Appreciation of the Jewish Guests in Obernkirchen 2015

Translation of the script of appreciation of the Jewish guests
STOLPERSTEINE laudatory speech for guests of the following families Lion, Adler and Schönfeld
(manuscript of the speech to the date 30th of June 2015)

Form of address!

I have the great joy and privilege to honour the presence of the descendants of the families Lion, Adler and Schönefeld who have travelled here from far away to participate in the laying down of the STOLPERSTEINE tomorrow and to get to know of course the original native country of their ancestors at the same time.

I welcome our Jewish guests heartily together with the initiative STOLPERSTEINE in Obernkirchen, I think also on behalf of all who are present.

These are Michael and John Alford with their wives Maricela and Lani, as well as the son of Michael and Maricela, David Alford, furthermore Mark Adler with his wife Joan and Vivian with her son Jeremy. Michael and John are the sons of Ulla Lion, and David is the grandson of Ulla Lion.
Today they live in Spain or rather in Israel, David lives in Geneva. However Michael and John were born in New Zealand where their grandparents, their mother, their uncle and their greatgrandmother on their mother`s side escaped from the Nazi terror in 1939.

Mark Adler is the son and Vivian Adler is the daughter and Jeremy is the grandson of Erich Adler. They have lived in the USA, since their family found refuge in the beginning of 1940. The greatgrandmother on their mother`s side Fanny Philippsohn who had lived in the Schluke also belonged to this group. Unfortunately at this first action no STOLPERSTEINE will be laid down for both greatgrandmothers. This will be done at the next laying down of STOLPERSTEINE.

In addition to this I welcome dear Mrs Johanna Schönfeld whose husband Manfred escaped in the age of seven to Argentina and came back with you to Obernkirchen in 1998. He and his parents Frieda and Martin Schönfeld will be honoured tomorrow by the laying down of STOLPERSTEINE. Unfortunately

Manfred passed away already one year after his return which happened exactly to the day 16 years ago, on the 30st of June 1999, in the age of 69 ½ years.
We thank you, Mrs Schönefeld that you are present today despite of the date of death of your husband. Manfred`s death was a heavy blow for you, particularly as you didn`t come from Obernkirchen and were not able to feel at home during that short period.

After 60 years of closure your husband was the first who was buried on the Jewish cemetery in Obernkirchen. Five additional Jews who had died in the so-called House of Jews, so they scornfully had called the Synagogue during the years between 1940and 1942, had been brought for their burial on the Jewish cemetery to Rinteln, as the Nazi neighbours hadn`t allowed any exception.

After all these atrocities which had been committed during the time of National Socialism particularly among German and European Jews and especially to the relatives of our today`s guests, it cannot be taken for granted that they visit Germany and Oberkirchen and will participate in the laying down of the STOPLERSTEINE. Even after 70 years after the collapse of the 12 years of a raging terror regime I consider this as a very magnanimous gesture which we honour highly and are full of thankfulness for.
Of course every encounter with victims and descendants of the NS-injustice is something very special and sensitive and requires a lot of fine feeling. Nevertheless I am amazed how relaxed all the conversations have always proceeded.

Now an outline of all the visitors and persons affected in Obernkirchen is following:

It began in 1982. Erich Adler and his wife Amely who are the parents of our guests Mark and Vivian Adler and the grandparents of Jeremy, spent time more or less incognito in Obernkirchen. During their visit they only contacted the owner of the former shoe shop Emil Ranke in Lange Street 22 who had maintained lively relationships with Jewish families and businesses during the pre-war period.

Erich Adler made inquiries of Emil about his former classmate Rolf Wilkening, the youngest brother of my mother who unfortunately had passed away already in 1963. Erich had positve memories of Rolf Wilkening also because of his help when other classmates lay in wait for him after school and wanted to beat him up. This he also shared in his interview worth reading which is printed in the book „Jewish life in the Province“ written by Rolf-Bernd de Groot and Günter Schlusche.

When my mother found out of his stay belatedly, she was sad not having been able to meet Erich Adler, because she had learned in the shop of Erich´s father Paul Adler to become a textile sales assistant around 1920, when Erich was still a little boy. She had worked in that shop in this profession until there was almost nothing more to sell in the beginning of 1933 due to the disgraceful demands for boykott of the Nazi regime.

Belatedly my mother used this visit as an opportunity to trace the address of Erich Adler who had escaped with his parents to the USA in the beginning of 1940, as already mentioned before, and she wrote him a detailed letter. The result of this was the unfolding of a wonderful correspondence of penfriends between her and Erich and his wife Amely.

Finally this correspondence of penfriends led to the fact that in 1989 a group of seven Jews with their spouses who had lived in Obernkirchen in former times responded to the invitation of this town. This visit was the first official meeting with Jews from Obernkirchen who were still alive and had escaped the deportation and the Holocaust still on time, but they had to pay this with the loss of their native country and a surely difficult new beginning in distant countries of refuge.

At the reception of the visiting group in the town hall Ernst Lion spoke thoughtful words: “The wounds have healed up, but the scars have remained!“ Apart from Ernst Lion the visiting group included his sister Ulla with her husband Werner Alford from New Zealand, Paul Adler with his wife Amely from the USA and Manfred Schönfeld with his wife Johanna from Argentina. Mrs Schönfeld is the only one from the visiting group who is still alive.

It was a very warm meeting with many private contacts and visits. They were all guests in Dagmar and Dietmar Nix`s, my daughter`s and her husband`s appartment which had been the appartment of family Leopold Lion before they were forced to leave the country. Especially this visit had been a very emotional encounter, but it was according to their desire. The encounter proceeded very harmoniously in every respect, really close.

After that something terrible happened: On their return flight during a stopover in London Erich Adler died from heart failure. This was a severe shock for everybody who has got to know Erich Adler during their visit in Obernkirchen, but especially for my mother. The correspondence of penfriends was continued between Amely and my mother until both of these joyful older ladies were not able to do so anymore. After Amely`s death there was some correspondence between Amely`s daughter Vivian, our today`s guest, and my sister as well. Today both of them have met eachother for the first time. This is also a very emotional experience.

In 2005 the actress Debora Filler (called Deb) visited Obernkirchen and performed her play „Punch me in the stomach“ with which she had worldwide success. Deb Filler was born in New Zealand. The special relationship to Obernkirchen is attributable to her grandfather Philipp Adler. He was born in Obernkirchen, grew up there and went to war as a volunteer in the 1st World War where he suffered a severe wound. Philipp got married in the twenties, moved to Hildesheim and worked there in the shop of his parents-in-law. In 1939 he escaped with his wife Ruth from Hildesheim to New Zealand. He also should be remembered at the next action when a STOLPERSTEIN will be laid down in front of the house in which he had lived in Obernkirchen at last.

In 2008 Deb was in Obernkirchen for the second time, once with her mother Ruth Filler, birthname: Adler, and a second time on the occasion of the introduction of the already mentioned book „Jewish life in the province“.
Ruth Filler was born in Hildesheim, but also has a strong relationship to Obernkirchen. She was 10 years old, when she escaped with her parents to New Zealand where she is still living today. I am in corespondence via Email with this meanwhile 86-year-old lady and I am again and again delighted about her skills to write. In one of her last Emails she wrote that she would give a lot for being able to be present here in Obernkirchen today and tomorrow, surely because she wants to meet her relatives as well.

The last visit was exactly on the day only 9 months ago, on the 30st of September 2014. This visit included Stephen Lion the son of Ernst Lion, his wife and his sister-in-law Marciela, the wife of Michael Alford who fortunately is present today as well. Michael, John and his wife Lani also wanted to be present. But directly before the beginning of the journey Michael´s and John`s mother Ulla Alford, birthname: Lion, passed away. Understandably both sons had to cancel their visit in Obernkirchen, but promised to postpone their visit. They kept their word.

Now I ask mayor Oliver Schäfer to carry out his duty, because our guests and Mrs Johanna Schönfeld are designated to be recorded into the Golden Book of the town of Obernkirchen.

I thank you all for your attention.
Source material:
The facts and data are essentially taken from the book „Jewish life in the province“ written by Rolf-Bernd de Groot and Günter Schlusche.