As we are facing horrific antisemitic violence in New York I am increasingly worried. As a German I not only know where this form of hate can lead through history, but my own family’s history is embedded in this murderous act of Hitler´s National Socialism and Antisemitism. It is therefore one of my greatest responsibilities to warn about these murderous dangers and bring up the next generation to commit to this important task. As we marched yesterday in solidarity across the Brooklyn bridge to set a sign against hate, my eleven year old daughter walked at my side. It was her first demonstration ever and I am sure that it will be printed into her mind.
I may not be able to embrace January 6 as the “Jewish and Proud” day in the same manner as my Jewish friends, but in honor of all my Jewish friends I chose to make soup with matzoh balls for my family. Not only do we Germans say: “Liebe geht durch den Magen” (Love makes its way to a person through the stomach) as we are trying to bring up our children in respect for the Jewish communities and other faith communities, but matzoh resemble an important link to the broken past of my home town:
Uffenheim is a small town of now 5.000 in middle Franconia. It once had a famous matzoh factory, which was known for its delicious bakery from Berlin to Munich. Interestingly, one of their products was named “Frankenperle”. Gerson Landmann, the great-grandfather of my friend Rick Landman, whose family has originated as well from Uffenheim and lives in New York, has sold their products in Munich. It is unbelievable, how many interlinkages the two of us discover: Not only did our families originate from the same town, but I ministered in Munich for a number of years as well!
Unfortunately, the small factory disappeared with its significant Jewish population before World War II. Uffenheim had “prouded” itself being “judenfrei” before the 1938 and was one of the “brown” centers of Hitler´s Nazi regime with the famous propagandist Julius Streicher roaming the area and “brainwashing” all its population. My German grandfather had eagerly joined in this very dark chapter of human history, which brought death and destruction over uncounted lives, families, and whole continents. I recall many discussions and fights between us as I reacted very emotional as he had prided himself to have fought as a marine in Hitler´s army and painted these days in a glorious fashion. One can easily imagine that I was not his favorite grandchild.
As I travelled back to Bavaria this passed November, I visited my parents-in-law in Uffenheim and was able to track down the old Matzoh factory, which is now a shed for fire wood. Its owner allowed me to take a closer look and even promised that he would unearth the old oven, which is presently “buried” under piles of wood.
Matzoh will be forever connected to the broken history of my home town as I am continuously committed to remembrance, reconciliation and peace. I may not be able to “undo” the crimes of my forefathers and -mothers, but I can warn others and encourage the next generation to seek peace and love their neighbor.
Therefore, in honor of today’s “Jewish and Proud” day, as an ally I will make matzoh ball soup for our family. They will quickly understand this symbol of our past and present. May many more allies come from our small parsonage and the ministry I am embarking in New York.