FÖRDERVEREIN EHEMALIGES JÜDISCHES
Breisach, january, 8th, 2004
The invitation to the traditional New Year Reception of the German president came as a big surprise. The Year 2003 was at an end, the substantial renovation was complete and the opening of the “Blue House” on June 20th 2003 had taken place with a few hundred guests. Among the guests were 40 Jewish visitors, who came with their families to Breisach for the “Jewish Week”, in order to see the place where they and their relatives had lived and in 1933 experienced the beginning of the end. The writing table strained under the weight of documents, letters, photos and the stories which the Jewish Breisacher tell. Now they should be written up and the Blue House should become a place of learning.
In a personal letter the district president Dr. von Ungern-Sternberg informed me “I was very impressed with the work in Breisach and I therefore proposed to the German president that you should be invited to the New Years Reception as an honoured guest. Seasonal greetings to you and the association.”
As was emphasised in the letter of invitation the German president looked forward to greeting “citizens who have worked for the common good” in the Bellevue palace. 76 other citizens who give their time voluntarily to such diverse causes as Bats, Orchards, wine, the elderly, the disabled, children, former slavelaborers, Jewish immigrants and the documentation of a concentration camp, were also invited.
In dialogue with the employees there we got a view into the work of the German President and his wife
Many officials and presidents of many societies and religious groups were also invited – 250 hands to shake in 3 hours and with each president Rau spoke personally.
On the 7th of January there was the opportunity in the long line of people to get to know some of them. A speaker for the German Presidents office called the names and offices of the guests. When I was called up he read aloud:
I passed on the greetings of the committee and the members of the association to the German President. I also passed on the special heartfelt greetings of the Jewish families who feel honoured by the invitation. Yitzhak Cohen from Haifa wrote “I was so happy as if I had been the one who was invited... I shall be with you. You will not hear me. Near by me will stand all the former Jewish citizens Geismars, Breisachers, Kahns, Blums, Kleefelds, Günzburgers, Mocks, Schwabs, Weils and all the others and there in front of all of us stand the last 36 Jewish citizens of Breisach who were deported to Gurs on October 22nd 1940.”
As I sat with all the other guests for the meal the German President made clear that he wished to bring the representatives of the state, “without whom no society can live” and the citizens, who “do more than they are obliged to and without whom no society can be alive” closer together this day. He called us volunteers a “parliament of love for one’s neighbors”.
I would like to follow his request and pass on the Presidents thanks and encouragement to carry on working and supporting our project to all those involved with the work over the past few years.
Christiane Walesch-Schneller Christiane Walesch-Schneller