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The Last Jew of St. Poelten – Tablet

The Last Jew of St. Poelten - Tablet

Hans Morgenstern, eighty-one years previous, is the last Jew dwelling in St. Poelten, a baroque town in Austria, 41 kilometers west of Vienna.

Morgenstern is a planter cupboard. His calmly flowing white hair is combed elegantly again. His sunglasses' vibrant white frames are neatly listening to the graceful T-shirt pocket. When Morgenstern, a retired dermatologist, walks round St. Poelten, former patients greet him. He needs to stop the espresso in the metropolis cafes. Morgenstern enjoys his life here, but it’s contradictory.

The most recent of these contradictions is probably that the appropriate-wing Austrian Freedom Celebration is at present inspiring Jewish voters in its immigration campaign. Bringing the anti-Semitism into the nation to convey a few phenomenon that has risen on the arrival of a big number of Muslim immigrants, is making an attempt to recruit individuals like Morgenstern.

It was September 2018 once I came to St. Poelten to talk to Morgenstern. We met within the former synagogue of the town. The temple has not been an lively place of worship for many years, however Morgenstern was the driving drive behind its preservation and helped pave the best way for it to be transformed into a museum in 1988 and home to the Austrian Institute for Jewish Historical past. With the rise of national events, Europe seems to be undergoing a historic change. At this institute of history, which has owned the preservation of the reminiscence of the previous, built within the shadow of the Jewish group, talking with the newest Jew of St. Pölten, there’s a distinctive opportunity to see the current opportunity and danger.

Simply 80 years in the past, as Morgenstern factors out, the Jews have been banned from the town cafes and couldn't even sit on the park bench. St. Poelten is a spot where his household escaped from worry and his grandparents have been sent to dying.

St. Greater than 1,000 Jews lived in Germany when Germany joined Austria in March 1938. A total of 575 Jews have been murdered.

When Adolf Hitler led the parade of victory after the day of St. Poelten, an area lawyer after Anschluss, Morgenstern's father, Egon, was seen within the window of his office. Nazi flags adorned the buildings, and the cheering crowds flanked the streets.

Inside a number of days Morgenstern's father was forbidden to work, and the family was thrown out of the home. They wasted time drawing their escape and managed to get visas to maneuver to Palestine. Morgenstern's grandmother gave them jewelery in order that the young family had the required safety for the visa. Morgensterns left for Palestine in 1939.

The family lived in Bat Yam, south of Tel Aviv, which was, "he's just a village in the sand." Morgenstern shortly tailored, beginning faculty and studying Hebrew. He liked the "beautiful beach." She laughs at a joke she goes to do and tells me, "My father was a Zionist when he was a student, but when he arrived in Palestine, he was no longer one."

Laughter fills Morgenstern's sentences. “Life was robust. My father could not work as a lawyer because his qualifications were not acknowledged and he couldn’t converse Hebrew. However more than my father couldn’t survive the climate. As a toddler, he was paralyzed as a baby and was significantly injured. He was solely capable of walk on the sand-streets sinking crutches. "

The Morgensterns have been little money and his mother and father, who feared a threatening conflict in Palestine, decided to return to Austria in 1947. Only a handful of survivors made

" There was a shortage of attorneys because those who had continued to work were all members of the Nazi Party and could not practice after the war, ”Morgenstern explained. He was 9 years old when the family lived back in St. Petersburg. "There was no Jewish group right here, and we have been so referred to as until one yr ago my cousin Hans Cohen and his household returned." His cousin died in January. Morgenstern has no children. "It's the top of the line," he laughs.

Morgenstern was 11 years previous when he observed that his grandparents had been murdered. "I was not a pleasant child because I didn't know who had been a Nazi member," he says and laughs once more.

Morgenstern has devoted much of his life to storing the names and tales of families who as soon as lived in St. Poelten. “There was always a feeling of sorrow, including a certain loneliness that there was no Jewish community anymore. It was important to me that these people are not forgotten, ”Morgenstern says solemnly.

We’re discussing the workplace of Martha Keil, Director of the Institute for Jewish History in Austria. Once we met, he was about to start out stoning the primary monument in St. Poelten. Twenty-eight stones are positioned in eight places. Kivi Morgenstern's grandmother Johanna Morgenstern had a box on the ground of her assistant's office. It was too heavy to select up. Morgenstern's grandmother Johanna had stayed in St. Poelten and was violently transferred to Vienna earlier than being expelled from the Theresienstadt ghetto after which murdered in Treblinka in September 1942.

Remembering Shoah's victims is a vital part of Keil's work. He says, “The best means to do that is to have a notebook on our website that may attain the whole world, but place these stones in a public place for native individuals who encounter them at buying or at a movie show. It opens its eyes once they don't look forward to it. “The clear visibility of the information of the past is a key means for both Morgenstern and Keil to battle for the historic revolutionism that the privilege has put forward.

Morgenstern listens rigorously to her together with her fingertips pressed together in front of her face. He says, "It is important for us Jews, but the older generation didn't want to remind them because they had a guilty conscience." Keil provides: "Good!" They giggle on the sight.

Nevertheless, Morgenstern sees the fast-aspect neighbors, and more, such because the physician provides the affected person advice, "until recently was ignorance. People have no idea what happened. People don't know the facts. Only recently have they started teaching this at school. "

Rising up, Morgenstern says he didn't know anything about anti-Semitism, but then tells me that his father needed to name the varsity twice over anti-Semitic questions. His story has two sides and he slides from one to another, laughing at a critical sin. However, he grew up amongst adults who had been members of the Nazi Celebration, and, as he says, some of his good friend's mother and father have been Nazis. "They are not Nazis," he provides after which jokes: "Of course, there were no Nazis in Austria after the war, so their parents were no longer Nazis."

Morgenstern stayed in St. Pölten because he had to help his sick father and then his older mother. “I've never thought of returning to Israel. I'm too lazy. Life was lighter right here. “He laughs at the absurdity of his state of affairs.

The double life of Morgenstern is reflected in local politics. "This is a socialist city and has always been," he says. "The Social Democrats helped us and gave us an apartment where I live now, but we are surrounded by the sea of ​​right-wing voters." St. Poelten "is a very safe place," he says slowly. His voice hastens, as he says: “St. There isn’t any anti-Semitism in Poelten. They are all very pleasant with me, because I’m also very friendly with them! “Chuckling, he provides:“ Although they’re friendly, they can be anti-Semitic. They assume that Jews are dangerous individuals, however I'm an exception. Others are dangerous. "

When his fingertips are pressed again, he says slowly:" Last week on my wall in my apartment, Swastika and the word "Jude" appeared in my house. This is the first time this happened. It makes me scared. “He doesn't stay at this dark spot. "Right here's another comic story!" “When I invited the Jewish community in Vienna to register the case, the person answering the phone did not speak German. I had to speak English and the young man didn't understand the word "Swastika." How fun it is!

Otto Pelczer together with his father in Vienna earlier than Anschlus (Photograph: Jeremy Pelczer)

The dialog turns again to the monuments, and he says his family from England is coming to the ceremony. “My cousin remained. His identify was Otto Pelczer. He died, however he has a son Jeremy who comes. “I mention that once I was a toddler, our neighbors have been referred to as Pelczer. Father was referred to as Otto and son Jeremy. "Do you know him?" Morgenstern says, his pale, pale blue eyes open. The dialog that flows so simply stops when he offers with the info. Martha Keil adds that Pelczer is a very uncommon identify.

I spent almost three years throughout Europe, recording how the Holocaust is remembered and the survivors speak concerning the guide venture. I drank a cup of tea with countless survivors and tried to know their story. Austria was the last place I anticipated to seek out myself in the story. Flummoxed, I am confused as to what to ask next. Keil provides me an e-mail from Jeremy Pelczer and suggests a synagogue tour.

Discussion with Morgenstern and Keil will inevitably change to trendy politics and the rise of proper-wing parties across Europe. "For me, it is a mental burden to know that there are young people who think like this," Morgenstern says, "but I can't do anything about it."

I want to say goodbye and mention that there’s another darkish thread that took me to St. Pölten. In July 1995 I drove back to London from former Yugoslavia, the place my husband had been reporting there for four years. The overseas journalist had determined that there can be little to go in the area. We stopped in St. Petersburg. The young household felt cheaper than Vienna. That evening, over eight,000 murderings of Bosnian Muslims started in Srebrenica. Because of this, I had never forgotten St. Poelten. Once I was in search of a narrative to put in writing concerning the Austrian Jews, I started to take a look at the Holy See as a result of it was one of the few cities I knew my identify.

Again to Vienna, I'll send Jeremy Pelczer. He’s certainly a gangly teenager who knocked me on a cricket ball once we have been mucking around the lawn in a modern residential space, where we grew up within the inexperienced suburb of Richmond, except Jeremy is now a successful businessman and grandfather of Somerset

to me, that’s their most necessary work. Otto Otto Pelczer lived in Vienna, as my mother had advised me. The family moved from St. Poelten to the house at City-Loritz Platz. Once I go on the lookout for a building, it seems to have disappeared. This can be a surreal world for tracing the Holocaust. The mom of Otto Pelczer, Grete, was the aunt of Hans Morgenstern. She was born in Prague and after Anschluss the Pelczer family fled to the Czech capital.

Otto Pelczer left for England as one of the young British humanitarian youngsters, rescued by Sir Nicholas Winton, who organized 669 Czechoslovak youngsters. Jeremy says he left the practice. German troopers stood on the platform. His mom Grete and his father Ludwig have been expelled to Theresienstadt. They wrote a ultimate letter to him concerning the ghetto before they have been murdered in Majdanek in Poland in September 1942.

I perceive why Otto Pelczer was typically "resting" in my mother's words and shouldn’t be disturbed. The partitions in our trendy townhouses have been skinny on paper, so when Mr. Pelczer was "resting", I was despatched to play and I advised him that it wouldn't make too much noise. Jeremy was often outdoors to apply a cricket ball.

Majdanek has big ash and bones protected beneath a concrete roof. On the eve of Yomi, Kippur Jeremy calls me. He tells me that he knows that Yom Kippur is "Hans keeps me in business, but we followed Mom and we are members of the Church of England." I'll tell her that my husband is a Jew and the most well liked to get to the synagogue. We’ve got dissolved over parallel strains. On the Institute's website I notice that one of their tasks is known as displaced neighbors.

***

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