Local Wanderings

When we picked our house 3 and a half years ago, one of the first things I did was Google the village to find out more. There wasn’t much to find then, but everything noted one place specifically, the Jewish cemetery. Remembering the Jewish Cemetery in Prague that I visited in high school on a Holocaust educational tour, I was very interested to find a local one. The cemetery in Prague was like nothing I had ever seen. Because of space issues, the cemetery had many layers, and with each layer added, the stones for the previous were lifted. I do not have access to my photos from that trip, as I left them in storage when we crossed the Atlantic, but here is one I pulled from the internet.

Over the years my interest in this local spot has only increased. It seemed, as I asked around, that people knew of it but no details. I would get answers like “it’s in the woods outside of town”, or “it’s easy to find, but the path is overgrown” but nothing that really helped my quest. Also, it seemed that this cemetery was old, and had not been in use for quite some time… as you can guess. The thing is that in Germany, and much of Europe, because land is such a commodity, graves are not permanent but are leased. Often the grave stays in the bloodline, but it is not exclusive to one body. Walk around any cemetery and you will be pressed to find a grave with a death date prior to 1990. I discovered this when I started researching my genealogy in Germany, and confirmed the notion by walking around the cemetery in town. The thought of such old graves, and ones that had miraculously stood strong through the worst part of German history only interested me more.

In our new routine, after putting Brock on the bus to school, Poppy and I take a nice walk. Sometimes around town, sometimes on the trails through the woods, but never the same path twice. We are blessed with an abundance of trails in and around town to make our walks a new discovery each day. One day, about a month ago we walked up the hill towards the top of town as we have done many times, but turned on a path we had not yet taken. I try to keep to the paved or gravel paths so Poppy’s nails are tended to on the coarse surface, but this time we followed what looked like an old wagon path, grown over with grass but still visible. I was ecstatic to find the Jewish cemetery halfway along the trail! On later walks we would take the trail the whole way through the woods, the length of town, but for this first day finding the cemetery was enough for me.

We practically ran home. One, I couldn’t wait to dig in and use my more developed knowledge of the area to research more about it, and two, the stinging nettles had done a number to my legs and Poppy so it was time to clean up. I clearly remember running into the house and telling Fil what we had found. He didn’t quite share my enthusiasm, but he could tell it was quite important to me so he played along and took care of some things so I could start my inquiry in peace.

As it turns out, my research skills paid off and I found a number of German websites with information that I translated to piece together the Jewish history of our town. I, along with a few readers I know about, may appreciate this post more than most, but it is important. All history is important, but when you consider what happened to the Jewish people 80 years ago in Europe, the fact that I was able to find this information is a feat in and of itself.

The first Jewish person to live in Hoppstadten was in 1670, and the community grew to 25% of the town’s population by the 1840’s. Thereafter there was a steady decline due to emigration, as was the case across Germany, my ancestors included emigrated during this time period. By 1930, 80 people belonged to the synagogue community (8.6% of total pop. in town). The community maintained a synagogue, school, ritual bath and cemetery, and clubs and associations: Chewrah Kadischa (aims: support needy, burial), the Association Ezra, the Israelitian Women’s Association, the Association for Jewish History and Literature, the Synagogue Choir Association, the Wanderarmverein and a youth club.

view of synagogue, 1920’s

This vibrant community would soon face the unimaginable. I was struck by the translation of one particular sentence that I read as I researched…

“In the following years, the number was further reduced by the increasing deprivation of rights and the economic boycott.”

I would not be so gentle in my explanation of what happened. Pure terror, murder, and genocide would aim to eliminate the entire Jewish community in Europe.

One of the most terror filled nights of the Holocaust was Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, 9-10 November, 1938. Hoppstadten was not spared. It was on this night that 4 Jewish men were taken from town to Dachau Concentration Camp. The synagogue, which was now 100 years old, was destroyed from the inside. The inside was set on fire, and only when a police officer protested the possibility of damage to nearby homes, was the fire put out. The empty shell of a building was then used to house French POW’s, and afterwards turned into a residence.

The final 16 Jews of Hoppstadten were deported in July of 1942 and records from that exact month are clear that the Jewish community had been completely wiped out. In all of the sources I found, they recognized that a Jewish community had existed in Hoppstadten from at least 1770 until 1942.

One Jewish woman who had married a non-Jew, was spared. The woman died in 1958 and was the last to be buried in the Jewish cemetery.

Today, this plaque is all that remains of the Jewish community.

Although I cannot read the Hebrew on the headstones, I was able to find out that the cemetery dates to at least 1770. During the Holocaust the cemetery was desecrated, and you can still see smashed tombs today. After the war, restoration of the graves happened, which I found miraculous. As pictured below, many of the stones received newer inscriptions to mark the grave more clearly.

This cemetery is known as the biggest, with 168 graves, in the broader area. While it may not have been so in the past, after the destruction that occurred during the Holocaust, it truly is a miracle that it is still intact today.

In all of our travels we have not been to any concentration camps or Jewish memorials. This is not without great thought. In High School I toured 3 camps and many other sites as part of a Holocaust studies class. That experience will never leave me, and in part shaped my career path. I often feel guilt that I have not revisited and then shared with you all every emotion I felt, but those are emotions that I don’t want to experience with Brock. A time will come when he will learn about it, and I will share my knowledge and experience with him then.

When I think about the Jewish cemetery in my town I am filled with sadness and grief, but also pride. I mourn everything that happened during the Holocaust, but I feel great pride that my town’s ancestors tried to do what they could, albeit too late, to preserve some of the history. Across Germany many of these cemeteries were completely destroyed, with nothing today to prove they existed. This preservation makes me proud. Proud that it was saved, but also a little zinger of pride that today you will not see Nazi graves, but you can still see these Jewish graves standing tall.

Feuerwehr, Fire what???

For being three and a half years old Brock has quite the schedule. German Kindergarten 4 times a week, speech therapy 3 times a week, gymnastics on Tuesday, and possibly his favorite, Mini Feuerwehr (mini fire department) on Thursdays at the village firehouse. Every other week Brock gets to learn how to be a fireman thanks to a few volunteers who run the Mini’s program at our fire department. We are good friends with the fire chief, and he proudly told us that this program for the youngest kids is the only in our entire state, Rhineland-Pfalz.  Continue reading

What a trip!

When I last wrote, Fil had just assumed command of the 635th Transportation Detachment. Soon after that Brock and I were on a military flight home to visit family and attend two weddings! Boy was this a trip! We ended up staying a little over a month because we were having so much fun it was hard to leave. Not only was it hard for us to pack up and say good bye, but it literally was a HARD process to leave New Jersey. One that took 5 days of uncertainty at the McGuire Airforce Base.  Continue reading

Canon Fire at Home

April showers are supposed to bring May flowers but this year it seems that April showers brought May storms and flooding. All around us we see pictures of the mass flooding and watch the water levels rise and rise… also the patience level of a toddler who desperately wants to play in his sandbox drop and drop. This past week we had a bit of a change. On days when we got 2 hours of no rain (note that I didn’t say sunny blue skies) we got outside and did what we could to combat the jungle like weeds that were taking over our front garden.

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Literally toddler sized weeds sprung up in a matter of days. Snails were crawling all over our cement walkways and our lawn, well dandelion field, was up to Brock’s waist. But with our short windows we took advantage and started pulling weeds and playing with our outside toys. Today seemed to be the first turn of the weather. Blue skies and temperatures around 70. What a treat! So we packed in the jogging stroller and set off on a nice walk around town. And that walk is what inspired this blog post today. Continue reading

Year in Review

I cannot believe it but exactly one year ago today we packed a rental van, headed to Baltimore and flew to our new home in Germany. We landed right in the start of winter and boy did it drag on. We had the heat on well into May! But after the winter broke, the rest of the year flew by. I really can’t believe that I am sitting here reflecting on a whole year living abroad. 

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A lesson on waste

Every time we have a visitor I find myself saying “just leave in on the counter”. Here in Germany recycling and garbage is so complicated it is literally easier for me to sort everything than to explain which bin everything goes into to our visitors. Once you figure it out it really isn’t that bad—but I have also always lived in states that were great with recycling. In our house we have 6 permanent bins, and a few that vary (I will explain). As complicated as it is, Germany is spot on with this one—America could really take note! Continue reading

Space Available Travel

It has been a few weeks without a post, but not from lack of traveling. Brock and I caught a Space Available flight to the US just in time to say goodbye to my Great Grandmother. We ended up staying in the states for a few weeks to visit family and friends and safely returned to Germany early this week.

I feel like the whole time we were home I had to keep explaining how we got there, so here it goes.  Continue reading

See you later Baumholder!

After over 2 months of living in hotels and with family we will finally have a home again! The search was really hard, and took quite a few viewings before we found one that worked for us. We actually almost found a house a couple of weeks ago but someone else beat us to signing the contract. Soon after that we found this home, but with the holidays it took the housing office a while to inspect the home and write up a contract. We feel like we totally lucked out finding this place. Our home is only 15 minutes for Fil to commute everyday and the village has a train station and grocery store. Fil also likes that it is only 15 minutes from the largest lake in Germany and just steps from the Nahe river.  Continue reading

5 days in.. (try 2)

I posted this an hour ago and somehow it was deleted… so here we go again:

We have been here for 5 days and have accomplished a lot! We have a local bank account which we can use for American dollars (on post) and Euros (off post), APO mailbox, cellphones, and the best news is that on Tuesday we will be able to move into a suite at the hotel. It would have been earlier but the weather this week delayed some people from leaving. Other big news is that we started Brock on rice cereal last night. He didn’t care for the taste but that just means we got to see the cutest faces :). Check out the video below of his second night trying it:

https://flic.kr/p/qm84RC  Continue reading

We have arrived in Baumholder

We made it and the trip was easier than expected! Check-in at Baltimore-Washington International was the worst part. We stood in line for 2 hours along with the over 400 others on our flight and all our luggage (carry on & checked) which weighed over 225 lbs. Brock, however, loved it! He had the time of his life checking out all the people, pets, and planes hanging overhead in the terminal.

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all our luggage filled the mini-van we rented

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