Friday, August 30, 2013

Day 7: Monday August 12, 2013

Today was one of the days I'd been looking forward to for a long time. The five of us, with the Althoffs as our tour guides, went to visit my grandfather's hometown of Rheine, about an hour's drive from Münster. Once we arrived in Rheine, the Althoffs took us to Rheine's Jewish cemetery. In 1920, the Jews of Rheine acquired a decent bit of land, on which they built this cemetery. The Jews obviously lost this land in the 1930's. Sometime between 1945 and 1950, all of the headstones in the cemetery were likely robbed. Today, they are all still gone. Gertrude Althoff has, for years, advocated for the restoration of the Jewish cemetery and other Jewish institutions around Rheine, but she hasn't found support from the town's legislature. She's in the fight alone.
Despite the lack of headstones, there is a plaque on the cemetery wall which has the names of Jews who are buried there. The plaque includes the names of three family members. We think we know the spot where they are still buried, but we can't be sure. After spending a few minutes at the cemetery, we went to get lunch at a Chinese-Mongolian buffet. Then we went to walk around the city of Rheine itself. We went through town hall and eventually made our way to the house my grandfather lived in during his first two years of life. The house has a bottom section and an upper section. When my grandfather lived there, the upper part was the living quarters, while the bottom part was my great-grandfather Max's fruit and vegetable shop. In 1937, the Nazis firebombed his shop. Today, the shop is empty. The upper part houses some apartments, but since it was a weekday afternoon, I don't think the tenants were home. We would have loved to go up there if we had the chance, though.

Up the street from the house is a pre-school. In front of the school, in the middle of a cobblestone street, is a small plaque on the ground. The plaque has the name of my great-great-great-grandfather, Bendix Buchdahl. Bendix, at age 92, died at the Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1942. In Germany, the names of Holocaust victims are put on what are called "stolpersteins," literally translating to a stumbling block. The stolpersteins are raised a bit higher than the cobblestones on the street. The purpose of the stolpersteins is for Germans to trip over them as part of remembering the Holocaust. It's an interesting reminder.
Then we moved on to our street. In some German towns, they named streets after families that were killed off or left. Gertrude is bitter because they didn't put the streets in the city, where the Jews lived. Our street, Buchdahlstrasse, is located in a suburban area of Rheine, outside the city limits. It was cool to see our name on a street, and it was a nice photo op. That was the day in Rheine. We made our way back to Münster, and had more bread for dinner at the Althoffs. 

Beer of the day: Another Bitburger

No comments:

Post a Comment