by Wolfgang Szwietek
Freies Wort, den 10. Nov 2015
Themar – This is not the first time that artist Gunter Demnig of Cologne has traveled to Themar. He was here last year to lay Stolpersteine in memory of former Jewish citizens. Yesterday he laid eleven more Stolpersteine, this time to honor the families of S J Baer and Max and Clara Müller.
Many Themarens as well as citizens from other places in the region attended the ceremony. Eighteen grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the former Jewish citizens of Themar came from other countries. Hubert Böse’s welcome to the visitors was moving: on behalf of the city, he apologized to the descendants for all the suffering that had befallen their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents in this city. He finds it unimaginable, but indeed true, how citizens behaved to their fellow citizens, who for many years, often over generations, had lived in this city, worked and contributed to its common good. With the laying of Stolpersteine, the city wants to set an example and make a clear commitment to do everything possible to ensure that something like this never happens again.
The response of the Themar residents who came to the ceremony impressed the guests from Israel, Canada and many other countries.” This is not an easy occasion. We are all here with very mixed feelings,” acknowledged Richard Stern. “It is still impossible to comprehend how the citizens of a small town, with a deep and sophisticated history and culture, could turn on their neighbors, and be complicit in their expulsion and murder. More incomprehensible is what has happened, because our parents and grandparents were loyal and patriotic Germans. My brother Nick, my sister and her husband — Naomi and Rafal — and myself, are here for all the Jews of Themar and the victims of the holocaust. We therefore very much appreciate that Themar has recognized these past injustices for which these stones will be a permanent reminder. We would also like to thank the citizens of Themar for their hospitality and all those who have worked to make this day possible.”
Richard Stern had another compliment for Themarer: “So, while Dad would have appreciated the recognition of past inhumanity represented by the laying of these Stolpersteine, he was far more heartened by the frank and open way that the German people have faced up to their history and educated their youth on the nation’s troubled past. Indeed, these actions are all the more notable as some other countries have yet to honestly acknowledge their own complicity.”
It is appropriate that we look to the past on 9th November. But for Richard Stern, as well as all the other descendants of the former Jewish citizens who were with him, it is critical that we recognize the link between the dark chapter of the past and the actions of Germany today. Stern’s concluding words were: “Finally, we, and I am sure Dad would too, especially appreciate the open door and hospitality that Germany has extended to today’s refugees from the Middle East. By these actions, the German people have demonstrated their basic decency, their willingness to reach out and help those who are suffering due to no fault of their own and, provided clear leadership for the rest of the world. Hopefully others, including our own countries, will soon follow this fine example.”