On Yom HaShoah, Michelle Ferris and her family were in Stralsund in northern Germany taking part in a moving ceremony to commemorate the early life of her father, his family and close relatives in this small town. Michelle’s account and the text of the service have been shared with us. The ceremony was televised on German television – from the 9th minute of the attached link.
(Light Yahrzeit Candles)
This is a ‘Tale of Two Streets‘
In the First street, in London , England, my sister Simmie and I lived with our parents. Most homes had one parent who was German (or European).Everyone spoke English with us ‘their children.‘ All of the parents were called ‘Uncle this,‘ ’Auntie that.’
But not one of them was our biological relative.
In the Second street, the street we stand in now, (in Stralsund, Germany) lived our Father as a small boy, and his Parents. …In this street lived his real Aunt and Uncle, (his mother’s sister, Malcha) and his first cousins, Max, Regina and Leo.
Max was the boy who rescued him, when he slid through the ice of the frozen Baltic Sea. They had adventures: singing Russian nursery rhymes with sailors in the bar opposite; going across on the ferry to Rugen island to their favourite beach, collecting amber thrown up from the bottom of the sea, after a storm. Malcha made that into jewellery. My grandparents made fine hats; My Uncle, leather work. They were Orthodox Jews, with a communal life in Stralsund:
But the beatings began when my father started school, as the only Jew in his class. A Nazi storm trooper stood outside my grandparents’ shop, (at that end) forbidding non -Jewish clients, and my grandmother moved the family to Berlin. By the grace of Major Foley of MI6, my grandmother received a permit to go to London, to work only as a Domestic servant, but with my father.
She begged her sister, to flee alongside, with her family.
On their first day in Auschwitz, Malcha and Regina met their deaths. Leo shortly afterward. Of my grandmother’s 7 siblings, post-World War II, only her brother Jakob survived, with only 4 of all of the first cousins, in Israel.
Leonard Cohen: Who by Fire?
And who by fire, who by water
Who in the sunshine, who in the night time
Who by high ordeal, who by common trial
Who in your merry merry month of may
Who by very slow decay
And who shall I say is calling?
Max was in Chicago, having survived the Death March from Auschwitz by carrying his severely weakened father.
In March 1939, alone, but with his mother, my father had his Barmitzvah; the week after he sailed to London.
When our son Robert was Barmitzvah, for my Father, no family was coming either, just the London ‘Aunties and Uncles’.
Something happened just beforehand, that led us to Today:
My parents went to a department store to search for a photograph album to make future memories: Barmitzvah photos. What they found was a mound of albums; each with a decorative sepia photograph, my mother showed one to my father. This stoic man sobbed, childlike-on seeing his cousin Regina standing sweetly smiling, with her little friends and their dolls, outside her door, …this doorway, …in his street.
The photos were later traced to a Danish auction house, plainly selling Nazi memorabilia.‘
This is what Primo Levi exhorts us to do:
You who live secure
In your warm houses
Who return at evening to find
Hot food and friendly faces:
Consider whether this is a man,
Who labours in mud
Who knows no peace
Who fights for a crust of bread
Who dies at a yes or a no?…..
Consider that this has been:
I commend these words to you,
Engrave them on your hearts
When you are in your house, when you walk on your way, when you go to bed, when you rise.
Repeat them to your children.
Or may your house crumble,
Disease render you powerless,
Your offspring avert their faces from you.
Viktor E. Frankl, a veteran psychiatrist of Auschwitz, in Man’s Search for Meaning tells us:
the theological sense, it means that God is the question, to which our lives, are an answer.”
Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of life is, but rather he must recognise that it is he…who is asked…answer for his own life
as if you were living already for the second time, and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now.
Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality.
No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him…Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities.
Daddy loved us.
This photograph found us.
Hineni: I am here (Leonard Cohen)
The name of that department store, is ‘Heals.‘ We are doctors, and clinicians
To Heal is what we try to do professionally: .That is what today is about.: To return to this street, where we could have all grown up, with our families picnicking on Rugen together, to mark their memory for perpetuity. From my father’s five year old memory, we drew a map: ‘the round church at one end, the lake on the right, opposite the cousins, the splitting of the road at the top, and then the island.’ Google Earth did the rest!
El male rachamim
O God, Who art full of compassion, who dwellest on high, grant perfect rest in Thy Divine Presence to all the souls of our holy and pure brethren whose blood was spilt by the murderers in Auschwitz, Belzec, Bergen Belsen, Dachau, Majdanek, Sobibor, Treblinka and other extermination camps in Europe; who were killed, strangled, burned and buried alive for the sanctification for Thy Name. For whose souls we now pray. May their resting place be in the Garden of Eden, may the Master of Mercy shelter them in the shadow of His wings for eternity; and may he bind their souls in the Bond of Live.
HASHEM is their heritage, and may they repose in peace in their resting places. Now let us say: Amen
Hamtze mènou’ha nekhona הַמְצֵא מְנוּחָה נְכוֹנָה
‘al kanfeï Shekhina עַל כַּנְפֵי הַשְּׁכִינָה
bema’alot qedoshim outehorim בְּמַעֲלוֹת קְדוֹשִׁים וּטְהוֹרִים
Kezohar haraqi’a maz’hirim כְּזוֹהַר הָרָקִיעַ מַזְהִירִים
ett nishmat Ploni ben Ploni אֶת נִשְׁמַת פלוני בן פלוני
shehalakh le’olamo שֶׁהָלַךְ לְעוֹלָמוֹ
ba’avour shinedavou tzedaka בַּעֲבוּר שֶׁנָדְבוּ צְדָקָה
be’ad hazkarat nishmato בְּעַד הַזְכָּרַת נִשְׁמָתוֹ
Lakhen ba’al hara’hamim לָכֵן בַּעַל הָרַחֲמִים
Yastirèhou bèssèter k’nafav le’olamim יַסְתִּירֵהוּ בְּסֵתֶר כְּנָפָיו לְעוֹלָמִים
Veyitzror bitzror ha’hayim ett nishmato וְיִצְרֹר בִּצְרוֹר הַחַיִּים אֶת נִשְׁמָתו
Adonaï hou na’halato ה’ הוּא נַחֲלָתוֹ
Vayanou’ah beshalom al mishkavo וְיָנוּחַ בְּשָׁלוֹם עַל מִשְׁכָּבוֹ
‘Venomar Amen וְנֹאמַר אָמֵן.
ett kol haneshamot את כל הנשמות
shel sheshet milionei haYehoudim של ששת מיליוני היהודים
Hallalei haShoah beEiropa חללי השואה באירופה
shene’hergou, shenish’hethou, shenisrafou שנהרגו, שנשחטו, שנשרפו
oushenossafou ‘al Kiddoush Hashem ושנספו על קידוש השם
biyedeï hamertza’him haGuermanim בידי המרצחים הגרמנים
Vè’ozrèhem mishear ha’amim ועוזריהם משאר העמים
Ba’avour shekol haqahal mitpalel בעבור שכל הקהל מתפלל
lè’ilouï nishmotèhem לעלוי נשמותיהם
Lakhen, ba’al hara’hamim לָכֵן בַּעַל הָרַחֲמִים
Yastirem bèssètèr knafav le’olamim יסתירם בסתר כנפיו לעולמים
Veyitzror bitzror ha’hayim ett nishmoteihem ויצרור בצרור החיים את נשמותיהם
HaShem Hou ne’halatam ה’ הוא נחלתם
BeGan Eden tehe menou’hatam בגן-עדן תהא מנוחתם
Otam zakhar ויעמדו לגורלם לקץ הימים
Venomar amen ונאמר אמן
The prophet Ezekiel : “prophesy to these bones, and say to them”
“dry bones, hear the word of the Lord… I will make breath enter you and you will come to life, … a vast army… these bones are the people of Israel, … I will bring you back to the Land of Israel, and you will know that I am the L-ord”
אֲנִי מַאֲמִין בֶּאֱמוּנָה שְׁלֵמָה בְּבִיאַת הַמָּשִֽׁיחַ,
וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁיִּתְמַהְמֵֽהַּ,
עִם כָּל זֶה אֲחַכֶּה לּוֹ בְּכָל יוֹם שֶׁיָּבוֹא
כָּל עוֹד בַּלֵּבָב פְּנִימָה
נֶפֶשׁ יְהוּדִי הוֹמִיָּה
וּלְפַאֲתֵי מִזְרָח קָדִימָה
עַיִן לְצִיּוֹן צוֹפִיָּה
עוֹד לֹא אָבְדָה תִּקְוָתֵנוּ
הַתִּקְוָה בַּת שְׁנוֹת אַלְפַּיִם
– לִהְיוֹת עַם חָפְשִׁי בְּאַרְצֵנוּ
אֶרֶץ צִיּוֹן וִירוּשָׁלַיִם