A Return to Tröbitz - June 2010

•The 4th in a series of newsletters telling of our June 2010 visit to Germany & Holland.

Previous Newsletters can be viewed atwww.FourPerfectPebbles.com

It was on April 23, 1945 in Tröbitz, a small farm village in eastern Germany located roughly between Berlin and Dresden, that we were liberated by the Russian Army, after having been traveling on a train, a Bergen-Belsen on wheels, a hell on wheels, for 14 long, difficult, and horrific days. This transport is known as either The Lost Transport or The Last Transport.
When the train was finally stopped by Russian Forces, 17 of our people who were dead on arrival were taken off the train, and buried close to the tracks in a mass grave. A memorial in their honor was erected at this site. Of the 2,500 Jewish Bergen-Belsen inmates who began this horrendous journey, more than 500 died en-route, or shortly thereafter. 

And it was here, in Tröbitz, that my beloved father, Z“L, was finally laid to rest, having lost his battle to typhus and, ultimately, to the Nazis.

For a complete account of our liberation by the Russians, and our time in Tröbitz, please refer to Chapter 6, “On the Death Train,” and Chapter 7, “Freedom and Sorrow,” as related in my memoir, Four Perfect Pebbles, co-authored by Lila Perl. 

Back to the present -----

After returning from a busy day in my “home town” of Hoya on Monday evening to our hotel in Hannover, the Congress am Stadt Park, we prepared for Tuesday`s visit to Tröbitz.

It was a good move to have purchased our Eurorail Saver Pass; they were used to good advantage over the next several days

The Congress Hotel serves an extensive buffet breakfast, but on this Tuesday morning, boxed-breakfasts were supplied to us.
Our taxi brought us to the Hannover Bahnhof (railway station) to board the 7:47 AM train to Berlin, the first of 2 trains necessary to get us to Tröbitz. 
Because of a slightly late departure from Hannover, we missed the close connection in Berlin to Doberlage, the station closest to Tröbitz. We utilized the hour’s wait for the next train by sitting in the bright sunshine, watching myriads of people, cars, taxis and buses cris-crossing in every direction. Photo - upper left

Waiting to greet us at the Doberlage station, and to drive us the short distance to Tröbitz was Wilhelm Lotz, a neighbor of Erika Arlt. 
Erika is the incredibly devoted town “historian,” who has meticulously recorded the events and complete history surrounding the arrival of the Survivors in 1945. 

On our arrival in Tröbitz, we were greeted by Erika, Tröbitz Deputy Burgermeister, Henry Yahr, and Inge Gentke. In 1945, Inge, then a young girl, along with her mother and other families, fearing the Russians, fled Tröbitz.
At the time, Inge’s father was a POW somewhere in Canada.
It was in Inge’s family home that our family took refuge for the 6 week duration of our stay. 
We had met Inge for the first time on a previous visit 2 years ago. 

Erika, who served as hostess, invited us to have a “light” lunch at the Trobitz Café. Beautiful little sandwiches, cake, coffee, and cold drinks were served. 

Afterward, we were driven by Erika to the Jewish cemetery, to visit my father’s grave. As it was my father’syahrzeit (date of death), I lighted a yahzeit candle placed on his headstone. (photo bottom right) Nathaniel then recited the appropriate Hebrew memorial prayer. 

This was the all important reason for our return visit to Tröbitz.
And, it was also of great personal importance to me that our eldest son, David, who would have been my father’s grandson, and Gavriel, our grandson, who would have been my father’s great-grandson, visit this holy site.

When we left Tröbitz in June, 1945, the graves in this small “Jewish” section, adjacent to the village cemetery, were quite primitive. My father’s grave was bordered with bricks, and a jar filled with flowers was placed there by Albert, my then 12 year old brother.

For many years now, the cemetery has been kept in immaculate condition by the town residents. 

One has to be lucky in death. Many Survivors who passed away early on, before the chaos subsided, were buried in mass graves. At least, my father has a resting place of his very own.

There is a Magan David (Star of David) affixed to the cemetery gate. It was fashioned by a town artisan, the son of a woman who died from typhus contracted from Survivors when we arrived in 1945. Despite the loss of his own mother, he nevertheless honored the Jewish dead with this work of art.

Over the years, a number of bodies were exhumed, to be taken to home countries or Israel for reburial.
On leaving the cemetery, we did a ritual washing of our hands, a Jewish custom.

A real irony - Tröbitz is probably the only town in Germany where Jews never lived, but which has a Jewish cemetery.

Henry Yahr drove us to the exact site where the train (The Last Transport) came to a halt on April 23, 1945, and from which we were liberated by the Russian Forces. With my burned and infected leg at the time, I am sure I was brought to town on some sort of make-shift conveyance. 

Then we were driven to the home of Inge Gentke, the very same house my family occupied upon liberation. There, Inge served cold drinks, cake & ice cream. Photo, bottom left

Looking at the clock, we saw that it was time to return to Doberlage for the long Schlep (trip) back to Hannover. Our train arrived late in Doberlage, and we again missed our connection in Berlin! Had to wait more than an hour for the next train to Hannover. We finally arrived back at the hotel close to midnight, having spent a total of 14 hours of travel for the 3 hour visit in Tröbitz. But the 14 hours of round-trip travel was certainly a far-cry from the 14 days of misery suffered aboard the Last Transport 65 years earlier!
A long day for sure, but one well worth the effort.

An even earlier morning train was scheduled for our trip Wednesday to Holland. It was therefore necessary to pack that night to be certain that our luggage would be transferred to the LocomoHoff Hotel for our 2nd Shabbat in Hannover, as the Congress Hotel was fully booked for our last weekend in Germany. 
We also needed to pack a change of clothing, toiletries, food, and paper goods, for our 2 night stay in Holland. Finally got to bed at 2 am, with the alarm clock set to ring at 4:45 am. Early, early, we obtained our box-breakfasts, and took a taxi to the Bahnhof for the 6:42 am train to Assen, with a connection in Amersfoort, Holland. 
At Assen, we were met by 2 staff members of Camp Westerbork, Tanya and Hilly, and were driven in 2 small cars to the Camp Westerbork Holocaust museum. 

But more about Camp Westerbork, Amsterdam, and our interesting and pleasant time spent in Holland in the next Newsletter.