Förderverein Ehemaliges Jüdisches Gemeindehaus, Breisach eV.
11th of June 2004

Rheintor Str. 3, 79206 Breisach

Germany

 

Tel: 0049 (0)7667 911 374 Email: info@juedisches-leben-in-breisach.de

 

Dear Friends,

greetings from Breisach from the Association for the Promotion of the former Jewish Community House in Breisach. My name is Samuel Harding and I am working full time (since September 2003) as a volunteer in the Blue House in Breisach. I work with local school children and visitors to the Blue House and have also done some research into the family histories of Breisach’s Jewish Community. Many of you I have already had the pleasure to have met personally. Others I am still looking forward to meeting. I was lucky enough to be able to be present in Berlin at the Obermayer German Jewish History Award ceremony, where I met Elaine Wolff and Gary Bron, Phoebie and Werner Frank and Carl and Rhonda Steg. I also accompanied a number of the guests around the memorial site House of the Wannsee Conference, where I did a two week internship in September 2003.

We have been busy since I arrived in autumn with many events being held in the Blue House. We had an evening dedicated to Anne Frank with John Goldsmith, Vice-president of the Anne Frank Fonds in Basel, as guest speaker. We also organised an evening on the work of the Holocaust Memorial sites in Germany and Action Reconciliation Service for Peace. There was the visit of Ludwig Geismar, his wife and brother-in-law in October, which was a great success. The high point so far was undoubtedly the visit of Ralf Eisemann in February, who came with his wife Beate, to speak with 3 classes of school children, members of the Förderverein and the public about his life in Breisach and how he escaped from Germany. He gave a guided tour of the Blue House to about 60 people in total. One member commented that it was like “a second dedication” of the house. There were also many small groups of guests in the Blue House including a number of groups of school children.

Since September a group of local Jews have been meeting in the Blue House once a month for a Sabbath service. In January they achieved a Minjan for the first time and the group grows every week as guests from outside Breisach attend. This is a side of the project, about which the Förderverein is very excited and we hope it will grow and develop in the coming months and years.

In two weeks there will be a five day conference here on the history of the founding families of the Breisach Jewish Community with more than 50 participants from Europe and America. The conference program can be found on our web page. We are working hard to make this challenging event a memorable opportunity for study and exchange both on an academic and a personal level. A number of the guests have not yet been to Breisach and we are looking forward to making new friends and meeting old ones again. For those who cannot make it to the conference we will try to make the lecture manuscripts available on line.

The third ASF summer camp will be held here at the end of July beginning of August. 13 young people from Poland, Germany and Ghana have already registered for the camp, which will involve working here in the Blue House and on the Jewish graveyard in Mackenheim in Alsace. Rona Kremer, Werner Frank’s granddaughter has also expressed an interest in doing work experience at this time.

We are also well on the way to having a fully functional library, which is open to the public. I myself am presently occupied preparing material on Jewish German History for work with school children. We hope to establish an educational centre here in the Blue House where classes from schools across the region will come to learn about German Jewish History. I am also in contact with a survivor of Auschwitz who lives in Basel (Switzerland). He grew up in Hungary and went to Israel after the war. He is prepared to come to Breisach to talk to school children about his life and we are hoping to organise an event for July. Gerhard Dümchen a protestant vicar and member of the committee is also organising Cheder or inter-religious discussion groups for Sunday afternoons.

There is now a telephone in the Blue House and Internet too. The number is 0049 (0)7667 911374. Please feel free to phone or email me with any questions, suggestions or comments you might have concerning our work here.

I would also like to take this opportunity to inform you of the recent events concerning the internal affairs of the Förderverein Ehemaliges Jüdisches Gemeindehaus Breisach e.V. The yearly meeting of the members of the Förderverein took place in two parts this year on March 1st and March 30th. The future of the project and a number of other more specific points brought up by members themselves were discussed.

Among other things the question of when and whether to move the project into a professional phase was discussed. Most of those present were agreed that the project must have as its aim in the future to move onto a professional basis. That means; have a salaried employee to do part of the work of the project. It was clear that many members were concerned with the large debts the Förderverein took on in order to successfully complete the renovation work and suggestions were made on how to raise money. The idea of establishing a marketing committee was raised.

In the second meeting on March 30th a new committee was elected. Christiane Walesch-Schneller (president) Gerd Müller (vice-president) and Gerhard Dümchen retained their seats. Jürgen von Kolessa (Treasurer) and Angelika Wicha were elected for the first time.

Manuela Wyler, a descendent of the Breisacher Family living near Lyon and a professional advisor on memorial sites has offered to prepare a pre-study on how to make this step into professionalism. This work is to be done on a paid basis and involves approximately nine weeks of intensive work on her part. She brings valuable know-how concerning the application for European, state and national funding. This will hopefully be a starting point from which we can eventually establish a fully functional Memorial Site here in the Blue House. Mrs Wyler’s work is now in progress and her intermediary report will be presented to the committee and any interested members in a few weeks.

I personally will be working here in the Blue House until the end of August. A new volunteer will be arriving in September and will also work here for a year. It seems possible that I may stay in the region after my time here is up, in which case I hope to be able to participate further in this important and interesting project.

I look forward to corresponding with you in the future

 

Yours truly

Samuel Harding

 

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