Themar – “Quite a number of people came together on Monday morning to attend the renewed laying of Stolpersteine by the action artist Gunter Demnig. They have come to keep alive the memory of the former Jewish inhabitants of the town and thus to make a small contribution to coming to terms with the barbarity of the Nazi era. In Themar, a very committed citizenry has come together for this purpose, acting in an exemplary manner in various ways. The reappraisal of the history of the Jews of Themar has also progressed well thanks to the help and commitment of Professor Sharon Meen, who works at the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre.
In Themar, Stolpersteine now commemorate members of the Kahn/Rosenberg family who were deported to the Theresienstadt and Auschwitz concentration camps in 1942 and 1943 and murdered there. The Kahn family had been rooted in Themar for generations. Adolf Kahn had run the family butcher shop. His sister Else had a small store in Bahnhofstraße with her husband Markus Rosenberg. Also remembered are their son Julius Rosenberg and Else’s cousin Herbert Kahn, who lived with the Rosenbergs on Schulstraße.
From L.A. to Themar
Among the many visitors is Lotte Schäfer (née Rosenberg), the daughter of Julius Rosenberg. With moving words, Lotte Schäfer thanks the many guests and visitors who came to the laying of the Stolpersteine in memory of their loved ones. “I never expected to see Themar again,” she says. It was an unforgettable day in her life, she said. Memories of Themar were sparse, she says, because she was only four years old when she left Themar. Walking through town, some have come back to life. For others, pictures help. For the house where Lotte Schäfer and her family had lived no longer stands. Where Schulstraße once ran, there stood the Post Inn and the citizen’s school. Today, the Anne Frank School stands there. The stones have now been laid in front of its entrance portal.
“But we went through to the other side and I could remember that I often played by the pasture and I could also remember the way to the railroad tracks,” Lotte Schäfer later recalls. She still has memories of cooking at home, watching her mother make Thuringian dumplings. Of the walks in the beautiful surroundings. “My father was a chauffeur, so he traveled a lot,” says Lotte Schäfer. He was a joker who laughed a lot. She remembers their last vacation together in 1943, a small guesthouse on a lake. Exactly where is faded. Lotte Schäfer had gone to Darmstadt with her mother because of school. “Because the parents knew that going to school in Themar at that time would have meant a lot of hatred for me.” That’s why the family sought the anonymity of the big city.
She thanked all who came and for honoring the memory of “my loved ones like this.” Much of what is happening in the world today reminds her again of her childhood, Lotte Schäfer reminded. She also referred to the concerts of neo-Nazis at the gates of the city and to the events in Charlottesville in the United States. “May the Stolpersteine be a reminder against hatred and incitement,” said Lotte Schäfer.
For her, it will be the last great journey, the 83-year-old later says. She has traveled from near Los Angeles and the tour was very exhausting, she says. “But of course I couldn’t pass it up.” Lotte Schäfer left for the U.S. in 1953. Every six to ten years, she said, she visited Germany. “But at some point the kinship becomes smaller.” Still, she didn’t come alone, bringing along her niece, who had interviewed her for a paper some time ago. Arriving in front of Morgenroth’s house, the next memory comes to life: “This used to be a grocery store, this is where we shopped,” she says.
Themar’s mayor Hubert Böse welcomed all guests, especially those family members who had taken the long way from the USA and Canada. The journey was certainly connected with painful memories. One meets it with great respect. One asks for forgiveness for the perpetrators, great is the guilt, which also Themarer citizens had loaded themselves. Böse reminded of the sentences of Ludwig Mühlfelder, who as a soldier of the US army had liberated the hometown of his father, Themar. Younger German generations cannot be held responsible for the crimes of their fathers and grandfathers, he said. “What I expect and demand from the descendants of the Holocaust perpetrators, however, is an honest confrontation with the crimes of their people.
Last but not least, the artist Gunter Demnig was thanked, without whose idea, the implementation would not be possible.
Thanks to benefactor
Böse and Lotte Schäfer also thanked the donors of the Stolpersteine, for which the Rosenberg family from the USA, the Hanf and Stapf families from Themar had donated, as well as city council group Die Linke from Themar and the students of class 9b from the Themar regular school.
Pupils of the class had given a worthy framework to the meeting with recited poems. For example, in the “Lesson of Auschwitz” – “You are not only responsible for what you do, but also for what you let happen.”