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Saturday, 4 December 2010

An Event in AUGSBURG

Poster 5

Poster 4

Poster 3

Poster 2

Poster 1


Monday, the 15th November 2010, AUGSBURG

I woke early. The sun was still shining. After breakfast, I wandered through the old town, stopping at the Barf├╝sser Church. The church is completely surrounded by other buildings above which it projects. Although it claimed to be closed, I entered without difficulty. I continued my journey to the synagogue, an impressive building in Halderstrasse whose construction was assisted with substantial financial donations from the Sturm and Steinfeld families. I noticed that most of the doors in the building had bilingual signs: in German and Russian. Some years ago, a history teacher in Melsungen (in Hesse) surprised us by telling us that the Jews were the fastest growing group in Germany. The influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union accounted for this.

George and Max were already there, as was Souzana Hazan and Frau Sch├Ânhagen. Diane and her son Alex had left for Paris. Soon, twenty students from the Simpert-Kraemer Gymnasium in Krumbach arrived with their two teachers. The kids were aged from 15 to 17, and had special interests in history, although their faces did not betray this when we all sat in a large circle in one of the rooms in the synagogue.

A long strip of paper was placed like a diameter inside the circle. It was a time line with dates, such as 1871, 1917, 1932, 1938, 1945, and others in between. Rectangular scraps of white paper lay on both sides of the time line. Each child was told to pick up one of these scraps, and to turn it over. Each one bore a historical event, such as ‘Wannsee Konferenz”, or ‘Weimar Republik’. They then placed their pieces of paper where they thought it should be on the time line. Although one girl thought that the Weimar Republic began in 1945, most of the children placed them in the correct places.

Next, Souzanna Hazan read out a history of the Sturm/Steinfeld/Englander families. As she did so, copies of photographs of various family members were handed around the circle of children, and then carefully placed in the relevant points on the time line. Thus the history of the family was placed alongside the history of modern Germany. After this, the time line was divided into 5 sections. Each group of four students had to choose a section and then retire to a work table that contained materials relevant to that section. We adults retired to the Jewish Museum shop across the hallway to drink coffee and chat. After about 45 minutes, the school children joined us, and refreshed themselves with cold drinks and butter filled pretzels. Then we returned to the room where the seminar was being held.

Each group of four students had produced posters illustrating the period they had chosen. One by one the groups of four students presented, and explained what was on their posters (illustrated above).

When a group had given their presentation, they asked George questions that had arisen in their minds whilst they had been preparing their posters. I cannot remember all of their questions but two linger in my mind. Could George speak English when he stepped off the boat at Hoboken? No, he could not, but by the end of the year he was the best speller (of English) in his class. Another child asked whether he helped in the family shop in Augsburg. George pointed out that he would have been little help as a five year old in the sophisticated cloth store, probably a hindrance. He did however help his grandfather gather chestnuts when they walked together in the Siebentischwald Forest on the edge of the city. These, he was told, were good for Opi’s rheumatism. The question was interesting because farmer’s children such as were attending the seminar would have found it normal to have to ‘muck-in’ when the family needed extra hands. George coped beautifully with their questions, and rapidly developed a great rapport with the children. It seemed to me that during the three hours that they had spent working on the family history, the children had begun looking at George’s family’s life and difficulties as if they were their own. After posing with the class for photographs, each member of the class shook each of our hands before leaving for their hometown.

For more information about this event, please contact me, giving reasons for your interest, on :

adamandlopa @ hotmail.com (omit the gaps between the 3 parts of this email address).