Remember the past and live for the future: Recalling the November 1938 Pogromnacht in Bonn

Remember the past and live for the future : Recalling the November 1938 Pogromnacht in Bonn

A New York born descendant of a Bonn Jewish family led a commemoration on Thursday to remember victims of Kristallnacht in November of 1938 in Bonn. Five synagogues in Bonn were set afire that night.

On the morning of November 10, 1938, the Bonn Synagogue on the former Tempelstraße on the banks of the Rhine was set on fire. It was one of the five Jewish houses of worship that burnt down in Bonn, including those in Poppelsdorf, Beuel, Bad Godesberg and Mehlem. In all these places, commemorative events took place on Thursday. With the concert "Remember the past and live for the future" under the direction of Barry Mehler, some Bonn initiatives commemorated the Bonn victims of National Socialism. The Bonn Opera and the Beethoven orchestra were part of the program, commemorating the November pogrom in the foyer of the Bonn Opera.

“In Holland, it’s allowed to clap between Jewish songs”, said Mehler to the relief of an approximate 200 listeners who responded with a warm applause. “I have seldom heard something so beautiful,” commented one listener from Bonn and thus expressed what many others in attendance were feeling. Together, they left the opera foyer to gather on the banks of the Rhine in front of the synagogue memorial. There, Andrea Hillebrand, chairperson of the Bonn Memorial, welcomed Mayor Ashok Sridharan and Margaret Traub, chairwoman of the synagogue community.

"We need memorial places like these," said Hillebrand, after speaking about what she called an "era of change", in which a right-wing party had once again moved into the German Bundestag. She quoted from their basic party platform, which talks about the current practice of narrowing German culture to only the remembrance of the Nazi period and says that this must be replaced with an expanded view of history, which also includes the positive, identity-forming aspects of German history.

Lord Mayor Sridharan stressed, "Our city says no to discrimination, exclusion and fascism", which includes a clear stance against any form of anti-Semitism. Barry Mehler, the New York-born descendant of a Jewish family from Bonn, sang the Jewish funeral prayer in front of the memorial. His speeches and vocals were supported by improvisations of Jewish songs by Matthias Höhn on his clarinet.

Barry Mehler was born in New York in 1965, a descendant of a Jewish family from Bonn. His grandmother Rosel Glaser fled Germany in 1938, having been a soloist and choir member at the Bonn Synagogue. Mehler studied at the Juilliard School of Music in New York and from 1990, has led a large synagogue in Amsterdam.

Orig. text: Stefan Hermes, Translation: ckloep

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