with clear signs to an historical and centuries-old presence of Jews. A Jewish settlement goes back to at least 1180 AD/CE in written records with the appearance of the name of Samuel Biscopf, a Jew from Rothenburg ob der Tauber (“erste Erwähnung eines Rotenburger Juden”: [ℵ1], p. 136; [ℵ2], pp. 133-135).

The centuries are marked with a growing thriving Jewish community, persecution, violent death, explusion, and a return to life.

Summary Timeline:

•   1180 AD/CE, first mention of Jewish community in Rothenburg; 1st Jewish quarter and synagogue at present-day Kapellenplatz.
•   1250-1286, Rabbi Meir ben Baruch, teaching life and times in Rothenburg.
•   1298, Rintfleisch-Pogrom!: 450 Jews killed in Rothenburg; total 5000 Jews dead in Franconia.
•   1339, some of the first set of graves buried at the Jewish Cemetery, at present-day Schrannenplatz
•   1349, Pogrom! and persecution, Jews accused of poisoning wells with corpses due to the Black Death.
•   1370, Establishment of 2nd Jewish quarter, around Judengasse.
•   1404, 1st Synagogue converted to St. Mary’s Chapel.
•   1407, 2nd Synagogue constructed close to burial ground, at present-day Schrannenplatz.
•   1520, Theologian Johann Teuschlein incites anti-Jewish hysteria, forcing expulsion of all Jews from Rothenburg. No Jews allowed in the city for next 350 years; 2nd Synagogue and Jewish cemetery destroyed.
•   1861, all Jews allowed to settle anywhere in Bavaria.
•   1870-1875, Jews begin returning to the city.
•   1872, Equality granted among Jews and Christians, after the 1871 constitution of the new German Empire.
•   1888, Prayer hall (“3rd synagogue”) at present-day Herrngasse 21.
•   1875, 2nd Jewish cemetery at Würzburger Strasse and Wiesenstrasse.
•   1938, Rothenburg declared “free of Jews” on 22 October, as last remaining 17 Jews driven out, two and a half weeks before the Reichspogromnacht.
•   1942, 2nd cemetery desecrated and destroyed. Few, if any, descendants of early 20th-century community remain or known to be alive.

! The word “pogrom” is a late 19th- to early 20th-century Russian word (“погром”), derived from the verb “gromit” (громи́ть) meaning “to destroy with violence.” While “pogrom” is used generally to describe mob violence by one ethnic or religious group on another, the term is used in this post to describe attacks on the Jewish community.


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Berlin Grunewald: no train will ever leave track 17 again

Present in the vicinity of a train station are very distinct and familiar sounds: the racket of heavy locomotives chugging down the rail and the screech of high-friction braking. A breeze sweeps through two columns of trees, creating a low keening sound which escapes into the open space beyond. To stop and listen, the sounds could easily be human: faint shouts and cries. Are they tricks of the mind, or are the dead speaking? The spectre of cruelty, despair, and suffering clings to the abandoned track; seven decades in the past don’t seem very far.

On a cool grey late-autumn afternoon, I’m on an S-Bahn train heading towards Potsdam. Beyond the limits of the “Stadtbahn” and one stop beyond the “Ring” at Westkreuz, the train pulls into the former goods and freight station at Grunewald. Dropping into the underground passage, signage points to the memorial at track 17. I leave the station by the southeast exit, and turn left to ascend the ramp along the side street.

In the Berlin borough of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, Grunewald station lies on the S7 S-Bahn line serving central Berlin city, the city of Potsdam to the southwest, and Ahrensfelde to the northeast in the Berlin borough of Marzahn-Hellersdorf. Grunewald station began operation in 1879 under its original name Hundekehle named after a nature reserve nearby. The station changed its name to “Grunewald” in 1884 when the old Grunewald station began its new life as “Halensee” station. Grunewald station and its tracks were incorporated into Berlin’s S-Bahn train network in 1928.

Many companies including the Deutsche Reichsbahn (German Imperial Rail) were actively complicit in the machinery of mass murder during Nazi rule. After reunification of East and West Germany in 1990, the two separate railways also merged to form Deutsche Bahn in 1994, and calls arose for the new company to acknowledge its dark past. To mark the Reichbahn’s collaboration in deporting people to camps and their deaths, present-day Deutsche Bahn AG established a memorial at track 17. Inaugurated in 1998 the memorial was designed and built by architects Hirsch, Lorch, and Wandel who were very mindful of the 1991 Karol Broniatowski memorial near the station’s entrance.

Along track 17, metal plates have been inserted, one for every transport train which took Berlin’s Jews to their deaths. Each plate includes the transport date, the number of people deported, and the transport’s destination. The first train of record departed Grunewald on 1941 October 18 when 1251 Jews were deported to Łódź. Another plate marks the last train of record (so far) leaving Grunewald on 1945 March 27 when 18 Jews were deported to Theresienstadt; blank plates leave room for additional commemorations with new uncovered information. More than 50-thousand Jews from Berlin were deported from this station alone. The first set of trains went to concentration-camps in eastern Europe, but by the end of 1942, trains were directed to Auschwitz and Theriesenstadt.

The vegetation that’s been left to grow around the track over the years is a visible symbol and an unspoken promise to all: that no train will leave track 17 ever again.

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Morning light on Krämerbrücke, Erfurt, Germany, fotoeins.com

Erfurt: 12 stations through the Old Town

Above/featured: Krämerbrücke in shadow, at first light.

Located along the Gera river near the centre of Germany, Erfurt is an historical hub of east-west trade, a stop on the historical road “Via Regia” dating back to the Middle Ages, and is considered a spiritual home for Martin Luther. He left behind plenty of traces throughout the city which is now the capital city for the German state of Thuringia (Landeshauptstadt Thüringens). For its preserved medieval Old Town, half-timbered houses, and churches, Erfurt has the nickname “Thuringian Rome.”

Each of the following locations in addition to the Erfurt’s Hauptbahnhof (Central Station) is indicated with an icon in the map below. All 12 places below can be reached with tram routes 3, 4, or 6 in a common stretch with stops at Anger, Fischmarkt / Rathaus (Fish Market / City Hall), and Domplatz (Cathedral Square).


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Alter Synagogenplatz, Altstadt, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, fotoeins.com

My Heidelberg: Synagogue Square and Pogromnacht

It happens every time without fail.

My spirit breaks a little more every time I see a memorial, another example of the depths to which our species have plumbed.

Does feeling this way make me weak? Or am I resembling a human being after all?

I often hear a common chorus:

history is hard, history is boring, why should I care?

I can’t decide what’s worse: the rise of the far-right or blatant willful ignorance.


A Mob of Broken Glass

From the evening of 9 November to the following morning of 10 November 1938, Kristallnacht (“the night of broken glass”) was a “pogrom”, a coordinated series of violent attacks by Nazis against the Jewish people and their property in Germany, Austria, and Czechoslavakia’s Sudetenland. Pogromnacht (or Reichspogromnacht) is a truer description; the “prettier sounding” Kristallnacht hides the brutality of “the night of (broken) crystal” referring to broken shattered glass from windows to synagogues, homes, and stores owned by Jews. Aside from a few who intervened, most stood aside and watched people and property burn.

The word “pogrom” is a late 19th- to early 20th-century Russian word (“погром”), derived from the verb “gromit” (громи́ть) meaning “to destroy with violence.” While “pogrom” is used generally to describe mob violence by one ethnic or religious group on another, the term is used in this post to describe attacks on the Jewish community.

The numbers across the country were appalling: at least 90 dead, hundreds injured, 30000 arrested and detained in concentration camps, up to 2000 synagogues burned, over 7000 Jewish businesses damaged or destroyed. With one more insult, the Jewish community was forced to pay for damage to their own property. The outbreak of coordinated actions against Jewish people marked the beginning of state-sanctioned violence. With the Pogromnacht, the state no longer hid their hate and escalated their savagery as a turning point directly leading to the Holocaust.

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Old Jewish Cemetery, Grosse Hamburger Strasse, Berlin, Germany, fotoeins.com

Berlin: the city’s oldest Jewish Cemetery

Der Jüdische Friedhof (Old Jewish Cemetery), Grosse Hamburger Strasse

In the past, I’ve often felt guilty for taking photographs at a cemetery, as if the act of opening and closing the camera’s shutter somehow “exposes and steals” the essence of people who are laid to rest. Only in the last few years have I overcome these feelings, as I now see cemeteries as beautiful places to visit and to witness frozen snapshots to individual lives over time. On this late-autumn afternoon, I stood in the middle of the garden, transported to a different place and a different time, surrounded by tranquility and living memories.

Große Hamburger Straße (or Greater Hamburg Street) was the key central road in what was once the Spandauer Vorstadt, which was the suburb or town at the foot of the former Berlin city gates. The road allowed for trade and movement from Berlin in the direction towards the nearby town of Spandau.

According to berlin.de, the area developed around the Hackesche Market and Courtyards:

Historically, development of the Höfe went hand in hand with the growth of Berlin as a thriving urban centre. The expansion started around 1700 from an outer suburb known as Spandauer Vorstadt, located outside the Spandau City gate which already had its own church, the Sophienkirche as early as 1712. Friedrich Wilhelm I built a new city wall here and the former suburb became a new urban district belonging to Berlin. Today’s Hackescher Markt takes its name from the market built here by a Spandau city officer, Count von Hacke.

The influx of Jewish migrants and the exiled French Huguenots gave the district the cosmopolitan diversity which it never lost. The first synagogue was built in this area and the first Jewish cemetery established on the Grosse Hamburger Strasse. Another name for the area, the Scheunenviertel (barn district) is associated today with up and coming art galleries and the more bohemian side of Berlin. The largest synagogue in Germany was built in nearby Oranienburger Strasse in 1866.

In use from 1672 to 1827, this is Berlin’s oldest cemetery for the Jewish community. Buried here is Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786), philosopher, a founding father of the Jewish Enlightenment, and grandfather to the great composer Felix Mendelssohn. During the last stages of fighting in the Second World War, 2425 dead were buried here in 16 mass graves. With no clear boundaries separating those buried in the past from those buried during the war, the new memorial garden was constructed and restored in 2007-08 with all of the buried left undisturbed as they were.

The present location was also the site of the first nursing home in 1844 for the Jewish community in Berlin. The Gestapo transformed the home in 1942 to a collection and staging point for prisoners, and ordered the destruction of the entire site in 1943. 55000 Berlin Jews from infants to the elderly were deported and murdered in the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Theresienstadt.

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