To those who never got a chance to die where they were supposed to

Update: To those arriving via link from majorityrights dot com:

You have failed in your attempt to post your shit-stained drivel in my comments section, but instead seen fit to post it on your blog.  That’s your right and there’s not much I can do about it.

In fact, I hope you K-K-Keep on blogging.  I may not agree with anything you have to say, but I’ll vigorously defend your right to expose to the entire world what stinking, vile racist scum you are.

Second post in a row on this theme, but…

Ceremonies are being held all across Germany today to mark the 64th anniversary of the liberation January 27,1945 of the Auschwitz death camp. Wreaths will be laid and speeches given to mark another year since the gates were swung open to reveal the horror within.

In Berlin, a huge plot of land in the city centre was set aside and hundreds of massive tablets erected in a memorial to the Jews murdered during that lurching descent into the grotesque and absurd known here as the Nazi times. Die Nazizeit.

The building of the memorial was controversial, but I have no problem with it. The capital city of this great land – Germans are reluctant to say that – this great land – should have a permanent site dedicated to the millions murdered and to those who died in the struggle to stop the madness.

sulzburg-jewish-cemetery-judisch-friedhof-headstoneBut if you head down to southwest Germany to the little town of Sulzburg, tucked away in a narrow valley at the western edge of the Black Forest maybe a half-hour or so south of Freiburg, you can walk through a memorial that is arguably more authentic and timeless than any number of oblong blocks laid out in geometric rows in the cold heart of a tired city hundreds of miles to the north.

It’s a cemetery, the burial ground of a community of Jews who lived and died for at least 300 years among the Gentiles who lived and died along with them, until someone came along and ordered their fellow villagers taken away, packed in cattle cars to Theresienstadt, Dachau, Auschwitz, and yes, Richard Williamson, to the gas chambers.


The first person to be lowered among the pines to the sound of the rushing creek nearby was Rifka, daughter of Meir Sulzberger, in 1647. The last burial was Klara Neustädter in 1932.

This memorial is the real thing.


It’s not just the weather-beaten headstones that make you pause and reflect on the people and lives that once played out here, it’s the graves you don’t see.  Empty swathes of ground set aside in terraces reach far back up the hill into the forest, bearing silent witness to those who never get a chance to die where they were supposed to, or to be buried by the people who loved them.

In 1970 a memorial was erected just inside the main entrance with the names of all those who were forcibly taken from Sulzburg.


I’m glad we got a chance to take a walk around this cemetery during our holiday in the south of Germany this past summer.

There are two Jewish cemeteries in Hamburg not far from where we live. When the little red-haired girl was about five or six, I remember boosting her up onto the low stone wall of the closer one so that we could both peer through the iron bars to get a better look at the blocky Hebrew writing.

Do you see that they’re different than the letters you’ve learned? I asked her.

Uh-huh.   Can we go inside?

No, we can’t, I said.  They keep it locked all the time.

Why?  We can go to Opa’s grave any time we want.

Yeah, I know.   But there are still bad people who want to push over the gravestones in cemeteries like this, spray them with paint or smash them.


23 Responses to “To those who never got a chance to die where they were supposed to”

  1. January 27, 2009 at 9:22 am

    Hi Ian- What a beautiful post. Thank you for showcasing these destinations that people might not know about, even as sad as this one.

    However, I wanted to add-on to something you said. The tribute in Berlin is controversial because it is limited in its tribute. It honors only the Jewish people that died and not any other nationality. Other nationalities argue that there should be one memorial to all who died or separate memorials to all nationalities (Poles, Slavs, Roma etc..) who were afflicted.

  2. 2 josiahe
    January 27, 2009 at 10:34 am

    I too thank you. I’ve forwarded the URL to friends.

  3. 3 G
    January 27, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Thanks, Ian. Last year, on Kristallnacht, when none of the bloggers I was reading bothered to notice the date, I felt very alone. Thanks for noticing and thanks for caring.

    As for being murdered for one’s religion alone (and not even that- conversion back generations could not save us)- that was an “affliction” reserved for the Jews. Which is why there is no comparison. And why so many keep trying to denigrate the enormity of the Final Solution by comparing it to other mass murders. It’s not the same.

  4. January 27, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    As for being murdered for one’s religion alone (and not even that- conversion back generations could not save us)- that was an “affliction” reserved for the Jews. Which is why there is no comparison. And why so many keep trying to denigrate the enormity of the Final Solution by comparing it to other mass murders. It’s not the same.

    But “no comparison” means they’re different. Incomparably different. Not in the same league different. If there were truly no comparison, it would be because people believed and accepted that being murdered based on politics or biology is just as evil as based on religion. Why you think some mass murder is more enormous than others disturbs me.

  5. January 27, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    This is not a comment; rather a question . . . a request . . .
    Can you read what the headstone says? . . . the one that’s had all the visitors?
    I’d like to know.
    I’ll forward it to a friend and hope he can interpret the german / Hebrew text, but can / did you? Or maybe you have another picture?
    Again, thank you so much!

  6. 6 G
    January 27, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    Cliff- of course mass murder is evil. I don’t think anything I said implied that it wasn’t. But there is a difference, I think, when one is murdered simply for a genetic difference, one that certain peoples strive to find a reason to murder one for, than to be murdered because one is a Communist, or not a communist, Polish or not Polish,Catholoc or Protestant (when one is given the opportunity to switch back and forth as so many were during the wars here in Europe).
    You can start comparing this to being enslaved or lynched because of the color of one’s skin- something one can’t convert away from.
    But, evil and horrible as the “Peculiar Institution” was, I tell you that no one rounded up all the blacks and gassed them, then skinned them and used their skin for lampshades, rendered them and used their fat for soap, ground their teeth and bones for fertilizer, and then packed them in a cheery box with a wedding ring or watch and sent them off to a German family with a cheery note to thank them for their war effort.
    Yes, that’s the difference. And it wasn’t done to the Roma or to the homosexuals or to the Poles. They were caught up in it, worked to death (literally) and yes, were murdered. But that wasn’t the stated goal. It was a bonus for the Nazis (yes the Germans and the Austrian peole benefitted materially- almost all of them).
    The Nazis lost the war primarily becuase Hitler chose to divert needed transportation from the Eastern Front supplies so that the continuing supply of Jews to the death ovens would not be interrupted.
    And although this is a big day, it’s not too important to me. By now, my father was well on his way on the pointless death march that took the Jewish occupants of Auschwitz out to march and die by the thousands so that the Russians would not be able to free them.
    Yes, there is a difference. In both scale and content. And that does not lessen the horror of other deaths. In particular, I point you towards Darfur and Congo, areas no one seems to care about, where women are treated in a way that is evil beyond my understanding.

  7. January 27, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    The German text reads: Verschlossen und versiegelt sind die Worte in der Zeitlichkeit. Du Daniel, gehe deinen Weg zum Ende, und du wirst ruhen und erstehen zum gesegneterem Lose. Daniel XII (?)

    It’s hard to make out. Zeitlichkeit is hard to translate, but here goes: The words are locked and sealed are bounded in the presence of time. Daniel, go on your path to the end. You will be at peace and arise to a blessed fate.

  8. 8 josiahe
    January 27, 2009 at 6:15 pm


    Thank you for your response – the words too are moving.

    I’m in Springfield Oregon and would be glad to email back but some of the comments do not belong here – don’t want to detract from your (appreciated)post.

    My email is: hinenisendme@msn.com

  9. 9 Reverend Manny
    January 28, 2009 at 12:49 am

    Hi Ian,
    I found your blog through writechick…

    excellent, excellent blog. Thanks so much for sharing this. There is much to be said for accepting the ugly realities of one’s past as fodder for brilliant new days.

    Thanks for including the pictures too.

    One Love,
    –Reverend Manny and the Twilight Empire

  10. January 28, 2009 at 1:56 am

    Thank you for this very moving post, Ian. I’m appreciating the comments, too. It is still astounding to be singled out solely for a genetic trait, and I would not have had a good answer to the little red-haired girl’s question. As we know, the gov. of the US, in their infinite wisdom, allowed American citizens of Japanese descent to spend some of the war years in camps—rather than in their homes and businesses—because of genetic prejudice. This is not at all comparable to gassing people, etc., but still! When a relative of mine pointed out that his friend, an immigrant from Germany, was also interred, I responded that that was because of his VIEWS, not his race. (The person was pro-Hitler, pro-Nazi, and otherwise unsavory.)
    The memorial you showed us is indeed worthy to be seen.

  11. January 28, 2009 at 6:45 am

    hi Ian,

    This is such a lovely post. There is so much to learn from what a place speaks of. And then there is still something to learn from what a place doesn’t speak of.

  12. January 28, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Hi Ian,

    I can agree with everything you say in this post. And I can relate to your thoughts, as I too always feel like that whenever I pass the (mostly small) Jewish graveyards in my city and the region. Or, rather, outside the city.
    And this was even stronger when I took a stroll over the old graveyard a few minutes from my door, and found myself in a part where the tombstones lacked crosses but bore stars and had stones on top (at elast that part was in no way separated visually from the rest of the graveyard).
    And almost all dates were 1942 or 1943. Whole Families, elders and small children, all their lives ending in the same short time span.
    It’s one thing to know about the Holocaust, but not every minute of our lives is filled with it, and most of the time you do not think about it. To be confronted with the extend of it on a sunny afternoon, when I was not expecting it hit me with a shock.

    I can not imagine how people can be so evil, so soulless. To eradicate whole families, lives, parts of the population.
    I avoid the word ‘peoples’, because the Jews living in Germany (or anywhere in Europe) were (are!) not a distict people, no, they were as much members of our country as anybody else. There were no “the Jews”, no separate community within the population. They were a part. Neighbors, friends, colleagues.
    I simply cannot grasp it.

    Neither could I ever grasp how one could hate somebody because of their religion. Not that I could understand it with ethnicity or world view, either, but religion puzzles me the most. I mean, almost every religion tells it followers that they will be the only one receiving salvation and all the others won’t, but why would anyone want to murder anyone else who doesn’t belive the same thing? Or, worse, belives IN THE SAME GOD, but worships him differently.
    I just don’t get it.

    Regarding the memorial: As I understood, the controversy was never wether there should be a memorial or not. It was rather about who should be bemoaned and what it should look like.
    And I think they did a very bad job. In my opinion, a memorial of the holocaust should radiate grief, maybe even dread, and it should move you. And: you should not need to explain what it is.
    The holocaust memorial fails at this, especially at the last point.

    A really good “memorial” in my opinion is the projekt “Stolpersteine” (stumbling blocks) by artist Gunter Demming. He places brass cobbles in the pavement in front of houses where jews lived before/during WWII, and which were deported. Engraved in the cobbles are the names of those who were deported.
    Seeing these blocks and reading the inscription really makes your thoughts stumble. This is a good memorial, because it is a small, but unexpected reminder of what happened. It makes you remember what happened, it is a memorial that enters into your everyday, and not just because you chose to visit it.
    There are about 17,000 “Stolpersteine” by now. Have a look: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stolpersteine (a bit outdated).

    Of course, even this was not without controversy. Several local jewish lobbies did not want the Stolpersteine to be placed, since in their interpretation the names of the Jews would be constantly kicked or stepped upon (“mit den Füßen getreten”). I dissent that notion, if there is anything symbolical to be interpreted, then that people have to take a bow before the Jews.

  13. January 28, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    Hello Onkel Mo,
    I was thinking about those the other day. You come across those brass plates so unexpectedly, or miss them entirely depending on what you’re doing. Often if the building is no longer a residence, it will say what it used to be, reminding everyone of the life that used to be played out on that spot so long ago.

    I notice you blog in German. Your English is excellent!

    Thank you Manny, muse, MsN, Josiah, G and Cliff for your heartfelt comments on a subject that is hard to talk about sometimes without stirring up strong feelings.

  14. January 28, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    Thanks, Ian.

    Another very touching memorial I came upon is “Neue Wache” in Berlin, which is the “central memorial of the FRG for the victims of war and tyranny”. It has been a memorial (of different ‘occupations’) for almost 200 years now, and is basically a big empty room, save for a single sculpture of a woman with her dying son in the center. Above the sculpture is a hole in the ceiling, so that it will be subject to the outside weather.
    I heard it is even more touching when it’s raining.

  15. January 28, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    On a side note:
    I think ‘memorial’ is just a so-good translation of ‘Mahnmal’; unfortunately there is no really fitting word in English (as far as my vocabulary goes). ‘Memorial’ would rather translate to ‘Denkmal’ or ‘Gedenkstätte’, something that is meant to preserve a memory (as the word indicates). But a ‘Mahnmahl’ is more than that; it is something that is thought to admonish you. Rather than just reminding you of something that happened, it tells you to see to it that it can never happen again.

    Maybe ‘admonial’ would be a fitting word.
    Even if I just made it up 😉

  16. January 28, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    beautiful post, beautiful cemetery.

  17. January 28, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    Also thanks Onkel Mo for the link to Stolpersteine. What a great project and shame on those who refuse to participate lest it lowers the value of their property

  18. February 26, 2009 at 6:15 am

    really moving post…

    one thing that struck me is that I’ve heard (second-hand, so accuracy is questionable) of a generalized reluctance amongst Germans to refer to their country or things in it with language that remotely approaches Reigh-esque verbiage. You mentioned:
    “…of this great land – Germans are reluctant to say that – this great land – …”

    Is that an example of such a phenomenon?

    Very good post again, and excellent blog overall. Thanks!

  19. February 28, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    @etre: Yes, that’s a prime example.

  20. 20 Wayne
    May 27, 2009 at 5:20 am

    Hi G. I know that this is the wrong forum for such a message. However, I just wanted to share a thought with you.

    I completely agree with you… in that what occurred in Nazi Germany was deplorable and hideous… showing the very worst of the nature of man… and I would never take away from what happened or minimize it… but I do disagree with you when you say that it can’t compare. You bring up a very good point when bringing up slavery, saying that one could start comparing it to blacks being rounded up. And you are right in that, no, blacks were not gassed, skinned, bled to death, or turned into fertilizer. But the approx 465 years that blacks were enslaved, there were no gas chambers. Blacks were strung up in trees and left to rot, drowned, whipped, raped, murdered, beaten, with little to no discretion as to the age or gender of the individual. Being transported from their home aboard a ship, crammed together with no room to move, no food, no water (with the dead and the sick or dying being thrown to sea), up to a month just to begin a new life of forced labor until death.

    The two stories may not have much in common other than both being absolutely horrid. Utterly disdainful, and both caused for no other reason than the whims of evil men.

    Also…. I wanted to note that the final solution did not only pertain to semites. You’ve heard of Rheinland, no? Though no law was passed pertaining to the “Rheinland Bastards” instead, a group named “Commission Number 3” was created to resolve the problem of the “Rhineland Bastards” with the aim of preventing their further procreation in German society. Organized under Dr. Eugen Fischer of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics, it was decided that the children would be sterilized under the 1933 Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring (ie. blacks). Blacks were also found in concentration camps suffering the same horrors that Jews did (after the previous 463 years of horror)…

    More recently there were 1,174,000 people murdered during the genocide of Rwanda… and that was only in 100 days, that’s 7 people a minute because of their ancestry.

    Really I just hope that everyone can appreciate the enormity of all the calamities that have been suffered at the hands of man. Blacks, Jews, Turks, Native “Americans,” Tutsi… at the end of the day, we all bleed red blood, we all are human, and we all are brothers. The taking of a human life, the torture of another soul at all is tragic… and the tragedy of the persecution of one group of people is no greater than the tragedy of the persecution of another.

  21. 21 Wayne
    May 27, 2009 at 5:22 am

    And great post by the way…. thank you for sharing!

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