Return to Germany

My first visit back to Germany, in April 1995, was to mark the 50th year of liberation, and to visit my father’s grave-site, located in eastern Germany.

Too ill with typhus to attend my father’s burial in June, 1945, and having had the need to visit my father’s grave, I set aside all inhibitions, reservations, and promises I had made to myself to never set foot on the soil of the country that holds so many horrendous memories for my family and me.

Although a difficult decision to have made, and even more difficult hearing German spoken in the same locales where my family and I suffered so greatly, I have never regretted my decision to return. 

As with all the previous visits, this fifth, and most recent one, in June of 2010, had a special purpose and meaning.
Additionally, our eldest son, Dr. David Lazan, who lives with his family in Florida, and our grandson, Gavriel (Gavi) Lazan, who lives in Israel, joined us on this visit. 

Gedenkstätte Bergen-Belsen, the Bergen-Belsen Memorial, is situated about 35 miles north-east of Hannover, in the Lüneburg Heath, and situated on the grounds of the former P.O.W.and concentration camps. The marked graves and monuments hold reminders of the suffering and deaths of its prisoners. 
A documentation center illustrates the history of the camp and its victims, and contains artifacts, photos, and correspondence, but little in the way of Judaica.
My father, Walter Blumenthal, of blessed memory, prayed in secret when possible. Although stripped of his material worth, father managed to retain his talit (prayer shawl), siddur (prayer book) and tefellin* 
When father passed away from typhus 6 weeks after liberation, he was buried in his talit.

The 2 remaining prayer items, his siddur and tefllin, have been residing in a small display case in our den for many years. When the need for Judaic items was brought to my attention, with mother`s and Albert’s permission, it was agreed to place the siddur and tefillin on permanent loan and display, to be seen by the center`s many visitors. 

* Tefillin are two small black boxes with black straps attached to them; Jewish men are required to place one box on their head and tie the other one on their arm each weekday morning. Tefillin are biblical in origin, and are commanded within the context of several laws outlining a Jew`s relationship to God. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day. Impress them upon your children. Recite them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a frontlet between your eyes (Deuteronomy 6:5-8).

More about our visit in the coming weeks.
Nathaniel & I wish you an enjoyable summer,

(1) Photo of father`s tefillin - WB, father`s initials, were embroided on the tefillin bag by our mother in 1932, a year after their marriage in 1931.
(2) Photo of father`s siddur (prayer book), showing the 4 leaf-clover he had found on the grounds of Camp Westerbork in Holland in the early 1940`s.